Whitney Elliott is no stranger to owning Off-Track Thoroughbreds. In fact, she has had four: Silversatinslipper, Awesome Wizzard, Alvin, and Big Brian T. Three of them were purchased through a branch of CANTER, a non-profit organization that helps to retrain, rehabilitate, and rehome racehorses after their time on the racetrack is through.
Whitney Elliot discovered CANTER through her friend Jessica Redman. “I rode with Jessica Redman for several years when she was doing the Mid Atlantic retraining,” she said. “She turned me on to the breed, the organization and even though I’d been riding most of my life, I learned so much more restarting OTTBs.”
Big Brian T, now called Brian, is from CANTER Pennsylvania. Awesome Wizzard, called Wizzy, was also from CANTER Pennsylvania. Wizzy unfortunately passed away from colic two years ago. Her third CANTER horse, Alvin, is from CANTER Maryland. Whitney’s other OTTB, Silversatinslipper, was resold because they simply weren’t the perfect match. Choosing a horse to purchase or adopt can be a very daunting task. You must ensure that they will match your wants, needs, and your abilities. However, nothing can really beat a gut feeling and trust in others when purchasing a horse. This is something Whitney would likely attest to given the way her three CANTER horses came into her life.
“Brian I got from the same trainer as Slippers, sight unseen,” said Whitney. “I trusted the trainer and she called one day and told me she had one getting ready to retire and asked if I’d be interested.” “Wizz was an accident, I went to get another horse and brought him home instead. Alvin I got right after losing Wizzy. Honestly, he looked so similar I was just drawn to him. And he had already been restarted, which was nice.”
Like humans, horses have their own personalities and talents. Her three CANTER horses are no exception to this rule. Brian found his niche in paper chasing and fox hunting during his first five years with Whitney, but he is now simply enjoying a life of lavish retirement. He goes on just one or two trail rides a year.
“Brian is the king of everything,” said Whitney. “He’s a great big brother to all the horses I’ve had, I think I’m pushing 9 years with him. He’s totally got the cushy life.”
Alvin is, according to Whitney, an interesting horse. Some days they work hard together and other days he just needs a brain break. Alvin simply needed a quiet life and a job with minimal expectations. “He’s sensitive but a bully,” explained Whitney. “He’s a challenge to ride some days and other days he’s an Olympic horse! I love him, but every day is a new day. I totally can judge his whole demeanor by how he greets me at breakfast.”
Though Alvin looks similarly to Wizzy, their personalities were different. He came to Whitney without a lot of trust in people. But, after a lot of work and patience, he became a wonder horse. “He turned in to my horse of a lifetime,” said Whitney. “I still miss him every single day.”
Taking a racehorse off of the track often times means going through a retraining process. Some horses take to it better than others. Brian was ridden the very first day he came home to Whitney. He walked, trotted, and cantered on the buckle with lead changes. “Alvin was spooky (still is!) but easy to ride out. He was strong, still is, but we’ve developed a decent partnership at this point,” described Whitney. “Wizzy was super easy and came along nicely.” Alvin currently competes. Wizzy did compete and Brian is retired to pasture.
Because of her experience with OTTBs, Whitney Elliot is hooked on the breed. She says what many others before her have and what many after her will say as well: “They’re so unique and so talented. I have yet to find a discipline an OTTB cannot do well.”
Whitney Elliot absolutely recommends CANTER to anyone looking into giving a retired racehorse a new home and a new career. “Sue Smith (PA) and Amy Smith (MD) are wonderful. There are some shady trainers, but the vast majority just want their horses to have the best home for post-Track life. For someone experienced enough, these horses will give you the world plus some.”
Big Brian T career record: 63:13-7-6
Awesome Wizzard career record: 13:2-0-1 Alvin career record: 17:1-0-2
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