Blue Skies Riding Academy is more than a lesson barn, more than another boarding facility. Our primary focus is the rescue and retraining of horses who through no fault of their own find themselves in horrendous circumstances. Currently we have nine rescues which have come from slaughter bound situations. Once the animal regains weight and personal interest in people again, we work to discover their natural abilities and to adopt these recovered gems to loving, forever homes.
One such horse is know to us as Katie, but a long time ago, in a different life, her Jockey Club name was Sought Out. Katie worked the tracks the hard way and when her usefulness was done, she was rescued by a group of very determined women.
Furlong Transition Center acquired Katie after quite a harrowing ordeal. Originally a group of rescuers were networking to bail out a horse that was auction bound. When the network dispatched a local resident to evaluate the nice, large gelding of possible thoroughbred breeding, she arrived to find he had already been sent to auction. Very upset, she called Wendy O’Hara-Mickels at Furlong and another member of the network, Diana Baker. Diana in turn sent one of her friends to the suspected auction house, Marshall Auction in Virginia on a hot Saturday afternoon. While many waited and others called the offending owner it was too late and our target horse, a bay gelding, was sold and gone from the auction yard. Never one to be out done Diana asked her person on the ground, Jan Snodgrass, to see if any other TBs needed rescuing. Jan saw two mares go through the auction both very skinny; one had a terrible scar on her back leg. Since the better mare was bought by a mother/ daughter, Jan set her sights on the other scarred horse. To her horror, the mare was tied to the trailer of one Jessie Austin, known meat dealer and sometimes hauler. After speaking to Diana they agreed on a budget and $150 was spent to save Katie, as she became known somewhere during her trips.
Katie was slaughter bound and her last ride was going to be to New Holland auction for the hauler to gather a load before heading to a Canadian or Mexican slaughter house. Ransomed, Katie instead loaded and went home with Jan, beginning a six week recovery. Upon arrival, Katie was approx. 250+lbs underweight. Her back leg scar ran from hock to fetlock and the leg as was twice the size it should have been. Everyone involved was concerned as to the severity of her injury which appeared to be six months old. The leg was healing, but the extent of scarring lead many to believe she had been given minimal care along the winding road to rescue. In Late July, early August it was determined Katie needed a more permanent solution. Jan had done a great job of getting weight on Katie but she needed a family to complete the recovery. Furlong Transition had been contacted by the rescue network to take in two thoroughbreds from Charleston. When one horse was placed in a home ahead of the shipping schedule Katie was chosen to fill the spot.
Katie was shipped with Rodeo Reba, a beautiful, large, homeless thoroughbred mare to Furlong Transition in the middle of the night. Katie however had other ideas about this trip. She was in no way going through the auction again or with another scruffy man. Wary of the trailer ride, Katie proceeded to demolish the hauler’s trailer along with injuring Reba physically and mentally on the trip down. Katie had to be sedated for the rest of the trip. We were all very surprised with this sweet mare's sudden meltdown, and decided it was from the trauma of her previous experiences.
Katie and Reba arrived at 3am to begin their new lives at Furlong Transition. After a few weeks it became apparent Katie was top horse in the pack composed of Katie, Reba and resident gelding, the Biggie. She and Reba had scrapes and scuffles, but would be OK. For the next year and a half, Katie was in a stall with adjoining paddock during the day and out at night with her buddies. There was little activity at the barn apart from feeding, cleaning and petting. Secluded on a pretty hill top farm with mountain meadow pastures. Katie only had to eat, sleep and socialize with her pasture mates.
In the beginning, Rodeo Reba was the top attention horse in the barn; the few people welcomed to view them for adoption always went to Reba with her huge brown eyes and perfect form. Unfortunately, no adopters were ever qualified enough for a mare with Reba’s special issues, so she remained at Furlong where she is now a permanent resident. Katie’s scar was getting better but remained a big red flag for most horse shoppers. Her mane was fuzzy from malnutrition, she was shy and would not let people handle her head. Katie’s feet were shelly and she did not like to be bathed or fussed over. After about a year, Katie realized this farm was going to stay under her feet and she began to warm up to both Wendy and her family. Even Wendy's oldest son was comfortable turning her out; Katie had perfect manners.
Eventually, it became apparent Katie wanted more from life than the sleepy enjoyment of being a pampered pasture mate, and she began to show off whenever company came to the barn. Katie would run, buck and come to the fence over and over again. For anyone who knew what to watch for, she was saying I am ready. Blue Skies heard Katie was being started under saddle again in the fall of 2010 by Furlong, and that Wendy’s neighbor, a very experienced dressage rider was working with Katie. When pictures were sent of her under saddle Blue Skies just had to come back for another visit. Gone was the scruffy necked mare and in her place was a confident Thoroughbred, a lady in hand, shiny and ready to move on to her next chapter. After Sami and Ashley rode her and everyone saw the pictures there was no denying Katie was going to be the next addition to the Blue Skies family.
It hasn't been all easy going. It took Katie a while to settle into the routine of a lesson program. She is a big girl with a big stride and has been working and retraining as a Jumper. At her first outing this year, Katie and her rider Danielle were in the tops in all their classes. There are pictures of them on our Facebook page: Blue Skies Riding Academy, Inc. Three years ago this precious mare was tied to the trailer headed to hell and now she is poised to explode in the Jumper rings around Atlanta these next years as her new life expands.
On an additional happy note, the original target gelding from the auction was traced down to New Holland the following Monday, purchased and shipped to Kentucky by a group of very determined women in rescue. He became the pasture mate of Mohamed’s Dream who was adopted to the farm previously and was pasture mate to Those Bailey Blues (Bailey who now belongs to Sami Malik of Blue Skies), during her original transition time at Furlong Transition Center.
Katie is one of many OTTB's now retraining at Blue Skies Riding Academy.