By Julieanne Horsman
As a racehorse for the powerful Godolphin stable, Limes was stakes placed 11 times and earned close to half a million dollars in prizemoney.
Now retired from racing, the eight-year-old gelding is enjoying a slower pace with his new owner Claire Harper at Wamboin in the NSW Southern Tablelands.
Claire, 52, moved to Australia from the United Kingdom when a job opportunity arose in 2012. She was a passionate equestrian and registered riding instructor in her native England and wanted to continue in Australia, however, she was unsure of how long she would stay ‘Down Under’ and didn’t want to spend a fortune on a warm blood horse.
“In the U.K. warm bloods are plentiful and cheap but in Australia it’s different story,” Claire said. “I needed a nice, athletic alternative for a small price so an off-the-track thoroughbred was the natural choice.”
Claire contacted the New South Wales Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust and explained her requirements. A photo and description of Limes had caught Claire’s eye after being posted on the TRT’s facebook page, but by the time Claire called he had already been reserved by someone else. Claire was then shown another former Godolphin galloper named Satire and once she was satisfied he would be a good fit, she hitched her horse float onto her car and headed up to Sydney to collect him.
“It turned out I actually know the lady who wanted Limes but she changed her mind so I ended up bringing both horses home with me,” Claire said. “They both moved nicely and were well-muscled and thoroughbreds are highly intelligent and quick learners.”
Both Satire and Limes had undergone some basic re-education with the TRT and Claire patiently spent hours working with them at her property where she operates Claire Harper Equestrian. Between a fulltime job, teaching and maintaining a home, Claire dedicated every spare moment to her new horses.
“Like any athlete changing discipline, you need to train new muscles and learn new skills,” Claire said. “Satire and Limes had to learn canter leads and transitions. We concentrated on doing ground work, lunging and rhythm work. Dressage horses need to be round in order to lift through the back and carry more weight.”
Within a month Satire and Limes were competing at local competitions.
“Limes has so far won one competition and I did get a 3rd with Satire,” Claire said. “Recently I was at a competition with Satire and unfortunately a young girl near us fell off and her horse was loose but Satire didn’t react at all. Thoroughbreds are good like that. They’ve been there and seen it all so nothing fazes them.”
Claire is proud of the progress Satire and Limes have made over the year she has had them and is looking forward to furthering their training.
“They’re great horses and anyone who has seen them is so impressed with how they take everything in their stride,” she said.
“I have done a cattle cutting clinic with Satire - he loved chasing the cows so you can't say they aren't versatile.
“I trust these horses. I’m 52 now and don’t ride horses I don’t trust because I’m not willing to risk getting thrown off.
“I’d like to get them to an elementary level of dressage. Scott Brodie (TRT Head Trainer) did some of Limes’ early re-training and is convinced he could go to Grand Prix. I think it’s a bit ambitious but it would be lovely.
“My primary goal is simply to enjoy my horses and ensure they are happy and healthy. Mine have had a head start because it’s clear they’ve been well handled and cared for their whole lives."
Claire is eager to see more equestrian competitions with dedicated classes for off-the-track thoroughbreds and believes it will encourage more people to take up the sport.
“In the UK there are dedicated leagues for OTT racehorses and it’s great,” she said. “They have so much to offer once their racing career has finished. You’re getting very well bred, athletic horse that is value for money.
“I love my two and have pictures of Limes from his racing days on my walls at home.”