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An Enduring Ride For West Grey Bay

Published: August 26, 2019 1:33 pm ET

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Sarah Cuthbertson, a noted equestrian with a decade of endurance riding and training to her credit, had no plans to adopt a Standardbred horse. A charismatic and talented trotter, West Grey Bay, quickly changed her mind.

Cuthbertson has schooled many horses and students including training Standardbreds to compete in the Racing Under Saddle program. Julie Walker, a trainer largely responsible for getting the RUS program established in Ontario, had heard that West Grey Bay – a potential RUS horse – could be finding his way to the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society.

“Julie had always thought he would make a great RUS horse. We put the bug in Joanne's (OSAS’s Joanne Colville) ear that we would like to foster him for me to practice RUS on and train him for a second career,” explained Sarah, who spends her days as a contracts administrator for an executive aviation management company.

In June of last year, not long after West Grey Bay was sent to Karen Briggs to foster and Cuthbertson to train, they took him for rides in the Dufferin Forest. At this point he’d only been under saddle for three weeks, and the group encountered a few obstacles and interruptions, but he handled them like a pro. A very impressed Cuthbertson wrote the following on Facebook after those rides:

“I’m absolutely stunned how wonderful he is to work with. With less than 10 rides under his belt, he’s already riding better than a lot of seasoned endurance horses I know (and his fitness improves every day thanks to his great baseline from racing). His work ethic and brains are a real winning combination. I need to figure out a way I can adopt him for myself instead of sending him on.”

And that’s exactly what she did. While a second career racing under saddle didn’t turn out for West Grey Bay, affectionately known as ‘Westie,’ he did find a permanent home thanks to his RUS training with Cuthbertson.

“Only a few weeks after breaking Westie, he was so cool on trail we decided to enter him in his first OCTRA (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association) event, which was 15 miles long,” Cuthbertson stated.

“Within the first mile we heard screaming from the tree line and three horses came galloping out at us. Despite him being incredibly green, I was able to wrangle the loose horses on him without any issue. I was so impressed with his calm demeanour and his willingness to work. My other horse (TrakehnerxArab) is such a drama queen!

“I was so impressed with Westie I told him right then and there he was staying with me!”

Since then, West Grey Bay has competed in several endurance races under Cuthbertson’s expert guidance. In just his second sanctioned event, a total of 40 kilometres, he finished second. Earlier this summer, he competed in his first 80 kilometre event and was seventh out of 19 starters.

“Westie has now completed an additional two x 25 mile limited distance rides, coming in a very close second place on his first 25 mile attempt,” praised Cuthbertson, who lives in Schomberg, Ont. (her horses are stabled nearby in Everett). “He has also completed two x 50 mile endurance races, placing sixth and seventh once with me piloting him and once with my friend Ashley aboard. I have several endurance students who just love him as well.”

Part of what has made the transition to endurance horse so smooth for Westie is his versatility, intelligence and work ethic. Although, a large part of the successful transition is due to the training he’s receiving from Cuthbertson, who has won many OCTRA competitions and has competed in some of the world's longest and most difficult horse races, including the Mongol Derby and Race the Wild Coast.

The Mongol Derby is commonly referred to as the world’s longest and most challenging horse race and is on the bucket list of many endurance riders. Part of Cuthbertson’s equine instruction is training students for such events. This year’s race just ended and one of her students participated and finished a very respectable twelfth.

While a race like the Mongol Derby may not be in his future, West Grey Bay has quickly developed into a talented endurance competitor, his second successful career after eight years as a solid ‘B-track’ trotter for breeder/trainer Keith Hastie. The 11-year-old trotter raced a total of 114 times and recorded 15 lifetime victories to go along with eight seconds, 20 thirds and $85,615 in purse earnings.

West Grey Bay is a son of Fiesty GG. West Grey Bay’s dam is the Royal Strength mare Parkside Princess, who won $62,693 during her career, which included a couple of Ontario Sires Stakes victories. She was also trained and owned by Hastie.

West Grey Bay’s story is another successful transition for a harness horse into a second career, and, in this case, guided by an owner and trainer whose love and admiration for him is heartwarming.

(OSAS)


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