Captain Apache a.k.a Chance is one racehorse who got a very lucky break in life.
In March 2013 the bay thoroughbred gelding was found living near deaths door at Wilcox Hill in Barbados before some kind souls stumbled upon him.
“Annemarie Greene and Sandra Sampson, with the help of Geoff Bynoe, the RSPCA, and possibly the police rescued him,” said Anne-Marie Bourne as she informed me about the racehorse’s rescue operation.
A horse owner herself, Bourne was contacted by Sampson to see if she could help out the racehorse who was rescued and taken to Sampson’s Sandy Turf Stables. Quick to pick up the reins, Bourne picked him up and began treating his ailments right away.
“We treated a very bad cut on his left hind which was infected with maggots. He also had very little hair. We wormed him regularly, had his teeth and feet done and fed him with lots of grass and lots of TLC and within 3 months he was unrecognizable.”
Chance spent the next two years grazing in the paddocks, getting fat, and forming a friendship with Bourne’s other horse Merlot. When Bourne felt he was ready to start back at work, she contacted Kimberly Tryhane.
Eager to hear Tryhane’s side of the story I contacted her while she was visiting Toronto to watch fellow Barbadian Emily Kinch ride in the Pan Am Games.
A horse lover at heart and an experienced rider, Tryhane is quick to inform me that she’s ridden at several different stables across the island.
“I started to really learn the beginner stuff at Sandra Sampson’s Sandy Turf stables. Then I moved from there when I was about 15 over to Big C - so I’ve ridden with Di (Clarke) as well.”
After finishing college Tryhane returned to Sampson’s stables before transitioning over to Congo Road Equestrian centre where she found herself a horse of her own; a thoroughbred and former racehorse by the name of Logan. “I took him over for two years and I started to teach him how to jump. He reached about a metre ten in shows but could jump a metre 25 in single jumps.”
Unfortunately, in December 2014 Logan got sick and passed away. While she was devastated by the loss and grieved about him she knew in her heart that she needed to continue on with her riding. “Three days after I said ‘alright that’s it - I’m going to look for another horse,’ - that’s when Chance the horse I have now came into my life.”
Shortly thereafter Tryhane went up to Bourne’s stables and watched her lunge Chance. “I really loved his canter – a huge massive canter,” said Tryhane who came back the following day to see him.
After five minutes of lunging him she told the groom she was going to hop on. “He goes ‘Are you crazy?!” and I said ‘No, I will be fine,” laughed Tryhane as we chatted about her eagerness to try out the former racehorse.
“Up I got and went straight into walking and trotting and he was lovely. He was happy to be ridden. He didn’t give too much trouble, he didn’t dart off – it wasn’t even like he’d been given time off.”
Even though Tryhane was impressed by Chance’s calm and collected performance on their first riding date, she admits there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the nine-year-old thoroughbred bay gelding when they initially met. “It’s funny -- Logan and him were not my favourites, they weren’t the ones that stood out - but something made me go ‘let me just stick around a bit longer, give myself some time, give them a chance.’”
Although Tryhane doesn’t know much about his racing record or track life, she was touched by the difficult life he encountered once he did retire from racing. “I loved his story, I loved the fact that I was helping him and he was helping me recover from a loss.”
So, in January 2015, Tryhane finally took that leap of faith and brought Chance to his new home at Congo Road. She restarted him under saddle and is currently working with him four days a week. Despite taking things slow she is amazed at how quickly he’s adapted from his racehorse to riding pony days. “You teach him something and his brain is like a sponge. I mean he just absorbs everything, you may teach him something and not do it for months and he’ll remember it.”
Given her penchant for jumping, she is teaching Chance the skills he needs to master jumping at her barn and eventually in the show ring. Tryhane also acknowledges the fact that even if he doesn’t turn out to be her star jumping horse, she’ll still be extremely happy with him. “I’ve had professionals tell me ‘you know Kim, Chance will not be your metre twenty horse, but I said I don’t care, I just want him to be mine and I just want to ride him’ - it’s something personal I can’t explain it,” laughed Tryhane.
Being a horse owner myself, I know that transitioning him to another career is not only challenging but also an extremely personal experience for both horse and rider. But what I can appreciate is how personal that experience must be for Tryhane, knowing that her horse went through an extremely negative period in his life before he was rescued. “The other thing I love is that after being abused and being mistreated by people, I’m just so surprised that he is so willing to have me around him.”
Tryhane continues to be in awe of how trusting Chance is not only with her but with complete strangers as well. “One day a kid walked up to him, didn’t even really know him and gave him a hug around the head and he just stood there.”
And while she is loving her time in the saddle (and flying over the jumps) with Chance she is also well aware that their bond is continually being built from the ground up.
“We are still learning each other. When I walk in (the stables) and speak I’ll see him look up and come to the door. If I say good morning to the others he’ll actually look up and come to the door, or if I come quietly up to the door he’ll stop eating and look up and come straight to me.”
In terms of jumping Tryhane took Chance to his first training show at Whitehall Equestrian Centre a couple of months ago. “It went very well and he did the cross rails and he did a .60 metre. So he’s coming along, he’s a lovely horse and that’s where we are at.”
The horse mom is quick to gush over the fact that Chance is not only willing to work but is also a brave jumper. “When we’re jumping he would knock down a pole before he’d knock down a big solid gate - he’s just so brave.”
Chatting away in her Barbadian accent I can hear the pride beaming through her voice. It’s obvious (from our brief conversation about her four-legged man) that she couldn’t be happier with the bond they've formed in such a short period of time.
“He’s very trusting and I love that about him.”