“Chestnuts with a lot of chrome really get my goat,” laughed Katherine Patterson as she gushed over her flashy thoroughbred filly, Look At My Gizmo.
The 4-year-old chestnut (now known as Vienna) stands patiently beside Patterson by the arena inside the Horse Palace on a chilly November morning. The palace is abuzz with energy as throngs of horses, carriages, and people scramble back and forth between events being held at the Royal Winter Fair.
Patterson and Vienna took part in several thoroughbred classes sponsored by Adena Springs.
“I didn’t know about these classes until last year when Sarah Collicutt won on Believe the Fox, I think it is. I messaged her and asked her a bunch of questions about it and she informed me about what to do and I thought ‘well that would be really fun,’ and it’s not that far away from home.”
Accompanied by her parents, Patterson shipped Vienna from their family farm just north west of Port Hope to downtown Toronto earlier in the week.
Not too taxing a journey, considering the fact the duo recently travelled south to Kentucky to compete in the Thoroughbred (TB) makeover challenge. While I was working on another story at the challenge, I crossed paths with the two and was of course curious to know how their partnership came to fruition.
“Well I wasn’t looking for a horse, but last year I was just sitting at the computer cruising through the Second Start listings and there was this adorable chestnut mare with big socks and a big blaze. She was free to a good home and had a minor injury.”
In August 2014, a week before Vienna’s first race the filly suffered a fifteen per cent tear to her right front tendon. Her owners at the time put her on stall rest and once she healed they decided racing wasn’t in the cards for the filly.
“She could have gone back to racing but she had no drive,” recalled Patterson as she slips on Vienna’s saddle before their class.
Patterson’s family is not new to the OTTB game. They’ve had four other thoroughbreds over the last several years.
“Our paint (horse) went lame and we needed to lease a horse because it was part way through the season so we got this thoroughbred (Love Is King a.k.a Keanu/ Indy Lights). He was young and we said ‘we didn’t want thoroughbreds they are nutty!’ but he was awesome, so that kind of got us hooked.”
Patterson shared Keanu with her sister Liz.
Not too long after, Patterson adopted a horse of her own called Fire Cause (Thor) through LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.
When Keanu passed away Patterson's sister got another thoroughbred named Making A Point (Neville).
And, as any horse hooked family can imagine the ball just kept rolling.
“On kind of a whim I decided I wanted a project horse and that’s when I got Cryptography (Max) through Second Start. He was awesome. He (was) sold to a girl who trains with Jessica Phoenix. He goes to Florida every winter and competes. He was super cool.”
A hunter background, Patterson has been riding for the last six years and currently rides on the Trent University Equestrian team. Even with school, work and several other horses, Patterson couldn’t resist Vienna.
“She’s just a real doll, she doesn’t have the typical chestnut thoroughbred disposition – you know the ‘hell hath no fury like a chestnut thoroughbred mare.”
Bringing her home last September the family decided the young horse would get some downtime before being re-started this spring. Over the moon about her new purchase, Patterson bonded with Vienna over the winter.
“We did a lot of ground manners. She had to learn how to cross tie but overall she was good. She loves to be groomed …She learned how to lunge and re-learned what a bridle was and we would slowly saddle her.”
Since Vienna had not been re-started over the winter she would qualify for the TB makeover challenge held at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. Patterson had seen the event advertised in January and signed up shortly thereafter.
“I went ‘that’s really cool’ not even knowing if she would be sound enough to ride in a show like that,” said Patterson who didn’t even get on Vienna until April.
But, she remembers that first ride like it was yesterday.
“It was a very glorious day and from there we just went with the flow,” beamed Patterson as she recalled those first five minutes of just walking around on her.
With the TB challenge in the back of her mind, Patterson put Vienna into a work program to help her learn the basics (walk, trot, canter) and also entered her in a couple of schooling shows starting in the summer.
“Her first one was in July. She went to a local school and just did the hack division and was reserve champion. Then she went to a zone classic at Palgrave and did the Thoroughbred breed class and came third out of 14. We also did the hack division and she got a third and seventh out of 15 - so she did well.”
Pinning well on the flat and over small fences Patterson headed south with her dad and Vienna in October for the challenge.
Running into the family during the event it was very easy to see they were in their element.
“We had so much fun in Kentucky. It wasn’t about going and getting ribbons or the 10,000 in prize money it was about the experience,” smiled Patterson as she recalls riding around the prestigious horse park with all the other thoroughbreds.
Despite having done only five schooling shows prior to the challenge, Vienna placed 11th out of 34 thoroughbreds competing in the show hunter class.
Back in Ontario the duo returned to the show ring to compete in the Royal’s Thoroughbred line class. Scoring a fourth place ribbon in the line class, Vienna also performed beautifully in two under saddle classes (testing suitability for the dressage and hunter ring) later that morning.
Always close by, Patterson’s dad snaps photos and her mom looks on at the two who steal the limelight amidst the bustle of thoroughbreds walking to and fro. Vienna remains un-phased as horses rear, the loud speaker rattles on and children run around the stables.
Patterson leads Vienna back to her stall, unsaddles the filly and replaces the ribbon with a tasty reward. “I always buy her special stud muffins so she has special treats when we go to shows.”
Although the newly formed partnership will be taking it easy over the winter Patterson does have a few ideas about what the two will be working on for next season. “It would be nice to go to some trillium shows and do a couple of the novice 2"ft shows with her.”
Given her experience with the breed, Patterson’s focus will be growing her young horse’s confidence as Vienna continues on in her second career.
Ultimately, Patterson already knows that going with the flow will be key to Vienna's future success in the hunter ring.