Port Stanley, an off-the-track Thoroughbred bred and raised in British Columbia, Canada, has found a new path to the winner’s circle in the sport of Working Equitation.
The big bay gelding, owned by Bridgett Klingler of Junction City, Oregon, had a long and successful racing career, completing his final race as a nine-year-old. In 44 racing starts, Port Stanley placed first 9 times, second 8 times, and third 5 times to earn a total of $315,255 on the track.
His last race was in 2015. It’s unclear where Stanley spent the three years in between finishing his last race and ending up in an Oregon horse auction, but fortunately for him, he came into Bridgett’s life soon thereafter, and ever since the two have been forging a name for themselves in a sport they are learning together.
With a great deal of dedication and consistent work, Port Stanley and Bridgett have made their way to the top of the year-end WE standings, earning High Point Thoroughbred competing in Working Equitation in both 2018 and 2019.
Bridgett grew up riding her relatives’ stock horses in Idaho but motherhood and the responsibilities that came with it put her dreams of a horse of her own on hold for years.
“I told my husband, though, that eventually when we were able to buy some land, I wanted to get a horse, so he knew it was going to come eventually.”
Bridgett remembers the day she met Stanley. She had heard about another off-the-track racehorse who had recently been sold at auction and was in need of a soft landing. Her husband was out of town for work, so Bridgett decided to go look at the horse on her own.
When she went to meet him, she learned that there was another retired racehorse at the same place, also looking for a home. Bridgett went from scheduling an initial meeting to making a life-changing decision in record time.
“Fortunately for me, my husband Mark is both supportive and understanding. I called him on my way back from meeting the horses for the first time and told him that he had two new horses to look forward to getting to know upon his return.”
It took a little while for Stanley to transition from the all-out gallops required to win races to the quieter, slower pace of the dressage and ease of handling trials, but over time, he and Bridgett have been fine-tuning their dance together.
The dressage tests proved to be the easier part of the sport for both to learn, but they have been making steady progress in mastering the obstacles. Stanley quickly became adept at the bends and symmetrical circles required of the Figure-8, Drums, and Double Slalom obstacles. He didn’t have much trouble getting used to the square immobile halts required for the Bell Corridor and Jug. There is one obstacle, however, that has retained its power to stress him out.
“The gate is still our nemesis,” Bridgett explains. “I don’t know if Stanley is claustrophobic or what, but when we approach the gate, I can feel him tense up, and more often than not he either throws it in reverse and tries to evade by backing up as quickly as he can or ducks his shoulder and tries to avoid getting close to the obstacle.”
In past competitions, the two have sometimes had to take a score of “0” at the Gate when the judges have waved them on rather than let Stanley’s nerves get the better of him. Even with his scores sometimes dampened by a low mark on the Gate, though, Stanley has consistently finished in the ribbons.
The two of them have been working on fine-tuning their performance, spending a lot of time with in-hand work on the ground, helping Stanley understand what Bridgett is asking when she wants him to move his haunches over or perform a leg yield. Once things are going well on the ground and Stanley is relaxed, Bridgett mounts up. Every few days, she introduces another challenge.
Her patience is definitely paying dividends. Recently, the two were able to navigate the gate like old pros, with Stanley attentive and obedient, as well as relaxed throughout.
Congratulations, Bridgett and Stanley, on successfully making a career change!
Learn more about Working Equitation United from their website: www.weunited.us