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Team #572 Nancy Sherbrooke and Hondo

Photo by Q2 Photography

Team #572: Nancy Sherbrooke and Hondo
From: Greenwich, New York
Ages: 77 & 25
Combined Age: 102
Test: Third Level Test 1
Date: July 21, 2022

Around 2017, I acquired a beautiful dark bay Thoroughbred gelding. He was my second off-the-track Thoroughbred, and one day, after having him for a year, he did a prop and wheel athletic movement that I knew I wouldn't be able to go through again. I ended up breaking two ribs and a lumbar vertebra, not to mention being very sore for months. He had been otherwise a lovely animal, but I didn’t want another episode like that. 

I had been riding most of my life, but when that happened at age 72, I didn't want to take any chances. I had another off-the-track Thoroughbred, Fabio, that was "Mr. Steady Eddie," and I thought all I needed was a pasture mate for him. He'd been so good, just a Training Level horse, who had gone to the shows with me and had done a lot of groundwork training. Fabio was also great on the trails. 

I had been in contact with a trainer in the area, and she was having a groundwork clinic, so I had mentioned the horse who threw me and showed her his pictures. She loved his photos (he truly was beautiful). I brought both that horse and Fabio to her clinic. I said I'd give her the one I had fallen from but needed a pasture mate for Fabio. I was happy to show her that my horses were well-broken in the groundwork areas, and she thought that the dark bay horse would be a good addition to her stable. They do a lot of jumping, so were happy to have him.

I signed over the papers, and then asked about a pasture mate horse. The trainer went into the barn and came out with a thin, almost emaciated horse--a bay with a blaze and three white socks. Evidently, “Hondo” had been in a rescue situation and been with her about a month into his rehab. You could see all his ribs and his hips were the typical sling-like concave curves--not a pretty picture, but a good pasture mate. He had a big walk with a big swinging gait that I had only seen one time before, on a young horse that had been showing locally for one of the trainers in our area of New York.

I brought Hondo home and learned more about his story. His owner had a stroke, and when she was in the hospital, no one knew that she had horses or took care of them, so the horses were basically abandoned. Hondo had been in a stall with no food or water for a while. Eventually, all five horses were rescued. 

I had no idea of the Hondo’s age, except that he was perhaps in his teens. I have an indoor/outdoor environment for my horses, where they go in or out of the protective shed at will and have about 10 acres to wander around and eat grass. I slowly fed Hondo, and he started to gain more weight. By fall, he was doing much better.

Each fall I travel to Arizona for the winter, so I’ve shipped Hondo and Fabio back and forth from New York to Arizona over the last four years. I take lessons and we included Hondo as a dressage student, although he had been a lifetime Grand Prix jumper/ field hunter (which I found out later). At his first show, he tried to jump the arena borders, thinking it was a cavaletti. It was obvious that he had no dressage training. Through lessons with a local trainer, we watched him grow and learn to bend into corners, to go round, to balance himself better. He became quite a project.

Hondo improved and we got better. I took him to shows, starting at Intro Level, and we progressed as he grew in strength. It took a long time for him to get stronger and rebuild muscles that he had lost. He was doing so well last year at First Level, that I posed a question to one of my instructors…since Hondo was pretty old now, I wondered if we could actually do a Century Club ride. My veterinarian estimated that he was right around 25 years old--no spring chicken--but was getting stronger and stronger all the time. Since I am 77 this year, my instructor said we could probably do the Century Club ride well. Then I asked if she thought we might be able to someday try for a USDF bronze medal, which would make us have to excel at Third Level also. Well, old Hondo was doing so well that we thought we could train up over the summer to that level, too. 

I had small hopes of getting the bronze medal, but figured the Century Club ride was going to be fun. Being a good quality jumper, Hondo had known how to do his own flying changes, but we had to work on his getting them done at my request. We also needed to work on the counter canter, but he's a smart horse and we managed to get that done.

Our Century Club ride ended up being our second 60%+ ride at Third Level at a recognized show with different judges, so it also qualified us for our USDF bronze medal on that very same ride! 

Hondo's a fantastic horse, with great talent and a terrific brain. He loves his work and loves horse shows--you just can't find a better or more willing partner. He's quite the individual, very opinionated, and tells you what he likes and doesn't. Hondo was pretty grouchy when I got him, but I “ruined” him with treats. Now he loves his peppermints and follows me all around the pasture looking for his treats. Recently we found he loves glazed donuts, too. 

Last year, I let the horses graze near my garden and Hondo ate all the grapes from my vine. He also loves watermelon and is a real pet like Fabio. They have a nice life here at my house and we have a wonderful partnership. We call him Hondo but gave him a show name of "Absolutely Fabulous," because he is!