Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Building trust and a new life: Brenda & Zetta

Brenda Rick has been a dear friend since my early days as a bloodstock agent. We first met when she was caring for the mares and foals for the late Carl Backes and it was Brenda whose quick thinking and steady hand helped safely deliver Maywood's Jill (Fit to Fight - Hurry Hurry by Fast Play) from what could have a disastrous foaling.

Over the years Brenda has found homes for a lot of retired Thoroughbreds to which she was connected and it was her willingness to take on a special project in One for Zetta (Ballado Chieftan - Zachs World by Distinctive Pro) that will leave me forever in her debt. Named after the late Zetta Loose, an assistant trainer I first met on the Canterbury Park backstretch 16 years ago, One for Zetta showed promise as a racehorse but failed to handle the demands of morning training at the track despite the best efforts of several trainers who worked to help her become accustomed to the work of a Thoroughbred racehorse. When the Grevelis Racing Partnership came to the unfortunate conclusion that Zetta would not be a viable race prospect, Ted and I looked to Brenda to help us find the occasionally temperamental filly a suitable home.

Brenda's own words serve best in telling Zetta's story:


While heartwarming stories are always a good read, not all true stories are that way. So it is with horse racing. Not always is it a run for the roses. Sometimes the wildflowers are just as beautiful and the story is almost as sweet - if not just a little more unpredictable and exciting.

Roses are beautiful and predictably elegant. Everyone loves them. BUT a meadow full of wildflowers is breathtaking in its untamed beauty. Each blossom a unique find. It is our uniqueness that makes us special and such is the way with Zetta.

If our ultimate goal is happiness then there is nothing wrong with a run through the wildflowers instead of a run for the roses, if you are so inclined.

August 25th, 2010 Zetta and I embarked on a journey together. While I anticipated I'd be the teacher I rapidly learned that I would be the student as well.

Training usually comes with lists and goals and hopefully accomplishments and gold stars. In the years of working with Thoroughbreds I have learned that each is unique and one training schedule doesn't always work. You need to be flexible.

Therefore after 3 months of planning and trying to follow some sort of agenda I had to throw it way. This was going to be different. That does not mean that it hasn't been rewarding.

Together Zetta and I traveled through a troubled year. Ironically not for her -- for me. Zetta was to me by project, my focus, the one thing I was depending on in a year full of uncontrollable situations. Only she wasn't playing by the rules. She was loving life.

I would love for nothing more than to tell you she is working at a certain level in dressage, or jumping at X height but I can not tell you that. What I can tell you is that in the last year the two of us have learned more about trust, patience and lack of control than I believe either of has learned in our lifetimes to this point.

Zetta is unlike any other horse I have ever worked with and this is not a bad thing. I know that she was suppose to run like the wind.... and I know she can, just not around the oval that she was expected to run. Things like confinement and restraint are not acceptable in Zetta's world. Why? Does it really matter? At the track it did.

I tried for a long time to figure out why and came to the conclusion that it didn't really matter. Not now. What mattered most is the animal in front of me. What Zetta needed most in the beginning was to trust me. What I needed most (and didn't realize) was to be trusted. Confidence was in short supply with us. It is now the base of our relationship. When I thought we were struggling to make any kind of headway I soon realized that we had gone miles. Some accomplishments can't be measured with gold stars but with the willingness to just exsist together without fear.

Zetta is a wildflower. She moves WITH the wind. And it is breathtaking to behold.

In all reality the struggles that I faced over the last year slowed down the progress that could have been forced on her and so you may say that things happen for a reason. I believe now that she was better off with the slower progress. I might not be chasing the wind on her back right now but I know that as we move forward now we are doing so with a base of trust and confidence in each other and about ourselves.

Zetta's goal is to enjoy life and in watching her quest for that, and working with her I found that this isn't such a bad plan. She has always made me smile - everyday. Even through the tough times. If she were a human she would have struggled with daily life because of the labels that would have been placed on her. That is sad since I think we should all make our quest one of finding joy in life and maybe with just a little of the reckless abandon she uses on a daily basis.

Zetta will contribute to the racing world one day! When the time comes, she has fabulous genes that she will pass on to her offspring. Not just her parentage but her way of being as well. Her zest for life, her lack of fear and her undying determination will serve her young well. AND it serves her well too.

Like her mother Zetta is intrigued by children. When they are around she gravitates to them and looks for their attention. It is only something I have recently observed. They are safe. She hasn't quite got the grace and patience with them yet that her mother has but I do believe that she will have the same effect that I watch with Zach. Will she serve on day as a therapy horse... maybe. But for now she is my project and I am hers. Together we are moving forward and soon instead of side by side it will be together as a team. Together with trust, patience and confidence we move into the next year and what a great way to be.

In the beginning it was my intention to try to help find Zetta a home off the track. I needed another horse like...... well actually, in the end, I actually did need her and I hope in the long run she needed me as well.

Thank you guys for your trust in me and your confidence in Zetta's new life. We will prove you made a great choice.

photo courtesy of Abby Erickson (photo's of Zetta are hard to get since she seems to want to be next to me instead of posing for the camera. I promise better will follow. Abby was just a little to young to hold her)

~ Brenda Rick

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