Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Overcoming Fears With 'Willing Partner' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Overcoming Fears With ‘Willing Partner’

Brittany with Willing Partner, aka Wilhelm

We've all heard it. If you ride horses long enough, the question isn't if you're going to fall off, but rather when and how hard. For Brittany Rader Hall, the answer is “several years ago” and “hard enough to break my neck and nose.”

Brittany was an avid rider, more or less growing up in a Western saddle in her home state of Oklahoma and later playing polo in college. That bone-breaking fall a few years ago from atop a polo pony took months to heal from physically, but the mental scars proved more difficult to overcome.

With the help of an off-track Thoroughbred who couldn't even break the three figure mark in lifetime earnings, Brittany has conquered her mental and physical hurdles to get back in the saddle and regain her confidence as a rider.

Raced by his breeder in his one and only start in October of 2012, Willing Partner was anything but that for his jockey. The 4-year-old broke slowly and raced near the back of the pack for the first quarter, before fading to last and watching his competitors leave him in their dust as he crossed the wire more than 15 lengths behind the second-to-last finisher.

“We found a video of the race and he was so far behind that I thought he was a pony horse following the pack,” said Brittany. “They retired him sound right after. He didn't want to run.”

Brittany purchased Wilhelm, as he is now known, for just a few hundred dollars with the strong desire to overcome the sheer panic that had consumed her since her horrific fall.

“After my fall, my fear of riding was so strong, but Wilhelm has really helped me through it,” said Brittany. “I definitely have a whole new outlook on risk-taking, but I won't let it keep me from riding. I have had a few minor freak-out moments on him, but he stays calm, which allows my fear to subside.”

Thanks to some encouragement from a friend, Brittany has been learning the discipline of dressage with Wilhelm. The confidence she's been gaining with the help of her Thoroughbred even extended to her trying him over a few small jumps, as she described in a recent Facebook post alongside a picture of she and Wilhelm clearing a cross rail.

“This may not seem like a big jump, I know, especially to my jumper friends, but today was MONUMENTAL for me.

Brittany and Willing PartnerA year ago, I couldn't even get on a horse without a ridiculous panic attack, overthinking it and expecting every ride to be my last due to an unforeseeable wreck that will take me out for good.

After several setbacks, some very rough landings and a ton of support…I finally found Wilhelm…He is the best partner I could have asked for.”

Brittany hopes to get comfortable enough with jumping to compete in lower-level combined training events with Wilhelm, but she admits that with her Western background and her admitted battle with nerves at times, it is best for her future show horse to get the basics down with a jumping trainer.

“He's had a solid year of dressage training. I just sent him for thirty days to a local trainer to introduce him to jumps properly,” explained Brittany. “He loves to jump and is eager at every one, though he's less enthusiastic about water puddles. He can be a bit of a princess.”

It might seem odd to think that someone who's grown up riding Western on mostly quarter horses would want a Thoroughbred to help conquer her demons, but Brittany wouldn't have it any other way.

“There are so many Thoroughbreds who need homes after their racing days are over. They are so versatile and have many more years to give after their last race has been run.”

Name: Willing Partner (a.k.a “Wilhelm”)
Born: April 20, 2008
Color: Chestnut
Sire: Strategic Partner
Dam:  Karen Karen
Sale History: none
Race Record: 1-0-0-0
Race Earnings: $85

If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.

Jen Roytz is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days.

Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.

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