In this series, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to critique your off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) eventing prospects. Professional riders and trainers will share their insights into each OTTB's pedigree, racing history, and conformation. Would you like to have your off-the-track Thoroughbred featured in the next edition of OTTB Critique presented by Athletux? We are looking for our next horse! Email your tips to [email protected].
Meet Alexa Brogna’s Jax. Jax (Yarrow Brae x Country Favorite) is a 9-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred who began his career steeplechasing in Maryland under the Jockey Club name "Heard Shots" and who is the subject of this month’s OTTB Critique.
First, we talked to Brogna to get a little bit more background on this special OTTB. Jax began his second career of eventing in 2016 with eventer Kate Brown in Aiken, South Carolina. Brogna explained, “I had begun looking for a younger horse to sort of bring up the levels as my older horse, Judge, was at the end of his eventing career. At the time I was 18 and a working student for Jennie Goebel Tucker in Canton, Connecticut. We went down to Aiken to try Jax together because Jennie and I both really liked him - I almost bought him sight unseen!” It really was love at first sight for Brogna as she said, “When I patted him in Kate’s barn aisle I knew he was the right horse.”
Many OTTBs have an aura and proudness about them and Jax is no exception. “He just had this look about him that struck me. He was determined and little bit cheeky but I loved and still love that quirkiness about him,” detailed Brogna. He had done a few Novice level events and one at Training level before Brogna took over the reins. Brogna explained, “I was lucky enough to continue campaigning my upper-level horse Judge so I could really figure Jax out before I started to compete him.”
Once Jax and Brogna competed together for the first time at the end of 2017, there was nothing stopping them. “We did our first Training together in the spring of 2018. When I took him to The Fork at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, North Carolina and he skipped around their Training, I knew he was a serious horse,” she said. Brogna had never felt a horse think so carefully or thoughtfully while also being incredibly brave. She moved Jax up to Preliminary at Longleaf in the spring of 2018 at the Carolina Horse Park and “he really blew my expectations out of the water.”
Currently, Brogna and Jax are getting lots of miles at the Preliminary level. It is her goal to have him to be a really solid citizen before they consider a move up. For Brogna, her show jumping has always been a weak link and they are both working hard at getting better at that phase, as well as the other two. Currently, the pair trains with Bobby Costello and Holly Hepp Hudspeth in North Carolina, and they have their eyes set on competing in the Bromont CCI2*-S this summer if the spring goes according to plan.
Brogna concluded, “Jax is a joy to ride - I’m so lucky to learn from such an athletic creature. Our path together hasn’t been the smoothest, but I really feel we are beginning to form a neat partnership and rely on one another. It’s an honor and a joy to have him as my teammate, and I’m so thankful to have him in my life!” Jax clearly is a very special horse and this month we are excited to have Rick's Maynard with us to critique Jax.
As Maynard begins to look over the photos of Jax, he first commented on his overall impression. Maynard stated, “Jax looks like a cross-country machine and it looks like he enjoys life and loves jumping. He also is relaxed when being handled on the ground and when waiting on a loose contact for dressage,” all good qualities in an OTTB. Maynard also added, “When jumping, he is keen and taking the rider to the jump with the correct amount of bit contact the mouth is closed and accepting the bit with a little foam around the lips.”
Moving on to Jax’s conformation, while Maynard, “would like to see a slightly longer neck,” he feels Brogna does well to keep him on the bit and stated, “He does not have an ewe neck.” Maynard also pointed out that, while Jax is standing is a very classic pose for a photograph, he should be a bit more square for a Dressage halt.
Maynard also evaluated Jax’s jump and feels, “His jumping position over the box is exceptional! He is showing air time, his ears are forward, and the knees and hocks are parallel.” Maynard also couldn't help but add, “In the photograph over a log where he is almost landing, the riders position is superb with a secure leg. While I would like to see a little more kick behind, so he does not drag his hind legs over the log, working on grids with oxers and cavalettis might help build the hindquarters for this.” He concluded, “It must be a wonderful feeling for the rider!”
Overall, Maynard was extremely impressed with Jax and wishes the pair nothing but the best!
Rick Maynard, father of three-day eventer Tik Maynard, was shortlisted in 1976 and 1984 for the Canadian Olympic Three-Day Event Team, has competed in Grand Prix show jumping since 1986, and has shown Prix St. Georges in dressage. He also coached the Canadian National Pentathlon team at the Olympics Games in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. At 75, Rick is still competing in both show jumping and three-day eventing in addition to being the author of the Canadian bestselling book, "Horses in Focus."
Lynn Klisavage got her start teaching riding lessons on Barber’s Point Naval Air Base on O’ahu, Hawaii in the 1960s. When she was in her early 20s, she and her family relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and it was there that Klisavage became the Director of the Air Force Academy Stables.
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For over 20 years the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) has been educating all levels of eventing instructors to confirm their knowledge base, both theoretical and practical, upon which they will continue to build throughout their teaching lifetime. The USEA is now shining the spotlight each month on some of the 300 ICP Certified Instructors.