Mar 01, 2022

What's In a Name: How a Flying Fish Helped an Amateur Find Their Wings

Mary Robinson and JustFortheHalibut. Amy Dragoo photo.

Meet Justforthehalibut aka “Fish." Fish is a 7-year-old OTTB out of On Z Run by Horse Greeley who was born and raced briefly in Ohio. This fun name is his registered Jockey Club name and I kept it because I love it. It completely embodies why I participate in this wonderful sport - just because it’s so much fun! While he didn’t seem to care much for racing, finishing in the back of the pack in all three of his races, he has excelled at eventing. His ears are up and he hunts for the flags.

We are both learning the sport under the excellent guidance of our trainer, Fylicia Barr. Fylicia has a great track record for finding OTTBs, retraining them for their second careers, and matching them up with the right owner/rider. She found my diamond in the rough as a 3-year-old and graciously let me try him for four months. I was sold with the first ride, however was just resuming riding several years off after recovering from back surgery and wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be too much for me as a youngster. I had told her I wanted a horse with a Labrador-like in-your-pocket personality and she knew he was the perfect one despite his youth. He is always the first to come up from the field and would do anything for a treat.

I purchased him as a 4-year-old and it is truly a match made in heaven. While I grew up working for lessons in a hunter/jumper barn and had previously started a couple of rescued Thoroughbreds under saddle, I have focused most of my time and energy on my career and family and Fish is my first horse! I am a veterinarian and I’ve always loved Thoroughbreds. I simply couldn’t have found a better partner than Fish. In addition to being an exceptional athlete who covers for my mistakes, he hacks out by himself and tolerates my crazy not-so-horse-savvy chocolate Labs. He just has the best brain and entertains us all with his loud snoring while napping in the barn.

Not that we haven’t had any challenges. For example at one of our first events, we parted ways during our stadium jumping warmup and he chose to take a preview of the entire cross country course before heading back to the trailers! He proved just how fit he was by handling it with ease the second time around with me in the saddle and I was especially proud that we recovered from my mistake during warmup to finish double clear.

Fish is also a bit accident-prone. A couple of weeks after I bought him, he ended up in the hospital with a puncture wound to his left hock. As a veterinarian, I knew how serious it could be. Thankfully it didn’t penetrate anything important, and since then there have been numerous puncture wounds, with absolutely no indication as to where they have come from. Believe me, we have looked! And the random oral ulcers that appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared - probably a reaction to a seasonal plant but has never recurred (thankfully) . . . and the weird whole-body skin infection last summer that made him lose all his hair . . . that also came and went without an apparent reason . . . it’s got to be because I’m a veterinarian, right?

Regardless, of these minor setbacks and challenges, in the last two seasons, we’ve moved with ease from Beginner Novice to Novice to Training. I plan to stay at the Training level this season with the goal to move up to Modified when I’m ready.

However, I’m so thankful I have Fylicia and her fantastic team to keep him progressing in his training so that he is always at least one step ahead of me. She will pilot him at the Preliminary level before the end of the year and who knows where he will go from there. On top of his great personality, he is a fantastic, super honest jumper.

With a name like Justforthehalibut, we’ve had lots of fun clipping fish patterns and scales for the winter. In 2020, I turned him into a dragon. However, in 2021, I think we nailed it as Nemo and Dory at Plantation Field’s Halloween starter trial.

I am so in love with my flying Fish – he is making this adult amateur’s dreams come true!

Does your horse or pony have an extra-special or unique show name? We want to hear all about them. Email Meagan DeLisle at [email protected] to tell us more and for a chance to be featured in our next What's In a Name column on useventing.com.

Oct 01, 2022 Volunteers

The VIP Volunteer: Lisa Pragg

Lisa Pragg is a busy woman, but between her normal day job and competing her own 19-year-old Thoroughbred Impeccable she still prioritizes time to volunteer - both at horse trials and as a volunteer firefighter. Pragg understands the importance that volunteers play in the eventing community and makes sure to give whatever time she can back as a fair gesture.

Sep 30, 2022 Convention

Registration is Now Open for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Savannah, Georgia!

Attention USEA members! Registration for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! The convention will be held in person on December 7-11, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel in Savannah, Georgia.

Sep 30, 2022 News

USEA Names Athletes for Inaugural EA21 National Camp

The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is proud to announce the selected Young Rider athletes for the Emerging Athletes 21 Program (EA21) national camp, now that the EA21 regional clinics have concluded. Twelve riders were accepted into each of the five regional EA21 clinics, taught by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) instructors, and now riders have been selected from the regional clinics to participate in the inaugural EA21 national camp this winter.

Sep 29, 2022 Instructors

The Eventing Coaches Program: Phyllis Dawson on Training Horses and Riders

Ninety percent of training a horse is getting the horse to understand exactly what you want them to do. In general, horses are generous and willing creatures who want to please us; very seldom do they behave badly on purpose. Horses don’t come out and say, ‘Let’s make Mom’s (or Dad’s) life miserable today by going as poorly as possible - most prefer to do the right thing, as long as they know what that is.

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