He’s one of the biggest horses at Innisfree Equestrian Center. He’s one of the pushiest horses to the other horses. He’s one of the cheekiest horses on the farm. He is Q Card. And he is a Standardbred ex-racehorse.
While writing A New Light for Retired Race Horses, I had the pleasure of learning more about Q, the chestnut gelding who once held track records for pacing all over the state of Michigan. The big gelding’s antics have earned him a reputation, but they have also earned him the status of a ‘staff favorite’ at Innisfree.
He’s a big, lofty guy with a head – complete with a narrow stripe of white down the center – that’s slightly too large for his body. His big ears flicker back and forth as he listens to everything around him. His liquid brown eyes show just a hint of white around the edges, giving more emotion to his facial expressions. Two large white patches set just behind his withers where a harness once sat daily are a permanent reminder of his successful career on the race track. His three white socks shine brightly as he ambles in from the field in the morning in a huge, ground covering trot that is faster than many of the other horses’ gallops.
It’s easy to see that Q and his ‘gal pal’, a short and stocky bay Quarter Horse mare named Ginger, are some of the leaders in the herd of about 45 horses. When the herd is in the stable yard for breakfast in the morning, Q walks around, checking each feed bin for extra grain that may have been passed over by someone the night before. Once he’s satisfied that all the bins are empty, he moseys around, instigating tiffs with other playful horses until the staff has brought all the lesson horses they need for the day in. When it’s finally time to eat, Q makes his presence known by nickering until a staff member brings him his favorite thing in the world – breakfast.
Q’s voice is easily identifiable. While most horses yell at the top of their lungs for breakfast, Q does the best he can, but ends up breathing loudly in a nicker-type breath. It’s one of the quirks that make this ex-racer who he is.
After the horses finish eating, they head back out to the field and wait for the staff to bring them hay for the day. Since between 10 and 30 bales are thrown daily (depending on the weather and how many horses are out on a given day), the staff loads up ‘the truck’ – an ancient green work truck – and head out to the field. Q is always one of the first horses waiting for the truck and sometimes goes back to his racing days, chasing the truck like it’s a pace car with his nose right on the bumper.
Q is also a very playful horse…mainly with humans. His donors played with him daily, so when he first came to Innisfree, he loved playing with the staff. In his early days at the farm, he would often sneak up behind staff, nudge them in the back, and then run when they turned around to look at him. Once they turned around again, he would repeat the game.
Although he is strong with other horses, Q has a special place in his heart for foals. Last year, a foal was born to one of Q’s best friends. According to the staff, Q was positive that ‘Gus’ was his baby and was very protective of him and his mom, Radiant. Unfortunately, neither Gus nor Radiant are at the farm any longer and the staff said he looked for them for days after they left.
Horses with personalities like Q’s make any horse lover smile, myself included! The staff is currently working with Q to get him into the rotation of lesson horses.