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Success stories Gemologist – The Gem

4th August 2023

Written by Katie Coward

My horse is an 8-year-old dark bay mare called Gemologist, known very aptly as Gem, as she is a gem. I acquired her as my attempt to be "sensible" and acknowledge my advancing years by having a smaller cob type horse was not a success.

I have always loved thoroughbreds and as we already had Ballycool, an ex-racehorse that came to us though racehorse trainer Lucinda Russell, I decided to look for another one. My daughter had been a work rider for Lucinda before her children came along so when I followed up an advert for Gem, I was offered the chance to meet her.

Gem ticked all my boxes, especially when she greeted my 2-year-old grandson with such kindness and a gentle blow "hello" and having already given Ballycool a successful post racing home, Lucinda and Gem's owners agreed that we should have her too. During her racing career Gem ran a total of 44 times and amassed over £20,000 in prize money, although she had plenty of top finishes she never managed to get her head in front.

Gem came to us a year ago in July 2022 and was given time in the field to relax and settle to our life and climate in The Orkney Islands off the North Coast of Scotland. I brought her into work in November and immediately confirmed that she was willing and had been very well started on the lunge and long reins.

The first objective was to teach her to stand still to be mounted from a barrel, not only to save her from back strain, but also to accommodate my increasing years! Then to introduce her to flat work and walking home on a hack. She has been quite the most rewarding mare to educate and has taken everything in her stride.

Now she has realised that canter and the strike off from trot is something to have in her toolbox, she is making fabulous progress. And, as Lucinda had said, she LOVES her jumping! She is ridden in a snaffle and cavesson noseband with no martingale and is a lovely ride for this septuagenarian.

One of the many advantages of an ex-racehorse is that Gem is immune to every kind of Orkney weather having been worked in all weathers during her racing career and most importantly she is bomb proof in all traffic situations.

We recently made the ferry trip across to attend the RoR camp at Ardmedden in Aberdeenshire, organised by the RoR North Scotland’s Regional Development Officer Eleanor Warren. The camp came at just the right time for us, under the guidance of trainers David Gatherer and Yvonne Murray. Gem and I made great progress both on the flat, over show jumps and our very first time out on the cross-country course. I have to say we caught quite a few eyes. Ballycool also attended and excelled himself.

Gem will have a home for life in our family and who knows, if not me, maybe my daughter will have the thrill of eventing her at some point. However, we are in NO hurry and are finding that prioritising keeping her brain right, is proving the right approach.

Both Gem and Ballycool are much loved and members of our family. I would absolutely recommend to anyone who owns an ex-racer, that opportunities like this are very worthwhile indeed.

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