Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Q&A with breeder Meg Buckley

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
Part 7 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.
Thewifedoesntknow wins at Monmouth Park in September 2011. ©Equi-Photo
When I began working on the training blog for Thewifedoesntknow, one of the very first people I heard from was breeder Meg Buckley. She was delighted to hear that the filly she bred was doing so well in her second career. Meg was kind enough to share her experience in the racing industry, some information about how her horses are raised, and the story behind Thewifedoesntknow's infamous name.
Thewifedoesntknow in the Monmouth Park paddock before a race in 2011. Photo ©Jessica Yeargin
 TDN:  How did you get started breeding Thoroughbreds and what is your background with horses?

Buckley: I got started breeding Thoroughbreds when I was about 12. My father, Carter Thornton, gave me my first mare for my birthday when she was a weanling. She was a twin with good family from a C.V. Whitney mare. He said since she was a twin, we wouldn't even break her but we could wait until she was old enough to breed. My father stood stallions, so I got a free season every year and sold the foals as weanlings or yearlings at public auction. I kept one filly out of each generation and now have the fifth generation out of that mare.

From as long as I can remember, I loved going out on the farm and to the racetrack with my father. I started riding when I could walk. My Dad bred my first pony. He was by our teaser out of a Hackney mare that my brother rode. He taught me how to ride and I showed him in pony hunters until I was 16. Then, my Dad gave me a Thoroughbred that cracked his sesamoid on the racetrack. He made me turn him out for a year to let the sesamoid completely heal and then I had great success with him showing until I was about 21.

In the summers, I broke yearlings for my Dad and John Ward, Jr. In the winter of 1975, I went to Aiken, SC and rode for Mack Miller. My landlord had hunters, so I had the best of both worlds riding racehorses in the morning and hunters in the afternoon. In 1976, I went to work as assistant trainer and exercise girl for my father, traveling all around the country to different racetracks. After getting married in 1977 to a horseman, we got tired of moving from track to track and settled down on my family farm in Paris, KY. I took out my trainer's license and trained a few Thoroughbreds on the Kentucky and Ohio circuit for the next twenty years. When my Mom passed away, I decided to quit training so I could help my father on the farm. I managed our farm, Threave Main Stud, until about a year ago when my 32-year-old son took over. That's my life story and I wouldn't change a thing. I guess you can say horses have always been in my blood.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
TDN: This is the question that's on everyone's mind: how did Thewifedoesntknow get her memorable name?

Buckley: I sold Thewifedoesntknow to trainer Kenny McPeek privately. He told me later that he divided her ownership up with about four new guys that had just gotten into the business. One of the guys was at a party telling his friends that he had just bought a racehorse but the wife didn't know about it yet. Well, of course, the wife walked up behind him and said, "The wife doesn't know what?" Hence the name Thewifedoesntknow.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
TDN: What was Thewifedoesntknow like when she was a youngster?

Buckley: Thewifedoesntknow was always very kind, laid back, and easy to work with. Her mother is the same way. She is a big, pretty, sensible mare.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
TDN: What qualities in the horses you've bred to race make them good prospects for the show ring?

Buckley: Many of the same qualities make good racehorses and hunters. The most important quality for both is soundness. I always try to breed a horse that has good bone and is sound. Of course, you want a good-looking horse with good balance, size, personality, and good sense. A nice mover is very important for selling thoroughbred yearlings as well showing hunters in the show ring.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
TDN: Recently, you mentioned that Thewifedoesntknow was familiar with walking over poles because it was part of her schooling as a youngster. What other things are your horses taught when you foal and raise them?

Buckley: As soon as our foals are born, we put a halter on them and begin leading them from day one. We rub all over their bodies to get them used to being touched, which also builds trust. They are led in and out everyday, and we take their temperature and pick their feet so they will be good with the farrier. As weanlings, they are still handled daily. In the summer of their yearling year, the sale preparation begins. They are walked, bathed, and groomed daily. We walk them over poles to get them to drop their head and use different muscles to round their back. It also helps coordination to walk over several poles and builds their confidence to trust the handler to follow them over the poles. Occasionally, we put side reins on them to get them to arch their neck more and be more supple. Any horses that we break to ride are basically broken the same way you would ride a hunter. They learn to walk, trot, and canter quietly going in both directions in a snaffle bit with the rider using long stirrups.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
TDN: With all the recent news articles, Thoroughbreds are getting more attention both in the media and in the show ring. What can owners, breeders, and trainers do at the track and upon retirement to ensure that their horses make a successful transition into their second career as pleasure/show horses?

Buckley:  That's a tough question. I would say the future of racehorses are pretty much out of the breeders' hands if they have sold them unless they can afford to buy them back if they see them going downhill racing and can provide them with a safe retirement home. Unfortunately, not many breeders can afford to do that. On the other hand, owners and trainers could make a conscious decision to retire the horse when he is still sound instead of continuing to race him until he breaks down or is so unsound that he can't go on to another profession. It is hard to send every horse on to a new profession. Some are just not suited to do anything else and the thoroughbred retirement farms are mostly full and struggling financially.

Thewifedoesntknow racing in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll
Thank you to Meg Buckley, Equi-Photo, Jessica Yeargin, and Mike Carroll for their contributions to this week's blog.

-Sarah Andrew

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