Retired Racehorse Spotlight: Icy Edge

Sometimes it seems that certain horse-rider combinations were just meant to be. Such was the case for Stephanie Church, editor-in-chief of The Horse magazine, and her sister, Sarah, video intern for The Blood-Horse, who will always cherish the good memories they had with their Thoroughbred ex-racer Icy Edge.

Stephanie and Sarah, who are both lifelong horsewomen , sat down with me the other day to reflect on all the good times they had over the years with Icy Edge, one of the last living foals of The Axe II, and the grandson of Mahmoud. Even at age 30, the roan gelding is spirited as ever, doing tricks for carrots, and living out the rest of his days at their family’s farm near Richmond, Va.

Icy Edge, who failed to even hit the board in 12 starts on the Northeast circuit, is yet another perfect example of a horse that could have been “thrown away” after his racing career, but instead, he found another niche on the show circuit and became an integral part of several people’s lives.

Thank you, Stephanie and Sarah for sharing Icy's story with us. It is truly a special one!

EM: How did you come to own this horse? Did you get him right off the track, or had he already been retrained as a show horse?

Stephanie: I was in Pony Club in the early 1990s, and I was observing the Eastern championships, and at the time I was looking for my next event horse. I was out on course watching cross country, and I saw this horse come through that was just phenomenal. He had a rider with bright red hair, so it was kind of memorable—a gray horse that looked really excited about what he was doing, and a really happy rider that was cheering him saying, ‘Good boy!’ after going over water jump. I thought, ‘That’s a great horse.’

Awhile later, I was back in the show management area and saw a sign up that said, ‘Look for this horse, he’s for sale.’ I called, and went to look at him, and he was out of our price range.

So I bought another horse named Bluegrass that I had for a year. He had some issues with jumping, so we decided to sell him, and we checked and Icy was still for sale, and they dropped the price for us, because they knew he would have such a good home. These sisters had owned him and evented him through the preliminary level. He was a horse that had a history of Pony Club and eventing and he was kind of well-known in the northern Virginia region. The sisters were going off to college and wanted to make sure he had a good home.

When we went to see him the second time, he was in his stall, and managed to go under the stall guard and escape. The owner spent 15 or 20 minutes trying to catch him. My mom was like, ‘Why do we want this horse?’ But he was just being silly; he’s kind of a clown and has a great personality and is just getting into stuff all the time.

Stephanie, Icy Edge, and his "girlfriend," Honey

EM: Had you ridden Thoroughbreds prior to Icy Edge, and what’s different about competing on a Thoroughbred as compared to other show horse breeds?

Stephanie: Sarah and I both started out with a base of hunter/jumpers. I switched to eventing when I was 12 or 13 with a Welsh/Thoroughbred/Arabian cross. Sarah got into Pony Club eventing when she was seven or eight, so she got an earlier start than I did. The other horses we rode through the years included Welsh ponies, Thoroughbred crosses, Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas.

Icy is a horse that moves…you put your leg on him and he moves. He loves his job. The horse I had before him had a bit of confidence problem; we had a few tumbles. So Icy was perfect to build my confidence back; I think maybe he stopped at two jumps the whole time I rode him over the years.

But he was very solid at cross country, confident. He was what we would call a ‘cross country machine.’ You would get him at a pace, and he would just keep it. The horse is enthusiastic. You’d take him in the starting box for cross country, and he would almost be doing levitations above the ground because he was so excited. He would get to the point where he would squeal at the back of his throat… he loved his job so much.

Not only was he a big jumper and eventer, but he also excelled in dressage. They have dressage rallies at Pony Club as well, and one year we did a musical ride, and we chose songs that went with his gaits. They were songs from "Hill Street Blues," "M.A.S.H.," and "St. Elmo’s Fire." We choreographed (our routine) to them, and he loved it so much. He would anticipate the movements, and he seemed to enjoy the music, and he was always in time with the music and had a blast. He knew his job, and was always very enthusiastic about it.

Sarah: Once at a show, he was dressed up as a unicorn, and we practiced with it, and it was fine and didn’t bother him at all. But we got into the arena, and down one side they had mirrors. He literally turned, looked at himself, and flipped out.

I could not get him to calm down, so my teammates came out and cut the unicorn (horn) off his bridal. The rest of the test, he had a lot of energy which was good. At that level, I wasn’t allowed to do any lateral movement. But in our diagonals, he did a half pass, and the judges said, ‘Oh, this is really good,’ and I was like, ‘I didn’t really mean to do it.’ It went really well, and at the end, I took the wand that I had, and waved it in the air, and everyone started clapping and he started jigging again; he was so excited. He really takes on the excitement of the crowd.

EM: What have been some of your other favorite experiences aboard Icy Edge and what were his best performances?

Sarah: We (competed) in the State Fair my senior year for 4-H, and it was held in Lexington, Va. We arrived 15 minutes before my class, and it was the highest we had jumped, and I was really nervous, and I could tell (Icy) was nervous too just being in a new place.

I hopped on and literally went over one warm up fence, and then it was time for us to go into the arena. I went in, and it was the first time I had ridden in a coliseum too. But Icy just took me over all those fences, and it was picture perfect. I don’t know how he did it; it was just amazing, and we won the division, so it was pretty good. He could teach you, but take care of you at the same time.

Stephanie: I wouldn’t say he was an easy horse to ride; he took some skill to ride, but he’s one of those horses that you just learned so much from.

The United States Eventing Association has areas across the country, and when we were in Area 2, we qualified for the championships around 1994, and he won. There were some competitors I didn’t know in this division, and it was pretty exciting to win that. We also came to Pony Club Nationals in 1995 in Kentucky. We had a great time; he was a phenomenal event horse.

Sarah: I took him to his last show in 2007. It was a combined test in the stadium, and he won that one. It was in the mountains near Radford, Va. and it was a lot of fun taking him there. They’re sort of isolated from the Pony Club, and they were all like, ‘Who is this horse?’ Nobody believed how old he was when I told them. They thought he was 18, but he was 27 at the time. He shows his age well.

EM: How is Icy Edge’s health condition in his old age?

Stephanie: He has clinical signs of EPM (abbreviation for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease), but that’s one of those diseases that can be hard to diagnose. They treated him with several rounds of medication and he improved. He also has melanoma on the left side of his throat.

EM: What is your best advice for someone that is thinking of adopting an off-track Thoroughbred?

Stephanie: I think Icy was a horse that didn’t really want to be a racehorse. Horses off the track have some memories of what life was like on the track, and you want to make sure you carefully try different things with them and try them in a controlled situation. A lot of it is just taking your time with them, and finding out what they like to do. Each horse has its different personality, so you should just try things out until you figure out what they want to do in life.

Sarah: They definitely have a lot of potential; just the way they’re built. They’re light and hearty, and athletic.

Stephanie: A lot of them are very willing, and they’re sensitive and intelligent. We were fortunate to get a horse that already knew his job in life. It is fun to figure out what they’re job is going to be.

EM: Anything else to add about Icy Edge?

Sarah: During my senior year in high school, I did a science project where I taught all our horses the same set of tricks. Icy was the oldest, but he learned all the tricks the fastest and has kept them. He still does all of them to this day and will try all of them at once when you have a carrot. He knows how to bow, beg, nod yes, no, and he knows how to count.

Stephanie: (Laughing) So if he thinks you have a treat, he’ll start nodding his head, shaking it no, stomping his foot, then he bows. People are like, ‘What’s wrong with your horse?’

Left to Right: Sarah, Icy Edge, Stephanie


Leave a Comment:

Zen's Auntie

What an awesome story. Thanks for sharing it.

Now thats what I see in EVERY ex racehorse - you know for nearly every horse that runs on the track there should (could) be a home with kids waiting somewhere to enjoy all the Other things Thoroughbreds are so good at.  

Retire them SOUND.  

17 Mar 2011 4:51 PM

I have two retired racehorses (one I lost to colic this past December). They're the best!

17 Mar 2011 5:13 PM
Asst. Hotwalker

What a happy story. I wish all our cast off warrors had it so good. They all sure deserve it.

17 Mar 2011 5:23 PM

What a beautiful story.  You two & Icy were very fortunate to "find each other" at the right time that became your forever time.  Everyone is a winner here!  Lucky horse, lucky humans.  There's always room for one more hug. . . .did he get it?

17 Mar 2011 7:59 PM

Great story, beautiful horse!  "Shows his age well" is a huge understatement!  Awesome to learn that he was still showing at 27!

Well-loved, well-trained, and happy - all we could wish for every horse.  

17 Mar 2011 8:16 PM

Lovely horse!

17 Mar 2011 8:39 PM
Robin from Maryland

Wonderful story.  Everyone looks so happy in the photos, especially the last one.  Wouldn't it be great if every OTTB found a home as super as this one.  Congrats to these women for taking this horse up to his full potential.  

17 Mar 2011 9:22 PM
Linda in Texas

What a keeper he is for sure, you knew that the first time you saw him. And the life you both have shared with him will be with you forever and i know has framed your way of thinking and handling situations.

He was lucky to found you and has returned to you all he possibly could. A sweet story.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Sarah, Icy and Stephanie. He does pull at the heart strings. And may he always have bushels of carrots to share with "Honey."

17 Mar 2011 9:30 PM
Linda in Texas

Esther - i forgot to tell you thank you for writing this article. Very

nicely done and such a wonderful subject Icy Edge is.


17 Mar 2011 9:38 PM
Blue Blue Sea

Icy Edge is a cutie! Glad he is in a great place with such wonderful people!

17 Mar 2011 9:39 PM

Such a beautiful horse. And so happy. It's what you always hope you will hear after they are retired - that they are truly happy in their new lives. You sound like the perfect family for him and loved hearing about your life with him. Absolutely adore the photo of Icy with his 'girlfriend' Honey.

17 Mar 2011 9:58 PM

What a heartwarming story! All horses deserve a chance to live their lives out in peace. Overbreeding is rampant in the horse industry, and the horses are the ones paying the price for it. We have to be responsible for any lives we bring into the world. God bless you Sarah and Stephanie and God bless Icy Edge and all horses.

17 Mar 2011 11:09 PM

Another great story, Esther. The photo of Icy in the fall reminds me of a pic that I have of my old fellow, Daal Shetan, so many years ago. I hope that Sarah and Stephanie enjoy Icy for many more years. TBs rock!

17 Mar 2011 11:24 PM

Aw, yay!!  Icy, Sarah, and Stephanie are all very near and dear to my heart, very glad to see this article on them!  I too have known Icy for several years and can attest that he is indeed a clown and was a very talented show horse in his prime.  He is the only horse I've ever known that got excited at the prospect of putting a bridle on, he just loved to go for rides!  This just goes to show that there is life after the race track for these horses, and Icy was blessed to find the best of homes with Sarah and Stephanie! :)

18 Mar 2011 12:16 AM

Great story.  You and Icy were just meant to be together!

18 Mar 2011 2:47 AM

Wonderful he got to live his potential with 2 intelligent owners!

18 Mar 2011 5:32 AM

I enjoyed that so much that I'm now late for feeding.  Please write more.  I trailer to a farm in MD that retrains rescues.  The farm is full of rescued TB's who show, hunt, event, and work as school horses.  It looks like they will all have forever homes. For sure, my OTB will be here forever.

18 Mar 2011 8:22 AM
Carolyn in ND

Sweet story!!  I hope it will inspire others to find a use for an OTTB.

18 Mar 2011 8:52 AM
babette jenny

What a great interview. I remember seeing Icy and loving him!

The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred has "Pensioners on Parade" article in each issue. These are also heart-warming.

18 Mar 2011 9:24 AM

Thanks for such a heart warming story Esther......I loved it!!

Sarah & Stephanie - Thanks for giving Icy such a great life, he truly is special.  I was smiling through the whole story but ended up laughing out loud at the end when I pictured Icy nodding, shaking his head no, stomping, and bowing!!  Way too precious!!  Yes, they all have their own special personalities and so much to offer.

Take care and kiss Icy for me!!

18 Mar 2011 9:36 AM

Thank you, Esther, for presenting us the wonderful story of Icy Edge and his life after racing.  It is just beautiful that these sisters found him and shared a lifetime of fun with him in his new career.  Thank you!

18 Mar 2011 9:52 AM

Thanks for a great article. I have never owed a horse (dogs, cats & llamas) yet I always enjoy a story about how a horse can bring such joy to their owners. When they are happy they make you happy.  I'm glad that Icy found her niche and everyone enjoyed her journey!

18 Mar 2011 10:27 AM

this is a great blog.  Keep it up.  who is the author?

18 Mar 2011 10:29 AM

What wonderful memories you will be able to cherish with Icy! Thanks for sharing.  He's beautiful.

18 Mar 2011 10:31 AM

When owners are willing to stop a horse that shows nothing at the track and give it a new skill set to work with great things can happen. A good show horse is worth more money than a broken down 5000 claimer.

18 Mar 2011 10:37 AM

Exactly! What do you do with the ones who are too broken down to event? I trail ride a retiree with a broken hock. Give the unsound a home, as well!

18 Mar 2011 11:27 AM
The Beav

That was a lovely story.  What a good memory.  I'm glad you girls were able to enjoy him for so long.

18 Mar 2011 11:36 AM

Just FYI, lots of horses that are productive racehorses and have run a lot stay sound and can be great showhorses.  

I have a great jumper who had 65 starts, competed as a higher-level jumper at the best shows until he was 17 (only because he didn't owe anybody anything and didn't need to go "down the levels") and is now a still-sound 27 year old pasture boss.

In general, believe the breed is not as sound as it used to be. However, I have a sound 56-starts one in training now. They are out there.  Look for them.  Buy them, adopt them or claim them if you want to, they WILL reward you.

18 Mar 2011 2:19 PM
Newfie Mom

I have had the privilege of knowing Sarah and Stephanie, and Icy Edge.  I remember going to a cross country event once, and Sarah was concerned that Icy (in his advanced age) had actually finished the course too fast!  He was off and zipping through the course like it was what he was born to do.  So impressive.  I can tell you that Icy is a very much loved member of their family.  He's also a big silly baby, if he thinks you might have something good in your pocket.

18 Mar 2011 3:08 PM
Casey Loves Her OTTBs

I own 2 OTTBs, one is now turning 9 in May, he had raced 73 times in his racing career, with only 2 wins. How did he end up with us? He was at an old barn we boarded at. He could have been thrown away. The Move Man was his name. He is one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses, you can do anything with him, though his hip has a problem from racing twice a month.

18 Mar 2011 4:20 PM

This is a great story & a cool horse, I love horses with a personality like that. All my life I have wanted a horse & tho I came close a few times it never happened. I love being around them--I come alive! Thanks for sharing,you are so lucky to have him & to be raised around horses.

18 Mar 2011 5:44 PM

Thank you for this uplifting story!

Ice Edge is very handsome and he sounds like a character:) Wishing him and you both all the best!

18 Mar 2011 7:12 PM

Thanks for this beautiful article on Icy Edge. Certainly he deserves

a note on The Color Corner recollection of "Greats". Thanks to both for your vision.

18 Mar 2011 8:16 PM
Easy Goer

Thank you for sharing Icy's story! He sounds like he found his true calling! A heart-warming story!

19 Mar 2011 11:47 AM
Tom & Judy

What a great story!!

24 Mar 2011 8:50 AM

My heart is warmed by all your comments and I look forward to seeing Icy on my next trip back to Virginia to visit. I'll give him a snuggle for you, surely. :)

24 Mar 2011 1:51 PM

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