SNOOPY (AKA PAGES RIVER) & CORRIE
It may seem a long way from Arrowfield Stud to the Swan Hill Riding for the Disabled, but it’s not far at all. It’s the journey one horse, carrying not only the Arrowfield brand but also the name of the river that runs through the farm, has made over the past decade. And thanks to his devoted new owner, he’s now enjoying a new life that suits him much better than the racing world.
The bay colt with three white socks born on 15 September 2005 was the result of a mating between Falbrav, a Group 1 winner in five countries, and Amaranth, a mare imported from the United States in 1997. The team at Arrowfield gave the Falbrav colt a great start and for the first year or so he grazed happily alongside the Stud’s other foals born in 2005, among them a pair of future top-class performers, Reaan and Master of Design.
At the end of 2006 the colt began his preparation for the 2007 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale where he was sold for the relatively modest price of $35,000 to the Victorian-based family of Arrowfield’s Stud Office administrator Jess Hood. That explains his registered racing name, Pages River, one of the landmark features of Arrowfield, close to where Jess works every day.
Jess remembers the colt very well. “He was such a lovely, kind horse but unfortunately, he just couldn’t run very fast. He had four starts as a late three-year-old gelding at Victorian country meetings but couldn’t finish closer than ninth.”
The decision to retire Pages River was easily made and the Hoods were happy to let him go to the good home his trainer found for him. (New rules introduced by Racing Australia this year now require formal notification of all transfers of ownership, even when a thoroughbred horse is given away, so that it’s clear who is responsible for the welfare of each animal.)
It was at that first good home that Corrie Potter of Swan Hill met Pages River, now re-named Snoopy, and she picks up the story.
“I first met Snoopy through a friend, Kasey Hair who had gotten him off the track as a four-year-old from Horsham. She planned to re-train him and sell him on as an eventer for pony club or adult riding club. However, Kasey became pregnant and was unable to work with Snoopy, so she asked me to take over his training and we would go halves in whatever we could sell him for.
“He needed lots of ground work, TLC, spending time with him, teaching social skills and riding aids, but eight months later when his training was finished, I’d fallen hopelessly in love with him and his personality, so I ended up buying him!
“I taught him dressage, and we came first in our first dressage test, then we did a few shows, although he didn’t really enjoy them so I didn’t persist with them. I taught him six different tricks and if I’m out bareback riding and have to get off to open a gate, I ask him to put his head down and I lean over his neck, then he lifts me up onto his back.
“We’ve done a couple of stockman’s challenges, and many trail rides. We’ve done jumping, barrel racing, novelty events, and can harness him up and he will pull a gate around the paddocks to break up the horse poo.
“One of the scariest moments I had with him was when we were riding along a road next to a train line. The train was early and my sister and I were stuck on a road with our horses between a 100 kmph train and a barbed wire fence paddock. With no driveways or dirt roads to escape down, we dismounted and held on tight, expecting a massive reaction from Snoopy. But he just stood there and watched the train speed past. Right then I knew this horse could put up with a lot.
“I then began training him for RDA (Riding for the Disabled) which allows adults and children with disabilities to learn to ride horses. He didn’t start off well, because first RDA session was at the Warracknabeal Racecourse and it took Snoopy a while to realise that walking around this mounting yard with other horses would never lead him back out onto the race track.
“At his fourth rally he met all the kids and the coach agreed that he was ready for a child with a disability. He did brilliantly and three months later he passed all his tests which included someone yelling and clapping while riding around. They threw balls at him, they pulled on his mane and tail, they smacked him on his rump and pretended to fall off him while trotting. Snoopy didn’t react to any of it so he was assessed as a safe and reliable horse for adults and kids with disabilities.
“Snoopy now lives with me in Swan Hill and attends the RDA here. He has a girlfriend called Gypsy who my lovely friend, Kirsty brings to RDA, and joins us on trail rides and training days.
“One of his riders, Steph, is prone to having seizures and everyone swears that Snoopy can sense it when she’s about to have one. He becomes really soft and will start to step very slowly, and Steph will jump off Snoopy and sit by his front legs until she feels okay again.
“He has other riders who are capable of turning and stopping, playing games and doing novelty events on and off the lead. Snoopy is also trained to be a vaulting horse (gymnastics and dance on horseback) and has even have taken a few kids to local agricultural shows to compete in a few RDA events.
“People that meet Snoopy always comment about how kind and sensitive he is to the kids with disabilities. He’s really given me a passion for re-training ex-racehorses and helping them to have a great life after racing.”