After 26 race starts, 4 wins and 5 placings, Sunshine Coast trainer Michael Jacobs helped Vesper, then an 8 year-old gelding, look for a new home and career after his retirement from racing.
Across the state Kim Burnes was helping her daughter look for her first hack horse.
With the help of Queensland Racing and a local riding instructor, paths crossed for Kim’s and Vesper’s paths soon crossed. An advertisement on Facebook by Queensland Racing describing a quiet Off The Track thoroughbred in search of a good home caught Kim’s eye.
Out of Group 2-winning mare Sylvaner by champion sire Zabeel (NZ), Vesper was a Listed Race winner and Group performer. Bred by Paul & Lyn Makin of Starcraft fame, Vesper was sold by Arrowfield Stud at the 2008 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale to Nick Williams.
“When we first went to look at Vesper, he walked straight up to my daughter and put his head on her chest. He was a little rough around the edges – but I remember being taken with his lovely temperament, and saying to my daughter that with some time and effort he would be a show horse.”
Within the week, on a cold, wet day Kim’s daughter returned to trial and ride Vesper. Despite the lashing rain Vesper took it all in his stride and was well-behaved. That sealed the deal, and by the following weekend, Vesper – stable name Neville – was a part of the family.
“It was definitely a learning curve for Neville and for us,” reflects Kim. “We had to work slowly. He didn’t know us, and we didn’t know him. This environment was new for everyone.”
Now, though, Vesper is well and truly settled into his new life.
“There is not a day goes by that Neville doesn’t make me laugh!” says Kim.
“He just loves being with people. He will stand right on the fence line beside the bobcat when my husband is working in the next paddock, just to be close to what is going on.
If you try to fill up his water trough, he will grab the hose and wet you! He loves games and playing with you or whatever he can find. He loves being scratched on his wither and would turn himself inside out for carrots.”
“If Neville was a celebrity he would be Owen Wilson – funny, full of character and a heart of gold.”
Despite having no direct involvement in the thoroughbred industry, Kim and her family see the immense value in Off The Track thoroughbreds as show horses.
“Prior to purchasing Vesper my daughter competed on an ex-racehorse at the EKKA last year, and won Supreme Gelding.
“Neville was our first Off The Track thoroughbred and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
“Don’t be in a rush to get your horse into the show ring. Take your time and get to know your horse first – you won’t regret it.
“To anyone who is thinking about getting an Off The Track thoroughbred, do it. Having Neville has been a great experience and we have learnt so much from him.”