“Play Nice” is my “Ultimate Victory”!
As stories go, this one I must say I had to take a step back and tell myself that life does have strange coincidences. Many of you have come to know my wonderful horse, Ultimate Victory aka Cody. He came into my life in 2007 at the age of 4 when my daughter Elisa Wallace found an ad for him on the internet.
I got the call from Elisa when I was on vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida and she told me I had to go look at this horse she had found through one of her incredible searches for young prospects. I did not hesitate when I received her call and scheduled to go see the horse in McIntosh, Florida on my way back from St. Petersburg. At this point and for some time following, all I knew about the “prospect” was that he was 4 and a thoroughbred.
In telling my story, I will conclude that I purchased Cody the same day I looked at him at a dressage barn just outside of Ocala. Cody was wondering around a paddock with a sun burned coat and a long mane and tail and had no apparent markings anywhere. I was told he had been race broke and came from the Ocala Stud Farm but that was about all they knew about him. No papers or any idea of parentage.
I put him on a lounge line and managed to jump him over an X. He seemed willing enough and made some effort over the X. I told them I would take him and made arrangements to pick him up the next day. Cody was low key but at the same time not very comfortable with human touching, so we took it slow when I got him home. I did however, manage to jump on him bareback with a halter and walk, trot and canter him around.
As the months progressed, Cody began to blossom in his looks and a magical V appeared on his head where it must have been scraped off from running around in the scrub brush at the farm I bought him from. I had originally named him Grand Forks, after the North Dakota town I was born in, thus the barn name Cody after the Dakota’s. Upon seeing the complete V, I decided to bring back my 90’s advanced horse’s name, Ultimate Trial and name him Ultimate Victory because of the V.
As time passed, I was always asked if he was a warm blood and I kept saying, no he is supposed to be a thoroughbred but really not knowing for sure, my voice always trailed off. Over the years I worked with him and competed him in hunter jumper shows, dressage shows and in beginner novice division later in 2007. I had bought him as a resale and in 2008, sold him to a client as a dressage horse. He stayed in training with me and I continued to marvel at his abilities and thought to myself, why did I sell this guy? As all things seem to happen in my life, I had the opportunity to purchase Cody back in 2009 and did not hesitate at the offer to do so.
Now I have always been questioned about his breeding so in 2011, I contacted the Jockey Club who put me in contact with the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP). After some discussion and research on Cody, I was provided a DNA package in order to find out if he truly was a thoroughbred and if so, who were his parents.
Cody had been moving up the levels in Eventing and I began to find myself thinking that I could actual have an upper level horse on my hands. This, in itself was exciting for me as I had all but decided not compete at the upper levels again. But as we continued climbing the levels, and his abilities and talent became even more apparent, I threw the idea of never competing at the upper levels out the window.
So, the DNA package just sat on my office desk with the plucked out hairs and I never seemed to have time to send it off. In the mean time, my daughter was doing really well on a client’s horse named Good For Me and of course, she always refers to her incredible find, Jackson who was an her Advanced horse who won the 2008 CIC 3 Star at Maui Jim, when she would be looking for horses with similar breeding.
Jackson and Elisa were named to the USEF Developing Riders list in 2007 and Good For Me and Elisa had won the CCI 1 Star in Kentucky in 2009. Jackson was retired due to an injury and tragically just one month after winning the 1 Star, Good For Me was lost to colic.
I always listened to her as she engaged herself into the breeding aspect of her searches. She developed that talent on her own as I never paid much attention to breeding linage over the years. She would always tell me that the TB sire Friendly Lover, sire of Good For Me and a relative of Jackson’s, put a mark on his off springs as really good jumpers. I would listen and agree that those horses she had were incredible jumpers and she would always get excited when she would find one somewhere and try to go buy them.
Now remember, she found Cody but we did not know his breeding. Over the years, Cody began to really develop an incredible jumping style and Elisa would say, he reminds me of Jackson and Goodie. I would agree and we again would wonder about his breeding. The whole time the DNA package sat on my desk in my office.
The pivotal point was when I took Cody Advanced for the first time at Rocking Horse in February 2013. He jumped around and incredible stadium and jumped clean cross country to finish 7th. I even competed Cody in Hunter Derby’s at A shows and he would canter around quite and place well so I then began to really wonder what the heck he was as far as breeding. He did not act like a thoroughbred in the sense that he always has a pretty unflappable disposition under saddle during competitions (not so much in a halter) and so I went to go find the DNA package so I could send it off for testing.
To my surprise, I couldn’t find the dang thing that had sat on my desk for over 2 years and so I called TIP’s back for another package. Kristen Leshney at TIPs with the Jockey Club, who was always so helpful, sent me another one immediately. This time, I pulled some hairs, wrote the check and sent it off for testing. After I sent it, I thought well I suppose I will now know if he is truly a thoroughbred and went on not really knowing how long it would take to get the results.
I remember when I got the email not so long after and it said:
“Great news – we matched Cody to a registered Thoroughbred named “Play Nice”! Attached is an eligibility letter with some more information. He was actually bred in New Jersey by Joseph H. Pierce Jr. & P & L Racing Stable.”
I could not believe it. He had a name and he was a thoroughbred. Now here is where it gets weird. I immediately forwarded the email to Elisa and the most miraculous thing became apparent, Cody’s sire was none other than Friendly Lover. The sire Good For Me and a relative of Jackson. All those years of comparing Cody to Jackson and Goodie made total sense because well he was by Friendly Lover. Chills went down my spine as Elisa found Cody and remember; she always searched for Friendly Lover offspring and has always stated that, “if you can find an offspring, you need to buy it because they are super talented”. Boy she was right and she knew Cody had potential from a photograph and her keen perception and my super luck got me a Friendly Lover offspring.
This story always brings a tear to my eye as Cody or Play Nice continues to prove he is a super talent. Finishing 9th in the CIC 3 Star at Chatt Hills International last weekend and knowing he has room for improvement in the dressage and knowing he can keep the rails up and also knowing I have yet to push for time on the cross country, I believe we can be competitive at his level.
Play Nice is my Ultimate Victory and Cody is my partner who has brought a lost spark back into my life. I can not remember when I have been so happy and with it have come the riches of helping my talented young riders and working out of one of the most beautiful farms in Tallahassee, Florida.
I look forward to the future and I am a firm believer that all things come to us as we allow them to come. Here is the art of allowing and to the saying “what may come we shall allow”. Ok, maybe that’s my saying. Off to Bomont CCI 3 Star in June with my incredible American Thoroughbred – Play Nice – my Ultimate Victory!!