A chance meeting at Arlington Park near Chicago two years ago has resulted in one retired racehorse coming to Culver Academies and his half-brother being trained to do same later this year.
CMA polo coach and riding instructor Frank Stubblefield H’74 will be taking Flathead River to participate in the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover on Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. Working with Valerie (Johnson) Peterson SS’76, Stubblefield is in the beginning stages of training the nearly nine-year-old Bay Gelding.
Flathead River, once partially owned by Peterson, came through the Retired Racehorse Project. The horse made 58 starts over his career, winning nine times, with five seconds, and seven third place finishes, winning a total of $165,386 over his career.
Stubblefield said Flathead River will be trained as a polo pony for the Thoroughbred Makeover and then join Stature, his half-brother, in the Culver herd. Stature was the first horse Stubblefield and Peterson collaborated on through the RRP.
The relationship started when Peterson’s husband, Dennis, the veterinarian for Arlington Park, noticed the Culver Friesian Color Guard horses were stabled near a horse he was checking. He told his wife, who made a point of coming out to the park to meet the Culver contingent, who were presenting the colors during the opening day ceremony.
Talking with Stubblefield and Mark Waller, director of horsemanship instruction, Peterson said she brought up the idea of finding a location for Stature and wondered if Culver might be interested. Stubblefield said he was looking for a “project horse” to train and agreed to work with her on all the necessary details, including certification as an RRP trainer.
“Frank’s done such a fantastic job with the horse,” Peterson said. “I really feel glad that we were able to donate him to Culver. Everything just fell into place. I was just really comfortable with him going to Culver, knowing the integrity of the institution.”
Stubblefield acquired Stature and trained him at his farm until after competing in the polo competition at the 2018 Thoroughbed Makeover, where they placed in fifth. “I was so pleased to see that all of Frank’s hard work paid off,” Peterson said.
Stature then joined the Culver herd as a polo pony. Along with his polo duties, Stature has also been assigned to a student for equitation classes, is part of the Troop, and recently practiced with the Lancer Platoon.
Now Flathead River is next in line. Stubblefield said both Stature and Flathead River are the ideal size for polo ponies. And Peterson is interested in keeping the pipeline open for more.
“I hope to keep Frank supplied,” she said. “It’s been such a wonderful thing for both my horses.”