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Dusty Girl shines off the track

Dusty Girl never made it to the racetrack, yet as a showjumper, she has starred and delivered Queensland Off-The-Track Acknowledged Retrainer Kylie Zabel multiple state titles.

The daughter of Carry The Flag (GB) arrived at Kylie’s property a decade ago as an untried racehorse in need of a new home and a purpose.

It didn’t take long for Kylie to realise how “special” her new equine was after the mare showed an uncanny ability to quickly learn, and master, the art of campdrafting and showjumping.

Dusty Girl not only led Kylie to state titles but to a career path of fine-tuning off-the-track horses.

“My first off-the-track horse was Dusty Girl, whom I still have today, and she came to me as a four-year-old in 2012,” Kylie said.

“After realising how special she was I then went out and got a few more.

“I haven’t stopped since then and have retrained and rehomed many off-the-track horses because I love working with thoroughbreds, as they have the biggest heart and always try to please.

“They are also very smart and athletic and can do anything. They make great all-rounders.”

As a showjumper, Dusty Girl competes in 1.30metre classes, while holding her own in several disciplines, Kylie said.

After she started jumping in 2017, Dusty Girl won back-to-back Queensland Amateur Showjumper of Year Series in 2018 and 2019.

After a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic and Kylie having a baby, the pair is back on the Queensland circuit and leading the Queensland Amateur Showjumper of Year Series in 2022.

“My biggest success with an off-the-track horse would be with Dusty Girl,” she said.

“Not only is she a very competitive campdrafter and challenge horse, but she can also jump 1.3 metre courses and has won six bars at 1.6 metres.

“She is a 1-star eventer, although can easily go to 2 star.”

Dusty Girl was sixth, and also the highest placed off-the-track thoroughbred, in the Novice section at the King of the Ranges Stockman’s Challenge at Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter Shire, NSW.

“This challenge included seven preliminary events which were bareback obstacle course, bareback freestyle, packhorse and stock handling, whipcrack target and freestyle, horseshoeing and cross country.

“It was so much fun!”

Dusty Girl’s achievements are a testament to the versatility of thoroughbreds who are primarily thought of as a racing breed, Kylie said.

However, in her time retraining off-the-track horses, she said they have a lot more to offer than people may think.

“The best part of my job is working with these horses and seeing them progress towards something new,” she said.

“The changes that occur both physically and mentally, and then seeing the joy they can bring their new owners after retraining, is very rewarding.”

However, for Kylie, no two horses are the same.

She considers several traits before deciding if a retired thoroughbred should be retrained for show jumping or a trail horse.

“Colour, sex, height, conformation and attitude doesn’t sway my opinion on them, but rather would help me decide what the horse may be retrained for,” she said.

“For example, a horse I would retrain for show jumping I would want to be nicely proportioned with a fairly good, balanced uphill conformation, a nice big canter and a careful and trying attitude.

“But a horse that may lack in the conformation area or didn’t care about knocking rails might be suited to retraining for a pony club person as an allrounder or trail horse.

“The reason I became a Queensland Off-The-Track Acknowledged Retrainer is that I love retraining them. They aim to please and are athletic, smart and can excel in any discipline”

Add our QOTT call to action here (exactly the same as the last article published on the QOTT webpage on 8 August 2022).


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