OTTB Connection – Sweet As Candy

You wouldn’t think that a story that starts with first time horse owners buying an off track thoroughbred, hauling it to a first 4-H ride, having a wreck in the trailer and taking the horse with a fractured skull to the vet would end with the words “it’s been the best experience we could imagine”!

But, that’s exactly how the story of Sweet As Candy and her owner Jayda starts. Jayda is a horse crazy city kid, (she tells us that we can blame/credit the Heartland series with her initial love of horses) who pestered her parents into enrolling her in 4-H so she could learn to ride. The Differenz family leased a Quarter Horse for Jayda’s first year in the Red Deer Horsemen 4-H Club, and as neither Jayda nor her parents had any horse experience he was perfect for them. The horse was older, ‘push button’ and had enough experience to get Jayda comfortable – so comfortable, that they were Grand Champion at their first Achievement Day. With that positive year under their belt, the family decided to buy a horse of their own, and a local trainer introduced them to Sweet As Candy. Sweet As Candy (Fast Account, out of Jerrico Miss) was bred in Alberta and made all of her 41 starts at Stampede Park and Northlands Park. She had 6 wins and over $65,000 in earnings. She was beaten a nose for third in the 2002 Bird of Pay, which was won by wonder mare Raylene, so she kept good company for a couple of starts!

Candy was 15, had retired from the racetrack 10 years earlier, and despite having minimal retraining, she was quiet and easy to work with, and true to her name was very sweet. Candy’s owner met with Jayda and decided that the two might be a good fit. From the first meeting Candy displayed her even temperament and good disposition and Jayda wanted her.

The club reaction when they learned that Jayda was returning with a green broke thoroughbred was of horror and disbelief. “The leaders and other members told us we were crazy,” says Jayda’s mom Jodi, “but Candy was meant to be in our lives. We had only borrowed her for Jayda to try at the first ride, but Candy had a wreck in the trailer and we didn’t even get her in to the arena before we were on the way to the vet. An hour at the clinic, a giant flap of skin, a cracked sinus and 55 stitches later and we knew we had to buy her if only because we couldn’t send her back in that condition!” A crash course in veterinary expenses, wound care, flushing drains, and injections followed, and Jayda took on the responsibility to care for her new mare with patience and incredible diligence. The 4-H motto is learn to do by doing, and Jayda learned a lot about her mare in those first months before she even got to ride her. The two bonded, became fast friends and have never looked back.

Once they finally got back in the trailer (with some difficulties and some tears!) and into the arena they experienced a lot of ups and downs. There were bound to be new discoveries with any green broke horse, but Jayda and Candy trusted each other and started to make improvements by the end of the season. Jayda went from Grand Champion in her first year, to winning zero ribbons in her second year as she and Candy worked through the challenges. But her patience and persistence have paid off, and after many hours in the saddle, Jayda and Candy were the 2018 Grand Champions at their Achievement Day.

Jayda and Candy have been in 4-H for four years, Pony Club for two years, have participated in Grama Shirley’s 4-H Camp and a number of gymkhanas in their years together. “She’s my best friend”, says Jayda, “she’s beautiful, and I love her and she loves me!”

This past weekend the Red Deer Horsemen held their 4-H Public Speaking event, and Jayda’s prepared speech was titled “Hot & Crazy” and she talked about the common myths and misconceptions about thoroughbreds. With her speech reflecting her positive personal experiences, she stressed that thoroughbreds have a bad reputation in the western world that is totally unwarranted. She noted that thoroughbreds will give 110% and do best when they have a job, and they can excel in almost any discipline. Jayda’s speech started with “You WHAT? You’re crazy to ride a thoroughbred”, which was the the most common reaction to introducing Candy, to “Don’t you ever sell that mare, she’s perfect!”, which was the phrase she heard when they were Grand Champions last year.

Candy has proven to be an amazing ambassador for the breed, both at the club level and the regional level. Jayda thinks everyone should own a thoroughbred, at least once, and both she and mom Jodi say “despite some of the drama we experienced, we’d do it all again in a heartbeat!” Jayda knows that to be more competitive she needs to move up another level of horse, and she’s already convinced her parents to start shopping for another off track thoroughbred!