For many equestrians, it takes just one horse to come along and change everything.
It took Lisa Barker until close to her sixtieth birthday to experience her life-changing equine epiphany, when fate handed her the lead rope of an unlikely prospect: a young retired pacer named Artie.
With Lisa’s long history in thoroughbred racing and showing, she “thought she knew it all”, when it came to horses.
After a fall injured Lisa’s spine and confidence, she was forced to become more selective with her horse choices.
“My friend called me one day, around four or so years ago, to inform me she’d bought me a horse. He was a standardbred. All I could say was: ‘he…he’s…a trotter?’ I just had no idea how good they are”, says Lisa with a chuckle.
“My friend was persistent, telling me ‘you will love him’. I said ‘I don’t think I will!’
“I was just so ignorant back then, when it came to standardbreds and what they’re capable of!”
Throughout their partnership, Lisa and Artie, known in racing circles and the show ring as Major Resolution, have shared the roles of teacher and student.
“I’ve introduced a lot of new skills to Artie and he’s has taught me to become a better horse person”, Lisa explains.
“I just thought I was a bit of a superstar, because I’ve worked with some of the best horse people in the country over the past thirty or so years”.
“In the past, everything was pretty rushed and we expected to get results and turn horses around from the track to the show ring very quickly.
“You just can’t approach standardbreds like this. If I upset Artie or he gets anxious, he thinks about pacing. I have to ride smarter and change the way I ask the question.”
This conscientiousness has resulted in immense success for the pair, decorated with awards and garlands since Artie’s debut on the competition scene.
“Artie is just magnificent”, Lisa gushes.
“Not only is he absolutely beautiful to look at, but his temperament is to die for. He is safe and he loves me like a dog. When he sees my car coming up the driveway, he just goes nuts!
“He’ll literally snuffle around in my basket and go looking for lollies. He’ll eat a whole packet of Party Mix if I don’t get to him quickly enough!”
Moved by her own experiences, Lisa has become a force for good for the standardbred, supporting various breed shows and assisting to secure impressive lists of event sponsors through her professional contacts in racing.
“Having such elite people involved in the thoroughbred industry willing to show support for standardbred events helps to create more awareness across the racing codes and promotes that standardbreds are actually amazing horses”.
Through their dedication and continued advocacy for standardbreds, Lisa and Artie are changing perceptions and inspiring new people to take notice of the many positive qualities of the breed.
“Everyone who meets Artie loves him. He’s not only pulled my head in on so many levels, but he’s helping other people to rethink their choices.
“I’ve gone from someone who didn’t think favourably of standardbreds, to now swearing by them; I’ll never have anything else!
“My relationship with Artie is based on mutual respect and, despite having had a lot of horses in my life, I’ve never had a connection with a horse like this before. I’ve changed my entire approach to horses because of, and for, Artie.
“I’ve got bags of ribbons at home; it’s not about that anymore. It’s about training my horse to go sweetly, to be happy in his work, to use his muscles in a way that improves his lifestyle and to make the transition from harness horse to saddle horse comfortable for him.
“These days it’s just ‘me and my trotter’ getting out there enjoying each other.
“My partnership with Artie has been the most beautiful experience of my entire life with horses.”