TRF OTTB ‘makes their day’ on Calif. police beat
by Susan Salk, Off Track Thoroughbreds
There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Jimmy Diesel.
Standing taller than most, he has the cool, calm countenance of Clint Eastwood while facing down bad guys.
Blasé in proximity to gunfire, flares, and crowd noise, this big guy might well be expected to utter the famous Eastwood line, “Make my day,” if only he could.
But Jimmy Diesel’s no two-legged macho man.
He’s a 17-hand, off-track Thoroughbred who came out of a long retirement at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Kansas farm, trained for a new career as a police horse with Julie Baker of Healing Arenas in California, and reported for duty on Oct 2015 at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Mounted Unit.
“Jimmy was a horrible racehorse, and when he retired, he was kind of a loner out in the field,” says Baker, the founder/president of Healing Arenas in Escalon, Calif. “But he is the apple of the eye of every sheriff’s deputy on the mounted unit now. I get calls all the time from deputies who say, ‘I want a horse like Jimmy Diesel.’ ”
What the lawmen see in the plain bay Thoroughbred is exactly what made Baker sit up and say “Wow!” the first time she rode him. He’s just so perfectly unflappable, she says.
“I gave him every opportunity to spook. We worked with tarps, guns, bags filled with aluminum cans … at one point I trailered him out and rode him through our town. I gave him so many chances to react like a horse, and he just didn’t. Nothing fazed him.”
This incredible ability to not turn a hair in situations that would ruffle other horses was what redirected Baker’s original plan to shape him into an all-purpose riding horse. And when her friend and volunteer Fallon Cheary, whose brother is a sheriff’s deputy, chimed in that her brother Cody needed a mounted unit horse, the cards just fell into place.
Slowly and gradually, the large but out-of-shape guy got fit again. Paying particular attention to building his top line enough to hold a 30-pound police saddle as well as an officer for 8-hour shifts, Jimmy Diesel was soon trotting hills and working out like he was prepping for a prizefight. “It took him a little longer to get back into shape because of his size. He wasn’t skinny, but he had absolutely no topline whatsoever,” she says, noting that after four months of training, he emerged a robust and serious candidate for a second career with law enforcement.
And when he was ready, he was put to the test.
“They tested him with obstacles, and on crowd control,” she says. “They lit flares and possibly firecrackers to see how he’d respond to loud, sudden movements. And then they had him back up in an L-shape, and sidepass to eternity. Jimmy D had a lot to learn in a small amount of time.”
At the end of the day, his place on the force was indisputable. “He was incredible. There wasn’t anything he didn’t do right,” Baker says. “And now they’re all calling me looking for a horse like Jimmy. The deputies all like the fact that the (ex-racehorses) have been exposed to a lot of different things already, especially things like crowds on the racetrack, and that’s huge for a mounted unit horse, because so much of what they do involves crowd control.”
And though Jimmy Diesel doesn’t wear a silver badge, it is written on his leather tack the title he holds: “Sheriff.”