Dumped by Clive Palmer, Andy gallops back to life
HIS story of salvation and reincarnation will soon be turned into a book but Ideal Guy's tale wouldn't be out of place in the movies either.
Put up for sale by billionaire Clive Palmer after failing as a pacer, Ideal Guy seemed destined to join many others like him at the knackery.
Enter horse lover Maxine Ellison, who saw something in the horse she called Andy, bought him for $2500 and took him home to the Mt Walker property she shares with husband, trainer Steve Towns.
Steve wanted to train Ideal Guy as a pacer and the horse showed hints of the promise his breeding offered - running fast times and winning a race - but Maxine was convinced his future lay elsewhere.
Hoping to prove it, she donated Andy to the Raising the Standards program in Victoria that rehabilitates standardbreds - or trotters - once they leave the racetrack and turns them into horses people can ride, mainly for pleasure.
But under the guidance of the respected horseman Alistair McLean at the Australian Equine Behavioural Centre 80km north of Melbourne, Andy has exceeded even Maxine's most wonderful expectations.
After only eight months of training, Andy featured at Equitana the event that attracts more than 50,000 visitors to Melbourne each year for elite equine performances and competitions.
Once a timid bundle of nerves, Andy is now confidently on the road to being an elite performer in dressage, sometimes called ballet for horses. He's got his own Facebook page called Unharnessed Potential - Ideal Guy's Track to Hack Journey and he has become a star with people from all over the world following his story.
The whole aim of the project is to document Andy's re-education process and put it a book to help other people do the same thing.
When he is sold, the money will go back to Raising the Standards.
Maxine Ellison, managing director of Horses and People magazine, said Andy was the flagship for a major new push to rehabilitate standardbreds.
"When you look at standardbreds, only 4.6% of them get re-homed," Maxine said.
"It is tragic and the crazy thing is that they've just got such a benign temperament; they're so trainable. They are the absolute best horse to give to a kid. If a kid pulls them the wrong way, they're not going to get all agitated.
"The other good thing is under the saddle these horses have no fear because they've had no bad experiences under saddle. They're starting with a clean slate."
"There is a misperception that standardbreds only pace. The other is standardbreds are ugly.
"Not a lot of them have got a lot of white - or bling - on them but Andy has, with the white face and the white legs but a lot do now."
Ideal Guy, aka Andy, is a Canadian horse whose mum was imported by Clive Palmer. She gave birth to her foal at the quarantine facility then they went to Mr Palmer's Cold Mountain Stud.
Ideal Guy survived the floods that ravaged the stud near Lowood in 2011 but couldn't quite put it all together on the racetrack.
"I don't go to the races very often but I went to the races with Steve one day and saw Andy and I felt incredibly sorry for him; he was very fearful," Maxine said.
"I said: 'He doesn't want to be here. He's not happy being here'.
"The horse was brought to the Marburg Pacing Association and they had a sale. I could see the potential in the horse to be something. It took a little while just to be able to handle him."
She said the Equine Behaviour Centre worked on learning theory - how a horse learns rather than pushing a horse to learn.
"That was such a great option for Andy, being such a nervous horse. They've just done amazing things with that horse," she said.
"At Equitana the movements he was doing movements, some horses take a long time to learn them; Andy picked them up straight away. Obviously he's very intelligent and being a sensitive horse didn't go astray either."