Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zenyatta, The Greatest Race Horse In History -or- The Greatest Race Horse In Our Hearts?

By Frankie Lovato

Being a professional jockey myself for 25 years, and my father also a professional jockey for as many years, my whole life has been horse racing. With this being said, never have I gone through the emotion and magnitude I felt when fellow jockey Mike Smith and Zenyatta loaded into the starting gates for the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

You do not have to be in the business or a horse racing fan to have heard of the great mare Zenyatta. She created her fame by never being beaten along with one of the most astonishing winning streaks in horse racing history. A perfect 19 for 19 record which included defeating the best males on the planet in last years Breeders' Cup Classic run at Santa Anita Park. But, like the great Secretariat, this story does not go down in Disney fashion when the seemingly immortal Zenyatta would be defeated for the first time. (all photos copywrite by Skip Dickstein Photography all rights reserved, please visit

The stage was set for the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic held this time at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta was flown in from California to begin her final preparations over the Churchill Downs strip. Like a rock star, news media, camera's flashing, fans, posters, and 24 hour security swarmed around her deeply bedded stall, as we watched every move she made. This 6 year old, 17.2, twelve hundred pound dappled bay mare and people lover, carried the presence of a true queen of royalty, even given the nickname "Queen Z".

Hall Of Fame and world class jockey Mike Smith knows greatness in a racehorse when he sits on one, having said, "I believe Zenyatta can go down in history as the greatest racehorse of all time". A strong statement made with the likes of racehorses that have been considered to carry this title such as Citation, Man O' War, and Secretariat to name a few. For many however, it was believable because no one has carried such an amazing record of being undefeated 19 for 19 especially running in the caliber of races she has competed. It was believable for me that Zenyatta could go down as one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Along with millions of others, I sat and watched with hands trembling, and my heart pounding. I could not imagine what Mike was feeling. As the gates came open, Zenyatta was away badly but no worries, she always get's off sluggishly and awkward. As they headed passed the grandstand for the first time, Zenyatta was climbing with her action and looked a bit uncomfortable as she dropped back further in last with Mike nudging her to be more forward. OK, she did this a bit last year too so still not all that worried. As they made their way into the first turn, I see Mike nudging her more, OK, this is not good, something is wrong. Does she hate the track, having a bad day, the dirt getting kicked in her face bothering her that much? All the above?

Midway down the backstretch she was so far back behind the last horse, I was already feeling, "there is no way she can win from here" and disappointment was already setting in. As they hit the second turn, I see her starting to catch up somewhat with the field and thinking, "maybe she can hit the board", but also seeing other jockeys in position and poised to pounce as they neared the top of the stretch. Then all at once like an accordion from front to back, the whole field came together within a few lengths of one another with Mike and Zenyatta on the move. I am praying that Zenyatta finds her way through traffic (a jockey's nightmare) as she is picking them off one by one. Turning for home, I see Blame and Lookin at Lucky both blast off for the lead and looked like fresh horses headed for the finish line.

When spotting a fresh horse 5 lengths, there is no way it is possible for any horse to catch up with less than a quarter mile to go, but when Mike got Zenyatta out and clear, here she came! Within a sixteenth of a mile, she caught Lookin At Lucky and there was one left to beat, Blame and he was not slowing down. I have never seen in my lifetime a horse full of run like Blame and she was still getting to him with every stride. At that moment, 100 yards to go, I witnessed something I have never seen before. This was true greatness, my eyes began watering knowing I have just witnessed the greatest performance in racing I have ever seen. This mare was wearing down the best male horse in the world with every single stride. Even with jockey Garret Gomez's great ride and with all the run Blame had left inside him, Zenyatta was coming to get him. As they hit the finish line, it was over, she was too late. Blame hung on and reached the finish line first to defeat the great Zenyatta. Could two more strides have changed racing's history forever?

With Zenyatta's defeat, never have I seen the despair, sobbing and heartache from so many fans. Yes, she did get beat and Blame held on, but Blame is not the "bad guy" and Zenyatta is not the loser here, either. She maintained winning the respect and hearts of millions forever and always and people will talk about her for years and years. Although the history books won't quite tell the full story of how Zenyatta was just two strides short and inches away from historical greatness. Two more strides that perhaps would have given her the inches she needed to win, and that would have placed her amongst the greatest racehorses of all time. It is now even questionable if she can be voted the Horse Of The Year? Personally, I think she should be voted the Horse Of The Decade if there was such an award.

Her race record now shows a less then perfect 19 wins from 20 career starts, but her record in winning our hearts and respect remains perfectly intact. The greatest racehorse in history or is she just the greatest racehorse to win over our hearts? Could she be both? Only time will tell and with that, I say "Go Zenyatta!"

For more information with Frankie Lovato, visit or

Photos by Skip Dickstein Photographer all rights reserved.

In relation, Frankie Lovato interviews jockey Mike Smith on a sneak peek preview from his "What It Takes To Be A Jockey" DVD

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Got A Pony! ... What?

I Got A Pony!.. What?

By Frankie Lovato Jr

Something you would expect to hear from a horse crazed eight year old child that gets the greatest birthday present in the world, not the case here. Would you ever suspect a 47 year old retired professional jockey that's ridden thousands of race horses for years and years? That's me! And yes, I actually got a pony!!! The greatest father's day gift in the world from my wife Sandy. Whether you know me well or not at all, everyone's reaction is the same, “why in the world would you want a pony?”

Well to start off, I must clarify one small stipulation, I have to share the pony with my 4 year old grand daughter Allison and I promised I would share fairly (wink) OK, so if you have read this far, you are still wondering why in the world would I want a pony, I can explain and you can decide if I lost my marbles?

(photo on right, is Allie practicing with Popcorn & Sandy (Grammy) for the county fair)

So here goes, I have always wanted a pony since I was three years old, where we lived in New Jersey and my dad raced, (who was also a jockey), were not able to have horses especially a horse to "bond" with. My childhood was short though as at age 13, I left home to work on a thoroughbred horse farm in Ocala Florida to prepare for my career as a jockey. There were not ponies but lots of big strong strapping race horses. There was never a time for me to have my own horse at all and as I started racing professionally at age 16, a pony or any horse was the furthest from my life. My career would take me to New York to ride at tracks like Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga. Riding races year round (barring injuries), an active jockey literally may ride a thousand different horses a year between morning workouts and races for many different stables, but never a time to raise, bond and care for a horse of your own. My wife and I started our family in Long Island NY approximately 25 miles from New York City, tough place to keep a horse, our 3 children did not show much interest in horses so there was never a priority there.

My wife Sandy however grew up in small town Norwalk Ohio where from the age of 8, had her first pony named “Cindy” Cindy was a Painted Shetland that Sandy could show at the county fair and ride off into the sunset for years of her childhood. Sandy then had her quarter horse gelding “King” as she got into her teen age years to do much of the same. From the photos and conversations Sandy and I would have made me yearn for passion and relationship and that "bond" she had with her horses.

Doing the math, I figured I have ridden approximately 40,000 horses in my life time, not one of them my own or any time to bond with really. So maybe I am starting to make sense of why I would want a horse, but a pony?! Well, I think I can come up with a ton of reasons that would make sense. Of course there is the old “bucket list” of things I always wanted in my lifetime, also, my 4 year old grand daughter has a love for horses that Sandy and I both would love to see her with a pony. The next thing is once I retired from racing, we did move from New York back to Sandy's home town in Ohio. We do live in the country about five miles out of town but the property we purchased was conducive for our Equicizer business. Not quite a horse farm but a wooden horse farm where I build my Equicizers with an acre and a half with our home and shop in the back yard. Maybe not big enough for a horse, but for a pony!

There is another part of the story that really kicked this dream to reality, and that is our Stampede Of Dreams Therapeutic Riding Program. There we have horses that are specifically trained and have the right disposition to conduct riding lessons for the disabled also know as equine assisted activities and therapies. Sandy is a NARHA Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. The sessions are conducted and the specifically trained horses are on a small farm that is not at our property. The horses also belong to the program and not for our personal use. Recently, Sandy was doing an evaluation a mini paint mare someone wanted to donate to our Stampede Of Dreams program, I went with Sandy to evaluate this pony and those feelings came back to me as if I was a child.. As we drove away from that barn, my heart was right back to where it was when I was 3, “I want a pony!” For weeks after, I would stare into our backyard visualizing and muttering the words out loud (was my answer to everything partly being humorous) “I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony”

Father's Day was coming and Sandy initially planned on getting me that new grille we needed, but my constant “I want a pony” had her change gears. I was not sure if I could really get a pony, I was fine with waiting realistically for a better time, after all, I have waited this long. I just knew I wanted one someday in my life. For the hay of it, Sandy searched online, there she found Greener Pastures Equine Rescue in Mt Pleasant Ohio. There was posted, a yearling Palamino Shetland named “Popcorn” needing a good home. He might as well have had a big red bow on him. Sandy showed me the listing and asked me, “you want him, he's yours!” I was frozen in my tracks, can it be that easy? Then I thought how could we fix up the yard for him? Make the shed in the back into his barn? How can I make a little paddock for him? Will I be a good father? Ha ha! YES! I can do it all!!

So it's official, Popcorn is officially ours, he's at his new home and he is amazing! What a wonderful job they have done at Greener Pastures Rescue, Popcorn is the sweetest pony and not a thing in the world seems to faze him. When he came off the trailer, he took a quick peek around and started grazing, was about 10 minutes he let out a little whinny. After a bit of walking him around letting him graze and look around, we led him into his new pen and barn and unsnapped the lead, it was as if he was there all along. What a great feeling that was!

So now this 47 year old jockey has his first horse to "bond" with and the adventures have begun! The other day, Popcorn was laying in the shade taking a break as a living lawnmower duties, so I went and sat with him caressing his forelock, mane and back, talking to him telling him all about my life, Popcorn was so relaxed, he actually laid all the way over on his side and fell asleep, I swore he was snoring! I know I am a new be at this so let me ask you, did we just "bond" or did I just "bore" him to death? Stay tuned!

Photos below shows Frankie & Sandy Lovato with Allie & Popcorn showing at the 2010 Huron County Fair.

Allie did a costume class with Popcorn

Sandy(Grammy), Megan(mommy), Allie & Popcorn

Frankie Lovato is also the creator of the Equicizer. For More Information visit or Email:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Pythagoras" The Equicizer In The Netherlands

by Anna & Ina Zeinstra

For almost two years now the Equicizer has been in use in the Netherlands. As far as we know, there is only one Equicizer in our country. When Pythagoras, named after a famous Trakehner stallion, arrived at Schiphol Airport, people were quite amazed about a horse in a box. Not a sight you see every day.

We (family Hoogsteen and Anna Zeinstra) use Pythagoras for our workshops ‘Sitting and Balance’. In these workshops various attributes are used, like balls, balance articles, and balance crutches as Hipsimo™ (, wooden carriage horses ( etc. and the Equicizer, of course. The workshops are for adults and children who want to learn riding, or who want to maintain a more solid seat and more balance. With different exercises we teach people how to sit in the right way and how to find their balance, which is very important for riding. Pythagoras is very helpful for this, because people can find out their imperfections without having to cope with a horse which has its own ideas. People can feel what is happening and have the time to adjust to the right feeling and body position.

When we give workshops we also use mirrors, so that a course member sitting on Pythagoras can see what he or she is doing with his or her body.

When, for instance, people lean forward too much, they are so used to the posture that they think they are sitting straight. When they see in the mirrors that they have to lean backwards, that feeling is very strange for them. Without the mirrors it would be very difficult for an instructor to make clear that they are not sitting straight.
We also put springs between the reins and the bit. With these springs people learn not only the feeling for a light based connection when they move on the Equicizer, but they also can see how much pressure they put on the reins, which can be very confronting.
A lot of things can really be improved by sitting on Pythagoras. Some people find it very difficult to go up and down in trotting. Practicing on Pythagoras teaches them that they don’t need to push themselves up with their feet and legs. They should let themselves be lifted from the saddle by the horse.
Pythagoras teaches people to follow the movement of the horse. You don’t need to push the horse or make the movement yourself. By following the movement of the horse the movement made by the hands is very important. A lot of people try to follow the movement of the horse’s head, however, they only do it in the wrong way. Trying to follow the movement in canter we sometimes use a helper who makes Pythagoras move, then the rider can follow the movement. If the rider is in the wrong rhythm or if he stops following the movement, it isn’t possible for the helper to move the horse. That is very clearly experienced and felt. Also people learn to understand how the light seat for jumping should be, a lot of people open the angle between the upper leg and the under leg. That is not right, this angle should be smaller.

We also put springs between the reins and the bit. With these springs people learn not only the feeling for a light based connection when they move on the Equicizer, but they also can see how much pressure they put on the reins, which can be very confronting.
A lot of things can really be improved by sitting on Pythagoras. Some people find it very difficult to go up and down in trotting. Practicing on Pythagoras teaches them that they don’t need to push themselves up with their feet and legs. They should let themselves be lifted from the saddle by the horse.
Pythagoras teaches people to follow the movement of the horse. You don’t need to push the horse or make the movement yourself. By following the movement of the horse the movement made by the hands is very important. A lot of people try to follow the movement of the horse’s head, however, they only do it in the wrong way. Trying to follow the movement in canter we sometimes use a helper who makes Pythagoras move, then the rider can follow the movement. If the rider is in the wrong rhythm or if he stops following the movement, it isn’t possible for the helper to move the horse. That is very clearly experienced and felt. Also people learn to understand how the light seat for jumping should be, a lot of people open the angle between the upper leg and the under leg. That is not right, this angle should be smaller.

Anna & Ina Zeinstra
Instructie, training en advies
Hooiveldssteeg 10
9755 PW Onnen

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When One Dream Leads To Another

When One Dream Leads To Another "All through horses"
by Frankie Lovato, Jr.

Since the age of three, there was nothing else I dreamed about more than being a jockey. There was no other plan or anything else I could ever imagine doing with my life. The speed, the danger, mud flying as I raced down a track astride 1,000 pounds of racehorse were things for which I yearned. Everything went according to plan, and all of my hard work and determination paid off: By the age of 16, I had begun my career as a professional jockey; and by 17, I was the nation's top apprentice and ranked among the top ten jockeys in North America. However, in 1981, at the age of 18, something on which I had not planned was a racing accident that left me with a badly broken leg.

Once I had begun my rehabilitation process, it became evident that the equipment and exercises I was using to regain mobility and strength were not specialized enough to provide the type of rehabilitation necessary to enable me to return to riding horses. That's when I had a great idea: I will make a horse. And that's just what I did!

I built a horse of wood and springs, and there was nothing else like it in the world. Although I still was unable to walk without the use of crutches, I was now able to ride! I was able to safely get in riding positions and gently move my wooden horse by working the muscles and joints I would use to ride an actual horse. Through this process, my injured leg was becoming stronger and more flexible, and that gave me the confidence to know when I was ready to again ride a real horse. When I went for my final checkup and x-rays, my doctor was exceptionally pleased with my strength and condition. He gave me the OK to start riding horses again, and I said that I had already been riding for three months! The look on his face was priceless -- I did go on to explain I had been riding my wooden horse.

I never imagined I would be building wooden horses for other people; but word spread fast, and jockeys and representatives from jockey schools began contacting me from all parts of the world. This eventually led to establishing the Wooden Horse Corporation, which my wife Sandy and I formed in 1990, and officially naming my wooden horse the Equicizer. At this point I was still maintaining my career as a jockey; making Equicizers was just a hobby and side job that I really enjoyed. But again, something I never imagined would stem from the Equicizer was the discovery of its usefulness as a therapy tool for those who have physical or developmental disabilities.

Therapeutic horseback riding programs began learning of the Equicizer and also began placing orders. Because of this, Sandy and I would become very friendly with many wonderful people in this line of work and passionate about their purpose. And as we began seeing the benefits and rewards resulting from their work, it was not long before this would become a new dream for Sandy and me: to create our very own therapeutic riding program.

In late 2004 my 25-year career as a jockey was complete, and I stepped away from racing. The Equicizer business was established, but our dreams were now revised. Sandy and I moved from New York back to her hometown of Norwalk, Ohio in 2006. Once here, Sandy met a new friend, Amy Leibold, who also had a vision of starting a therapeutic riding program. Sandy, Amy, and I rallied with other wonderful people within the community and began developing the foundation of the Stampede Of Dreams Therapeutic Riding Program.

Our new dream has come true: In June of 2009, Stampede Of Dreams Therapeutic Riding Program officially launched its first session with students and lessons. Sandy holds the reins as head instructor, NARHA-certified, mentored by our dear friend and awesome horseman, NARHA-certified instructor Jesse Howell. The mission of the program is to offer students with physical and emotional disabilities the opportunity to learn companionship, responsibility, leadership, and vocational and educational skills, as well as to enjoy the physical benefits horseback riding provides.

Currently our program has three live horses. They are boarded at a local horse farm with an indoor arena where the Stampede of Dreams sessions take place.

With great pride, the Equicizer is also used throughout the program for conducting all evaluations and introductions, as well as for practicing proper mounting and dismounting, performing warm-ups prior to all rides, and reviewing and practicing the skills which the riders will perform during the day's lessons aboard the real horses.

So this journey of mine started when I was a small child with the dream of becoming a jockey. Some misfortune along the way, in the form of a racing injury, led to my creating the Equicizer as well as to new paths and dreams. The Equicizer also took new paths which led to its being used for such meaningful purposes so different from that for which it was first intended.

My life is now in a new place so very far away from where I first started, back when I wanted to fly dangerously down a racetrack aboard the fastest racehorse. Sandy has watched me perform on the track for many years; now it's my turn to watch and assist her as she does her magic along with our staff and volunteers, working with our riders and horses. I am now in a place where achievement comes from giving a child with a disability the chance to have that feeling of freedom, accomplishment, and being so alive astride a horse. Witnessing the riders' triumphs provides a feeling for me that is just like winning a race. Although there is no grandstand or roaring crowd, still... "They're off!!!" a Stampede Of Dreams!

Stampede Of Dreams is in the process of attaining its 501(c)3 non-profit status and currently operates through volunteer work, donations, and fundraising efforts to care for the horses and manage other expenses. For more information, please visit: or email Sandy Lovato:

Stampede Of Dreams Therapeutic Riding Song Video by Frankie Lovato Jr.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Frank Lovato, Jr. Creates a New Path to the Winner's Circle

by Lori K. Black

And they're off... to Jockey Boot Camp! The first-of-its-kind workshop, which was developed and presented by retired jockey Frank Lovato, Jr., offered an outstanding start for those who dream of becoming a jockey or exercise rider in the Thoroughbred racing industry.

Recognizing the need for preliminary guidance for prospective jockeys in the United States, Lovato envisioned an entirely new concept: to launch a three-day workshop (which he dubbed his "Jockey Boot Camp") in which he personally would provide participants with a comprehensive introduction to the physical, mental, and occupational aspects of being a jockey or exercise rider. The inaugural seminar, which was held on August 1-3, 2009 at Frank and Sandy Lovato's home-based Wooden Horse Corporation in Norwalk, Ohio, was attended by Stephanie I. of New Jersey, Kayla J. of Michigan, Katie K. of Ohio, Tim L. of New York, Amanda L. of Pennsylvania, and Christi M. of Oregon

A unique feature of Lovato's training program is that no actual horses were involved. Lovato, a 25-year veteran of racing with an Eclipse Award, 1,686 victories, and over $41.7 million in earnings to his credit, is also the inventor of the Equicizer, a non-motorized mechanical horse that very realistically simulates the natural gaits of a live horse. Although Lovato originally created the Equicizer as a means of rehabilitating himself after suffering a serious injury on the track in 1981, it was soon discovered that the Equicizer provided a beneficial way to train and strengthen all riders, including those with disabilities. Equicizers are now owned and utilized by the world's most renowned jockeys and jockey schools; and for Lovato's Jockey Boot Camp, these creatively-designed mechanical steeds provided the participants with a safe introduction to the sport of racing. As the event commenced, a pair of Equicizers stood poised, ready for action, in front of a scenic Belmont Park backdrop at one end of the workshop where Lovato still hand-crafts his wooden horses.

"Because of the Equicizer, I am approached by so many people each year who want to be jockeys but who have no idea of how to get started or what the career is really all about," Lovato said. He remembered one of his first students being Marjorie Clayton-Cordero, late wife of legendary jockey Angel Cordero. Over twenty-seven years ago, she came to his house daily to practice riding on "Johnny Dance," the very first Equicizer Lovato built. Lovato also recalled teaching Declan Murphy and Phil Teator, who both went on to win Eclipse Awards as leading apprentice jockeys, just as Lovato himself had achieved.

Of the Jockey Boot Camp attendees, "All of my students already had horseback riding experience, but nothing like what they will need to prepare them for riding racehorses," Lovato explained. "There is so much I can teach and a rider can learn without ever having the risk of them sitting on a real horse. It's like the saying, 'Walk before you run' -- I can lay down a strong foundation involving theory, balance, reining, position, and track etiquette in a safe, controlled environment. Every athlete has a means to practice and simulate the techniques of their particular sport prior to having to do it at the professional level. In the case of riding racehorses, riders typically are faced with the situation of undergoing on-the-job training without first developing basic skills or fitness, creating a huge risk and unnecessary dangers. Before there were Equicizers, beginners were learning these basic skills on powerful, rambunctious Thoroughbreds on the racetrack, which was not only placing themselves in danger, but also all of the other horses and riders around them."

Stated attendee Katie K., "This is the first time I've been on an Equicizer and worked really, really hard. I thought it was pretty fun! It was so much like a real horse, and I love riding horses and I haven't been able to do that (recently), and I did not want to get off! I'm like, 'I'm on it -- I'm gonna keep riding!' And then, of course, I got off and my legs were all shaky."

Amanda L. commented of her first Equicizer ride, "It's a lot more challenging than I thought it would be."

It is commonly said that jockeys are, pound for pound, among the most physically fit of all athletes; and the Equicizers did indeed challenge the endurance, strength, and coordination of the Jockey Boot Camp riders. Since the mechanical horses are suspended above stationary framework even while moving at a full gallop, they served as an ideal training device, enabling Lovato to remain alongside the horses every stride of the way and coach the students as they developed their racing skills and techniques.

"Frankie is a very nice man, and he does try his best to teach us how to be a jockey... He shows a lot of effort, and I can tell he was a very good jockey," said Stephanie I.

"He's definitely a good teacher. He is very patient and understanding," added Amanda L.

Besides practicing astride the Equicizers, the participants also performed various walkthrough lesson activities on a small-scale version of a one-mile racetrack complete with furlong markers and a finish line, which Lovato had assembled on a section of his rural property for the Jockey Boot Camp event.

"My model track is for students to rehearse and learn track rules of riding, both for morning workout traffic and racing situations and strategies," Lovato said. "All of this can be done on foot while I explain such things as safely entering and riding off the gaps, the hazard of clipping heels, maintaining safe racing positions, even performing tasks such as following a trainer's typical morning workout instructions like, 'Back up to the eighth pole, turn around and gallop, and work a half in 50.' Before the camp, the kids had no idea what any of those things meant, but they surely do now!"

Stephanie I. stated, "I learned that when we race, we have to keep a big distance from our horse to the horses in front of us,(students wearing velcro belts signifying a horses heels in front of them to maintain that safe distance) because we could clip a horse's heels and our horse could stumble and fall."

Lovato's imaginative lesson plan, filled with interactive activities, contests, and viewings of videos and televised races, held the students’ attention. The enthusiasm of the participants was evident in their quick friendliness toward one another and their eagerness to mount an Equicizer and cue it into action.

“It’s an amazing experience -- and it's only the first day!” exclaimed Amanda L. on the first afternoon of the event.

(Students viewed numerous race videos together)

A movie night was enjoyed by the students and their parents. The feature film was distinguished jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr.'s "All About Winning," which Lovato admits still gets him choked up every time he watches it. "Laffit's story truly shows every bit of the dedication, desire, and danger involved in being a jockey -- something the students need to aspire to and measure up to if they truly want to become a jockey."

Beyond the physical aspects of the sport, Lovato also presented information on other significant topics pertaining to the business of horse racing, such as proper weight management and nutrition; work ethics; obtaining a jockey's license; and negotiating professional relationships with trainers, owners, grooms, hotwalkers, and spectators.

In addition to the personal knowledge and instruction shared by Lovato, the attendees received advice via telephone conferences with some of the most recognizable individuals in racing, including Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day, Chris McCarron, and Mike Smith; accomplished rider James Graham; and successful trainer Michael Stidham.

Lovato commented, "I had an incredible lineup of the biggest names in racing supporting me for this event. I would like to thank all of those who offered to phone in: jockeys Angel Cordero Jr, Aaron Gryder, Chantal Sutherland, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Julie Krone, Richard Migliore and trainer Steve Asmussen." He explained that due to time limitations, "I literally ran out of time to schedule all of the calls with those who were willing to speak with my students."

Camp assistant Kate Harbert observed of the students and their progress after the first day of training, "Frankie can put them on the Equicizer and show them (how to perform a skill or technique), and then he can take them out onto the (small-scale) track and show them how to do it, and then he can talk them through it. There are just so many tools they can put in their toolbox and carry with them. I am so excited to see how they come along... They're learning today, and they keep learning more and more."

The students participated in a series of contests to earn points toward winning the grand prize of a complete racing saddle package. The challenge was won by Kayla J., with the runners-up being Christi M. and Tim L.

One of the fun activities was the Hipity Hop Derby where Christi took the lead and won!

"The Jockey Boot Camp was sensational for the attendees and myself," Lovato stated. "I have to say that even for myself, it was a great learning experience and made me realize even more the need for such an event to be in place. It drives my passion even further to offer direction for those whose dream is to pursue a career as a jockey or exercise rider. The students all were so wonderful and showed me they have the desire and dedication to take it to the next level. If they are seriously considering this career path or thinking about enrolling in Chris McCarron's North American Racing Academy (NARA), this was a huge 'leg-up' for them! I am also producing a DVD called 'What it Takes to be a Jockey' for those who were not able to attend my workshop." He added, "We did make history with this event, and Sandy and I are already planning another one for next year. I have a page for the Jockey Workshop on my website ( or where people can read more about it and view photos from this event. We can also be contacted by e-mailing ;"

As a professional jockey, Lovato's last ride took place on September 19, 2004. But as his inaugural Jockey Boot Camp came to a close, he brought six more winners across the finish line... Six hopeful individuals who look forward to their continued journey into the exciting, competitive world of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.

About the author:
Lori K. Black is a longtime horse enthusiast and Paso Fino owner with an appreciation for all breeds and disciplines of riding. She is an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing, the history of the sport, and the fascinating horses and people who bring Thoroughbred racing to life. Lori and her husband, Dan, reside in Berlin Heights, Ohio.E-mail:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frankie Lovato's Online Jockey School

This is a video playlist of techniques and thoughts I have put together for anyone that wants to learn more about being a jockey. Enjoy!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Horse For "Inside" Your House!

What Would You Think About A Horse For... "Inside" Your House?!

By Frank Lovato Jr (to appear in Horses Magazine October 2008)

My name is Frank Lovato and I am a retired professional jockey. Over my 25 year career, I rode in over 15,000 races and had 1,680 winners. What may be even more interesting is that I build horses for people to ride indoors! I named them the Equicizer and they are playing a very serious role in many people's lives. Maybe you are you thinking, "Why in the world would anyone want or need a mechanical horse for in their home?" You may be surprised to learn why and who is riding off into the sunset right in their own living rooms these days.

Jockey Frank Lovato Jr (photo)

People of all ages are using them to exercise, train and use for therapy. It does not look like a robot horse or anything like that. I handcraft each of them so they're more like nicely finished, friendly pieces of furniture – but they're horses! This all may sound new to you and a bit crazy, but this is something I have been working on for many years. If you are still not quite sure what this is all about, please allow me the opportunity to explain this new world that I have created and why riding a horse inside your home can be a very amazing and beneficial experience!

Frank Lovato with his horses, the Equicizer & Equipony

This all started for me in 1981 when I sustained a severe injury from a racing accident. The concept of me needing a mechanical horse became very real for me as a means to rehabilitate myself back to health. I was completely crippled and had to learn how to walk again. During my rehabilitation process, there were plenty of fancy and expensive state of the art exercise machines available at the rehabilitation centers – but NONE would help me regain the strength, fitness, and flexibility I would need to ride a horse again. It was then I devised myself a mechanical horse made from wood and springs that gave me the real essentials of a horse. With this wooden horse, I was able to bridle, saddle up, and ride, recreating the moves, rhythm, and balance as if I was on a real horse without any risk or danger. The success of my rehabilitation and recovery using my wooden mechanical horse was phenomenal and immediately recognized by other world top jockeys who would ask me to please build them one. Over the next few years since building my first horse for myself, more and more request for my wooden horses kept coming and I kept building. In 1988, I officially named my wooden mechanical horses the Equicizer and created a child size version named the Equipony. This was also the time when my wife Sandy and I established our special company, The Wooden Horse Corporation.

Hall Of Fame jockey Mike Smith works out on the Equicizer

I am sure you are wondering how the Equicizer works and what makes it go. The answer is "you, the rider" make it go! I purposely designed them to not be motorized. My priorities have been for these horses to remain safe, to be affordable, and to be an exercise machine that does not need maintenance or electricity. The Equicizer is completely balanced on springs and it rests in the position of a typical horse in the standing position. It can be ridden bareback or with a standard saddle of any kind, and it is built to hold up to 500 pounds.

So what makes the Equicizer move? When the rider seated on the Equicizer pushes and tilts their hips forward in a rhythmic manner, this puts the Equicizer into motion. Gently riding in this manner will create the sensation of a horse walking. If you were to watch a rider's seat on a real horse while the horse was walking, you would see that forward rhythmic movement in the rider's hips. The only difference is that a real horse is doing the work for you.

This exercise on the Equicizer can be compared to the "pelvic thrust" exercise which is an abdominal core exercise that a chiropractor may recommend for you. The more energy and effort you put into this rhythmic exercise, the faster the Equicizer will go on up to a full canter. You can push with your seat and hips into the saddle the same way you would drive a real horse forward in a canter. As long as you maintain rhythm and good balance, the Equicizer will move properly and come to life. If you break the rhythm or halt, the Equicizer will stop right with you to keep you safe.

You do not have to ride the Equicizer fast to gain good healthy exercise. Being able to ride it slow and gently is why it enables people of all ages and level of abilities to ride and exercise. This is what makes the Equicizer extra special as people with injuries or disabilities that may not be able to use traditional exercise equipment can ride the Equicizer!

The simple exercise of pushing with your hips offers an amazing safe core, abdomen, back, and leg exercise for anyone – specifically for horse riders – to work those muscles you so importantly need to ride a horse.

Another exercise that is mostly used by jockeys is the two point position, where the rider stands up in the stirrups with their butts off the saddle and uses their arms pushing into the Equicizer's neck in rhythmic manner and stride. This exercise uses a whole different set of muscle groups and can build up a cardio exercise much faster Either way, exercising in or out of the saddle, the Equicizer can go as fast and as long as the rider can ride it. The Equicizer never gets tired, the riders do!

Exercise for the Equestrian

I don't think anyone would argue that there should be something for horse riders to exercise and train on for "riding horses." If you were a cyclist, I am certain you would have a stationary bike in your home. If you are a horse rider, why not have a stationary horse?! Treadmills, exercise bikes, and other exercise machines, offer great exercise, but they do not work your core and the important muscles you need specifically to ride a horse. After all, horse riders are athletes too! All other athletes have a means to train and practice their skills. Baseball players have batting cages, boxers have punching bags, golfers have driving ranges, you can have a basketball hoop in your driveway, etc., etc. Horse riders? I have an Equicizer. It just makes sense!

Over the past 20 years, I have built horses for riders of every kind, ranging from the professional extreme Equine athletes to small children and adults with disabilities. The Equicizer has reached all parts of the world. Aside from private homes, some of our customers include colleges, equestrians centers, riding instructors, clinicians, therapeutic riding programs, hippotherapy and rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and museums. No matter where their locations or purpose, they have found a need for the Equicizer and Equipony. Even the film industry has used the Equicizer for training actor Tobey Maquire to ride a horses and for the close up scenes in the making of Seabiscuit. The Equicizer was also used in Who's Your Caddy and ABC Family Channel's hit television series Wild Fire. All for the reason to capture close up scenes with the actors riding a horse while they were actually safely riding the Equicizer.

Actor Tobey Maguire Aboard the Equicizer in Seabiscuit

Jesse Howell & Sheryl Sabino with "Cocoa Bear" their Equicizer - Founders of "Change Through Chance" therapeutic riding program of Wooster Ohio dedicated to helping those with physical and mental challenges.

We are a very small personal company, but I do believe in the need for such a product and the service the Equicizers provides. I still hand-craft each of my horses personally in my own private shop in Norwalk, Ohio. I take a lot of pride in the quality and craftsmanship of each horse, from nose to tail. Made mostly of wood and padded carpet, I carve and hand-paint the horse heads myself – something a little extra special that many people love. The manes and tails are very life-like, but I make those from a synthetic material. I dye and mix in various colors. I try to personalize the horses for the customers as much as possible when they request it with colors, markings, or personalized name plates, as most people do have fun with it along with the idea of it being a serious exercise machine. It may likely be the only exercise machine you may offer a pat on the neck or a kiss on the muzzle after a workout! I bet all of my customers would admit that one time or another they have had a word or two with their Equicizer! All part of the great fun! When was the last time you hugged your treadmill?

Carving Horse Heads

Hand Painted & Finished

My wife Sandy and I have been avid horse riders all our lives and she has two horses. One is her quarter horse gelding named "Raleigh" and the other is our Equicizer named "Mocha". Mocha is parked right in front of the TV in our living room while Raleigh, of course, is down at the barn. Sandy actually got her hero, RFD-TV's and master horseman Craig Cameron to autograph Mocha's cheek, but still, Raleigh is Sandy's true love and there is nothing Sandy would rather do than to ride Raleigh every waking moment. There are days that riding Raleigh just becomes impossible for Sandy with our kids, schedules, work, weather, etc. When she does get to ride Raleigh, though, she feels great in the saddle. The reason why is when she can't ride Raleigh, she's riding Mocha while watching her favorite TV shows like Gray's Anatomy or Craig Cameron on RFD-TV!

(photo above) Master horseman/clinician Craig Cameron with Steve Lantvit of Highgrove Farm in LaPorte, Indiana ,and Frank Lovato standing with Jazz, the Equicizer -

Wishing everyone happy trails, even if they may be right in your living room!

For more information, please contact Frank or Sandy Lovato; Phone: 419-663-1472

visit our website:

Video above, RFD-TV's Craig Cameron interviews Lovato for his segment called "tack tip" at the 2008 Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio.