Yodelling Romeo Sings during life after racing
Jocelyn Charleston and Yodelling Romeo (AKA Alex) winning the Saddle Hunter Turnout trophy at Hawke’s Bay A&P Show.
She’s a top equestrian, brain-injury awareness advocate, and former international supermodel - Elizabeth Charleston needs little introduction! We caught up with Elizabeth to discuss one very special off-the-track thoroughbred who came into her family’s care in 1997 and has been the apple of their eye ever since.
Alex the Racehorse
Yodelling Romeo, or ‘Alex’ as he is now affectionately known as was purchased for $40,000 from the Australian Magic Millions sale and found himself in the Te Akau Racing barn. He raced at two and three - on the flat and even popping over some hurdles - and managed to shout his owners a couple of trips to the winner’s circle during his short career. Gai Waterhouse was brought out to oversee operations at Te Akau’s Matamata stables and made the call that Alex wasn't going to be classic material, he retired sound in August of 1997. Meanwhile, international supermodel Elizabeth Charleston was searching for a new show horse for her mother Jocelyn to compete on...
“I was out of the country a lot with my modelling career so it needed to be a sensible horse that didn't require a lot of schooling. We weren't looking for a hot flash type that required hours of working in on the morning of the show. It had to be a safe horse for Jocelyn to enjoy when I wasn't around to work it during the week,” Elizabeth explains.
“We looked at a number of horses and let people know that we were in the market. Some friends of ours mentioned a nice black racehorse from Matamata called Yodelling Romeo (by Yodel out of Romantic Thoughts) who had recently finished racing. I instantly hated the name but was keen because I love a black horse.”
“A couple of top showing and eventing riders had gone to check him out but decided he didn't have the ‘X factor’ to make it big. This didn't bother us too much and we thought it best to go have a look in case we missed an opportunity.”
Alex the Showhorse
Jocelyn went to try out Alex in November that same year and bought him on the spot. Elizabeth and Jocelyn took him to a few local shows to see how he would cope with the show day atmosphere and being tied to the truck. He took to his new career like a duck to water! He made his debut show ring appearance at the Cambridge A&P show in December, where he picked up a second placing in the Maiden Hack.
“He took a few seasons to become a reliable mount - getting his nose under and getting him to not to do his little kick outs - but he managed to become the type of horse that brought home a wide bow from each show and win the icecream money for the truck ride home to celebrate an enjoyable day of competition.”
Left: NZ Horse of the Year Show 2010: Alex (AKA Yodelling Romeo) & Jocelyn Charleston placing in the Show Riding Horse of the Year.
Right: Alex & Elizabeth Charleston - Champion Senior Rider at the New Zealand Royal Easter Show.
Alex is no one-trick pony, being one of the few horses in New Zealand to have placed in the three different categories showing titles at the New Zealand showing nationals - Show Hack, Show Riding Horse and Saddle Hunter.
“He wasn’t a true type so kind of went under the radar but could work his way up the placings. He was never the big title winner in the showing scene but he certainly helped me win my share of champion rider and equitation awards including the wides at Royal Shows.”
“Later in his showing career Alex proved to be very handy as a Side Saddle mount for both Jocelyn and I. It's still a treasured memory riding side saddle in a black satin flowing ball gown under lights at the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings performing a display to the sounds of Lady Gaga booming across the showgrounds as part of the big Friday Night Extravaganza Kevin Hansen held at the show.”
“Our time slot got a bit delayed so I was waiting in the Show Jumpers collecting ring having a glass of wine while watching the show. Alex was getting a bit worked up with the music blaring and by the time we got the call to head into the Premier Arena he was quite agitated,” says Elizabeth.
“Jocelyn had started to freak out and was insisting I abort the mission. But I was adamant I was going to do the Side Saddle display and was confident he would behave - I was all dressed up and refused to be a wallflower that night! Peter Hill was at the gate and he grabbed the reins and helped lead Alex down the side of the arena in the dark to the grandstand. Alex was kicking out and bucking all the way - not the display we were aiming for. I yelled at Peter “let him go!” and Alex sailed around the arena and did the most beautiful side saddle display with my ball gown trailing behind us. It was a priceless experience and a wonderful memory to have.”
Alex, the 26yo ex-racehorse, ex-showhorse, current sheep whisperer…
And what does a former racehorse turned top show horse do post-life in the ring? At the grand age of 26, Alex is living out his retirement on the Charleston’s family farm - where he is particularly fond of the sheep he shares the property with!
Alex this summer aged 26 yrs old, with Garry - his best sheep friend.
“The world has always revolved around Alex at our place and that’s the way he prefers it. He is still hard fed twice a day and the big decision is what cover he should wear to deal with the weather each day. The day before the COVID-19 lockdown in March, Mum made it her mission to go buy Alex his new autumn cover. That’s how important he is to her. He is a much-loved family member who has been with us for over twenty years. I don't think a racehorse could have asked for a better life.”