'Mary Bo' no teen angel Growing: The filly is an equine adolescent now, showing typical high spirits -- and obnoxiousness.

October 03, 1997|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

She is willful, headstrong and prone to petulance -- a teen-ager in equine years.

Mary Bo Quoit is growing up.

At 18 months, the frisky filly is feeling her oats, bossing her playmates and bedeviling her owners at Liberty Run Farm in Carroll County. Like many teens, Mary Bo Quoit is also changing her appearance, the latest milestone for the Maryland thoroughbred, one of 1,500 foaled in the state last year. Her journey from birth to racetrack is being chronicled in The Sun.

Born a bay, Mary Bo Quoit is turning gray, a change triggered by bloodline. Her coat, brown at birth, lightens every time she sheds, thanks to a gene she inherited from her mother, an old roan mare. The graying process can take years, say veterinarians, who predict that by age 5 or 6, Mary Bo Quoit (nee Miss Piggy) will be a horse of a different color.

About 15 percent of all thoroughbreds are gray, said Dr. Phil Sponenberg, professor of genetics at the Virginia/Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Va.

"You don't see that many of them, though they certainly can win at the track," he said. Famous grays include these, who each won two legs of racing's Triple Crown: Native Dancer (1953), Spectacular Bid (1979) and Silver Charm (1997). Lady Secret, a gray filly, earned Horse of the Year honors in 1986.

Their reputation precedes grays, Sponenberg said: "They're known to be quieter and steadier than most."

Will Mary Bo Quoit fit the mold? Last week, the yearling flipped her bucket of oats upside down, for the heck of it. She bullies the two roughneck geldings who share her pasture. Recently, when she failed to get carrots for supper, she pinned her ears and gave her handler the stink eye.

Stink eye?

"It's an aggressive look where a horse shows the white in the corner of its eye," said Mary Joanne Hughes, part-owner of the filly and farm manager at Liberty Run. "She positions her eye so that it means something.

"She stops the boys in their tracks with that look."

Queen of her turf, Mary Bo Quoit reigns over man and beast. At mealtime, neither gelding dares eat until Mary Bo checks the chow for treats. Routinely, she nips "the boys," Wally and J.J., for their spirited hi-jinks, biting their flanks without remorse. Most horses bow their heads when reprimanded. Not this filly. "If we're standing together, she won't lower her eyes below mine," Hughes said. "Submissive, she's not."

These are clues that Mary Bo Quoit will be a pain to train, said Hughes, who'll tackle that job once the horse turns 2.

" 'Breaking' her means establishing dominance," said Hughes, a veteran trainer. "She's ornery. I'm going to have to do a whole routine on teaching her who's boss."

It won't be easy, she said, given Mary Bo's temperament.

"She's smart -- too smart," Hughes said. "Horses that aren't smart act like machines and do as they're told. The smart ones' minds wander; they don't pay attention to you."

But training is months away. For now, Hughes lets Mary Bo Quoit think she is Alpha Mare. Wednesday evening found the filly dogging the geldings around the pasture. Every time the boys got cozy, she horned in between them. Her motive?

"She splits them just to be able to do it," said Hughes' husband, Bill Brasaemle. "She's reiterating that she is woman -- she's the boss."

For a while longer, anyway.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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