“Is he…Crazy”

A couple of weekends ago I took a student to a Dressage clinic that the Nebraska Dressage Association put on. It was a great clinic and I learned a lot just watching my student ride. However I can’t help but acknowledge the fact that this is clear “discrimination” in the sport against the thoroughbred horse.

My student rode my 12 year old off the track thoroughbred gelding, Rowdy. I got Rowdy off the track as a 6 year old and have done all of his training myself. I know he’s far from perfect and we have a lot of work to do on dressage but he is a nice horse who has scored well in the dressage ring at training level. The other riders in the clinic were all dressage riders, while we focus on jumpers and eventing, and a few even compete at WEF. I didn’t expect my student to work on the same skills as these riders but I expected her to receive the same level of coaching.

Don’t get me wrong, the clinician was great, I’d even like to travel to her to take some lessons, but I feel she judged Rowdy the second she learned he is a thoroughbred. She would say little things like “thoroughbreds will do this…” and “I don’t want to push him because he’ll rear” (Rowdy has reared once in the 6 1/2 years I’ve owned him and it was my fault). When she asked my student if she wanted to work on the canter she said “is it crazy?”

There were a few other trainers watching their students ride as well. One has a barn near us and I admire her as a rider and trainer. I was planning on taking some dressage lessons from her to work with my RRP horse Thomas. I talked to her a little while I was there and mentioned coming out to ride now that the weather is more favorable. My student and her mom stayed to watch and have lunch at the clinic, the mom mentioned told me that later on in the day they were talking about Thomas and this trainer asked “Is he…crazy”, I’m assuming she asked because he is a young thoroughbred.

I understand that some people have a misconception about thoroughbreds, but I wish more people would have an open mind about this breed. I hope my involvement with the RRP and being involved in local organizations will help to show the versatility, athleticism, and train-ability of the thoroughbred horse.

Winter Training

When I received my acceptance email on February 1st from The Retired Racehorse Project, I couldn’t wait to get to work training and showing Thomas.

Thomas arrived on December 15th and in the two months he’s been in training the weather as not exactly been agreeable. We’ve had lots of snow, record amounts for Nebraska actually, and many days where it has just been too cold to ride. I try to keep it to very light work if its under 15-20 degrees outside. Despite the weather, we’ve managed to have some very successful rides. Thomas is starting to look for contact in the bridle and learning to move off my leg. I have jumped him twice and he took to it right away! He is the easiest baby thoroughbred I’ve ever ridden, nothing bothers him!

I’m going to take some dressage lessons with a local trainer to work on our flat work skills, I could use a refresher too! My hope is to get to some cross country schooling days and horse trials, along with our local jumper shows and dressage shows. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer but I can’t want to see how Thomas improves and grows!

Make sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram to follow along with our journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover!

IMG_0018

Kentucky, Here We Come!

IMG_0029

As many of you know, I applied to compete in the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project. I found out Friday the 1st that I am one of 673 accepted trainers! I am beyond thrilled…also kind of nervous!

My RRP mount, Thomas, has been more than perfect since I got him in December. We jumped our first jump just last week and are working on all the fun baby horse things, like steering, accepting the bit, accepting my leg, etc. But he has the coolest personality and pretty much nothing bothers him. I can’t wait to get him to his first show in a couple weeks. We’ll be going to as many little local schooling shows as possible and hopefully traveling to some bigger shows and horse trials to introduce him to as many venues as possible before traveling to the Horse Park in October.

I’ve created a Facebook page Thomas – Retired Racehorse Project 2019 if you would like to follow along with our journey! I will be updating this blog as well!

IMG_0012

If you’re planning on attending or competing at the RRP, please reach out! I’d love to meet new friends while we’re there!

 

Life Happens.

Hello there! I want to start by apologizing for my absence these last few months! Without going into too much detail, I’ve been busy!

But, I’m back and ready to update you on my life! I have moved my horses to a new facility and have started teaching and training again. I currently have 2 consistent lesson students and 3 horses in training. My newest training addition belongs to one of my lesson students but my plan is to compete him at the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project.

Thomas is a 4 (technically 5 since Jan. 1st) year old thoroughbred gelding that raced 7 times. He is by Monarchos, out of Rokeby Rosie. I am so excited about him because he has an amazing personality and is probably one of the easiest babies I’ve ever sat on. I can’t wait to update you on his progress! Keep your fingers crossed that we are accepted to the RRP!

Isn’t it a Small World?

I love moments tat make you think “wow, what a small world”. In a world filled with 7.4 billion people, it really is anything but small. But finding someone with a mutual connection makes it feel a little smaller for that brief moment.

The equestrian community seems to make this world even smaller. It seems where ever you go, you will meet someone new with a mutual connection. “I used to lesson with…” or I bought a horse from…” is the fastest way to establish common ground.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to sell a mare I’ve been riding for a family friend. I’ve been struggling with her because she is 14 years old but she is not safe for beginners. Most people who are shopping for a horse that age want to it be beginner safe. I had an ad posted for this mare on a couple different sites. I received this email just last week.

“I started this filly and divorced so donated her back to Mona at NYHR. Wow I’m shaking right now since I was thinking about Cola and her brother Carbon who I also owned since weanling. Finally I’m on my feet and looking to get an OTTB since it’s what I do best. I have video and many pics of her as a filly when I showed her in Hunter Breeding and flat classes 3 yo.”

I reached out to this woman and received hundreds of photos of her and Cola as a 3-year-old. 36552713_10210699106508726_8398692153714278400_n.jpg

Cola has now found a wonderful new home with the woman who started her. I am so happy that they both found each other again. I had to laugh and say “what a small world”.

Collaborative

24251541_10209408666048521_575111487_o

When I decided it was time to leave Indiana and move back to Nebraska I still wanted to have more than one horse to ride. I knew a woman from Lincoln that had a beautiful thoroughbred mare, she was unable to ride due to MS and the mare had spent the last few years in very little work. I had kept in touch with her while I was in Indiana and expressed interest in taking her in for training when I moved home. Cola is a stunning mare just shy of 17 hh. She has three beautiful gaits and loves to work. Unfortunately, her brain does not match her beauty! She is spooky, unfocused, and easily distracted. Not qualities you want in a Hunter.

The first few months I spent introducing Cola to new things. She didn’t have much respect for people on the ground and had not been introduced to many “scary” things.  On top of these qualities, she was not very fit from years of light work. Our first rides were spent building up her fitness and working on focusing on me. Once she was fit enough to start jumping things started to move forward quickly. Giving Cola something to focus on (the jump) kept her attention on work and made life around her less distracting.

18740169_10208180942716205_1377112113937400141_n

After a winter of hard work, Cola and I ventured to our fist show together. A local hunter/jumper schooling show. We were going to compete in the Baby Greens. Jumps so small she could step over them. Since there was no warm up arena, I could not lunge to get her mind focused on work. I tacked up and jumped on and had a surprisingly successful warm up. She jumped all the jumps and wasn’t a nervous mess! After our warmup we had a disgustingly long wait and no stalls for the horses. 6 hours later we had our flat class and 2 over fences rounds. The flat class went well, we were in a class of mostly ponies. The first over fences round was good but the second was much more exciting! Since this was a schooling show, the lines were not set at regulation hunter striding. Cola has a HUGE stride. We did the outside line that was a “3” stride in 2 strides. I lost my reins and looked like a fool but stayed on!

33216186_10210471160170210_3052765133685129216_n

We finished the day with 5th in out division. I was just happy we got around the course and I stayed on!

 17498738_10207698191527727_5797360839710828017_n

Our next outing was much more exciting! It was Cola’s first outdoor show, I had been jumping her in just a slow twist full cheek at home so thought I’d stick with that the day of the show. That was a mistake. I had no control or brakes around the course. We did an 8 stride line in 6 strides and I was sure we were going to take out the fence at the end of the arena. Again, somehow I stayed on and we completed each round!

18191729_10207958273549615_1689885674_n

While riding and training Cola has sure been intereisting at times. She really has taught me alot about sucking it up and getting the job done. She has given me the since of pride that comes from hard work and dedication and taught me alot about how to ride a horse that isn’t always easy. I always joke with people that she is a lovely mare, she just makes bad choices somtime! I still have Cola in training and she is activly for sale. While she is not suitable for a beginner she would make a great hunter or Eq mount for the right person!

 

 

Rowdy.

735086_3892659809885_319315968_n

I think every equestrian has that one horse who comes into their life and changes everything. When I was a sophomore in high school I decided to sell my horse. I was a competitive swimmer and at the time I didn’t have the time to dedicate to both swimming and riding, so I chose swimming. I’ll never regret that decision because I loved high school swimming and think it was the best choice for me at the time. 2 years after graduation and deciding not to swim in college, I decided to start riding again. I found a local barn and a horse that I was able to lease. I love my lease horse but he was older and wasn’t “mine”. I wanted my own horse again. I started looking around but being a broke college student, my budget was pretty small. I received a phone call from a contact that they had found a thoroughbred gelding at an auction that was “too pretty to let go” but they didn’t have the space for him. All she asked was to pay their gas to get him from South Dakota to Nebraska. Not know what I was getting myself into, I agreed.

564827_3103617884330_753568338_n

Rowdy arrived on a sunny day at the end of May. He was skinny, under muscled, and un-groomed but I fell in love with him instantly. I still remember him stepping off the trailer like it was yesterday. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

318288_3103631604673_1998799060_n

When I got rowdy I had been back to riding for less than a year and wasn’t taking regular lessons. I thought I knew what I was doing but I had no idea what it really took to re-start an OTTB. Looking back I definitely bit off more than I could chew. Rowdy was young, sensitive, and had terrible manners. I had to keep a chain on him anytime I was leading him and didn’t canter him for 6 months. There were times I was sure I was going to get hurt and time I wondered what I was doing with this horse I could hardly ride.

After a year Rowdy and I moved to a local Hunter/Jumper barn with a trainer. I started taking lessons with the trainer and had her ride Rowdy a few times as well. Having someone help through the “baby thoroughbred” moments made all the difference in the world. I started to lesson and clinic regularly and once I understood better how to help him we clicked and Rowdy started to become the horse I had envisioned.

1890980_10202534735724559_528824113944175463_n

In January on 2015 I was offered a job as a working student/assistant trainer at Bannockburn Farm, a breeding and training farm, working for Robert Mendoza. Rowdy and I packed up and moved 12 hours from home to Indiana. When I arrived at the farm, I thought I  knew how to ride, I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn. In the two years I worked for Robert, I learned more than I could have ever imagined. From starting 2 year olds, long lining, teaching the 4 year olds to jump, to experiencing horse shows at the Kentucky horse park and Ocala. Taking that risk and moving to the farm was the best choice I ever made.

cropped-31934815_10210371239352252_56291898670710784_n.jpg

1622311_10203889571154598_8181645268044683823_o

 After almost 2 years on the farm, I decided that it was time for me to move home and get a “real” job. I still own Rowdy and he is now teaching another college student to ride (she has it a little easier than I did) and I have another OTTB in for training.

I promised Rowdy years ago that he has his forever home with me. He is my heart horse, my baby. I still can’t believe that the horse I can hop on bareback in a halter and take through the field is the same horse that I was terrified of 6 years ago.

 

Horsemanship.

The topic of horsemanship has been on my mind a lot lately. Due to recent events like Marilyn Little’s showing at LRK3DE and now the Oliver Townend incident at Badminton, I wanted to address this from my point of view.

From a very young age, I was taught that the care of the horse is the most important aspect in being at equestrian. It doesn’t matter what shows you go to, how high you jump, or how many ribbons you win, if you not taking care of your horse. Now most equestrians know that the care you give you horses directly relates to the success you have in the ring. Once you get to a certain level, you will not succeed if your horse doesn’t have the best care. But, at many “A” circuit shows the rider is not the person caring for their horse. Most upper level riders have grooms working for them. Let me clarify, I have no issue with having a groom! I was my trainer/boss’s groom at every horse show we went to. He simply would not have been able to have every horse ready for every class if he did not have help. Now, I have witnessed the other side of this scenario as well. The 16 year old girl who is simply too busy getting coffee, riding her minibike from ring to ring, and shopping at the vendors, to have her one jumper ready and to the ring in time for their one class of the day. That is not horsemanship. You are out too late partying to get up to feed in the morning? That is not horsemanship.

I know that people come from different situations. Having a groom for the 12 year old pony kid who needs help getting to the ring, totally acceptable in my book. I just wish that more parents and trainers would hold their kids and students accountable. It is such a privilege to be able to ride and show, I feel like it is not appreciated until you have put in the work. If we instill these values in young equestrians maybe it will follow they as they grow and move up the levels.

I has so much respect for riders like Mavis Spencer who put in the work as grooms and have become so successful after stepping out on their own. Riders who grew up riding the difficult thoroughbreds or the crazy hot horses that were “too much” for clients. Those are the people who should be making headlines in our sport. Unfortunately the ones we hear about at the (millionaire’s daughter) ivy league students who show all season at WEF.

Now, lets talk about the Marilyn Little situation. I know the people make mistakes, I fully understand that not every situation that we as the public see is exactly how it looks. I know that trainers do things that aren’t always 100% correct in order to have their horses perform at the highest levels. However, there have been multiple times Marilyn Little’s horses have had bloody mouths. There is photo evidence of these occurrences, and her lack of taking responsibility in these situations is what gets to me. If you make a mistake and it happens to be broadcast through the community, I would hope that it would make you reevaluate and perhaps even change what you are doing. If you care about the animal at all I would hope that you realize that making your horse bleed from the mouth is no great horsemanship. If you don’t care, maybe loosing sponsors would open you eyes?

Marilyn’s response looked like this:

“I tried my very best to be transparent in every possible way in Kentucky and followed our sport’s protocol in the best interest of my horse. My horse was checked multiple times by FEI officials before the start of cross country, again at the finish, and at the second horse inspection on Sunday morning, and at all times was passed fit to continue.”

Oliver Townend faced a similar situation after badminton last week. His excessive use of the whip did not go unnoticed. He answered with the following.

“Having watched my Badminton cross-country rounds for the first time when I got home last night, I’m so disappointed and upset about the way I rode. It didn’t look good and I don’t want to look like that.

“I fully accept the warning I received from the ground jury. My competitive instincts got the better of me and I will work hard to improve in this area.

“I try really hard to give my horses the best ride possible — I try to be as fit as possible, to be as light as I can be, to sit as still as I can, to get them on the best strides and take-off points to minimise the energy they have to waste. I care enormously about their wellbeing and their welfare.

“I feel I have let my amazing team down. I am aware of my position in the sport and of my responsibility to be a suitable role model to younger people, and I apologise to them.

“I love my horses — I live for them. I am extremely proud of all four horses — Ballaghmor Class and Cooley SRS, and the two who went so brilliantly at Kentucky, Cooley Master Class and MHS King Joules — and of every horse on my yard.”

See the difference? I sure do. To me, Oliver showed remorse and true horsemanship while Little seems to be looking out for herself.

Let me know your thoughts!

 

 

The Journey Begins.

Thanks for joining me! Let me start by telling you a little about myself.

Like many young girls, I grew up begging for a pony. My father had a friend that owned 2 Shetlands, so after wearing him down, he took me to see them. I begged and begged to ride and proceeded to fall off this ornery pony 3 times before the day was done. According to my dad, he knew he had a problem when I climbed back on each time.

Fast forward many years of riding lessons and eating dirt countless times and we arrive here. As I sit here reflecting on the many adventures this sport has allowed, I find myself smiling and remembering everything I’ve learned. Whether it be from a trainer, friend, or one of the many horses I’ve been lucky enough to experience. Each lesson has brought me to where I am today and I wouldn’t be the person I am without them.

I hope to share these lessons with you and also plan to share some of the valuable knowledge I’ve learned along the way!

“You’re making the transition from being students and learning to being able to teach your horse.   Before, you needed the education and a way to develop your skills. Now, you’re going to need to be responsible and the horse’s career is going to become the most important part of your program.  You’re still going to develop your skills, but the development of your horse’s skills is going to become more important.”

– Beezie Madden