How did you get started retraining OTTBs (or horses in general)?
I have been around Thoroughbred’s for most of my riding career. My first coach regularly brought horses from the track to rehab with, I even remember a couple of them being used during our Voltige club lessons! Being an eventing stable, many of the horses were Thoroughbreds and off-track. My life evolved and I ended up getting to work at E.P. Taylor’s Windfield Farms! Ironically the sire of my mare, Ascot Knight, was still standing at stud there and one of my fondest memories was being able to visit him after exercising the track horses. Since then I have specialized in re-training track horses for new careers.
How did you find your horse for this year’s makeover and why did you pick them?
Last summer, I decided my goal was to find a new prospect as my old mare is retired from competition. I e-mailed a few trainers that had ads for other horses up for or through contacts I already had. Michael Blake who was training at Fort Erie was one of the trainers I talked to, he had a gelding advertised for sale that was not suitable.
I gave him the info for what I was looking for- a feisty mare with the athletic ability for Eventing and he told me he had a mare with some attitude that he may be retiring later. So I made the 4-hour drive to Fort Erie and saw a few horses. One of them being Sam, she seemed like a good match and I asked Michael if he would keep me updated, and sure enough in September he decided to retire her and contacted me.
What is your favorite thing about the Retired Race Horse Project’s Makeover?
I am very passionate about Thoroughbreds in both the racing and eventing world and I love that the Makeover was developed to showcase these wonderful athletes!
Do you have any advice for people retraining horses?
Every racehorse is different, they all have their own story, their own quirk. But they love to work and develop a relationship with their rider. They are talented and willing, and will give you their extra large heart any chance they can once you have earned their trust!
Do you have any funny stories from retraining a horse?
One of my favorite things about horses is the relationship you develop. I remember going out to see my older mare, Vic, one night when they were on night turn out. She always comes when I call her and I had a non-horsey friend with me. I went and stood at the top of their field and called her and we could hear the sound of a horse galloping across the field, my friend was terrified, but Vic stopped within inches, in the pitch black darkness. Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of non-horse friends because of stuff like this.
What is your greatest challenge as a rider/trainer in this year’s RRP Makeover? How do you plan on overcoming this challenge?
My biggest challenge is orchestrating all of the details to make the 15 hour trip to Kentucky! I have never been to compete outside of Ontario so it has been a big learning curve for me!