How did you get started retraining OTTBs (or horses in general)?
I galloped, owned and trained Thoroughbred racehorses for over 25 years. When I was 19 and I did not have the funds to own a horse but I was fortunate enough to know some good horse people who taught me to gallop. I lived on a farm and was introduced to John Bosley, steeplechase rider who was located on a farm owned by his cousin Ann Merryman. They taught me to gallop and Ann took me to the track – Pimlico which was my home for most of my galloping career.
How did you find your horse for this year’s makeover and why did you pick them?
I bred him. His mom was abused and saved by my “horse rescue mentor” Lisa Amarino. My husband bought “Graycie” Cloud’s Honor for me as a yearling. I broke her, trained her and raced her. I was her primary exercise rider as well. The only thing I did not do is ride her in races. Most of her winnings went to founding my charity, Thoroughbred Placement Resources, Inc. Z is the only horse I have ever bred and most probably will ever breed.
What is your favorite thing about the Retired Race Horse Project’s Makeover?
I love that it helps promote the value and talent for retired Thoroughbred Racehorses.
Do you have any advice for people retraining horses?
Don’t rush them. Learn what they already know and shape it.
Do you have any funny stories from retraining a horse?
I don’t know if it’s funny but entertaining how much Z is like his mother. She is still here at Leighton Farm and has many of her characteristics. Both her sire and dam are gray and he is a chestnut without one white hair present. He makes faces and expressions just like her, and even nickered to me the other day, just the way she does at feed time. I’ve never experienced having a mom and baby and it’s incredible how many things they do that are alike.
What is your greatest challenge as a rider/trainer in this year’s RRP Makeover? How do you plan on overcoming this challenge?
Not allowing any goals, such as the Makeover to cloud my judgment on what is best for Z on a day to day basis. Goals are good but they must come second to the welfare of the horse. I am laying down the foundation for the next phase of his life. I must take care to be sure I give him the training he needs to be successful in his life and future. Each horse is an individual and must be brought along at his or her own pace. I feel the first 18 months is critical in laying down the correct foundation both mentally and physically. You absolutely must not rush it. Having a goal cannot be allowed to sway the natural progress of the horse.