How did you get started retraining OTTBs (or horses in general)?
I grew up riding horses in a lesson program in Maryland. A few years into the program I began working with the young, green horses to prepare them to be used in lessons. My trainer gifted me a young Welsh pony who had been abused and was not a fit for the program. After working with him for several years and successfully showing him in the Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, and Eventing circuits and watching him grow from a frightened pony to a confident partner, I knew I wanted to devote my time to helping transition horses to new careers and helping them realize their potential. This led me to purchase my first OTTB at the age of 15, and from then on I was hooked!
How did you find your horse for this year’s makeover and why did you pick them?
I found Java through social media. Her trainer reached out to me, and I was planning a trip to a local track to look at prospects. Java’s build- her uphill conformation, deep chest, clean legs and sloping shoulder was exactly what I was looking for in an eventing prospect. I also liked the fact that her two wins were both at route distances, which told me that she would have the stamina and heart for cross-country. When I finally met Java, I fell in love with her personality. She was very sweet and in your pocket, with a calm demeanor and a kind eye, which are the types of horses I enjoy working with. All of the pieces came together and I knew Java would be a great fit for me!
What is your favorite thing about the Retired Race Horse Project’s Makeover?
I got involved with the Retired Racehorse Project because I believe in their mission and what they are trying to accomplish- to showcase the versatility of the Thoroughbred and to increase demand for horses coming off the track. However, my absolute favorite thing about being involved in the Makeover is how all the trainers come together to encourage and support each other in the journey. I have met some amazing people and made very dear friends throughout the process!
Do you have any advice for people retraining horses?
My biggest pieces of advice when retraining horses, no matter the breed, is to be patient, listen to your horse and to never be afraid to ask for help. There’s an old adage that says if you rush things you usually just get to the wrong place faster. This is especially true with horses, as there is absolutely no substitute for time. If you listen, your horse will tell you exactly what works for them and what doesn’t, and what pace they are comfortable taking in training. When you hit roadblocks (and you will!) don’t be afraid to reach out for advice and use the resources around you.
Do you have any funny stories from retraining a horse?
Horses definitely have a way of keeping you humble, and I have lots of funny stories from over the years! To this day, my favorite story has to be one from several years ago. I had taken my pony to his first recognized event, we had XC schooled wonderfully the day before and I felt we were extremely prepared for the show. The next day, I entered the dressage ring very focused on the task at hand, and was going across the diagonal for our free walk (that we ended up getting an 8 on!) when my pony suddenly decided that XC was way more fun and jumped right out of the dressage ring!
What is your greatest challenge as a rider/trainer in this year’s RRP Makeover? How do you plan on overcoming this challenge?
The biggest challenge I am facing as a trainer right now is managing my time and establishing a routine that benefits Java. With a training business consisting of several other project horses and clients’ horses to ride, it is challenging to ensure that my personal horses do not fall by the wayside. To combat this, I make a weekly schedule for myself and a plan for each of the horses in my care. Because Java has had quite a bit of downtime up until this point, I am still working on getting to know her under saddle and figuring out the best plan for her training.