How did you get started retraining OTTBs (or horses in general)?
My first horse I retrained was my jumper mare I ended up having for ten years. She was 9 when I bought her, had raced 42 times, and was an absolute terror. With a lot of time and patience, she ended up taking me from a timid 2’6″ hunter princess into the 3’6″ jumpers and making me feel indestructible. After successfully retraining her, I started working with a lot of young horses at local hunter/jumper barns that I rode at, before eventually deciding I really wanted to focus on OTTBs. To date, I have retrained five on my own and helped many others along the way. I hope to eventually be able to make this more of a career once my children are older.
How did you find your horse for this year’s makeover and why did you pick them?
I found Athena through Amy Paulus of Paulus Racing and Performance Thoroughbreds. I knew from the second I saw her that I had to have her. She reminded me so much of my jumper mare that had to be put down in August 2015. Not only because of being a gray mare but also conformation and the way she moves. I know this mare is going to be special to me in so many ways. Conformation wise I love her shoulder and her hind end, and also how proportionate she is everywhere.
What is your favorite thing about the Retired Race Horse Project’s Makeover?
My favorite thing about the Makeover is that it really showcases how versatile these horses are. I have ridden many horses of many different breeds and yet none have been as versatile as the Thoroughbreds I have ridden. The fact that these horses can be so competitive in so many different disciplines speaks volumes, not only about their athletic ability but about their temperament as well. Being able to compete in such different spectrums such as show jumpers and trail or barrel racing and dressage, is truly eye-opening. I think if people really take the time to watch these horses, take in the fact that a few short months ago they were racing, and see them now, they will truly be amazed.
Do you have any advice for people retraining horses?
My advice for someone retraining any horse, but especially an OTTB, is to be patient. Everything you are asking them to do is completely new, you’re speaking a foreign language. Most horses want to please their riders and a lot of times any form of acting out can be linked back to pushing them too hard and too fast. Some of these horses take to new disciplines like fish to water and personally I feel that can lead to rushing and not enough time spent on the basics. Most horses off the track have never been in real crossties, some have injuries or other health setbacks such as ulcers. Take your time, be patient and understanding, perfect one thing before moving onto the next.
Do you have any funny stories from retraining a horse?
The funniest story I have from retraining a horse is with Athena, my RRP horse for this year. I purchased her after seeing one picture, a lovely action shot of her leaping in the air while doing a jog video. Her stomach was almost above her groom’s head. Once I had her with me, I found myself wondering when the “kite horse” or “flying unicorn” would come back into play.
I soon found out it would be when she was tacked up and walking around before I got on her for the first time. She decided then to show me just how flighty she was and I found myself wondering just what I had gotten myself into. I somehow mustered all my courage and got on and the transformation was astounding. She’s a completely different horse once you’re on her, it’s like all of the nervousness and theatrics go out the window and she’s actually a dream to ride. I guess she’s a prime example of why not to judge a book by its cover.
What is your greatest challenge as a rider/trainer in this year’s RRP Makeover? How do you plan on overcoming this challenge?
My greatest challenge as a rider/trainer in this year’s Makeover is definitely time and being able to balance everything. I initially planned on taking two horses to the Makeover, but recently discovered that it’s just too much to ask of myself. On top of retraining Athena I also have two small children (2 years old and 6 months) that take up pretty much all of my time. Going down to one entry has made the journey a little easier and also having a great support system in my mom and husband. Not only do they help tremendously with the kids, but we have also found a house to rent that’s even closer to the barn so I will be able to go out more and really work with her!