Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Enjoying Every Minute With Thalia

Hillary Ramspacher at the barn with Delilah and Thalia, left, and riding OTTB Thalia, right. (Courtesy of Hillary Ramspacher/Jessica Sears photo)

This year, America’s Best Racing and the Retired Racehorse Project will be sharing diaries from several trainers preparing for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover competition, scheduled for Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park. This diary is by equestrienne and horse racing industry professional Hillary Ramspacher, who shares how she came to acquire her filly Tapanista that she is training for the makeover.

Catch  her first diary entry here. Read her second diary here.

It has been clear since day one that Thalia (Tapanista) is more of a thinker than a doer. Even with the challenges she faced adjusting to post-track life, it was all about giving her a clear, correct option to choose on her own because she is a chestnut mare, after all, and life is so much easier when it is also her idea.

It came as no surprise that these tendencies carried over when it came time to put her back under saddle.

Hillary Ramspacher with Thalia. (Jessica Sears photo)

We spent our first few weeks under saddle hacking across my polo farm and learning about life off the racetrack. With no arena, I took the opportunity to test her out in the open, hacking up and down hills, crossing creeks and railroad tracks, and ponying in sets of polo ponies. It was a pleasant surprise to see that she took every question asked of her in stride. Before long it was time to raise the bar and move her to a facility with arenas where we could really get to work, so this month Thalia moved in with my dressage mare Delilah at a boarding barn.

Due to the struggles I highlighted in my last blog, I had some reservations with how she would handle the move — she would be leaving her pig and pony behind. Thankfully, the life lessons they had taught her stuck with her and she quickly acclimated to the busier boarding barn with her “sister from a shorter mister.”

Day one in the arena left some light poking through the holes in her training thus far. Having only hacked out with me since I picked her up, her steering accuracy left a lot to be desired and she had very little concept of the idea of collection or acceptance of aids.

Even in a total state of confusion as to what she was being asked, Thalia has been willing to try and figure it out without so much as a tail swish. Her quiet and agreeable demeanor has not changed one bit and that says a lot about the type of ride she is going to end up being.

Once settled in, I hit the ground running to begin filling in her training holes piece by piece. Most of my rides were filled with giggles as this horse can sometimes think herself into a corner rather than react. Her first attempt at “jumping” was nothing short of comical. At nearly 16.3 hands, she often is not entirely aware of where her legs are yet. She willingly took me to the “jump” only to find herself at the base and unsure of how to get from one side to the other. In slow motion the giant orange giraffe managed to “jump” it with each single leg individually, leaving me unsure of how we even managed to get from one side to the other. It may not have been the stellar jaw-dropping first jump that you get out of some horses, but in her own right it highlighted how she can get into a pickle, yet remain calm and figure a way out of it.

The learning process with Thalia. (Hillary Ramspacher photo)

She still has quite a bit of strength to build up as we aim for October, but she has been grasping every concept presented to her with flying colors along the way. She is now able to canter down small lines, jump in a more traditional fashion, and has a growing understanding of collection and bend.

The pieces may be coming together at a slow pace, but she has always been a bit more of the tortoise than the hare in every instance. The slow lane has been a breezy one with her and I am enjoying every minute of it.

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