Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Hillary Ramspacher Eager to Participate with New Filly

Courtesy of Sam English Photography

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.

As a native of Southeastern Pennsylvania, there was no shortage of equestrian activities throughout my childhood. Having been given my first horse at the age of 10 (Willow, a chestnut OTTB mare to boot!), I became enthralled with everything about horses, especially the Thoroughbred. While I spent most of my junior years in the hunter and equitation rings, I was always game to try anything so long as I was on the back of a horse. Foxhunting, paper chases, jumpers, gymkhana games, point to points – you name it, I couldn’t wait to try it.

Eventually my non-horsey siblings were dragged along for the ride, joining in on a Belmont Stakes-themed birthday party (betting windows included) and turning family vacations into trips to the Preakness and Chincoteague Island. I had caught the horse bug and it wasn’t to be shaken. 

Tapanista (HIllary Ramspacher photo)

As college appeared on the horizon, a move to Lexington, Ky., was naturally in the cards. I was fortunate to meet the right people here in the Bluegrass while receiving a pair of degrees from the University of Kentucky. I gained invaluable experience in everything from foaling mares and prepping/breaking yearlings to galloping racehorses, ponying races, and running a layup/training operation. As much as I loved being on the track, a desire for a more structured schedule led to an office position within the racing industry, keeping the hands-on aspects as a hobby. I am now the equine administrator at Burleson Farms and have a small hobby farm with my boyfriend for our menagerie of animals and polo ponies.

My deep-rooted love of Thoroughbreds and passion for aftercare has always made me a supporter of everything the Retired Racehorse Project represents. While adulthood has prevented my own participation in the Thoroughbred Makeover, I have supported friends in their own journeys and helped connect OTTBs to Makeover trainers. This year, I again had no intentions of participating. However, after answering a vague sale ad on Facebook, there I was, standing in front of a tall chestnut filly, wondering what in the world was I doing. I was supposed to look at these horses for some friends. Instead, I found myself trying to figure out how I was to hide a nearly 17h loudly-marked filly in a field of plain bay polo ponies.

Tapanista walked off the trailer to her new home the next afternoon. Bred and raced by Gunpowder Farms, she is a 2015 filly by K One King, the first foal out of the Stormy Atlantic mare, Atlantic Tap. Her search for a new career began after failing to break her maiden in her three lifetime starts. With only five post-track rides to date, it is hard to say which direction we will go in. While my heart certainly hopes she gets me back into the hunter ring, I will let her tell me what she wants to do as we get going. I am thrilled to have you follow along on our journey here as well as on her page!

As a Makeover newbie, it is a challenge to remain levelheaded in my goals for 2019. At the risk of sounding over-ambitious, I hope Tapanista will turn into the perfect first horse for a little girl of her own sparking a lifelong love of chestnut mares just as Willow was for me. I am confident that come October we can debunk the “chestnut mare” stereotype while reminding myself that I am on this journey not for the ribbons, but to give this filly the foundation to carry herself into any ring and be an ambassador of the breed.

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