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. Our first diary comes from Michigan resident and lifelong Thoroughbred lover Jessica Sheidy, who has owned OTTBs (Off-the-Track Thoroughbreds) since she was a teenager, and who shares a compelling backstory about acquiring the horse she’s training for Thoroughbred Makeover.
My name is Jessica Sheidy and I am a dreamer. My sister and I used to sit on her bed writing down our off-the-wall ideas in a series of well-loved notebooks. A lot of these ideas revolved around our dream horses, the perfect farm, or the competition goals we had. As I got older, my dreams evolved and became a bit more realistic.
In the meantime, I grew up and married a guy who recognized early on that what we could afford in rent had to account for my horse’s board. I got a corporate job with a long commute, and had two incredibly active children. Life got crazy, as it does.
In the midst of our crazy life, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Louisville for our anniversary in June 2018. We went to Churchill Downs to watch night racing. The #1 horse in the third race caught my eye. His name was Country Fast, and he had the same grandsire (Air Forbes Won) as my long time OTTB (BooBoo). I bet on him and lost when he came in fourth. He was a stunning dark bay, and had a cute trot. I followed the trainer, Mark Simms, Jr., on Facebook to watch Country Fast’s career.
Nine days later, I lost BooBoo suddenly, at the age of 24, to a catastrophic injury.
One night, I impulsively sent a Facebook message to Country Fast’s trainer. It started with the obligatory “You don’t know me, and this is weird, but….” and I went on to tell him why Country Fast had caught my attention. We exchanged a few messages, and a few months later, Mark messaged me. “Call me at your earliest convenience.” Country Fast was ready to retire. Did I want him?
Did I want him? Did I need him? Was I emotionally prepared for another horse? After talking with my
therapists and enablers friends and my incredibly supportive husband, I decided I was ready for THIS horse – the 3-year-old cousin of my long-time equine partner. I brought Country Fast home on Sept. 30.
I was quickly reminded by my aforementioned friends that Country Fast was eligible for the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover. We attended the Makeover in 2018 as spectators for the first time, and were immediately captivated by this unique event that showcases our favorite breed. My husband encouraged me to apply: competing at this event had become a dream of mine the moment I learned of its existence. Even when I feel guilty for spending the money, or taking time away from the family to go to the barn, he gives my dreams wings. Before I knew it, I was crafting my application. I was thrilled to be accepted.
Country Fast (whom we now call Wex) had a couple of months off, wherein he developed several abscesses, dermatitis, and a nasty case of cellulitis. I finally started his training in January. This horse is going to be a bit more challenging to train than I may have hoped for, but if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
Wex and I plan to compete in show hunters at the Makeover. We have a long road ahead of us, but our competition will be ourselves. My goal for each ride is to get off a better horse than I got on. Hopefully, the result will be a quiet, confident hunter round at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. What’s more important is the journey, and the relationship we build. I’m excited to share that journey with the America’s Best Racing community.