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 week we check back in with Michigan resident and lifelong Thoroughbred lover Jessica Sheidy, who shares an update on Wex's progress. You can read her intro piece here.
Many people that I’ve met through the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover are what we affectionately call “horse collectors,” or in extreme cases, “horse hoarders.” While I would love to join their ranks with a barn full of Thoroughbreds — and maybe a couple of ponies for my kids — life and student loans have relegated us to a one-horse family.
We really are a horse family, though. My husband did not grow up with horses, but over the nearly two decades we’ve been together, he’s grown to love the idea of farm life, barn kids, and possibly his own string of polo ponies someday.
My kids went on their first pony rides at 4 months old, and are now both showing in leadline.
However, as a farm-less horse family, we have to board. The combination of commute time and boarding costs (and daycare, aka a second mortgage) means we have one horse. But it also means that the one horse we do have needs to be family safe.
The last horse in this one-horse family was my 24-year-old OTTB that I had for more than 18 years. Many people think Thoroughbreds are not for kids, but with the right experience and training, Thoroughbreds can become kid-friendly. My kids groomed and rode my sweet old man for many years before he passed. They shocked more than a few judges when they discovered he was a Thoroughbred, and not a Quarter Horse.
If you read my last entry, you know Wex has developed a habit (he rears) that is decidedly NOT kid-friendly. I can’t say that it’s a particularly adult-friendly either. After a trip to our friends at the Michigan State University large animal clinic, we decided he is most likely not experiencing pain, so Wex entered boot camp.
My trainer, Clara Etzel, has worked wonders with Wex. Between the two of us, he’s in consistent work five days a week, and he’s already starting to make some progress toward keeping all four hooves on the ground where they belong.
Riding and under-saddle training are immensely important — the Thoroughbred Makeover is a training competition, after all. However, we spend a very small amount of our time as horse owners actually in the saddle. We interact with our horses on the ground much more frequently. As an amateur, it doesn’t do me any good to have a horse that is a dream to ride, but a nightmare to handle on the ground.
So, in the meantime Wex is learning other things.
My kids come out and pet him and deliver treats — this is their primary function in his mind. They are walking noisemakers, and predictably unpredictable in their control, or lack thereof, of their appendages. We’re thinking of offering “bomb-proofing” services. He’s learning, albeit begrudgingly, to tolerate grooming, and doesn’t hate an affectionate pat or scratch for a job well done. Wex is learning how to be a family horse. The riding will come, but Wex’s skills as a good farm citizen and family member are priceless.
Up next, boot camp continues. … Wex will be going off-property for a few field trips, just to school. Our next major milestone goal is for Wex to compete at a schooling dressage show in May.