Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: OTTB Thalia, a Pony, and a Potbellied Pig

Thalia and Ramspacher go for a ride.
Thalia and Ramspacher go for a ride. (Courtesy Hillary Ramspacher)

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 inwith equestrienne and horse racing industry professional Hillary Ramspacher, who shares challenges she's encountered with Thalia and details the new pony and pig friends that are helping Thalia adjust. Catch up with her first diary entry here.

After retiring from racing last fall, Tapanista, now referred to in the barn as Thalia, had some downtime to decompress from the track life before starting her new career as a sport horse. In true chestnut mare fashion, she had a LOT to say about it all.

Thalia and Flash
Thalia and Flash (Courtesy Hillary Ramspacher)

From day one, she has never had the best appetite, and showed classic signs of ulcers. She would weave in her stall, struggle to clean up both hay and grain, and would even resort to chewing the fence boards and weaving outside when she would rather be inside. I adjusted her diet, adding in Mad Barn Nutrition supplements to assist in her weight gain and ulcer treatment, but it was clear something was still amiss.

As she started back under saddle, it was a relief to find her to be quiet and willing. She was happy to hack out across my farm, crossing train tracks and water without batting an eyelash. Her ulcer symptoms slowly disappeared, the weaving habit ceased, and her beaver-like wood chewing tendencies outside vanished. However, she still struggled with cleaning up her meals and adjusting to turnout. Like many other retired racehorses, I suspected she may benefit from some added help in that department. Luckily for her, I had just the pair for the job! Whether Thalia liked it or not, she was about to get two new best friends in the forms of Flash and Spoink.

If there is anything this dynamic duo can do, it is indulging themselves. It was my hope that they could open her eyes to the good life enjoying turnout and a good meal. Flash is — in my unbiased opinion, of course — the cutest pony on the face of the earth. After many years of teaching kid after kid how to ride, it was now his job to teach Thalia what he does best: eat and have fun.

Spoink is my resident potbellied pig who has been my secret to breaking stall vices since my time on the racetrack. She has helped countless racehorses through their layup care, keeping everyone calm and happy while of course sharing all food within reach. Like fish to water, both were more than happy to oblige when called upon.

Thalia and Spoink
Thalia and Spoink (Courtesy Hillary Ramspacher)

Flash opened the door to the luxuries of being first at the Gator for hay. It did not take long before Thalia was hot on his heels in pursuit of the coveted first bite out of each flake that every small pony so desperately needs. He instilled calmness out in the pasture, allowing her to relax during turnout and graze alongside new friends.

Spoink’s friendship, although more forced, led to a renewed mindset inside the stall. Spoink trained herself many years ago to put an end to any ruckus that a stalled horse was mustering up. Sometimes that comes in the form of gentle company, and sometimes that comes in the form of screaming as loud as swinely possible. In Thalia’s case, it was the latter and it did not take long to learn that life is a lot more fun without a screaming pig underfoot. It is much easier to relax and share a meal with her new potbellied friend.

Our first rides under saddle were not the post-track milestones that many other trainers set. Instead, building these friendships were her first big steps in settling into her new life. Of course, seeing other Makeover trainers post about show results leaves me wanting more than a small hack around the farm, but so far seeing my horse grow in her new lifestyle is enough to remind me that I am happy over here in the slow lane for now.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!