Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: A Special ‘Village’ to Help Along the Way

Thalia (upper right) and her ‘village’ of barnyard friends. (Courtesy of 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 diary is by equestrienne and horse racing industry professional Hillary Ramspacher, who shares her journey toward the Makeover with the filly Tapanista (Thalia) that she is training.

Catch  her first diary entry here. Read her second diary here, her third diary here, and her fourth diary here.

The path to any goal, be it inside or outside the equestrian world, can be a long one if journeyed alone. The Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover is certainly no exception. Even the world’s top professionals seek outside advice and expertise throughout their careers, so it should be no surprise that adult amateurs like myself are best built up by a strong village of people that help keep us going.

My “Makeover Village” began to build the day I first laid eyes on Thalia. After snapping some video and photos of her when looking at a handful of available horses, I headed straight to lunch with a fellow Makeover trainer/enabler friend. I had no intentions to compete at the Makeover this year, but that lunch conversation pushed me into the deep end, and I made the decision to bring Thalia home and point her towards the Makeover.

Seven months of this journey would have been an excruciating task without the growth of my village along the way. From the major players of vets and trainers to the farm menagerie supplying a steady calming presence in the barn itself, each villager has held an intricate role for us throughout this journey. Having the menagerie in the barn has proven to soak up any stall anxiety Thalia may have remaining. Her pig often naps in her hay while one of the cats weaves between her front legs as she drops some of her lunch to the ducks quacking under her feed tub. It may look strange from the outside looking in, but this hodgepodge of animals is a staple of our village.

Courtesy of Hillary Ramspacher

Luckily for us, our village also includes the support of friends and family. My parents live 650 miles away and therefore do not get to visit very often, yet they have been planning a trip Kentucky for the Makeover itself since I first got accepted as a trainer. Locally, I am never without a friend to tag along for a horse show or field trip ride. I can even rely on them to come weigh in on our rides at home when I find myself questioning our progress from week to week.

The advice of our Mad Barn Nutrition representative was the key in settling Thalia’s gastric ulcers, allowing us to start to work on her overall body condition. Blue Oak Veterinary has been attending to her chiropractic needs throughout most of the year, allowing me to ask the most of her during our rides. Miracle worker farriers have been on hand every step of the way as we transformed her feet from the racetrack. A longstanding relationship with our vet has proven especially vital as I navigated the last seven months with no shortage of veterinary issues. Being an adult amateur rider myself, there was also no shame in enlisting various professional trainers for their help with our issues under saddle. Thanks to every single villager, we have been able stay on track (for the most part) as we head towards October. 

Admittedly, Thalia still lacks the extensive show experience I had intended to have on her at this point in our journey, but the support I have from everyone around me keeping my fears at bay makes up for it. The Makeover is in crystal-clear view now as we move into August and begin our final Makeover preparations. Despite veering off the planned route at times, we are still prepared in our own way. I chip away at our training goals with each ride, getting more prepared by the day thanks to the reassurance from everyone that makes up our village.

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