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), who she is training for the Show Hunter and Dressage disciplines.
Like many of my fellow Makeover trainers, I am feeling the pressure as the days tick away before the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover is here in October. When I was accepted as a trainer for this competition, I had laid out my year’s worth of training plans and horse shows to ensure we were prepared.
I carefully placed the best people around us to keep us motivated and feeling our best. Despite all my good intentions, we were unable to dodge some of life’s curveballs that ultimately derailed our preliminary plans. So here we are, sitting just under a month away from the Makeover, and I can’t help but feel under-prepared.
I look back on my planner and see all the milestones we missed and glance ahead with the realization there is not enough time left to make up the difference. Cue anxiety.
I have told myself all along that it does not matter how we go about this so long as I am doing right by my horse, even if that means we ultimately do not make it to the Makeover. Every setback that came our way was followed by a soul-searching acceptance: Thalia was just embracing her turtle-like speed and trailblazing her own path to the Makeover with or without me.
As Final Entry day arrived, I decided we would enter both the show hunters and dressage to compete in at the Makeover. We still have a month to iron out issues, but having committed to those divisions, I now have a better idea of what we needed to focus on to get us to October in the best possible position.
I have plenty of baggage that affects my confidence as a rider, so it has been a challenge to place my trust in the hands of a young horse as we both learn together. Despite her lack of experience, Thalia has done wonders for my confidence throughout this year, proving she can be relied on if I simply allow her to perform. She is wise beyond her years, and it shows when she steps up to help her rider in a moment of question.
We put in our final pre-Makeover horse shows throughout August and it turns out Thalia looks pretty darn good with blue ribbons hanging from her bridle after all!
We had missed every opportunity to participate in overnight shows earlier this year, so attending a show over Labor Day weekend came with added unknowns of how she would handle her first sleepover. Rather than dwell on the “what ifs” as I drove into the show grounds that Friday afternoon, I chose to trust her to be the best she could be – and that she did.
She handled all three days like a seasoned pro. Although we were absolutely not without our green horse moments, she blew my expectations out of the water throughout the entire weekend. Not only was she a total gem in stabling, she was cool as a cucumber in all the busy schooling rings and packed me around our classes, making up for every adult amateur mistake I threw her way. She is the poster child of the importance of being able to trust the horse you are sitting on. I could not have asked her to have been one iota better. Every mistake made was a lesson learned and improved upon; she showed such promise I simply cannot wait to get out there and do it again.
I pulled out of the show grounds at the end of the weekend with renewed faith in myself as a rider, my horse as my partner, and us together as a force to be reckoned with in October.