Our week at the Thoroughbred Makeover was a whirlwind. There were laughs and tears, new friends and old, lots of pretty ponies, and a lot of people who love Thoroughbreds, all on the hallowed ground of the Kentucky Horse Park.
I’ve spent most of this blog series talking about Wex’s preparation, so I’ll start there. He took everything in stride and acted like a big kid all week. We can call that part of the mission accomplished.
We ended up scratching from Show Hunters. I knew this was a good possibility going in, as some of the obstacles (behavior, lost shoes, abscesses, etc.) we encountered over the last 10 months kept us from schooling over jumps as much as I would have liked. When we arrived on Monday, I took a walk to look at the hunter ring, and immediately knew it was going to be over our heads. Still, I took a jump lesson with Amanda Cousins (a fellow Makeover trainer, and professional from Virginia’s Ashland Equestrian LLC) on Tuesday morning. We had a great lesson, and learned a lot, but Amanda and I agreed it would not be in Wex’s best interest to over face him with a show hunter course full of flowers, brush, and possibly sharks. (It’s a fair concern – just ask Wex.)
I also took some dressage lessons with Holly Parker of Holly Parker Equine in New York. Wex was back in his comfort zone in dressage, and had several great schoolings, including in Rolex Stadium. However, by Thursday, Wex was quite done being a show horse. Still, we went in the ring and completed both tests. Clara always says “make different mistakes,” and we did. We conquered some of our biggest challenges, but discovered a few others that I attribute to “baby burnout.”
I met people from all over the country, including fellow ABR blogger Mellissa Perrin-Keithly (and Pop Pop and Shanghaied!). I got to go on a hack on the cross-country course with Competitive Trail fourth-place finisher Meghan Crout and I Can And I Will. I cheered on Katie Conway and Daring Destiny in their amazing dressage demonstration. I got to love on Sarah Hepler’s Jacapo. I was paparazzi to Amanda Ortiz and Bull City Bonus. During our limited down time, I toured Keeneland, and showed my kids what a race track looks like. We also toured historic Calumet Farm, and met Wex’s sire, the stunning Oxbow.
As a 30-something adult amateur in a new discipline with a challenging horse, I never expected to place well. My goal was always to make it in the ring. Stay on and stay in, as they say. But it’s so much more than that. The Thoroughbred Makeover is not like a traditional horse show. The people around you are not competitors. Everyone out hacking, standing ringside, or driving a golf cart, is a friend, even if you haven’t met them yet. You text your neighbor if their horse is out of hay. You call about a horse in a paddock who knocked his bucket over. You bring a water bottle to someone who is schooling alone. You hold a horse, you take a picture, you give a pep talk. The community at the Thoroughbred Makeover was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I am lucky to be a part of this club, this group who has been so fortunate to have been a part of this amazing event.
Lastly, for those who still thought Cardboard Clara wasn’t real, I assure you she is, and she made her debut at her very own photo booth during the stall decorating contest, with her friend Cardboard Harry Potter.