Shanghaied, Pop Pop and I had lots of fun on the road to the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover. From the time we claimed Shanghaied at Penn National, brought him home to Maine, rehabilitated, re-conditioned, and re-schooled him, Shanghaied has given 100%. My training partner Pop Pop gave more than 100%, taking weekly lessons, traveling to Maine from Pennsylvania and trusting me with the training process.
Shanghaied wasn’t easy in the beginning: He had some sour habits, including biting, difficulty with trailer loading, and just planting his feet when unsure or scared or claustrophobic.
I promised Pop Pop, my husband Oliver, myself, and Shanghaied I would work very hard to understand his insecurities and help him build trust in us a team. Our ultimate goal was to get to Kentucky and compete and have a safe and secure horse for Pop Pop to ride. Our goal was accomplished — but not without challenges and re-direction of the best laid plans.
Our three-week journey began with a 11-hour trailer ride to Devon, Penn., to compete in the adult amateur in-hand class at Dressage at Devon. We chose Devon to ease Shanghaied into a big competitive atmosphere on our way to Kentucky. I love Devon; the spirit and energy is lively and the dressage horses are spectacular. Shanghaied settled in like a pro, easing into the loudspeakers, daily activity, and the big ring. Pop Pop is a Devon veteran of two years: he handled our Oldenburg foals in hand in 2015 and 2018. Handling Shanghaied daily on the show grounds at Dressage at Devon was easy compared to the foals! It was a great primer for the Kentucky Horse Park.
Shanghaied and I were the first to go in our class and the only Thoroughbred trotting around with his head held high. We placed 10th in a very competitive group. I was so proud of Shanghaied and honored to have him represent the Thoroughbred breed at Dressage at Devon.
After Dressage at Devon, we packed up the trailer and moved to Shadow Creek Farm where Pop Pop has been taking lessons all season. It was at great farm away from home, enabling us to continue our work on the road. Shadow Creek Farm is a beautiful place with all the amenities for great training, a huge indoor full of jumps and obstacles, outdoor grass ring, trails to explore and blue-ribbon hospitality.
Pop Pop was able to ride Shanghaied all week. We rode early in the morning before the 90 degree temperatures peaked: over obstacles, jumps, cones, bridges and through brush. It was a great way to prepare for the next leg of our journey to the Makeover.
We arrived at the Makeover in great shape; Shanghaied maintained a Henneke body score of 5.5 while traveling for 14 days, showing, and combatting 90-degree daytime temperatures. I think I was taking more care feeding Shanghaied than I was taking care of myself! I worked with our vet at home with body score evaluations, weight taping, worming, teeth floating, ulcer guard, hand grazing, stall naps, and balancing 24 hour turn out schedules. We took the arrival exam very seriously.
The Makeover was a very rewarding experience for our team and family. Daily, we shared the responsibilities of feeding, grooming, cleaning stalls, hand walking, and training Shanghaied. We found our groove as a true team, with Shanghaied being our focus. His temperament did not disappoint in our schooling rides; we hacked around the grounds in hand and with Pop Pop riding. We met up with friends far and near.
Competition day for the Competitive Trail class was our biggest obstacle of all. Pop Pop and I planned our course. We were to split the 10 trail obstacles 50/50. Shanghaied had other plans that morning: He had very high energy and objected to walking past the beautiful Rolex arena and loud speakers. He thought it was race day!
We managed his energy and mindset to the trail course to find out our start time was delayed due to some unforeseen factors. Shanghaied’s temperature was rising and he was difficult to settle. Our start time was adjusted, so we took him back to the stable to cool him down. I was concerned he was stressed when he heard the loud speakers; when Shanghaied gets stressed, he resorts to his negative behaviors, biting and bulldozing me over. I had seen it during our early training sessions. Back at the stable he settled quickly, with a cooling bath.
We made a second walk down to the trail start to be notified again our start time was delayed another hour and a half. On our third attempt, later in the afternoon, Shanghaied was managing his stress as he walked past the Rolex Arena and the loud speakers, and we were ready to go!
…only to find out when we arrived our start time was again delayed another hour. Shanghaied was ready for the challenge, but with all the delays, 90 degree heat, and stress of going back and forth three times, my gut was telling me it was not safe for us to compete Shanghaied, so we scratched.
I walked Shanghaied over to Pop Pop and asked him to meet me down in the schooling arena with the bridge, pool noodle obstacles, and chaos. Pop Pop rode Shanghaied in the warm-up with other competitors of all disciplines, over the bridge several times, through the noodles, over the planks and trotted around the whole entire arena. I stood there watching and cried. Shang was so relaxed and happy, Pop Pop rode up to me and said it was the best ride he had ever had on his horse. He rode him out of the arena after 30 minutes, up the path and around the grounds back to his stall. It was priceless.
We train and re-educate our horses for life, not for the fastest time, score, ribbon, cash or social media followers. Our experience reminded me how grateful I am; how much I love what I do. And I love why I do it: for the horses.
On Friday morning we packed up and went to Masterson Station in Lexington, Ky., and I had the privilege of riding with Buck Brannaman in a three-day horsemanship clinic, with two of my lifelong friends from Ohio. Shanghaied was one of two OTTBs at the clinic, and Buck really liked him! We had the best three days of riding. After the clinic I decided to keep Shanghaied — with Pop Pop’s blessing of course — and bring him home to Maine.