Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: A ‘Cinderella’ Story in Silver Beach

Brit Vegas with OTTB Silver Beach. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas)

My name is Brit Vegas. I’m a professional horse trainer based out of Nebraska, and I own Royal Fox Stables. My primary focus is restarting off-the-track Thoroughbreds for sport-horse careers.

My husband and I also own a veterinary sports medicine practice called Pro Performance Veterinary Service. I found my heart and soul in my 2018 Retired Racehorse Project entry, Slew the Zodiac. He is currently running preliminary with ability to continue to climb up the eventing ladder.

I typically have about 20 Thoroughbreds in my program and sell roughly 50 a year out of my stable. Many of the Thoroughbreds in my program are young horses that just didn’t have the desire to race, but I hold a special place in my heart for war horses. I find they have proven they can maintain their soundness and are willing to try absolutely anything you put in front of them. This brings us to Silver Beach, a very special horse you are going to learn all about in the next seven months.

I was asked to ride in the Retired Racehorse Project Master Class, a demo that the project produces to showcase unstarted OTTBs and the different methods many trainers take in assessing and producing them.

The master class took place during the break between dressage and show jumping at the Liftmaster Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field, and horses were provided by Equine Rescue of Aiken, S.C. I was so impressed with Equine Rescue of Aiken’s program that I reached out and told them I would adopt whatever racehorse I was on for the Master Class, take that horse to the Thoroughbred Makeover, and then donate the proceeds of his sale back to their organization.

We really do need more programs out there like Equine Rescue of Aiken. They have some true rescue/neglect horses on property, but they also have a lot of Thoroughbreds that are just being let down post-racetrack career and are patiently waiting for their next human to come along. They are really great people at Equine Rescue of Aiken, and I encourage anyone to reach out to them if you’re in the market for a new project! Silver Beach was the horse I was slotted to ride in the demo, and to my delight, he was a cute and chunky gray horse.

Vegas in action. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas)

I am always excited to do demos on unstarted OTTBs because it is such a common misconception that these horses “know nothing.” My job is literally to show people exactly how much they actually do know and that, if given the chance, they will absolutely surprise you.

I was so excited to go meet this guy in his stall once they arrived. This horse was so attractive, but he’d had three people put deposits down on him, come meet him, and pass. I am all about a “Cinderella” story, so I was destined to get to the bottom of it.

Walking up to his stall, I could understand the perspective of the adopters: he pinned his ears at me, nipped at me, swished his tail, and turned his butt. No big deal, I stayed. I continued to scratch him, talk to him, playful tease him a bit, but never left his stall due to his antics. It’s always so surprising to me how quickly they can come around. I could see clearly he wasn’t a mean horse, maybe just a bit grumpy. This guy’s life had changed so much after living on the track for the past seven years, I could understand why he might be struggling a bit. I find they all come around with the right amount of time.

I decided to go back and visit “Oscar,” as I decided to call him, a couple hours later. To my delight, he greeted me with perked ears, and a soft nicker. Surely, he didn’t change his mind that fast? Well, he did. He was kind and I would even say affectionate toward me the rest of his stay at the event. I thought maybe he just settled in a bit, but I saw him grouch at another volunteer shortly after. Horses do really choose their people sometimes. I feel privileged he chose me for the time being.

Silver Beach (Courtesy of Brit Vegas)

This event at which the demo was taking place was HUGE. It is a loud environment with “scary” things everywhere … tents, booths, advanced-level eventing cross-country jumps literally in the arena we were going to ride in. These OTTBs were going to have to ride with a loud speaker, a large crowd, and so many other things that could cause issue for even a seasoned show horse. Why did I not have a worry in the world about this? Guess what racehorses deal with: they run in front of very large crowds, race under bright lights, handle loud speakers, and face many other challenges that would worry a person when they thought about this experience. It’s understandable to guess this environment might trouble them, that it might be dangerous, or that they couldn’t handle it. Guess what?  Silver Beach was no exception to the "war horse” and showed that crowd exactly why you should NEVER pass up a sound horse that ran on the track for many years.

Silver Beach walked into that ring in front of hundreds of people cool as a cucumber. He and I showed the crowd that racehorses, in fact, do know both of their leads if you set them up correctly. He demonstrated that they can learn to bend and stretch even in the most intense environment, and that if you guide them in a way that they understand, they are willing to do absolutely anything you ask.

Silver Beach trotted through poles, jumped cross-rails, and ended jumping a vertical for the crowd. They clearly loved him, and he was complimented so much as we walked along the rail.

So many people turned this horse away because he made a grumpy face at them, but if they would have given him a fair shot and sat on his back, they would have been blown away by his knowledge and eagerness to please. I adore this horse and feel so privileged to share his story now and continue to update the world with his progress.

Keep your eye out for this diamond in the rough, because he’s going on to do big things. Maybe his story will catch one of you, and just maybe you might be his new human after the Thoroughbred Makeover. I can already tell you from my experiences with him thus far, the human is definitely the lucky one in this story.

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