Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Heart of OTTBs Never Ceases to Amaze

OTTB Mr. Park clears a jump during the cross-country part of the Event at Archer schooling horse trial in Cheyenne, Wyo. (Your Horses Photography)

It has been an exciting few weeks since we last checked in with Mr. Park. I got the “all clear” to ride in a stirrup since they made a carbon fiber insert for my riding boots. I am now eight weeks post-break to my foot, and the hardware they installed during surgery has proven to be a great choice for a quick recovery. So, finally the adventures of Mr. Park finally got headed in the right direction!

I sell many Thoroughbreds and often deliver them to their new homes to try and reduce the stress associated with transferring to a new place. I felt it was an excellent opportunity to toss makeover grad Slew the Zodiac and Mr. Park in the trailer for an adventure. Zodi got to ride in a clinic with Hawley Bennett which was a such a joy to watch. My good friend Kim Wendel rode him since I hadn’t quite been cleared to ride and Prelim stadium fences offer quite a bit of impact on the landing — I wasn’t really sure if my foot could handle that yet. Mr. Park got to ride in a lesson with Dani Sussman in Colorado and got to see his first few fences. He was an absolute delight and so willing to try all the new things we put in front of him!

All in all, it was a positive hauling experience for the baby racehorse and added many more tools to his collection.

Fast forward to this past weekend, and Mr. Park got a taste of what his future eventing career might feel like. Once again hauling with Slew the Zodiac, he headed up to Cheyenne, Wyo., to the Event at Archer schooling horse trial.

With all of the COVID-19 regulations and changes, I wasn’t really sure what to expect but was delighted to be back in the show environment regardless.

Mr. Park (Brit Vegas photo)

To my surprise, it really wasn’t too terribly difficult to social distance at the show, and everyone was pretty respectful. Mr. Park was entered in the Intro division, with plans to school the cross-country course the day before the show to make sure he was game. Slew the Zodiac was entered in the Preliminary.

Friday schooling went even better than I possibly could have expected. It’s nearly a mile hack to cross-country from where the stabling is. In theory, it’s excellent as you have a nice warm up before you arrive and a nice hack home to cool out. With a baby OTTB, that long hack can also be a lengthy display of both athleticism and energy. Luckily, Mr. Park chose the calm, cool, and collected approach. He stretched his neck out on a loose rein and just strolled along. He happily jumped absolutely everything we presented him with, and after a tiny bit of hesitation also enjoyed playing in the water jump. I was truly elated to get a little confirmation that this fellow was also looking forward to his eventing career!

Saturday was dressage, which I wasn’t too worried about with Mr. Park. He’s been pretty chill thus far, even in a new environment. Unfortunately, I learned in a hurry it would actually be the warm up ring that would give us some trouble and worry the poor fellow. No big deal in the future, I actually like to warm up my Thoroughbreds away from the chaos, so I will be better prepared for his next show to give him the best possible experience. We made it through a pretty tense dressage test, but we did the things and were able to carry on!

Slew the Zodiac (Your Horses Photography)

Sunday fun-day finally arrived. We started the morning off with Zodi in the Preliminary division. He jumped a double-clear stadium round, followed by a fantastic cross-country run where he only added a few seconds to his dressage score. He walked away with a first-place ribbon.

Knowing the warm-up frazzled Mr. Park a bit on Saturday, I decided to really just hack him around until it was almost his time, only entering the warm-up ring for a couple minutes. I needed just enough time to show him a cross rail, a vertical, and an oxer. We had a much more settled ride, and he actually put down a pretty decent stadium round. He did add two rails to his score, but overall jumped very well, and showed what a classy horse he was. He once again walked very quietly all the way out to cross country where he put in a double clear cross-country round. I could not be prouder of the guy. Watch out for this one in a few years, he definitely has an upper-level future.

It’s quite amazing what these racetrack horses are capable of. Mr. Park finished his first horse trial for his eighth post-track ride and truly enjoyed it. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it only has to be a positive learning experience and I can say we successfully accomplished that.

As I rode that long hack home from cross-country, I reflected on just how lucky we truly are to be able to be partnered with such amazing creatures. The heart of the OTTB never ceases to amaze me.

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