Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Introducing New Trainee Roul the Ice

Brit Vegas and Roul the Ice go on their first ride together. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas.)

In this blog post, I would like to introduce everyone to my second 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover mount, Roul the Ice. I had originally bought this guy as a resale, but from the second I saw him step off the trailer, I knew there was a pretty solid chance he’d stay. 

This horse was sourced by Amy Paulus and was passed over initially I assume because he was a ridgling. This means that he has one undescended testicle that is stuck up in his abdomen. This does require a surgical castration, so it does add to your overall cost, but this horse was so nice I was still just shocked he was available. He should have been sold the second he hit the internet. I was certainly pleased that he was not and was just fine taking him into surgery to geld him. 

At Longview Horse Park. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas.)

Fast forward a few weeks and a couple rides and I was in absolute love. His uphill gaits, lovely suspension, incredible reach and go with the flow attitude made him super marketable. I still couldn’t get myself to list him. The thought to keep him and campaign him as a stallion had crossed my mind several times. In any case, I planned to take him up to my favorite surgeon at Iowa State University to, at minimum, surgically remove the testicle that was in his abdomen as it can be uncomfortable for them.

To everyone’s surprise in his pre-surgical check, he actually had two descended testicles. His second just sits significantly higher, and gives the appearance of only one. Once sedated, they are typically much more accepting of palpation and there it was! YAY! This sealed the deal for me that he was at least going to stay with me to see what we could make as a competition horse. If he ends up being nice enough and keeps his willing and quiet attitude, he can stay and keep his lovely jewels. I decide to get him entered in the 2020 Makeover, with him arriving literally the very last day they allowed for horse entries.

On to the training. I always have a pretty good idea of what I would like to do with one when they come in, but until you hop on their back and dabble inside their brain you really don’t know. Always fit the job to the horse, not the horse to job. I had high hopes he’d like to event, but until we go out and play around, again, you just don’t know. I already knew the dressage was in his wheelhouse and that he enjoyed the work. I also wondered if he might actually like the hunt field as well and had plans to introduce some group galloping to find out!

At Longview Horse Park. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas.)

First up, hunt practice! Ice and I hauled about an hour and half to a safe rider program hosted by North Hills Hunt, our home hunt club. This is a wonderful event we host once a week for about five or six weeks to help get out green horses, new-to-hunting humans and solid hunt members/horses to get the horses back in the groove of hunting. This week it was hosted by the Farm at Butterflat Creek and Carine Stava. The facility is amazing with every option from ring work, to fields and tracks with cross country jumps.

The practice consists of doing group walk, trot, canter sets all placed in different levels of speed/experience. There is a walk/trot group, a walk/trot/canter group and a walk/trot/canter/gallop group. I typically take my green beans in the first field group (the group with gallop) because honestly the racehorse understands that much more. I find it significantly harder and more stressful for them to try to walk and trot quietly in large group when it’s so similar to a track setting without all the excitement. Keep the energy forward and give the horse somewhere to go. Sure, some can handle the walking and light trotting and do well, but most find it stressful. Like I said, adjust the job for the horse in training, not the other way around!

To my delight, Ice was an absolute dream. It happened to be a very large group that night and had about 35 horse and rider combos. He was unfazed by the large number of horses, some of which were having some mini-meltdowns because it’s a pretty exciting environment. He walked around on the buckle while people were warming up in every which direction. We entered the arena with several horses and he walk/trot/cantered all around without a hiccup. I took him over a few ground poles, no problem. I decided to add a cross rail, no hesitation. I go to these things with no expectations or agenda. I just do what the horse is comfortable with and continually adjust.

After the ride at Longview. (Courtesy of Brit Vegas.)

He was just lovely soaking everything in and seemed to want more. We went around the very large track that is winding through the property with small to large jumps all along the way. You can take them, or pass them… it’s a very low-pressure approach. He went through all gates up through a gallop softly in my hand with his ears forward. Hunting, he shall like! We let him pop over a few three-board coops and he found the base and eased over them as if he had seen them several times before. I just can’t wait to get this one out on an actual hunt now!

Next up on the agenda of feeling out our friend Ice was eventing! There was a cross country school set for this past weekend, and a recognized event being hosted at the venue a few weeks later. I went ahead and entered him in the event as it was closing, hoping he liked the cross country as much as he liked the hunt practice. If he didn’t, I could fill his entry with another horse if needed. We head up to Longview Horse Park with four horses in tow. The first group was the baby horses, in which I coached three riders while riding Ice. He was a perfect gentleman and stood quietly while watching his friends and to my delight was a natural to the jumps. He did many Starter fences with a few Beginner Novice sprinkled in. He played in the water and learned to jump a ditch. Yes, it is clear he would also be happy as an eventer. How did I get so lucky? After his ride he stood quietly at the trailer munching on his hay bag, just watching all the other horses go. What a wonderful and positive experience we had in Kansas City!

I am excited and feel very fortunate I will get the pleasure to campaign the sweet boy in the 2020 Makeover class and likely for a significant portion of his career. He may be behind the eight-ball as far as being a late start for the rest of the class, but he’s got the brains and talent to catch right back up. The Makeover is just a steppingstone for most of these horses, and although riding in the Finale with the top five is always an added bonus, it’s not the end goal.  It sure is a wonderful place to start and I am thrilled to have this be my sixth year competing.

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