It has been a bit since I’ve updated everyone on the journey of Roul The Ice and Mr. Park and their journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. Both boys are doing absolutely wonderfully, and both progressing nicely in their programs.
A little on Mr. Park: Park is now about to enjoying a month break coming up in December after a pretty intense summer and early fall. I think it’s incredibly important that horses get a solid month or two out of work each year to give their bodies and minds a rest. Even horses that absolutely LOVE their job get a benefit. It doesn’t mean we just forget about them… they get handled daily as usual and come in their stalls overnight. They just get to have a break from the pressures of training. If I have a horse in my program that really loves his job under saddle and seems to be missing it, I’ll add in 5-10 minutes a day of liberty work. Park is one of those horses that needs just a little bit of extra stimulation.
Park has been up to lots since his last update! He has continued to event at the Novice level and gets better and better at every out! He most recently competed at Windermere Run with a sixth-place finish in a pretty large division. He rode the best and most relaxed dressage test he has yet (although the score doesn’t reflect that, sadly) in 28 degrees, wind and drizzling rain. If you know this horse, it may make you scratch your head because, well, Park is always “extra.” We learned he’s a cool weather horse and can continue to perform in less than ideal circumstances. The dressage score was disappointing, but it’s a tiny glimpse of a big picture, and sometimes people just will not like your horse.
We moved on to cross country, where he was a beast and totally unimpressed with Novice now. He and I were having constant conversation on course about remembering we need to compact ourselves sometimes and that everything is NOT a gallop fence. This is an easy fix, and as a trainer I love to see this when a horse previously was overly careful to every fence. It means they have found a lot of confidence and are truly understanding and excited about the job. Double clear cross country.
Last stage, stadium! Park was his typical excited self and soared over the fences with confidence and with extra enthusiasm. We did have one unfortunate rail, but still moved significantly up on quite a difficult show jumping course. I was so please with my little bay dragon; he impresses me more every time we compete.
In addition to eventing, Mr. Park has surprisingly taken a liking to fox hunting. Park can be a little spooky and is a pretty hot Thoroughbred, which is usually not the recipe I typically search for when making a hunt horse. However, since I own him, I wanted to just test the waters and see what we had. I knew there was a chance it would be too much for him mentally and I would need to take him back to the trailers, and that would have been just fine. However, to my delight he was an angel. He really liked the group atmosphere, found comfort in the horses galloping the same direction. He stood quietly at checks, jumped everything bravely, and stayed nice and relaxed.
The next hunt out he whipped-in with North Hills Hunt. He was kind and quiet around the hounds. He led over every coop and raced across the sand hills in Burwell, Nebraska when asked. He has since gone out a few more times and showed that he is definitely a fan and would like to continue on this job!
On to Roul The Ice. This little stallion’s mind constantly impresses me. Yes, he’s drop dead gorgeous and a fancy mover… but all of that is useless if he doesn’t have a mind to accompany it. He has also been out hunting and really loves that job. He has helped whip-in, as well as ridden in the field. He most recently hauled all the way to Thomson, Ga., to hunt with Belle Meade Hunt during their opening hunt week. If you are an avid hunter and have not had the opportunity to hunt with this amazing group, put it on your bucket list. You fly through the timber in pursuit and the game is always heavy. Epp Wilson, their Huntsman, is incredible with his hounds and I am always in awe. The sound of full cry through that timber is something that gives me chills every time. The masters are among the most welcoming people I’ve ever met, and I always feel like family there. I’m so grateful to be a member with these top-notch hounds and humans!
Ice went out day one of the hunting. The coops in this country are large and very upright. I was a little worried as he was pretty new to jumping, but it always helps in the field because you have a lead in front of you. He was a perfect gentleman in the field and was patient the entire day. This is really impressive in this country because you can sometimes be at an all-out gallop for a half and hour or more. It can be a challenge to then settle the very excited Thoroughbreds after a big run until the next. He did not refuse a single coop, although he did have a couple hairy coops trying to figure out exactly how to read the terrain. By the end of the day he was a shoot and point guy. We had an unfortunate unintended dismount in the field, and Ice and I ponied the horse for the rider all the way home. I was so happy with his performance; this horse was born to hunt!
In addition to hunting, Ice has also been eventing! He went to his first horse trial, and it happened to be recognized. I entered him in the Starter division as he had only seen cross country one time, and only jumped a few fences. He was a star! Dressage first was also in the freezing rain. He stayed calm, cool and collected and put in quite a respectable test. On to cross country where he went clear jumping, although we had a few seconds of speed faults. He was so willing and honest to every fence, finding the base and being very careful. By the end he was jumping the little tables out of stride. I am so thrilled to partner up with this wonderful guy.
Overnight a blizzard started to hit (welcome to Nebraska and Kansas in October) and the interstate was going to be a bit dangerous to travel on once the sun went down, so I made the decision to withdraw from stadium. I was sad I wasn’t able to show his ability there, but safely pulling the boys home was the first priority. I was glad I did as it was a winter wonderland by the time I arrived home.
Park and Ice will continue to work towards their goals of competing in the Eventing, Show Jumpers, and Field Hunters at the Retired Racehorse Project. We may shoot for different disciplines as they both progress in training. I want to show them in what they like to do best, and sometimes that changes. At this point Park plans to show in the Show Jumpers and Eventing and Ice in the Field Hunters and Eventing. Both boys will head to Aiken this winter to continue training with lots more opportunities much closer to develop.