Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Do You Believe in Coincidences?

Halo Carlos prepares for the Thoroughbred Makeover. (Jennah White Photography)

We are finally in the homestretch of our journey, and oh man….what a ride! Although there really was no way I could have predicted how this would all come together, I have to say that I am very glad to know horses well enough to realize that anything can happen!

Unfortunately, I missed last month’s blog due to a number of issues… so there is much catching up to do! During July and August, Halo Carlos’ training has involved many off-the-farm rides. Thanks to a few good friends, he has been exposed to different situations and overnight visits, which he really needed. Our rides here at home have been really good – he is consistent and responsive and I couldn’t be any more proud of how he has turned in to a nice soft ride!

Although human twins are not uncommon, it’s very rare to see equine twins survive, and even more rare to have twins race against each other, which is what Carlos and his twin Custom Pete accomplished. To me, this showed that they both had the will and enough heart to thrive. Do you believe in coincidences? Because, the strange thing is…..twins have a very big presence in my life. My father was a twin, my husband is a twin, my horse is a twin, and my astrological sign is Gemini! Coincidence? Maybe, but I tend to think everything happens for a reason! I feel these twin horses showed up in my life for a specific purpose, even if that purpose was to get me back in the saddle!

Halo Carlos with substitute rider Allie Bozone. (Jennah White Photography)

I have always supported the Retired Racehorse Project since the first year it was held. The founder, Steuart Pittman, had a vision for the future of retired racehorses and started this event the same year I started our event in Oklahoma called the “Sport of Kings Challenge,” an all-discipline horse show to benefit retired Thoroughbreds. I convinced Steuart to come out to Oklahoma and judge our shows, and although the SOKC is a much, much smaller event than the RRP, it was still fun and our local Thoroughbred lovers were able to show off their horse’s talents.

However, putting on events and actually participating in them are two very different things. Until this year, being a contestant has never been in my plans. In 2019, my horse Jersey Justice competed in the RRP in eventing and show jumping and did really well with his rider Rhi Rasmussen. Having my own horse make it to it to the finals was enough excitement for me. I never had the desire to compete myself, as I am not a show horse person. My job is to prepare retired Thoroughbreds for new careers, but actually showing them is way out of my comfort zone! I’m a retired racehorse trainer, not a competitive show horse rider. Once I met the first twin, Custom Pete, and learned his story, I was compelled to find the other twin and help him to be the best he could be….and here we are.

I have learned so much along this journey, and the transformation in this little horse is nothing short of amazing. He has gone from a surly, suspicious, uncooperative individual to a curious, comical and willing ride. I cannot take all the credit, however because it took an entire village to get to this point with Halo Carlos.

During the past few months and up to this point, I have seen many horses withdraw from the competition for a variety of reasons. I feel so much for each and every one that has put time, money and effort into their horse only to have to scratch, because I know how hard it is to get to a point in your training and realize that it’s just not going to happen. I’ve had that feeling many times myself with Carlos, and we even had people encourage me to give up on him. However, each time I think he’s just not going to come around, he surprises me by going beyond my expectations. Whether or not he remembers all he’s learned when we arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Thoroughbred Makeover is another story, but we will be ready for whichever Carlos shows up that week.

We are still working on helping him become a more elastic ride. Our dressage test will require him to be less stiff and more stretchy, which is a challenge at this point, but we are working toward that. He is still not real consistent picking up his left lead yet either, so those things still need much improvement. All in all though, he now tries hard to do what is asked of him and I can’t really ask for more. He has become a willing partner and to me, that is what training is all about!

We are anxious and excited for our trip to Kentucky. I’m hoping my little red firecracker will remember all his lessons and will settle in to the environment with the attitude of a winner. He has matured in many ways these past few months and is developing into a solid ride with less shenanigans.

I tell everyone that considers preparing a horse for the RRP that the journey is where you learn more about yourself than anything. This journey for me has been the greatest horse training challenge I have faced since I had racehorses. Although the challenges are very different, the feeling of accomplishment is the same, because the horse I have now is definitely not the horse I started with!

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