With taking the leap to apply to the Thoroughbred Makeover, I knew I would be committing to a journey that would not only challenge me in the short term, but have a long lasting impact on my horse(wo)manship and a deeper love for the breed. Triple Crown season is upon us, the Makeover is approaching, and summer shows are right around the corner.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you know I am an amateur through and through. Growing up, I would ride any horse and any discipline as long as I could be horseback. To this day, my saddles are all used, my boots worn until my socks get soaked (which reminds me, must be time for a new pair!), my pockets shallow, and my pantry shelves stocked with pasta. But HEY, my horses are healthy and Pied N True, aka “Pied,” and I are working our tails off to get competition ready.
In our training, we are currently working on our balance and straight lines, stops and turn-arounds (or spins). Committing to learning the intricacies of Reining has been an incredible test of everything I’ve learned. Anyone with horses knows how humbling this sport and this lifestyle is; however, schooling new tests and skills with a “green” horse (as lovely as she is), has been a great exercise of unlearning and rebuilding for me, which I welcome! If this is how I feel, I can imagine Pied feels similarly.
Each ride and certainly each lesson, I am reminded how much heart Pied has and how hard she tries. My trainers tell me the turn-around is the most difficult skill for a horse to learn. Well, the turn-around also happens to me the most difficult skill for an amateur to learn it appears! Freeing her shoulders and ensuring my leg is in the correct position offering a clear aid, while guiding her front end with the reins, making sure one rein is sitting in the correct position on her neck while the other is navigating her correctly from soft contact with her mouth … it’s an ART and a dance that she never turns down. Pied always tries to find the right answer, even when I feel like I’m the two-footed dance partner asking her to waltz.
As I was warming her up on Saturday afternoon in an empty arena, my mind skipped to a few conversations I’ve had with fellow amateurs recently.
“I can’t believe I used to jump on my off-the-track Thoroughbred barefoot and gallop him across a field,” one of my friends was telling me as we crossed paths in the tack room. She was getting ready to saddle a big, fancy dressage Warmblood for a client.
Another: “My first horse was a Thoroughbred and we would jump hay bales and poles set across chairs.”
Oftentimes, I’m told something similar to, “I loved horses and wanted to get into riding. … I was put on a Thoroughbred off the track and I was let loose.”
This might resonate with anyone reading this as well! Some of these riders have gone a different direction, while others have only increased their herd of OTTBs. Walking Pied along, feeling her movement beneath me and reading what horse I had that afternoon, I thought, how cool is it that this breed has not only given a start to so many successful riders, but has also been the horse to take them all the way to achieve their dreams!
It was a gusty day, and Pied was feeling fresh, so I wasn’t able to stay in my thoughts for too long, but it did get me thinking of the accomplished professional riders who choose Thoroughbreds, and the many successful amateurs that are extremely competitive with their ex-racers.
Yes, it takes a talented and hard-working jockey to pilot any horse to victory in any discipline, but I’ll argue to my grave that the Thoroughbred has more heart than any breed I’ve encountered, and, when given the chance with a motivated rider, can accomplish just as much as any discipline-specific breed. In fact, the Thoroughbred gives so many of us the opportunity to set our goals higher for ourselves because they have the heart to get us there. I felt even more proud of my mare in those moments during that ride. Thus far, she has taken on everything I have asked of her with grace and eagerness to learn.
As for this past month, Pied and I continue to work on the fundamentals, building a strong base for us both. She has gone from an inverted racer to accepting contact and learning to engage her hocks and hind end. We have had multiple “Aha!” moments, which many of you know may feel more thrilling than winning the lotto. However, the most amazing moment in our time together came when my parents were visiting and both my parents rode her without a concern in the world.
Two blogs ago, I shared Pied’s story: how she was the last racehorse my grandma was involved in owning (and even named her) before passing. Upon that, my mom took over, even claiming her back immediately when she was claimed. Pied is so incredibly special to her. She is not just a feisty red mare, but also a living connection to her mother. To see my mom and Pied go off around the arena together like a pair that has known each other for years, two souls reconnected, I can say that this mare has brought us more than we can ever return!
We have A LOT to look forward to in the next month: our first show, an introduction to cows, and hopefully a field trip or two! I can say with certainty my little Thoroughbred mare has already made my dreams come true, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the near future.