The countdown begins …
There is a month until the big show! Going to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover with Pied N True has been a dream of mine for YEARS. To think that it’s all happening in a month has caused me to reflect on the past year. And this month, Pied and I took a step away from our normal training schedule to just have some fun. With that, I have seen that this mare is absolutely priceless and capable of so much more than I would have ever imagined.
I live at a farm (in a barn) about 20 minutes from where Pied is boarded. I brought her home to come live with me for a few weeks and, let me tell you, I’m living my childhood dream. (Yes, I have brought her inside my apartment!)
Before I brought her here, I decided to bring her camping. I needed to decompress and get away for a bit, so why not bring my horse, right?! My brother-in-law’s family has a ranch close by, and they graciously allowed us to bunker down there for three days.
I gathered all of our provisions, picked her up from the barn, and off we went. I built her a small pen from electrical fence fixings where I could put her at night, but other than that, Pied had the run of the place. We stayed in a high-fenced-off, rather large area and she loved it. Grazed all day, galloped around, explored all corners. I’m a big believer in allowing my horses their independence. I see it build confidence and curiosity as well as a certain dexterity they don’t get from constant human intervention.
Throughout those three days, we played in an epic thunder storm, rode out on the trail — her first real solo trail ride in a halter and lead rope for a bridle — woke up with the sunrise and asleep with the sunset. I’ll never forget when the storm rolled in and the rain came pouring down, Pied galloped over to me from wherever she was grazing as if to make sure I was OK. Many memories were created on that trip, but I know that our bond grew even stronger!
We have been tying up loose ends needed for competition as well. Lead changes are a big focus for us, as well as cows. We have gone over to our friend’s roping pen a few times for her to gain more confidence around these weird-smelling, alien creatures. Well, one morning, Pied and I were following two other horses, gathering the steers and pushing them up the alley to the chute. She still is a bit unsure, so we were taking our time. When we were in the alley, we were a good distance behind the other two seasoned rope horses. The steers were fresh and decided they would turn around and rush back toward the gate to their pasture (which was closed, of course) … and rush they did! Past the two other horses and straight for us!
Eight or so horned roping cattle running and pushing and bumping into us and everything else to get by at speed. Pied sat back on her rump, backing up quickly, spun as the steers got to us and went to BOLT out of there, hopping like she was ready for takeoff. I knew there was nowhere for us to go. The alley was narrow with wire fence on both sides. If she bolted, she could only run for a bit, as the gate to the pasture was closed. I am certain Pied and I had the same initial thought that we were going to die, BUT she didn’t. She came right back to me. I think all that was coming out of my mouth was, “WOAH MAMA!” over and over again.
There was a moment that seemed to click for both of us — we would be OK if we both trusted each other. We both made it through that unharmed and it was a very high stakes, high stress moment for her. Even more incredible is she settled back down and went back to work, tracking individual steers and getting comfortable with how they move around her and respond to her energy. Pied wants to work and is figuring out that she can boss steers around and they actually are afraid of her! Truly her dream!
I have also discovered that Pied is not just a regular horse, she is a seahorse! On Labor Day, we packed up and went to Canyon Lake for a trail ride with two friends. Aside from our trail-ride camping, we have only really been out riding around the properties where we board. This was her first real trail ride with company and, of course, she was as cool as a cucumber. At the end of the two-hour ride, we untacked and went to the lake! Now Pied is not scared of anything, but she is a red mare, so if you make her do something she needs to rebel until she sorts out that it is, in fact, her idea and you are simply a peasant. So, when she finally decided to get in the water, she was in HEAVEN. We swam together, and I even stood up on her and jumped off a few times! It was my first time swimming with a horse, so it was definitely a dream!
I’ve never been a horse show person. Truly, I can count on both hands how many shows I’ve been to. I’d be lying if I said I wasn't getting nervous, wondering if us going to this big show was a good decision and if I’d even be able to do this horse justice. This past month has reminded me why I am doing this and why I have horses in the first place. I absolutely LOVE the Thoroughbred.
My childhood consisted of sitting at morning workouts with my grandpa, eating breakfast on the backside. I dreamed of being a trainer. I would make Power Points of all the Derby entries and posters with cutouts of all my favorites and bring them to share as he was in the hospital. I would sneak into barns where famous horses lived. I can’t tell you how many times I snuck in to see Pleasantly Perfect. I practically stalked Zenyatta and California Chrome!
The Thoroughbred Makeover is our chance to live that dream. And to be able to do it with a horse that has been a part of the family since she was a yearling is indescribably special.
In an earlier blog, I shared how Pied was the last racehorse my grandma was a part of before she passed away and how she named her. She never got to see her race. As I was filming my application video for the Thoroughbred Makeover, we did 1,000 takes over a few days with country music blaring over the arena speakers (Hey, we like to have fun!). As I looked back over the different takes, the ONLY time I got our pattern perfectly executed, the song “I Wish Grandpas Never Died,” was on in the background. So, I know that as Pied and I make our way up to Kentucky we will have a cheering squad in heaven!
This mare is special to me as it is, but she has proved an incredible horse. I know we will make incredible memories for years to come, but for now, full-steam ahead to the makeover. We can’t wait to see y’all in Kentucky!