Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: More Training and Acing a New Task

The author and Pied N True meet cattle for the first time. (Courtesy of Meghan McNamara)

We are coming down to the wire! The Makeover is quickly approaching and I’m beginning to feel the pressure and excitement of all we have been working for.

Pied N True and I have had a busy July. We attended our second overnight show in Waco, Hot 2 Reining, where we actually made it into the show pen. Our goal was to get in front of judges so we would be alone in the arena, which happened to be the giant Coliseum. Neither Pied nor I are ready to stick to the Reining patters, so each time we entered the show pen, we had a different objective such as loping steady circles, standing calmly in front of the judges, and ATTEMPT lead changes. All of which seemed to be achieved, so I chalk the week up to a success! 

Courtesy of Meghan McNamara

Pied has been such a great citizen at each of our outings. Calm, focused, happy to stand around, not spooky (even when someone RAN up behind us as we were walking on CONCRETE!). She has an incredible brain; it amazes me how, in any certain situation, she thinks through things before reacting. Don’t get me wrong, she will spook and react in certain scenarios, but she really continues to show her professionalism off properly.

I realize I continually write about this, but I never truly understood how impactful overnight schoolings or shows were for the maturation of a horse and rider’s partnership, probably because it was never accessible for me. As we waited in the wings for our draw, surrounded by closed in concrete pillars and horses passing by, my nerves flared up. I have never been a great competitor and I struggle with self-confidence under pressure, so my personal goal was to put myself in as many situations and classes where I could begin to be used to being in the spotlight. Knowing that Pied is seemingly an expert at this and can’t POSSIBLY be bothered (red mare lovers are familiar!) is the most helpful for my confidence, but my biggest fear is letting her down by my own nerves getting in the way! I do feel more confident after all the exposure we both were faced with after the long week at the show.

With this being one of my first experiences on a specific show circuit, it has been so much fun to recognize certain faces at the events. If only I could remember their names as well as their horses’! Pied has generated a bit of a fan base (thanks, Pied, this is not helpful for my show anxiety!). But because her unique marking and breed is a conversation starter, it truly has been a blast to get to make friends and even MORE fun to meet their horses. My heart swells each time someone comes up and tells me how impressed they are that she’s a Thoroughbred or when I overhear people talking about her as we pass by. I even teared up when I learned of a well-known trainer asking about her.

Courtesy of Meghan McNamara

But enough about the show! NOW, the moment we have all been waiting for… COWS!

Yes! Pied met cows for the first time in July. It was like Christmas morning, waking up knowing that we were going to trailer down the road to a roping pen. Team roping is something that I spent a lot of time learning and would love nothing more than to get back to, so my dreams of tracking Pied behind the drag steer seem like they aren’t far from coming true. As the guys gathered the steers from an adjacent pasture in the Mule, I began lunging Pied to just see what kind of horse I had that day. Another horse from our barn came along so we were not alone. Thankfully, he has an incredible mind and is well-bred cow horse, so I felt confident that she had a good example to follow.

Pied perked up as they got close, but was curious and non-reactive. The steers were moved into the alley where they could be brought up and pushed through the roping chute. A wire fence was the only thing separating us as I hopped on and walked her towards these alien creatures. I honestly was not sure this would go well. She has been around empty roping chutes before and has continuously spooked at the smell, so I was expecting a bit of a rodeo. But, of course, in true Pied fashion, she handled the entire experience with pure class.

Following the instruction of my trainer, we worked like normal in the arena and circled closer and closer to the steers (still on the other side of the fence). Pied did get balky, but continued to work through her unease. Eventually, they pushed them down towards the chute with the intent to let one, then three, then all of them out into the arena. THIS is where I became nervous (well, let’s be real, I was nervous from the start). The roping chute opening sounds IDENTICAL to the starting gates, so I didn’t know if we would have the first Kentucky Derby-themed rodeo on our hands. When the steer was let out, we, along with Pied’s friend, Marty, followed it down to the end of the arena. We took turns pushing the steer around. Pied was concerned, and was hesitant to move forward, but continued to positively working through it.

Courtesy of Meghan McNamara

When it was our turn to track that steer down the side of the arena alone, Pied got so excited. Ears pricked forward, all eyes on that steer, neck arched, big floaty trot. It was INCREDIBLE! With her personality, once she figures she can boss these steers around, I have no doubt it will be her favorite activity. As the session continued, more steers were let through and we continued to slowly track them, and then attempt to separate one. I was truly impressed when all the steers were let out and were traveling in a herd directly at Pied. Again, I was expecting a bit of a bronc situation, but she held her composure and followed my cues (and her trusty friend, Marty) to get behind them and drive them forward. Along with the other horse, we semi-successfully drove the herd down the long side of the arena and up towards the catch pen.

As the Makeover quickly approaches and I am trying to get all my ducks in a row for the big trip, I’m undoubtedly apprehensive but excited. I’m grateful for the community the RRP has built for any question to be answered, and the accessibility of the team putting on the event. Being in the show arena, loping Pied in front of the judges, feeling totally in union and like we were floating – it was pure bliss. How lucky are we to be a part of this sport with these amazing animals? No matter what happens at any show or event, there is NOTHING better than the partnership of a girl and her horse and I continue to be so grateful for this experience and this fantastic mare.

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