Harry Payne Whitney: Like Father, Like Son
“Did you experience any events that caused a significant setback in your training plans?”
I’m staring at that question on my RRP Thoroughbred Makeover final entry right now and I don’t know how to answer that, the short answer being a resounding “yes.” I’m not sure how many blogs are too many blogs describing how far behind I feel in my training with Finnick the Fierce, but this one will be no different. The past month has been taken up by vacations and ear infections rivaling any I had while in diapers, so Finnick has gotten the month to basically turn into a feral Bluegrass pony.
Yesterday I brought him in from the field with a concerted effort to try and scrub off the feral and turn him back into a horse that will be competing at the Makeover in two months. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. While I was pulling burrs out of his tail and he was falling asleep to the relief from all of the itches he couldn’t scratch, I was thinking about how much I’d fallen in love with him. The setbacks we’ve had don’t matter to me. He and his happiness are what drive me every day and yes, we’ve dealt with skin problems, hoof issues, attitude, discomfort – but at the end of the day, if this horse just ends up being my companion, a horse that I get to pamper and brush all day long, that’s enough for me.
I’m sure that enrages people. How did I end up with this star athlete and I’m not going to push him to be the next big sport horse that comes off the track? It’s still something I think about every day when I compare him to the countless other OTTBs I know. Granted it’s not something to write off yet either. Finnick is five years old. At this fall’s makeover, he won’t have even been off the track for one year. I said in my interview with Natalie Nevills when Finn first retired to me that I was going to take it slowly with him. I was going to let him tell me what he wants to do. Right now, he and his body are telling me he still needs to settle in, to figure out how to handle a post-track life.
When I first started running my hands over him yesterday, I was impressed by how great his coat looked and felt, but when I reached his back, I noticed the same tell-tale signs of “funk” he’d had previously. What I thought we had conquered with probiotics, supplements galore and some medicated baths was back. Not in full force like it was over the winter, when a quarter of his coat had fallen out completely, but it was back nonetheless. I also saw a big crack down the side of his right front that wasn’t there when I left for Alaska. I’ve wanted to put him back on Kombat Boots for a while and this is the final push that’s going to get me to spend the money to get him on it. Finn is a sensitive guy, and any discomfort he feels is reflected in our rides, so now, with two months to the Makeover, I’m pulling out all the stops.
So, just now when I pressed “submit” on my entry we went with Competitive Trail instead of Dressage. If things had gone a little differently we might have stuck with my original plan and went Dressage, performing to a Backstreet Boys song like we dreamed of, but everything in me was telling me that the real win will be if I can get his condition up to my standards, and play around on the trail course.
As far as I’m concerned, the most important part of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover is the fun and community it builds, and of course, the love of the horse. If I trailer Finnick into the Kentucky Horse Park in October and all we do is look pretty while we cheer on our friends Oak Hill and Leah Alessandroni in the dressage ring, then that’s what we’re going to do. If I can get on and fulfill my dream of schooling outside the Rolex Arena, that’s what we’re going to do. If we school and he feels good and I think I can get him through the Head of the Lake, I can die happy the same day. No matter what happens, we’re going to have a fun set up with celebratory drinks outside his stall for whoever wants to join us because we are alive and because we can. Every day I stay above ground and get the chance to build a relationship with this horse I get to call mine is a good day, especially if I’m surrounded by my friends and like-minded people who know the love of an OTTB.
The Jockey Club supports many aftercare initiatives including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the only accrediting body in aftercare, and Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.), which encourages the retraining of Thoroughbreds into other disciplines upon completion of careers. View all of the initiatives supported by The Jockey Club.