Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Making Our Run Home

Morgan Hayden, Goldie, Upperville Colt & Horse Show
Author Morgan Hayden said Goldie jumped like a “complete professional” at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show in Virginia in June. (Courtesy of Morgan Hayden)

The road to the Thoroughbred Makeover is one of the most versatile experiences you can be a part of simply because there are not right or wrong ways to prepare.

Goldie and I have been really changing our course of action day to day to continue to adapt to the changes with Goldie’s mind and body. However, in reality we ensure that with each change the goal is always the same, which is to have fun.

We started our journey off with a lot of napping – well, at least Goldie did; me, not so much.

He came to our farm so young and immature with not the best attention span. So, we made the decision to just turn him out for two-to-three months and let him gain weight, grow into himself, and learn to live a lifestyle of only the best and most relaxed times. Most days, we would come out to feed and he would be flat out napping and would have to be waken up to eat, which is not all that normal.

From there, we started it off with as much ground work as we possibly could, which most of the time consisted of just walking together across the farm without running into each other. We would work on the rope in the ring, in the hay field, on hills, and over cross-country fences to help build his confidence and strength.

From there, we started riding and that was when all the fun kicked in.

Morgan Hayden, Goldie, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue All Thoroughbred Benefit Horse Show
Hayden and Goldie at MidAtlantic Horse Rescue All Thoroughbred Benefit Horse Show (Courtesy of Morgan Hayden)

We have been learning so much together and the biggest lesson that I feel like I find myself writing about the most is taking the step backward. Some may see steps backward as a risk, but truly they are a gain especially when each time you come back with a stronger partner. We have found ourselves in about one schooling show a month since April and man, have we had fun. In May, we went to MidAtlantic Horse Rescue All Thoroughbred Benefit Horse Show where we found out Pleasure classes were both of our least favorites and the Jumper classes were where we thrived. We also learned that when we take a picture together both of our eyes are closed, but at least our teeth are showing in our smile and reflecting our love for each other after fun-filled day.

In June, we went to the Upperville Colt & Horse Show and it was extremely exciting. The ring was so big and beautiful, but Goldie never batted an eye at any decoration, speaker, or even large screen with our names on it. He took it all in like a complete professional and I could feel after every jump how strong he had become mentally and physically.

However, my favorite show to date has been competing in Fair Hill International Starter Horse Trials. We just did our final starter trial there for the season on Aug. 26. Before that show we have been walking and trail riding so much, just waiting and spending time to really gain and build muscle. I really did not feel as prepared as I wanted to be personally as a rider, but Goldie proved me wrong once again and told me on cross country that all of hard work has really paid off.

If you don’t know now, you will know one day: it is not the easiest or best feel to be cantering downhill with a horse who is young and still finding their balance especially going cross country. We have been competing elementary this year to help just to continue build all the confidence we can, but really focus on being able to handle changing terrain. Previously, we would have to trot most of the course with an occasional canter step here and there, but there have been many times where Goldie gets too heavy on the front end, and I find myself leaning too far forward with him. That was not the case this weekend. As soon as Goldie stepped into the start box, he knew where we were, he knew what we were about to do, and he knew what his job was. He left the box so strong and we cantered the whole course with big, strong steps, and finally when we hit the downhill, I felt him finally lift himself up and balance all the way down. After every fence his canter got better and better and better. We came down the last leg of the course to our final fence and all I could find myself doing was smiling with how happy Goldie has made my heart and how much our hard work has been paying off. It finally was amazing to feel both of us in sync with everything coming together on the run home to the finish line.

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