Retired Racehorse Project Showcase: Considering Conformation, Part I

Our featured Retired Racehorse Project trainers are back with a new report — each trainer looks at the conformation of their horse as well as describes their mindset heading into training!

Need to catch up on our Retired Racehorse Project Showcase series? Click here to view all of our RRP Showcase stories!

Time is flying by for our RRP Showcase trainers! This month, each of our trainers takes a step back to evaluate their mounts confirmation and explain how they plan to work around and strengthen any of their short comings during the training process. Each discipline requires a horse of a different build and with 10 disciplines offered at the Makeover this is a great way to see just how versatile the Thoroughbred is in both build and in spirit.

Kallie Zeinstra – Competitive Trail, Professional

“Letting Jacob continue to grow comfortable with his new life in his own time is what is more important to me. I’m not in any hurry, Jacob can have as much time as he needs.

 When it came time to purchase her RRP mount, Kallie had every intention of buying a horse that closest fit what she felt was the “ideal” horse in her mind. After seeing his ad on CANTER, she felt as if Jacob’s conformation truly fit what she wanted in her next mount. Durability and a good mind are very important in a horse who is going to compete in trail, but the few flaws Jacob did have Kallie felt she could overlook because of his good brain and polite behavior in the stall and while being walked.

Photo by Kallie Zeinstra

Photo by Kallie Zeinstra

Those few flaws were healed osselets in his pasterns (a common track injury which often does not limit a horse in his new career if they are given the proper time to set and heal), lower fetlocks, and slightly longer canon bones. Jacob also sported some poorly-managed hooves. Kallie stated that he had “just about every flaw in his hooves a horse can have.” Odd angles, underrun heels, underdeveloped frogs and more made each of his hooves a new challenge for Kallie. Thankfully, as a Natural Hoof Care practitioner, she knew better than to write him off for his hoof issues, but she did know that would mean they would spend several months working on correcting his hooves rather than working under saddle.

Jacob is already transitioning quite well to barefoot life and his fetlocks have already started to appear shorter, upright, and have considerable more spring than before she began trimming him. She also had to work on healing up some ulcers which she feels led Jacob to associate human touch with pain, but her patient approach to retraining and allowing him to heal has earned his trust.

After a good amount of progress with ground work, Kallie decided to begin under saddle work consistently. She has been riding Jacob in a bareback pad and his LightRider bitless bridle around the property at a walk and despite some initial stubbornness, he has really taken to it well. After he gave her a bit of a fuss one day, she decided to have her mother pony Jacob off of his best bud Baxter the Percheron in hopes that he would relax some. He was very focused having a friend along for the ride and even had a more positive and friendly personality after Kallie dismounted. She feels as if Jacob isn’t so much being bad as he is displaying a “expecting the worst and acting out before it happens” type of mentality. She feels continued steady progress like the day they rode with Baxter will build Jacob’s confidence and make him a more well-rounded horse.

Jacob and his best pal, Baxter the Percheron! Photo by Kallie Zeinstra

Jacob and his best pal, Baxter the Percheron! Photo by Kallie Zeinstra

Victoria Gomez – Show Jumping, Amateur

“That was her first time in an indoor like the one we were riding in, with speakers and bleachers all around the outside of the arena, and ten other horses in there with us. She had every opportunity to show out, and yet she was completely respectful of me and very well behaved!

There is no denying that Madre Baeza AKA Athena is the doppelganger to Victoria’s late mare, Mattie, but that isn’t the sole reason why Victoria gave this spunky mare a shot! Victoria selected Athena as her jumper mount because she loved her shoulder placement and her hind end. Her shoulder has an elegant angle and her back is short and compact. Her pasterns have a good length and she is fairly proportionate throughout her body. If Victoria had to be picky, she would like Athena’s stifle to be a little less straight, but claims that is a minimal flaw in her eyes. Victoria saw one photo of Athena on the track and knew she screamed “athlete.” Deciding to invest in the mare was an easy decision to make.

Photo by Amy Paulus

Photo by Amy Paulus

Like many mares, Athena can be a bit temperamental and likes for things to be done her way and on her time. Victoria is working with Athena on her manners both on the ground and under saddle. She tends to grow frustrated and kick out while under saddle when she doesn’t want to work, so Victoria is working on consistently going forward whether at a trot or a canter to try and urge her out of that habit. Thankfully, sticking through the tough times and refusing to acknowledge the less-than-desirable behavior has worked a lot faster than Victoria had imagined. They have had a bit of difficulty finding the correct weight maintenance plan for the sporty mare, but they are in the process of adjusting her feed plan in hopes they can find a good fit for her. Recently, Athena had two large caps removed from the right side of her mouth, which could be a source of her crankiness and part of the issue with weight gain.

Victoria and Athena attended the Southern Equine Expo at the end of February and Victoria was amazed by how well Athena handled the new environment. Despite a whole lot of firsts and the commotion going on around them, she remained very respectful and well behaved. Thankfully, Athena will be moving to the same barn where Victoria boards her other RRP Mount (JC name Majerus, barn name Sailor) which will help her balance her schedule training the two of them. A covered round pen at the new location will help her work with Athena on her ground work. Her husband and her mother are very supportive of her passion for horses, so they help with her two small children when she is ready to ride and they are even looking at moving to a house closer to their new barn! Despite their few setbacks, Victoria is pleased with the progress both of her mounts are making and can’t wait to see Athena progress.

Victoria and Athena bonding at the Southern Horse Exp. Photo by Heidi Rockhold

Victoria and Athena bonding at the Southern Equine Expo. Photo by Heidi Rockhold

Katie McIntyre – Field Hunter, Amateur

“Porter is really starting to understand jumping and I think he is finding it quite fun!

While attending the Makeover as a spectator last year, Katie had the opportunity to sit back and watch the field hunter division. She noticed a variance in style of horses that were used as field hunters, but made the decision to select a horse with a more classical field hunter build that could play double duty as an eventer after the Makeover. While looking at her RRP prospects, she felt that Porter had a good shoulder for jumping and enjoyed his compact build with his shorter back. After seeing Porter and another horse free lunge and jump in a round pen, she felt like Porter had all the pieces he needed to be durable and athletic while jumping.

Photo by Katie McIntyre

Photo by Katie McIntyre

That agility, compact body and sharp mind can lead Porter down the wrong path at times. Katie says he is able to try and quickly escape whatever exercise they are working on if it is challenging or he doesn’t understand. While most of the time he is game for whatever he faces, Katie has learned to pay more attention to how she is asking him to approach an obstacle so she can prepare for whatever reaction he might have. If he isn’t understanding what she is asking of him, she tries to think of another way to explain it to him so as he stays confident and comfortable with moving onward in his retraining.

Unfortunately, things have been a little slower than Katie had hoped. There was a bit of unusually warm weather, but as Katie balances her work schedule and the shorter, darker days, she finds herself a bit frustrated. Thankfully, daylight savings time is right around the corner and she is hopeful that she will find more time to ride during the week. Porter has been enjoying more out and about experiences on the trails and has only really been bothered by a turkey defending his barn. That paired with attending another Nora Battig clinic has really given Porter and Katie some positive vibes and more goals to work towards!

Porter and Katie with two of his barn pals at Bedlam Stabes. Photo by Ellie Fruehstorfer

Porter and Katie with two of his barn pals at Bedlam Stabes. Photo by Ellie Fruehstorfer

Heather Louisiana – Working Ranch, Professional

“I have been selected to ride in a couple clinics in the Northwest Horse Expo in Oregon. This will be a great environment to test Henry’s ability to adapt!

Heather came across Henry’s photo on a friend’s Facebook page who was rehoming him to a good home. At the time, she hadn’t selected what event she would do at the makeover so she was looking for an overall well-built horse. Later she decided to compete Henry in working ranch because of her own experience in western tack. She knows that most Thoroughbreds are great at the English disciplines, but really wanted to show how versatile they are and use her strengths to guide Henry in the right direction. While Henry may be taller than many cow horses at 16 hands, he takes up Heather’s leg well and isn’t too tall for working cattle. She thinks his willing attitude will help him succeed even though he might be built a little different than the traditional stocky quarter horse you see working cattle.

Henry looking handsome under Western tack. Photo by Heather Louisiana.

Henry looking handsome under western tack. Photo by Heather Louisiana.

The stockier and shorter the horse, the more they are able to make quicker and powerful spins and turns while working cattle or performing a reining pattern. Henry is taller, narrow, and build more uphill than the normal cow horse. Keeping that in mind, Heather began working with Henry on building more muscle and weight gain. This will really help with the changes in work and movements she will be asking of him. Henry has been pretty willing for the most part, but he has thought about challenging Heather at times. She tries to divert his attention and encourage good behavior by introducing new challenges in each ride so that he is always learning. She likes to set up poles around the arena for trot sets to build shoulder and topline strength, small crossrails, and other exercises to keep his brain turning.

Heather’s big challenge — the snow — has finally melted, but she has spent some time out of state for military training that was cut short due to an ankle injury. Now that she has healed, she has started to get back in the saddle. She was very excited to hear that she was selected to participate in some Van Hargis clinics at the Northwest Horse Expo at the end of March. She knows that means that she and Henry have a lot to work on in the next couple of weeks to prepare, but she is so thrilled to be a part of the clinics at the Expo as they will be based around what she is competing in at the Makeover. There will be a crowd, in an indoor, and there will be cattle — quite a bit of firsts for Henry but she thinks he will take it all in stride.

Heather has a small track in her back pasture. She wonders if Henry thinks of his past and how things have changed in just a few short months....Photo by Heather Louisiana

Heather has a small track in her back pasture. She wonders if Henry thinks of his past and how things have changed in just a few short months… Photo by Heather Louisiana

Amy Lent – Freestyle, Professional

“I just keep working with the things she likes as I introduce new things. Her grittiness can make her a great show horse as she wants to do the things she likes.

Azumi might be little, but that doesn’t take away from her spunk! Amy likes the little 15.1 hand mare as she tends to steer towards the shorter, more compact horses for driving. The smaller horses are more agile and can easily maneuver their way around obstacles as she works them towards combined driving. Despite her small stature, Amy feels Azumi is quite correct in her conformation and is a very nice mover. Pair all of those positives with her bravery and steady mind and Amy truly believes she can make an accomplished cart horse.

Photo by Elaine Eddy.

Photo by Elaine Eddy.

That doesn’t mean that Azumi comes free of any vices, however. She can be a bit of a temperamental mare at times and she is very strong in her own opinions. If she doesn’t like what they are working on, she will let Amy know. Amy takes her time with her, incorporating things the feisty mare does like with the new obstacles they are tackling so as to keep the learning experience positive and fun for her. Despite her little bit of an attitude, Amy loves her spunk and grit. She wants to channel that personality into a job that Azumi will love as she thinks it will make the mare all the more successful. Amy wants anyone working with a mare like Azumi to know that you need to find what they like to do and then be patient. Once the horse figures it out, they give 100% to their job, it just takes time to get them there and it is worth the wait.

As Azumi put on more weight better preparing her for more serious training, she has had quite a bit of firsts this month. They have started working on long lining around the farm and through obstacles. Amy also rode her for the first time and she did very well. They went on an outing to Masterson Station and rode around the cross country course which she responded excellently towards. However, has they went to go into the ring, Azumi saw another horse being lunged and she panicked. To keep the experience as positive as possible, Amy dismounted and continued their work in hand. She led her over a few of the cross country jumps and the sporty mare never hesitated. Knowing that Azumi is a little looky at new things, Amy plans on taking her off the farm a bit more to let her see some new sights.

Azumi on the long line. Photo by Elaine Eddy.

Azumi on the long line. Photo by Elaine Eddy.

Each day that passes is another day closer to the Makeover and each of our trainers is taking every day in stride. They all experience their own ups and downs, but find a way to persevere with one goal in mind — helping share the talent and versatility these Thoroughbreds have in their respective disciplines.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *