Meagan’s RRP Thoroughbred Makeover Journey: Baby Flash’s First Vertical

After giving my Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover mount Flash a little bit of extra time off to just be a horse and to work on building our barn at home, I decided the first day of spring was a great day to get him back under saddle. “Apparently, Missouri didn’t get the message regarding spring’s arrival,” I thought to myself as the sun popped in and out from gray clouds lining the sky.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of our first ride back together. Other than one flatwork session that was cut short due to Flash being a bit ouchy from a recent farrier visit, I hadn’t ridden the little guy in over a month. He stood patiently as I curried the mud clods from his long, winter coat. Missouri weather hadn’t been kind to the horse lovers in the state, showering us with torrential downfalls at least once or twice each week.

After having taken not just one, but two icky falls the week prior, I was a bit anxious to see how Flash would handle going back into frequent work. My right hip had been bothering me prior to my tumble and after a week of hopping around, I was finally walking like a person in their mid-twenties rather than someone who managed to escape the nursing home. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to potentially parting ways with a horse again and making another hasty call to my chiropractor who has gotten in the habit of suggesting new hobbies for my health and well being.

Photo by Julie Hathaway

I will be openly honest when I say that my confidence has taken quite the beating here lately. I had high expectations for 2018 and so far, they weren’t quite falling together as I had hoped. After a series of unfortunate incidents, I decided to find my beloved Joey boy a new home where he could excel and he sold much quicker than I had anticipated (but to an amazing adult ammy in barn so I get to still give him kisses every day).

Being down a main competition horse, I resorted to riding some lesson horses around the farm while Flash wrapped up his downtime. Unfortunately, I ran into a bit of tough luck and those lessons challenged me both physically and emotionally rather than building my confidence in the saddle. I began to doubt if I was the rider I thought I was and questioned if my goals of jumping bigger fences, properly retraining Flash for the Thoroughbred Makeover, and actively showing on the rated circuit were attainable.

As always, horses seem to know what we need most and I am one of the lucky ones who has the type of horse that works their butt off for you.

I hopped on Flash and began hacking around the ring. He settled in right away, oblivious to the other horses and ponies that were speeding past us and sailing over fences. He was most concerned about sniffing the dirt in the arena and finding a nice place to park himself for a while. We moved into our flatwork and began working on finding a frame at the trot and moving forward at a good pace. Flash is a bit on the dead side and when I say a bit, I really mean that even a crop and spurs still leave him uninspired. He is happy to plod along and enjoy the sights along the way. Even though it is harder work for me as a rider, I must say I thoroughly enjoy having a horse who doesn’t resort to speed all the time.

Our trot work was going so fabulously that we moved into the canter. Here he was a bit quicker with his feet, but still respectful to my aids. We adjusted a few times, slowing down and moving forward along the long side of the rail, always making sure to encourage bend in every corner.

I was beaming from ear to ear.

Slowly, we incorporated poles on the ground. When poles didn’t phase him, we bumped them up to crossrails and then little 18″ verticals. Was he perfect? Nope. He was a bit wiggly between the lines and he did much better cantering them then he did trotting them, but he never even thought about stopping.

Jen and Brody Robertson are hosting a fun clinic and eventing derby next month at their farm and I hope to take Flash and do their 18″-2′ section just for fun. With my goal of entering Flash in the Field Hunter division, I want to get him out of the arena as much as possible and what better place to do it than the field where I took my tumble right in front of George Morris? It will be a great experience for him and hopefully it will give me positive vibes about the gorgeous jump field that lead to my doom.

Until then, we will be focusing mostly on flatwork and hop over a crossrail or two at the end of each lesson. My goal is to try and free jump Flash in a chute some so he can better learn how to use his body over a fence without a rider, to trail ride him extensively once he is moved home, and for us to get to know one another on the flat so our over fences work will be a breeze. Not all rides are as good as this one, so I cherish these exceptional rides when I can and use them to motivate me when things get challenging.

But, dang, I think I hit the jackpot with this fluffy guy.

For more information about the Retired Racehorse Project and the Thoroughbred Makeover, please visit the RRP’s website!

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