From resale to keeper.
“Look at you on your little Thoroughbred walking around in your happy mouth without a care in the world,” said another trainer as Flash made his way around the warm-up ring on a loopy rein. As always, the warm-up rings at the National Equestrian Center were booming with activity as horses and riders prepped for their rounds. Despite all the commotion, Flash was relaxed and ready to perform after an excellent warm-up session.
It was Flash’s first full weekend show at a large venue and I will admit, I had my reservations about how he would settle in to the environment. At just five years old, Flash still has a “baby moment” every now and then, especially when he gets worked up or nervous. But here we were that Saturday morning taking a leisurely stroll around the ring with his nose practically in the dirt as horse after horse cantered by, some just a hair too close for my comfort.
The Kirkwood Show is a top-notch schooling show experience with a rated show feel put on once a year by my trainers, Brody and Jen Robertson. I had been looking forward to making my official show debut with both Flash and my new horse, Ty, all summer long. For fear that Flash might be a bit nervous amidst the hustle and bustle, I opted to show him in the little 2’ jumper classes just to keep things simple.
I could sit here and give you a play-by-play on each course, but it honestly would be me repeatedly expressing how wonderful my little horse was. Sure, he had his fair share of green moments, but he completely exceeded my expectations. He gave every single fence his best effort, offered up almost all of his flying lead changes and was an absolute blast to pilot around with each round.
I mean, can we just take a look at Flash yesterday? ? hello lead changes. Hello cute jump. 46 days until the @retiredracehorseproject TB Makeover! Time to start bumping up the fences, he’s over this 2’ game ?? #ottb #ottbsofinstagram #thoroughbred #thoroughbredsofinstagram #retiredracehorse #equestrian #showjumper #showjumping #adultamateur #adultammystrong #flashbackjustice #retiredracehorseproject2018
I had plenty of time to think about this special horse and our journey together Sunday afternoon as we made the trek from the outdoor ring to the barn with plenty of ribbons in hand. I jumped into this process on a wild hare after spending eight months documenting ten other riders’ journeys to the 2017 Makeover with no real idea of what to expect. I had worked with green horses in the past, but never to this extent and never on a deadline. I remember vividly that the week Flash arrived at the farm I thought I knew everything I needed to know to successfully bring him along — boy was I wrong.
But we have learned together, an experience that I wouldn’t recommend to everyone unless you have the absolute perfect horse to take this leap with. While Flash has been pretty straightforward for the most part, he hasn’t been short of trying moments. From pulling back when tied to laying down when you tightened the girth too quickly to crashing through fences because he didn’t know what to do with his gangly legs, Flash has challenged me in ways I never imagined. I have been frustrated, I have wanted to cry, I have speculated as to if we would even be ready in time, but I have never given up on this horse, mostly because this little horse has never given up on me.
For every time I put him in a bad spot, he tried his heart out. Each time that I didn’t clearly communicate what he wanted and he would get frustrated, he would never hold it against me. Each time I didn’t release enough and accidentally caught him with the bit or my legs grew too loose and I poked him with my spur, he carried on.
We are down to wire with just 42 days left to the Makeover and while some of my fellow competitors are feeling the pressure, I suddenly feel so calm. My horse may not be perfect and my horse may not win, but my horse is more than I could have ever asked for. What started as an adventure developing my first resale has quickly turned into me bringing along a horse that has captured my heart and earned a permanent name plate in my barn.
So here is to you, FlashMan and your silly spotted eye and stripey leg. I love you and your quirks, your accident-prone nature, the way you can nap anywhere and anytime, the way you dance in the field when it is your time for turnout and the way you are always the first to meet me at the gate. Thanks for being exactly what I needed this weekend and everything that I have wanted in a horse.