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Best of JN: Navigating the Makeover

In this week’s Best of Jumper Nation, Amanda Cousins shares her tips for the TB Makeover in “Riches to Ribbons: Navigating the Makeover.”

In just a couple of weeks, the Kentucky Horse Park will be flooded with OTTBs and supporters of the breed for the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. This will now be my fourth year attending the Makeover, so I’ve wrangled up my top tips to make this Makeover your best Makeover yet.

1. Make a binder. This is particularly important for competitors, but can also be super helpful for spectators and volunteers. Here are my suggestions for things to include in your all-knowing binder.

    • A labeled map: This is always my first page because the second you pull into KHP, you’ll be overwhelmed. Circle and label the barn where your stall is, the rings you’ll be showing in, the covered arena and any other points of interest. It’s also helpful to make copies so your posse isn’t constantly asking you where things are.
    • An excel spreadsheet with times: There is so much going on throughout the Makeover. On top of being on time for your rides, I’m sure there will be other people you will want to watch. This will keep you organized and lower any stress and confusion.
    • Tickets: Any tickets that you have to purchase (or get for free if you’re a competitor) for the finale or competitors celebration can live here also. Print them now, so you don’t forget!
    • All of your sale info: If your horse is for sale, print out copies of a bill of sale, waiver (for trials), coggins and any other important documents in the event that your horse sells at the Makeover.
    • Rules: If you get serious horse show nerves, cut, paste and print out the rules for your discipline. You can sit down and refresh yourself on what’s expected. Same goes for the patterns if your discipline requires one.

2. Schooling, schooling, schooling. This section could also be called: be prepared and then be over-prepared. Most of the horses competing are not stalled 24/7, so you are going to have a lot of energy and maybe stored nerves that you may not be accustomed to. Usually by this point, I’m not having to lunge my horses at horse shows, but I always bring a lunge line anyway so I can start my horse’s day by letting them trot and stretch without my weight on their back. Plan on lots of hand walking and little hacks through your day — it’s also a nice way to tour the park. Help your horses get accustomed to their temporary home and always plan for more preparation than you are used to.

Photo by Maria Muniz.

3. Pack a bike. Or scooter. Or rent a cart. Seeing the theme? KHP is enormous, and it’ll save you some steps and time having some wheels to get around. I personally don’t use the bike very often since my parents always rent a golf cart (they are the real MVPs. Hi, Mom and Dad. *waves*) and I have a fuzzy four legged bike. However, every year that I’ve brought a friend/groom/emotional support/driving buddy, they’ve appreciated having some wheels. And sometimes your neighbor may need a ride! #sharingiscaring

4. Learn. Boy, what a vague statement. I kind of had to be vague because there are so many opportunities laid out for you at the Makeover. So let’s cover just a few.

    • Seminars: The Makeover powers that be do an exceptional job at hosting OTTB specific seminars through the week. Check out the schedule and make a point to attend at least one!
    • Masterclass: This was new last year and was an incredible idea. If you want some ideas on how to get started with your newly retired OTTB, go check out the Masterclass. You’ll get to see Makeover trainers assigned to a not yet restarted horse and go through their preferred first steps of getting to know and working an OTTB. This is also an opportunity to shop for your next project because the horses used are all looking for their new human.
    • Trainers: Particularly if you’re a competitor, you have the unique opportunity to have so many talented trainers from across the US and Canada right at your fingertips. Some of you are able to bring your trainers along, but most can’t. Go do some Facebook stalking and see who’d be a good fit for you to take a lesson with.
  • Eve is covering him, but Tom M. prepping me for Show Jumpers. Photo by Beth Takacs.

    • Volunteer: This may not be possible for some competitors but a lot of you will have down time and certainly your posse that’s coming can take advantage of this. The Makeover runs primarily off of volunteers, so not only do you get to give back but, it’s a great opportunity to learn the inner    workings of such a big show. Even better if you get to volunteer helping with set up and logistics of a discipline you haven’t seen up close before!

5. Go enjoy Kentucky. For a lot of people this is vacation time, so treat it as such! Schedule in some time to go see what the Bluegrass State has to offer. Google can help you make plans, but here are my top three activities that I’ve enjoyed over the years.

  • The Kentucky Horse Park: KHP has some of the coolest things. Their tours are awesome, the museums are great, go sit on some huge cross country jumps and the “Big Barn”(where the drafts live) are all well worth checking out. Added plus: you’ll already be there! Helllllo, convenience!

A reaaaaaallly big jump we encountered on our tour of the park, plus my cheering squad! Photo by Beth Takacs.

  • Keeneland: This has always felt full circle for me. Every year on Friday, I head to Keeneland to watch some races. It’s a beautiful track and the horses are nothing to sneeze at either. They also offer tours and I’ve heard you can get a great breakfast there!
  • Woodford Reserve: For those of you who are of drinking age, this is a great tour! I’m not a big bourbon fan, but touring the facility and hearing the history was so cool. It was the most beautiful drive out there — also, talk about some multi-million dollar horse farms!

For a lot of you, attending the Makeover is a bucket list item, so make sure you are prepared to soak up as much of the awesomeness as possible. Meet some of those faces that you’ve been stalking on Facebook for the last 10 months (but, really, we know it’s been longer), poke some of those ponies you’ve been seeing transform via their fan pages, take as many photos as possible (because cool photos are really why we do this), be proud of your journey and enjoy your week surrounded by the tribe that understands your horse struggles and hoarding tendencies the best.

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