Paying it Forward to the 2020/2021 MegaMakeover

In a year that has been riddled with uncertainty and unrest, Ashley Francese finds a way to make her own light by paying it forward for a breed that has given her so much.

Harper Valley, from Amy Lynn Paulus. Photo courtesy of Ashley Francese.

Growing up my mentor used to say, “A Thoroughbred can do anything any other horse can do…only better.” This idea was ingrained in me from an early age, and when I became involved in the Thoroughbred Makeover in 2016, I learned just how much these powerful athletes are capable of. My work training Thoroughbreds for the Makeover took me down a path of riding western and introduced me to competitive trail and western dressage. 

Last year I promised my husband that the 2020 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover would be my last. I have been training horses for the Makeover since 2016, and have ended up with a lovely string of horses, who I enjoy riding and want to show in the future. So, I had decided to be done with the competition after this year, and to give myself time to show my horses and to promote Thoroughbreds in the western disciplines. 

When it was announced that the 2020 Makeover would be postponed to 2021 and take place as a MegaMakeover, I became excited about being given the gift of time. My 2020 Makeover hopeful Chase Lane is a fantastic horse, who I am planning on keeping after the Makeover, so having an extra year with him is a true gift. I also have a horse from Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Inc. who is eligible for 2021, so my plans have changed again and I am planning to make the 2020/ 2021 MegaMakeover my last.  

Spirit in the Sky, from Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Inc. Photo courtesy of Ashley Francese.

Given the gift of an extra year, I started to think about how I could best promote Thoroughbreds in western disciplines and aftercare organizations in the months gearing up for the 2020/ 2021 MegaMakeover. And I came up with an idea for how to help raise money for some of the aftercare organizations that I have been blessed to have worked with over the past several years. My idea was to do one charity clinic per season in the year gearing up for the 2020/ 2021 MegaMakeover. 

Over the course of the year, I will be hosting four clinics benefitting four different aftercare organizations. The first clinic will be held on October 10th and will benefit Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Inc. The clinic will focus on competitive trail and will consist of trail obstacles and ranch trail obstacles. The day will end with a mini-trail challenge complete with prizes for the participants. 

Tapesprit, from CANTER PA. Photo courtesy of Ashley Francese.

In addition to the fall clinic, there will be a winter clinic benefitting Turning for Home, a spring clinic benefitting Amy Lynn Paulus’s work at finding homes for horses with behavioral or physical difficulties, and a summer clinic benefitting CANTER. 

It is my hope that through these clinics I can spread my love of Thoroughbreds and help to raise money for some of the aftercare organizations that I have enjoyed working with over these past few years. In this way, I hope to simultaneously prepare for the 2020/ 2021 MegaMakeover and to spread my love of Thoroughbreds, of competitive trail riding, and to serve the mission of the Thoroughbred Makeover. 

Enchanted Dreams, from Turning For Home. Photo courtesy of Ashley Francese.

These past few months have been hard on the horse industry. COVID-19 has hit the equine industry especially hard. My own business was shut down for months on end due to the lockdowns in Pennsylvania. But in dark times like these, when the future seems uncertain and riders have to change goals due to shows being postponed, I like to think about how I can best serve the future and how I can best make my own light.