Recapturing the Fun in Riding: Jen & Ribeye

“It was like coming out of an odd amnesia, in which I could finally feel the pure sensation of jumping after all these years and LOVED it!”

Following the announcement that the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, will be postponed to 2021, competitors have been working to decide what comes next for them and their mounts. Today, blogger Jen Cleere discusses what it means to recapture her love of riding as she builds her relationship with Ribeye.

A quick update on the Thoroughbreds: As you know, Louise (JC: Sweet Hall), who is looking quite fab these days with yummy pasture and shiny new shoes, is signed up for the 2020 RRP class at next year’s Mega Makeover. But guess what you might not know. . . Louise retains her RRP eligibility with her future owner, whether they are already a 2020 Trainer or not! This is an incredible opportunity that the RRP staff has created for those horses who are currently eligible whose owners are not able to, for whatever reason, keep them until the time of next year’s competition. The aim of this eligibility transfer is to make these horses more marketable as we search for good and suitable new homes for them.

So here’s how it works: when Louise arrives at your place, let the bonding and training begin (I just know you’re reading this, Louise’s new person! Be aware that with her osselets, which are very old and set, Louise is going to be best suited for a flat-ish career. Occasional jumps should be fine, but she is not your next jumping prospect!).

Is my rider here yet? Photo by Jen Cleere.

She loves scratches and will nuzzle groom you in unison — I recommend this as part one of your two-part approach to her heart. Part two is carrots, etc. and she does have the basics of targeting, if you’re into clicker training. In December, when the RRP Makeover Applications open, you submit yours for the 2020 class with Louise. It’s a simple process, with a written portion with vet and trainer references, and a video portion (this is where you show your skills on a nice horse in your discipline of choice). When you are accepted as a trainer, yeeeHAW, the fun really begins AND you get to join the RRP Trainers Only Facebook page which is pretty much a blast every day. I seriously can’t wait to meet you and follow your journey with this girl. And if you have zero aspirations to compete at the Makeover, that’s perfectly fine. Louise certainly does not care either way and neither do I.

JC: Kielbasa left the farm bright and early this am for arthroscopy on his fetlock at UGA — yep, it’s surgery for the Sausage. We are SO hoping that this will bring this wondrous guy the soundness that he deserves — please join us in crossing fingers, hooves, knocking wood, etc.

Curbside dropoff for surgery at UGA. Photo by Kelly Burns.

And that brings us to Ribeye. Y’all, we did a jumping show that we both survived and I actually had a blast, in the arena, while jumping. Getting my riding joy to sync with the time that I am actually riding has been a bit of a quest this year, the Year of Riding Better. I LOVE horse people and the social aspects of riding — you know, the part that we don’t really have so much of right now — the eating, drinking, hangouts whilst camping at endurance rides, the eating, drinking, hangouts at fox hunts, and the laughing and singing while chugging down a trail with pals. That said, my adult riding career has been plagued with anxiety and fear and, frankly, has been much more fun AFTER the riding part of most days is complete.

I started riding at 14 and was never the fearless one — maybe because of my later start, or maybe it just wasn’t me, but I did love riding bareback, or stirrupless, riding without reins and arms flung out like a bird and taking jumps while doing any combo of the above. I wasn’t a daredevil — just a teenaged barn rat amongst younger barn rats, messing around and inventing games and challenges on our trusty steeds. I have been so divorced from those feelings of horsey freedom and fun as an adult rider that I started to wonder if I invented the whole thing. I would sit on my horse and try to remember what I loved about riding as a teen and I just couldn’t. I longed to call my dearly departed mom, keeper of memories that she was, to ask “What was it I loved about riding? I mean, I do love it, right? I live in a tiny barn apartment with a horse trainer because I love it, I think? If I described my horse adventures to you, it sure would sound like I love and have a blast being on horses.”

Jen and Ribs at the evening jumper show. Photo by Kelly Burns.

So something started happening as I survived this past season of fox hunting on my beyond lovely Arab, Wren, and when I released myself from having to be Louise’s rider. Something about admitting to everyone that I was over-horsed cracked open the possibility of not being so. I took a July 4th toodley ride on Wren with a bareback pad to the swimming pond with a couple of pals, who were also on their endurance Arabs. The pals wanted to try a couple of jumps on the way and there I was, next in line for the log. Oh yeah! Bareback jumping! It was like coming out of an odd amnesia, in which I could finally feel the pure sensation of jumping after all these years and LOVED it!

Over the next week, I rode Ribeye bareback on repeat and he is true saddle-free perfection, round and squishy in all the right places, with a rolling ground-covering trot and the start of what will be a nice canter! That’s when I knew that my Ribeye horse show goal had to have lots of jumping. The evening jumper show last week was part of a Big Cheese Eventing series at our local membership farm, Ashland (definitely put it on your To Visit list if you find yourself anywhere near Conyers, GA with your horse). It could not have been more perfect for Ribeye and me — a super small event right on our home turf. We did two rounds of mini crossrails and a round at 18,” which will be our height for our Amoeba 3 phase premier later this month.

Ribeye + Ribbons! Photo by Kelly Burns.

I was able to accomplish both of my goals, which I nervously chanted prior to mounting: stay on course, stay on horse, and, oh yeah, that fun part was pretty amazing too. I don’t know if this is a new neural pathway that I have made toward riding joy, or some old singletrack through the woods of my teens that I have just finally cleared enough to ride, but ride it, I am!

 Jen C. Cleere is a metal artist whose studio overlooks the pasture at Prize Turnip Ranch, a farm she owns with wife Kelly Burns, professional horse trainer and private eye. Jen makes keepsake and memorial jewelry and ID tags (for horses, dogs and humans, oh my!). She keeps Alpine dairy goats, loves cheesemaking, gardening and all of the homesteady aspects of farm life. Since 2005 she’s been an Eponaquest Equine Facilitated Learning Practitioner. Find her jewelry on Facebook and Instagram @byandbyart. And you can order tags from!