Back in the Saddle: Catherine & Nova

“As I wrap my arms around my horse’s neck, tears stream down my face. She stands there curious but seems to know I’m not ready to let go. I never thought this would happen for me again. I love this horse.”

For 480 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, has begun! Over the next eight months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Horse Nation readers. Today, blogger Catherine Eagleston discusses what working toward the Makeover has done for her. 

As I wrap my arms around my horse’s neck, tears stream down my face. She stands there curious but seems to know I’m not ready to let go. I never thought this would happen for me again. I love this horse.

Just hours before we were on the trailer headed to a horse show. This would be her first show ever and mine in almost a decade. All week we have been prepping for this. I bought myself all new show gear. I was both excited and nervous.

Mane pulled, tack cleaned and equipment packed. The trailer was set up and ready to go. I even bought her a helmet since she has decided bobbing her head in the trailer was her new pastime.

Photo by Catherine Eagleston

She walked off the trailer and took it all in. It was a small show, perfect for our first time out. We walked around looking at the other trailers, horses and people. I think she was more interested in how much grass there was than anything going on around us. My teammate Virginia was there to show her with me. We took turns walking her around and checking in class times.

When it was time, Virginia took her in the ring to warm her up. She marched in and didn’t even hesitate. She jumped everything put in front of her. After warm up she went right into her jumping classes. She made some mistakes, which were expected, but she never got flustered. She took in everything that was going on around her. When Virginia said let’s go, she said OK!

Virginia, Catherine and Nova. Photo by Catherine Eagleston.

Then it was my turn. I didn’t have time to warm up so we just went right into the class. Knowing my overthinking mind, this was probably a good thing. I kept my focus on Nova (JC Care About This). She was a little too ready to go, but I gave her a few half halts to keep her walking. She picked up one wrong canter lead but fixed it quick. She maneuvered around all the ponies and jumps in the ring like a pro.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston

When we lined up, I finally took a breath. We did it! I was so proud of my little mare. How did I get so lucky? This was a feeling I hadn’t felt in years. When I lost my heart horse, I broke into a million pieces. Ever since then I have felt like there was a hole in my heart. I lost the desire to ride and almost gave up horses. Nova has been chipping away at me, slowly showing me that I can love another horse again. Reaching this goal together showed me how much I love these animals and this journey. Even if we didn’t make it any further than that show, the journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover has brought back my passion and love for horses. As I stand here with tears streaming down my face out of pure love and happiness, all I can say is I love this horse.

Catherine Eagleston grew up in Massachusetts riding and competing horses in a local 4-H group. Her love and addiction to horses only grew from there. She attended Post University and received a degree in Equine Management and Marketing and while competing on both the IHSA and IDA teams. She bought her first OTTB, named Wild Willy, while in college. He started her love and passion for Thoroughbreds. Since then, she has operated multiple equestrian facilities, including her own. Catherine has trained and competed in the hunter, jumper, equitation, and dressage ring over the years in both rated and non-rated competitions.

She took a break from working full time in the industry to start her family. Currently she is teaching courses at Post University in the equine department and riding lessons at Oakendale Farm LLC, a local eventing barn. Catherine has a small farm at her home called Eagles Equestrian, where she keeps her two OTTB mares and POA gelding. She is excited to share her ups and downs as she navigates this Thoroughbred Makeover.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston