You win some, you lose some… and sometimes you find the right path in the process. This week Kate and Luis determine their final Makeover entry.
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. This week, blogger Kate Coldren discusses choosing a path as she and Luis head toward the Makeover.
I feel like I have blinked and now it is time to write another entry.
Luis(JC New Prince) amazes me every time I step into a stirrup and swing over his back. A few weekends ago I trimmed him, and he wasn’t impressed. So, I tested out my new knowledge of gluing shoes Ida provided me with and applied a pair of EasyCare Performance shoes on his front feet to help him improve his medial lateral imbalance. He LOVED them. I let him rest in them initially before I did any gluing and got his approval.
Later in the morning we hauled to Western North Carolina for our first schooling hunter show. We made a few laps of the arena on foot. One of the major challenges we encountered was crossing some black mats to entering the arena, with the first few attempts being a bit more exuberant than necessary. And we even jumped some cross rails at the trot! Big day for Luis and he most definitely exceeded all expectations. We met some new people and got some valuable feedback from the judge as we move forward towards the Makeover this fall. We took home a few ribbons, but even more importantly, homework to make improvements upon what we had accomplished.
We also attended a schooling jump day at LH Equestrian and did some more small fences. These fences were a bit more colorful with flower boxes. We jumped some verticals in their covered area and the course in the outdoor arena. Some jumps we walked over and some jumps we took at a canter. We did have a refusal, but we came back with a lovely final jump effort that made my heart soar. Luis got to enjoy munching a little grass and I had a wonderful lunch from the food truck on site.
The next weekend I entered a dressage show and that experience did not go quite as planned. As a Makeover trainer, I really like to give the horse an option of their discipline. These horses were bred and born to race, but that life only lasts so long and not every horse succeeds in that industry. Only one horse can win a race. To me, allowing the horse to find something they enjoy as a second career can really be a game changer for these equines.
Here is the life lesson I am going to share with you, and I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced something like this. I kept asking myself, how many other people have been taken advantage of in this way? How many people will feel bullied like I just did?
I entered a dressage show, paid my entry fee for Three Intro Test, and the TB Makeover dressage test found in the Rulebook. I submitted my coggins and waiver, and I knew my vaccines were done because I had the vet out early July to get them completed at an appropriate interval for the Makeover. But when I checked my invoice, they weren’t there. Mistakes happen and my vet was away on vacation in the Grand Canyon where he had no cell reception. As a former veterinary technician, I knew he was the only one who could make the call to change the patient’s chart stating that Luis was, in fact, vaccinated.
I was not about to vaccinate a horse the day before or same day of an event and ask him to perform in 80 – 90 degree weather. The weather was hot enough for coats to be waived. To me, as a horseman, as a veterinary technician, that is not a way to set up any horse for success. I reached out via email numerous times to the show secretary without a response. I was not about to haul three hours to be turned away from a show and have to drive right home.
Once my vet returned, he kindly resolved the issue. I reached out to the show management team and provided my paperwork. I did eventually receive an email back with a reasonable excuse for the lack of response. I spoke with staff on the phone, and it did not go well. And to be frank, it will probably take some time and courage to attempt entering a show like that again. As my friend told me, it is an expensive life lesson. As I reflect on the situation, I could have been more graceful and forgiving, more like my equine partner. To me, when I am paying for an event — an experience — and it doesn’t come to pass and I voice concern to the group/individual/company I expect them to listen. Generally, it is in their power to make it right. I don’t like to be blamed or bullied into submission to accept that I am fully to blame for this entire situation. Certain events took place and mistakes were made and I would expect staff to understand that someone entering a walk/trot test may need a little extra guidance.
I certainly don’t want my equine partner to ever feel blamed for my shortcomings. I want to encourage them to be brave, not because they fear the repercussions, but because they know how much I appreciate them wanting to try for me. I want to offer a suggestion and the horse takes the lead with their power and grace. No matter what discipline you choose, the quest for those magical moments of oneness with a horse are truly priceless. This truly does transcend disciplines.
Fortunately, I was able to make alternative plans to attend a clinic by an Extreme Cowboy Racer with some friends, staying a little closer to home with a little over an hour haul to the other side of Charlotte.
It turned out to be an incredible weekend, where I made some new life-long friends, with kind hearts. Luis did some obstacles, including a teeter-totter, box, and bridge. We are still novice compared to the majority that attended this clinic, but we made some incredible progress in two short days. We also revealed some tension and stress that had not been there previously with stalls but is present now. We will have to work through it to find the relaxation that Charlotte Canon has worked with us to achieve at off-site venues. At least what was a a negative experience for me turned into a positive one for Luis.
On the evening of August 1st as I was turning Luis out, I was thinking, where do we go from here? We have to commit to a path for the Makeover. And the next morning I submitted our entry for Competitive Trail and Freestyle.
Until next time…
Kate grew up in rural New Hampshire where she rode Morgans competitively until the age of 14. She worked at a small private farm caring for Norwegian Fjords and Morgans through high school, while also enjoying her personal horses. She attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and continued her equestrian journey by taking hunter/jumper equitation classes every semester for four years. After college, she discovered her love for the OTTB in 2014 when she purchased JC Trickish, her first mount that started her on the path to become a member of the Retired Racehorse Project. In 2019 she was a first time competitor with JC Somebody’s Beau. They earned Best Conditioned in Competitive Trail while also competing in Show Hunter, placing in the middle of a huge class of over 100 horses. Kate is looking forward to sharing her experiences preparing for the 2021 Mega Makeover with Luis ( JC New Prince).