It Takes a Village: Catherine & Nova

For many Makeover trainers, their journey does not take them down the path they expect. However, no matter where that path leads, most acknowledge that traveling it at all would not be possible without a solid support system.

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 how having a solid support system is imperative to the journey to the Makeover, no matter where that journey takes you.

It takes a village.

I have always agreed with this saying. My kids are lucky to have parents, family, teachers, doctors and many more who all helped them become who they are.

I have realized, this saying holds true for my horse as well. The vets, farrier, dentist, barn manager, trainers, etc. all support my horses and me. We have been successful in our training and bonding due to our phenomenal support system.

Nova (JC Care About This) came to me with the help from the Finger Lakes’ finest volunteers. Without them this journey would have never begun. There is also her previous owner who has kept in contact with me since they day I bought her. She has told me everything there is to know about my sweet mare.

Virginia Gillis riding Nova at the trot. Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston.

Then there are my team mates. Virginia started this adventure with me and Ann joined us soon after. The best decision I ever made (besides buying my amazing mare) was signing up for the Thoroughbred Makeover as a team. Being on this journey with my friends has been one of the best parts — sharing the ups and downs and working together through it all. The excitement we felt when we had our first canter and then our first jump. We each have our strengths and use them to help Nova learn her new career. We support each other and love this horse.

Ann Krantz on Nova. Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston.

Having a team can also be helpful when things take an unexpected turn. I knew something wasn’t right but I was not sure what it was. Nova looked amazing at her trot but we felt that her canter and jump were not right. She wasn’t pushing off like we thought she should be. This is when we decided to get the vet involved to make sure it wasn’t medical. None of us were prepared to hear the dreaded “S” word. Once the vet said suspensory, I knew our journey to the Makeover had ended.

We are lucky that we caught it so early. We should be back under saddle in another month if her next ultrasound is good, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was crushed. This was the first thing I had done for myself since having kids. I was finally able to get back in the ring and still can’t believe that I found such an amazing horse. We sulked for days after the news but had each other to lean on. Although I’m still heartbroken to make it this far and have to withdraw now, I feel so blessed to be able to experience this journey as far as I did. I also met the horse that made me fall in love with horses and riding again. Maybe once I pick myself up we will go as spectators or try again next year. For now I’m going to spend  my time grooming, cuddling, and loving my horse.

Nova and Catherine together. Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston.

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