Having announced my goal for the year, and officially getting accepted, here are the things I am looking for in my RRP horse. I know that to meet all these criteria may not be possible so I expect to compromise on something. But, it is always fun to have a dream horse checklist in hand while I go look. Who knows maybe I will find a unicorn that meets all of these criteria!
We heard from Mary Roby about her experiences preparing for the Retired Racehorse Project in Part 1 and now we are catching up with her to hear about her time in Kentucky with her horse Indy. Applications are currently open (Through Jan 15th!) and I shared that I will hopefully participating myself this year. So enjoy and cross your fingers to be hearing a whole lot more about this project!
TBR: How was traveling to Kentucky? Do you have any travel or packing tips for anyone wanting to participate next year?
MR: Traveling from Maryland to Kentucky was not too bad considering I was in the car for about 9 hours. I had someone trailer Indy while I drove in my car. The only travel issue was the West Virginia hills because I had so much packed in my car, but we pulled through. Now when it comes to packing in small spaces or vehicles, it is important to use every inch possibly given. Think of all the items as like puzzle pieces. If you are all by yourself without a traveling companion, put your personal items in the front on the floor and drinks and snacks on the front seat. Grab a thermal bag from Walmart to keep your drinks cold. They're like maximum $10 and they are totally worth it! They kept my drinks and food cold for hours while I was on the show grounds. Keep your gas (and possibly toll money) in a separate envelope from your spending money. If you keep it together, you may run out and not have enough money for your travel back home. Using cash at gas stations can sometimes lead to cheaper prices, even a 10 cent difference can go a long way.
TBR: Had you been to the horse park before? What was it like?
MR: So i have never been to the Kentucky Horse Park before! Actually it was my first time in Kentucky in general. This was also my first competition outside of Maryland, so the whole experience leading up to it was nerve racking but exciting all in one jumble. It was a big step up from what I have done in the past and definitely out of my comfort zone.
TBR: How did Indy like being at that facility?
MR: Indy looked rather comfortable on his trip. In the trailer, he traveled with 2 mares which he likes to be around. When we arrived at the show grounds, Indy was a bit awake and kind of looking around intently. He wasn't freaking out or spooky or anything like that; he was just a little more aware of his surroundings. I don't blame him; it was only his second show ever and with over 500 horses, I would be a little on the cautious side as well. Once I had his stall set up and had him situated, Indy settled right in and ate his hay. For the rest of the weekend he acted like an old pro and calmed down immensely. He would nicker for his food and that was it. Even if the other horses were screaming their lungs off, he would just munch on his hay or grass if I was walking him around. Many people and competitors were extremely impressed with his attitude and almost never believed me when I told them he was only 4. They all believed he was older in age and had more show experience because of his good manners. Indy was literally wise beyond his years.
TBR: How did your hunter round go?
MR: The hunter rounds were very inviting. Before I started eventing, I did hunters in 4H for nearly 10 years. The jump courses were pretty standard course designs. We competed in the 2'6" height which Indy took really well. I think if we tried to go smaller (like I originally was planning) he would have been bored out of his mind. Indy did really enjoy jumping the hunter fences. I think they were very inviting for him compared to the crazy color fences for show jumping. If I had focused my training for hunters, I believe we would have performed much better than we actually did. Sadly I did not get a good rhythm going for his canter, I just could not get a good feeling for it so there were a couple of bad takeoff spots which resulted in a rail coming down for each course. However Indy did get basically all of his lead changes when I asked for them, and his flat class was near picture perfect. He was very fluid and consistent and just so lovely to ride for his flat class.
TBR: How did your eventing go?
MR: Indy was absolutely fabulous for eventing! If I had to go back and changed our ride, I would not want him to change anything. I, however, was just a complete basket case. To start, my ankle and calf were in excruciating pain, and I almost scratched from riding but didn't want to let Indy down so I continued. Second, I memorized the wrong dressage test for our beginner novice level. Ugh I could not believe my terrible rookie mistake. On the bright side, the judge did tell me the correct test and allowed me a do-over, with a fault of 2 points but better than elimination. Glad I was early and went 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Cross country I knew was going to be our biggest challenge as Indy had never done a real cross country run; we had only done schooling and no events before Kentucky. Warm up for him went really well to start; Indy was forward going and enjoyed going over the bigger fences. When I tried to warm him up with a small log, he stopped and almost looked at it like "what is this, mom? It's too small" but eventually he went over and then got to play with the bigger fences. When I had walked the xc course the day before, I was going through a plan in my head (which never goes according to plan let me tell you). The first 2 fences were pretty uncomplicated and quite inviting to ride. I knew the first challenge was going to be fence 3, which was maxed out in height and in width, plus it was down a slope, so I knew horses were going to be sliding into it. It had rained the night before and some the morning of our ride and then we went at 4 pm so many horses rode the ground before us. So alas, Indy was not a fan of the weird footing before the jump. Obviously studs would help, but for beginner novice, I try not to use; it's a learning experience. Indy stopped twice at fence 3, and then I pulled him up once as we were not going at a fast enough speed, and I knew we would practically land on the fence. So we finally get over the fence after the fourth try and then galloped off to fence 4 and 5 which were superb! Our second little hiccup was at fence 6 where we had a half coffin; aka a ditch to a chicken coop fence two strides out. Now Indy is not a ditchy horse, he doesn't care about them at all and just goes over with no hesitation. However on our run, the ditch was filled with rocks, and that threw Indy off. I knew I should had brought him back to a trot, but I just kept going at the hand gallop. He stopped at the ditch and just went "that's not supposed to be there!" and I'm like great..... Now please go over it! He went over with a little bit of enthusiasm, and we continued on to the coop and then to fence 7 no problem! Getting to the water Indy was just slightly hesitant to go in. First time going to water not a big deal, but with a little bit of extra leg and Indy went right in the water and went over the bush fence after. I tried to be over enthusiastic and tried to do the bank out of the water but Indy didn't understand what I was asking so I made a sharp turn to the left to the bush jump and he just went. Oh the things that boy goes through with me as his rider.... Fence 9 was smooth sailing. In between fence 9 and 10 we were to ask for a free gallop; Indy went with it like he was born to do. However we had a little bit too much fun galloping that when it was time to come back for fence 10, we just did not make it in time and sadly had only one refusal. For fence 11 I decided to have him go down the bank that was used for novice instead of jumping the fence for beginner novice. I knew that Indy was comfortable with down banks, and goes down with great enthusiasm. Plus the fence was in a blindspot with tree seeds sitting in the ground on both the takeoff and the landing, so that was a no go. Just as I suspected, I took Indy up, let him see the bank, and off he went! The last fence was a nice fruit stand looking jump that seemed a little small for our last fence, but Indy locked on it and just went for it to top off our run! Honestly I was quite pleased with Indy on our cross country run. I wish I had set him up a little bit more properly to a few of the fences.
So for the Retired Racehorse Project, show jumping ran after cross country, which in most (if not all) lower level events, it is the opposite. So I knew Indy was running out of steam after that exuberant xc run. We did a couple of show jumping warm-up fences thanks to a friend's mother for helping us out. Now Indy had a slight weakness in show jumping; he used to pop his shoulder to the right and would run out to the side. When we schooled the fences on Wednesday, it was not a pretty sight for us, refusing at almost every single fence. And with me being left handed and my right leg hurting, my right aids were not very strong to help keep a wall up and to guide Indy forward. However, when we went in and started our show jump course, there was absolutely no hesitation from Indy whatsoever. I was shocked! Indy didn't even consider refusing. My mind just stopped thinking and did a huge happy dance so we just kept going. I jumped fence 1 through 4 and then I went around the arena and jumped two more fences and realized I had just jumped fences 7 and 8, and I forgot to jump fences 5 and 6..... Ugh! For the first time in the 10 years that I had been competing, I went off course. So I went up to the judge and the conversation went like this....
Judge: "Well you know you went off course"
Judge: "You know you're not going to get a score"
Judge: "Feel free to school the rest of the course while you're here"
So I went to fence 5 and 6 that I originally missed and then did 7 and 8 again, and finished off with fences 9 and 10. Even though I messed us up big time, I started crying happy tears in the end just because I was so ecstatic of Indy for behaving and not trying to refuse out like we did a couple days before. Overall, I was very disappointed in my ride and in myself. I could not believe that I had messed up so much before. If it wasn't for my mistakes, Indy could have earned maybe an extra 20-25 points and would have placed a lot higher than he did for the weekend. Indy again was just an absolute star! He is truly a great all around horse that could do anything his rider would want to do. I do hope that Indy does get placed in a home soon that will give him the opportunity to shine in the show season coming 2019.
TBR: Do you plan on participating again?
MR: Yes I absolutely do plan on competing again next year! I hope to do eventing and freestyle next year as my two disciplines. I already have a new project in mind and I think she will definitely be my redemption horse for next year. If my plans go accordingly, our freestyle will mainly be me riding while also tossing my flag around, as I was in the color guard in high school. Plus I talked a friend of mine to do it with me so that mean traveling buddy!
TBR: What advice would you give someone wanting to participate for the first time?
MR: If you plan on ever competing in the inspiring and overwhelming event, GO WITH SOMEONE! The hardest part of the event was literally being all by myself. Everyone else that I had met up with had a friend, a parent, a significant other, you get the idea. And with being basically 500 miles away from home, there were a couple of moments where I did feel alone. Thankfully I talked a friend into coming with me next year, so I am covered now. Also grab your thoroughbred project early in the year! For your horse to stay eligible, you are allowed 15 rides before December 1. Even if you don't get your horse before December, get it asap, do your ground work, and take lessons with a trainer. Even if you are a professional, take lessons and learn and develop your skills. And don't try to get your horse to a show a month before competing in Kentucky. Try to get as much show experience as possible.
Retraining a thoroughbred is not always as easy as some people make it look. When posting on social media, everyone tells all the positives lesson and outcomes of training; they rarely post about all the downfalls, the "two-steps back" moments, and the tears that are shed. But in the end it is all about the journey and the showing off one of the best breed of horses in the world.
Remember, the makeover is not the end, it is just the beginning of a great and powerful partnership!
I am a big believer in setting goals. I feel like when you set goals for your riding you really get to see markers with your improvement. As with setting any goals you always want them to be S.M.A.R.T. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. I often set goals for myself that don't fit in to these parameters that I unfortunately have to put on the back burner for hopefully another time. BUT, my goal I'm setting for next year fits perfectly in to these guidelines.
My goal for 2019 is to participate in the Retired Racehorse Project!
Specific: I want to participate in a certain competition, the Thoroughbred Makeover in Kentucky as a part of the Retired Racehorse Project. Along with this will come regular horse shows, but I have never gotten to participate in a finals event. Those often require a lot of money I don't have to buy a fancy horse, campaign them at A horse shows and earn the points to qualify for a year end finals. This is still a prestigious event but doesn't require any outside showing to participate.
Measurable: By being just one competition this goal is easy to measure, I ride at the RRP next year. This is also measured by getting a quality and talented horse that will help me accomplish this goal.
Achievable: Off the track horses generally don't cost the same amount of money that young warmbloods do and because of this I can afford to still get a nice horse that fits in to my budget. This goal is also achievable because training horses is literally what I do for a living so I know that is in my wheelhouse of abilities.
Relevant: The obvious reason that this goal is relevant for me is that I am a trainer already enjoying training young horses. This goal is also something I can afford to work towards at this time in my life. Maybe one day I'll be able to buy a future Grand Prix horse and ride at that level. And the best reason for this goal being relevant is that I love the Thoroughbred breed and I absolutely love that this event has been growing nonstop and promoting this smart, brave and athletic horse.
Time Bound: The beauty of this competition is that all the horses competing have only had ten months maximum of training. I can commit to this easily for a year.
Applications just opened up and if accepted, I am very excited to take on this challenge and share my experiences with you through regular updates here on the blog, on my social media channels and on YouTube with videos documenting our progress!
If you enjoy reading about horses in history, or just enjoy war stories then this is a great book for you! I'm pretty sure I'll pass this one over to my dad. The Perfect Horse tells the story of horses rounded up and kept in hiding during World War II. These horses were selected to create a master breed that was intended to be the perfect war animal.
Arabians and Lipizzaner from all different countries were stolen away from their homes and taken to a secluded farm to be bred into the perfect horse. These breeds were selected because of their beauty, strength, stamina and work ethic. Thankfully the two different breeds were never crossed but bloodlines and everything that went in to preserving these breeds up until this point were ignored and a lot of inbreeding took place.
This book is broken up into three parts, the first and largest section chronicles the horse's journey all around the countryside. This section is filled with stories about horses traveling hundreds of miles, tired, underfed, with feet worn down with bombs going off everywhere. The second section follows the American soldiers fighting their way across Germany and how they accidentally found out about the hundreds of stolen horses. The third section details the horses journey to safety. Unfortunately many didn't make it but quite a few did and their stories are heartwarming.
I don't want to spoil anything because you just need to read it! I'll say it was a little slow to get started but then it picked up and I couldn't put it down. Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts below.
This month we will be reading a classic. I don't think I ever read this book as a child but I loved the movie! I still have it on VHS somewhere lol. This book is about a young girl, Velvet Brown, and her adventures with her horse Pie that she won in a raffle and ultimately competing in the Grand National, a steeplechase competition. If you haven't read this book, let's read it together!
Right now there are hundreds of horses and riders flooding Kentucky. Those horses are all retired racehorses and those riders have taken them from the track and in a total of ten months brought them to the Retired Racehorse Project to show off their new careers. Today we got to talk to one of those ambitious riders and learn about the process leading up to this weekend!
TBR: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MR: My name is Mary Roby. I am 23 years old and I've been riding since I was 6 years of age. I live in Woodbine MD. I am a full time waitress at an Italian restaurant and I'm in school to get my bachelor's degree in marketing. I've been around horses my entire life as my grandfather was a racehorse trainer and lived on my family farm until I was 12. Other than horses, my activities include running, hiking, going to the gym, photography, and sketching.
TBR: What made you want to participate in the RRP?
MR: I have wanted to do the retired racehorse project for a couple of years now after watching some of my friends do it in the past, but the time wasn't right and the funds weren't there. I got a great opportunity this year with having a better job and an amazing horse to do it all with. Plus I wanted to do something that not many of my Maryland friends have done, nor I have done anything like this. I've never finished outside of Maryland, especially at a big event like this. It's a risk I've been wanting to take.
TBR: What were you looking for in an OTTB?
MR: When I was looking at thoroughbreds, I wanted a horse on the younger side, preferably gelding at that time (although now I've come to realize how much I miss mares 😂). I wanted a horse with a pretty nice trot and an expressive demeanor. I wanted something that I believe would be good to train that could easily find a new home when the time comes.
TBR: What drew you to Indy as the right horse?
MR: Indian song was a horse a friend on Facebook was posting for sale for a couple months and I followed her posts about him. There was just something about the look in his eyes that gave me an impression; they just posed confidence. I just knew there was something great about him. He was 3 years old at the time and definitely butt high. However in his free lunging video, even though the ground was either sloppy or frozen, he had a pretty floaty trot and there was so much potential for more with growth and training. When I test rode him, we were in an arena that was new to him and had small stalls with ponies in the stalls inside the arena. Now with him being only 3 and only a couple months off the track, I was thinking that he would spook at them or take off possibly, but he didn't do anything. He was forward and willing to work, always wanting to please. Then I hopped on him and rode his flatwork and just thought to myself "I have got to get this horse to my barn."
TBR: Tell us a little bit about Indy
MR: Indian song aka Indy is a 4 year old Thoroughbred gelding who ran only 8 times, mostly at Delaware Park. He won 1 race, 1 place, and 3 shows, and earned a total of $25,550. He is by Macleans Music out of Toy Indian who is by Indian Charlie. Indian Charlie is known for throwing some amazing jumper sport horses and eventing horses, one of the reasons why I was so willing to work with Indy. However breeding isn't always everything.
TBR: When did you get him and what have the first few months off the track been like?
MR: I started training Indy back in March. Things were off to a bit of a rocky start which is to be expected when Thoroughbreds are driving over from track like to farm life; he didn't know personal space, wouldn't stand properly at the mounting block, and for our first few rides I couldn't for the life of me get him to canter on his right lead. We worked for weeks on the ground with learning about space and standing still, moving where I tell him to move, and to stand quietly at the mounting block. Then once his ground work improved, I got back in the saddle and worked on his flat work extensively. It was a struggle trying to get this spider leg of a horse to go around without flailing but it happened! No matter what direction Indy decides he wanted to go, I wanted him to have the proper flatwork foundation. Now we continue with his dressage and are including jumps and slowly with lead changes which he can get on his own sometimes.
TBR: What is his biggest strength?
MR: Even though Indy is getting better under saddle, and has overcome difficulties and struggles under saddle, I would say his biggest strength would be his ground manners. He stands so quietly at the cross ties and will now move where you want him to. He enjoys being pampered and groomed, he'll do anything for a scratch. He'll stand in the barn all by himself with no other buddy around and will just munch on his hay and not make a sound.
However if I had to pick his best strength under saddle, it would be his canter work. He is now getting a great canter that can easily be adjusted for anything. He's able to extend for a longer reach for hunters or come back to a more round canter for dressage.
TBR: Biggest weakness?
MR: Indy is not the most confident horse when he is out on trails. He gets a bit anxious if he's all by himself on the trails. He's been improving with the more mileage he covers, I have been trying to go more with buddies than just by himself. With him only being 4, I do believe without a doubt he'll improve with more mileage.
TBR: What discipline(s) will you compete in for the RRP?
MR: We will be competing in the 2'6" hunters Thursday morning and the beginner novice (2'7") eventing Friday afternoon.
It will only be his second show that he is competing in due to all the rain we've received this summer and the month of September alone. We had 3 shows cancel due to rain. Thankfully we've been schooling some 3' fences at home and he doesn't bat an eye.
TBR: What do you hope to accomplish in the last few months before heading to Kentucky?
MR: I hope to accomplish a better relationship with Indy as we grow. With him being for sale, I don't know how long I'll have him for but I hope that we keep going and develop and get as much experience together as possible.
He has given me great confidence in jumping again which I could never repay him back for. It's been a long time since I've jumped so well with so much confidence and no anxiety. It's a great feeling to have a horse that will keep going, even if the rider shuts down.
I'm super excited to share with you the Allpony Activity Book! This activity book is something I have wanted to exist for years. With education being the main focus here at The Barn Rat this book steps right in seamlessly to help children ages 4-12 learn and play. The book has a thick glossy cover with nice quality pages filled with colorful images. Just about every other page has an activity from mazes to matching to drawing to word searches. The pages in-between are packed with clearly explained education. In this book you will learn about different grooming supplies, tack, disciplines, breeds, colors and anatomy. There are also multiple cut out interactive elements that can keep the fun going for hours. If you have a horsey kid in your life this would definitely be a great gift option! And the reasonable price is the cherry on top! Below are a few inside peeks and a look at the interactive components.
Some true #SquadGoals right here! These four women make up the U.S. Endurance Squad going to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC. Follow them along on social media and watch them compete September 12th & 13th on FEI TV.
We all know about watching equestrian sports in the Olympics. But, did you know there was another huge event that happens every four years (two years after each summer Olympics)? The World Equestrian Games are to the equestrian world what the X-Games are to winter boarding sports or what Wimbledon, The US Open, Australian Open or French Open are to tennis. WEG not only highlights the same sports featured in the Olympics: Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping, but it also adds five more amazing events! The World Equestrian Games started in 1990 and have been held in countries all over Europe and 2018 will be the second time the event has been held in the US! Below is a brief description of each of the eight disciplines that compete and the dates you can tune in to watching as riders at the top of their sports ride in Tryon, NC. Watch at home here!
9.12 & 9.13
Endurance is a long distance race taking place over a 100 mile track! I can't imagine being in the saddle for that long. With checkpoints along the way horse and rider are required to take rest periods for everyone's welfare. This isn't a flat track race either. Most courses require going up and down hills, crossing over water and uneven terrain. You are most likely to see Arabian or Arab crosses participating in this event because of their high energy and stamina.
9.12, 9.13 & 9.15
Reining evolved from the movements a horse might need to do when working on the ranch or dealing with cattle. Sliding stops, spins and handiness are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this sport. This is the only western sport represented so far in the World Equestrian Games. The breed most common to this sport is the Quarter Horse, but many other breeds are successful reiners. When watching this event I can't help but compare it to dressage, the precision and subtle movements between horse and rider make this a thrilling thing to watch!
9.12, 9.13, 9.14 & 9.16
This is the ballet of horse riding if you ask me. Beautiful dances preformed by horse and rider pairs that can seem like they are just floating. One of the three sports included in the Olympics, Dressage is one of the more commonly recognizable horse sports. Many different warmblood breeds compete in this discipline because they have been bred for power and impulsion. All things needed to preform some of those moves that look so effortless and graceful.
9.13, 9.14, 9.15 & 9.16
Another one of the Olympic sports, Eventing takes place over three days and includes Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. These horse and riders are the "jack of all trades" if you will. They need to have the balance and precision required of dressage. The stamina and power for a trying cross country course where they jump ditches and logs, tables and banks, in and out of water elements. And the accuracy and speed for a show jumping course. Thoroughbreds, many OTTB's, are popular for this sport because they embody many of those athletic qualities. Warmbloods are also popular.
9.18, 9.19, 9.20, 9.21 & 9.22
I love that Para-Dressage gets to play on the same stage here at WEG! Para-Dressage is an event in the Para Olympics for the differently abled riders, but there is just something so special about this being held at the exact same time as the other events. Riders are grouped in to different categories based on their abilities and the tests they are asked to preform are of an appropriate level. I dare you to watch this and not get a little misty eyed thinking about the hard work and struggle these riders have overcome to get to this point!
9.18, 9.19, 9.20 & 9.22
Let's just say this is gymnastics on horseback! There are some days when I feel like I can barely stay on, and I'm sitting there like everyone else. And these athletes jump on and off and all around trotting or cantering horses on a lunge line. If that wasn't amazing enough then multiple people get up there and form intricate lifts. I'm just in awe watching this every time! Heavier horses are typically used for this sport because they have wide sturdy backs allowing for the riders to enough room for their tricks. However, a rhythmical, steady gait is far more important.
9.19, 9.20, 9.21 & 9.23
This is the third and final event found in the Olympics. Show Jumping is an against the clock competition where the person with the fastest time who jumps around without knocking anything over, or faults, wins. The jumps are up to 1.60m in height (thats around 5'3"!) and can be crazy wide! This is the sport that has my heart, and I hope to compete one day at this level. Warmbloods are often found in this sport because power and speed are very important to success.
9.21, 9.22 & 9.23
This event has four horses hitched up pulling a small cart. Four in hand as it is called is where one person is responsible for navigating all four horses through a course. Much like eventing's three phases, driving takes place with a dressage phase, a marathon phase and a cone phase. Other people are also found on the cart helping to counter weigh the rig so it doesn't go toppling over through the crazy courses. I can't say I've watched this sport much so I am excited to watch!
This months pick is brought to you by Heather Wallace a blogger, Equine and Canine Massage Therapist and Aromatherapist! She wrote this book from a place many riders are familiar with, being nervous in the saddle. I'm excited to read this one and see the many ways I can relate. This book is available here on Amazon. Grab a copy and read along!
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