Now, with the trip to Kentucky to compete in the Thoroughbred (“TB”) Makeover a month behind me, I’m able to reflect. In the days following the show days, it was impossible to ignore the pulse of the competition still beating in my veins. What horse would I bring next year? How can I better prepare, what can I do differently? The excitement and the thrill of the events can take hold in an intoxicating way, making you hungry for next year. That chase has been somewhat overtaken by the more practical side of my brain, telling me to be patient, that there is plenty of time to find a new partner for next year. For now, I am trying to focus on appreciating the accomplishments of this year and, especially given the time of month, being thankful for everything leading up to, and during the Makeover this year.
It is impossible to discuss the combined efforts leading up to the 2018 Makeover without acknowledging the team that supported my 2018 TB Makeover mount even in his racing days. Alum came from a group called Eclipse Thoroughbred Partnerships. Eclipse horses run at a high caliber of racing, so the horses in the partnership tend to be exceptional athletes with exceptional care and training (they work with big-name trainers such as Todd Pletcher). From my experience, the people who make up Eclipse are just as exceptional! One of the Eclipse partners, and an owner of Alum while he was on the track, Erin Wujek, contacted me when Alum retired from racing and came into the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. She told me she had just loved Alum so much when she knew him, and she was interested in adopting him as her riding horse. I am so thankful to have been able to work with such a wonderful, involved, thoughtful group.
Then there’s Alum! First and foremost, Alum is a one-of-a-kind horse. I know lots of horse people who might say that everyone says that about their horse, but there aren’t many horses that I have known that, at four years old and fresh off the track, could remain as calm and level-headed as Alum while on stall rest (for suspensory desmitis) and then head right into work with such an eager-to-please attitude. On top of that, his owner, new to the horse world, was learning the ways around a horse from grooming to mounting, and walking around under tack. I had prepared Erin, telling her that riding lessons would most likely need to, at least initially, be conducted on my older, more experienced horse, and then we could work our way to lessons with Alum. Because of Alum’s surprisingly quiet demeanor, Erin ended up just riding Alum!
While many competitors at the TB Makeover had selected their horses for the competition at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018, Alum and I had an abbreviated training time to prepare for the Makeover because he only retired from the track at the end of March, and then he was recovering from the suspensory desmitis, so his work schedule was conservative (especially when it came to jumping). Alum had only jumped a course for the first time in August (and the Makeover was October 4-7). Given such a short period of serious training time, I am so thankful to be partnered with a horse possessing such a great personality and good nature. I can’t even imagine how many other ways things could have gone had it been any other horse!
To add to everything else, Alum also injured his gluteal while getting off the trailer when we first pulled into the Horse Park, so he was lame for the first couple days we got there. Thank goodness we got in on the Tuesday before competition, but I spent long hours massaging and icing his bum before the competition! We were cleared to do light schooling on Wednesday, but he was still ouchy on it. On Thursday, he was cleared to show, and boy was he a trooper. He competed in Show Hunters on Thursday and then Show Jumper on Friday. What a horse!
Alum and I ended up placing 20th overall in Show Hunters and 21st in Show Jumpers. I am so proud of this result, especially given our short training time and the number of incredible competitors at the competition and in our classes. The classes were also huge – there were 173 entries for Show Hunters and 144 for Show Jumpers.
A huge thank you is also owed to the staff and volunteers at the Makeover. Orchestrating such a massive event is no small feat, and it was carried out very well. The whole experience was wonderful, and I look forward to competing again next year!
See part 1 of Leandra’s adventures here.