Firstly, Lola and I would like to say thank you for following our journey. We have learned so much from each other over the ten months spent training for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Competing there was our biggest goal for 2019 and after achieving that goal I can’t wait to see all we achieve in 2020.
Now on to the Makeover:
Our travel to Kentucky was enjoyably uneventful. We left Michigan early in the morning to beat the heat of the day. We had been experiencing record high temperatures throughout the mid-west, so it was no surprise arriving in Kentucky to temperatures in the middle 90s (Fahrenheit). Lola has spent most of the year living outside 20 hours a day so being on the grounds was a bit challenging for her. She did not particularly like her stall, so we chose to have her spend the bulk of her time in the round pen we had reserved for her. Boy, was I glad we did because she wanted her outside time!
After checking in with the show management I reserved our Veterinary check time and off we went to park the trailer in our camping spot before heading back to Lola secure in her stall. She passed her vet exam with flying colors and we were cleared to compete!
The Rolex Arena
After getting all settled, we went for a long walk in-hand and then saddled up for our first ride at the Kentucky Horse Park! Because of the high temperatures the grounds were very dried out and hard, even on the grassy areas. I was glad to have Lola’s Scoot Boots so she could stay comfortable. The day before competition started, we were given passes to ride our horse in the different venues. Because we could not ride on the Field Hunter course, I chose to school Lola in the Hunter ring. The jumps had a nice amount of natural looking fill and the crowd was good for her. Lola is at times a silly creature. When she gets excited-which she was because of all the other horses and riders moving around- the best way to get her to focus is to make her really think. His favorite thing to think about is jumping so after spending time warming up, we jumped several fences. I think it surprises people when they see her acting like a pocket rocket on the flat and then I jump her, and she becomes all business. After schooling in the arena, we went for a nice walk around the grounds. Even though this was my third year competing at the Kentucky Horse Park it still thrills me that I am riding my horse in the same venues as 5-star level riders have.
Competing Day one:
The Field Hunter competition was held about a mile and a half from the stabling. The Field Hunter division is divided into three parts; Group Under Saddle, Individual Test and Mock Hunt. Day 1 we would ride the Group Under Saddle showing our horses in a large circle at the walk, trot, canter, halt and back, and the Individual test much like the Cross-Country portion of Eventing with a halt and rein back added in. I saddled Lola up, put on her Scoot Boots and off we went to the start. I was so proud of how quiet and confident she was walking over all by ourselves with no other horses or riders in sight.
All dressed up and ready to go
Unfortunately, once arriving to compete Lola’s calm confidence slowly disappeared. She and I did our homework and Lola was very used to crowds and a field of hunt horses but for some reason clear only to Lola she felt very anxious. Lola struggled to hold together but she tried hard to follow my direction. Our under-saddle portion went better then I thought for the level of anxiety Lola was exhibiting, she walked, trotted, stopped and backed and the most impressive, she picked up the correct lead at the canter both ways! We had an hour break before our individual test so I unsaddled Lola and hand grazed her in the hope it would help her calm down. It helped a bit and after saddling back up and doing one practice jump to get focused, we started our individual test. The test was a challenge and had some hard questions for Lola, but she tried hard, jumped everything I asked and trotted through the water without hesitation.
Back to the barn we went for a much-needed hosing down and then she went out for a good roll. The rest of the day was spent hand-grazing and riding around the grounds, thankfully with less anxiety.
Competing Day Two:
Day two, Mock Hunt day was another hot one. We were scheduled to ride in the second group of the morning which was nice as it gave me a bit more time to get Lola settled and ready to ride. Lola again had some anxiety but as soon as she saw the hounds, she had a light bulb moment as if saying “oh that’s what we're doing today!” She rode confidently through the course, handling the halts, jumps and crowd well. I opted to ride her barefoot in the Mock Hunt. I wanted to show that your horse didn’t need to have shoes to be able to hunt. Lola did fabulously and never lost traction or showed any discomfort. Her hooves have made such a huge change from when I brought her home and I couldn’t be more pleased for her to show that Thoroughbreds can be successful barefoot athletes.
Our last day at the KHP was spent riding and in-hand walking around the grounds. We packed up most of our and Lola’s things the night before our departure so we could get on the road early. Lola hauled well and was very excited to arrive home!
The Famous Head of the lake
We spent the remainder of the fall trail riding and hauled to ride with the Battle Creek Hunt Club several times (the hunt does not kill or harm animals).
Lola is now enjoying a few months off as we slowly make our way through the winter months. Lola had a hard time handling a herd setting during the summer so our winter goal was to see if we could get her confident turned out with other horses. She is now out with a big group of horses and loving having the companionship. She has my big Percheron gelding Baxter to flirt with and lots of girlfriends to follow around and be annoying to and with. She will be off from riding until March and then we will slowly start getting back to work in preparation for the show season. I am planning to take her to a couple Hunter Trials and Dressage shows and lots of trail riding. One of our big goals for this year is to take Lola camping! She and I will continue to be barefoot advocates, competing and trail riding barefoot and in Scoot Boots!