A Life Full of Thoroughbreds: Finding Mavis’ Calling

RRP Thoroughbred Makeover blogger Dr. Cle Toledano asks for reader input: does she forego her horse’s natural instinct as a hunter and see if her scrappy, efficient nature help carry her to the young jumper classes? 

Mavis is just plain great at this jumping thing –clearly better than I am. Do any of you feel like someone else is explaining this job to your horse? No one else has ridden Mavis since I purchased exactly one year ago, but it’s like someone else whispers in her ear at night: I wish they would whisper in my ear too! Mavis is streetwise, socially adept, all business, and wants to do her job cleanly, obediently, and efficiently, so I get in her way. What does she do? Forgive me. Usually, I hear her say, “ sit up and follow.” I haven’t figured that out yet, but I can listen to Mavis and try to heed her advice. We all know she wants quality care and to be with her friends, but following is a voice I imagine in our sport horse scheme of things. The five-year-old old Thoroughbred mare wants to know why her goals are not the five and six-year-old jumper classes?

This is where I want other people to chip in or actually contribute (because jumpers are all tired of “chip-ins”) and answer Mavis’ questions. Why is jumping 3’ at the RRP TB makeover her goal instead of 1.10m and then 1.25m? Here are some of the answers clouding her claire-voyante approach to life. “Mavis, you were not bred to jump, you are small.  What’s more, you are a small mare, oh, and Thoroughbred.”

One of Mavis’ first shows. She did the hunters at Morven Park thanks to Samantha Franklyn. Photo Credit: Gilmore photography

Mavis has her perfect parts, which the vet in me adores. And then she has this amazing mind and approach to life. I load her alone, and she helps me get it done, waiting while I attach her butt bar. She arrives and unloads calmly even though I am usually in some sort of stressed hurry. I trailer her with a friend and leave her on the trailer while I ride said friend and she deals. Thank goodness she is super likable! So many people have helped me with her because they like her. But you have to see her go to really like her, her small stature definitely sets her apart from the crowd. In fact, when we lined up in her first under saddle class at Morven Park Hunter Show Series schooling show, in a TB class mind you, she was the smallest!

Okay, but what would really hold her back from the five and six-year-old jumper classes? My trainers say she will tell me. If we get to do a five-year-old class by December, she will have to drag me along. I think she can do it. Another small predicament from the peanut gallery of awesome horse people around me is that (and I quote), “Mavis is a natural hunter, you can’t manufacture that.” Well, I can probably mess up the hunter in her but will that make her more of a jumper? No. So, I’m enjoying what the hunter in her tells me—like “you have all the time in the world to nail this change or to make this turn or this jump, it’s easy, I’m efficient, please sit up…”

Oh, Mavis, how will you prove yourself as an amazing underdog if I really can’t do you justice? What if being a hunter is your calling? One trainer answered my concerns: that I want a jumper, not a hunter, by explaining that we just keep putting the jumps higher and wider.

This was the first day we decided to put the jumps up. This is the first of a triple. Photo credit Dheva Raja

In the past six weeks, Mavis has been jumping once to twice a week and competed in a couple of schooling shows as a hunter.  I type this as we just finished the Princeton Show Jumping finale at 0.90m for her first recognized show. She made it to every jump off and was foot perfect with her behavior, changes, turns, and carefulness. Lots of great comments from the human crew but what sticks—I wish she were bigger. Is the Makeover going to hold her size against her since small is what just about no sport horse person wants? Is her size going to limit my goals for her in my life—1.20m and 1.30m Amateur Owners? Did I make it harder for both of us to achieve this goal?

I need to focus on literally getting her to shine at the Makeover. Mavis deserves attention, she deserves recognition perhaps because she is not flashy but really good. She is not as glamorous as the Warmbloods or even many of her Thoroughbred compadres that have haughty stature. She could do so many things well for so many people of all ages, and probably my goals will be the most demanding on her. There is no doubt she would be a superior hunter. Major hunter pros have schooled in the rings with me and said I need to listen to what she wants to be, a hunter, but so far I’m determined to keep taking her up the jumper ranks where she is an appreciated but an obvious underdog. I’ll keep listening to her and pros. In fact, this blog is our discussion.