Journey to The Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover

I am a Thoroughbred person. I think I always have been, even though I didn’t own my very first Thoroughbred until I purchased Joey 2 years ago. Growing up, I drooled over the Thoroughbred racing industry, memorizing stats and workout plans like crazy. I could recite all of the Kentucky Derby winners and knew which cross would produce a top notch foal. Even before I had ever met a Thoroughbred, I was in love with them.

Fast forward to two years ago and my hunt was on for my perfect partner to return to the show ring with. With a limited budget, I turned to the Thoroughbred to meet all of my needs and found Joey (JC: Texas Holdem Joe). Looking back, I probably bit off more than I could chew but with the help of my instructor, Joey and I formed a partnership like no other. Currently on my Instagram I am doing a daily countdown to 2018 featuring photos of Joey and I throughout the year and I am constantly amazed by how much he has grown both physically and mentally.

Joey and I are moving up to the .80m Jumpers at our first rated show in February! Photo by Cassie Zimmerman

So as I documented the trials and tribulations of ten trainers with their hearts set on competing at The Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover last year, I knew that I too wanted to take on that challenge. After all, I had survived my first OTTB and was instantly sold on the heart and athletic ability of the Thoroughbred. I knew that with my budget and my dreams, I was going to have to make my own string of horses and there was no other breed with which I would rather shoot for the stars than the Thoroughbred.

Like most horsemen, I enjoy the addictive pastime of scanning horse sale ads online in my free time, and after having such a successful pairing with Joey, I continued to watch the horses coming through Amy Lynn Paulus of Changing Saddles LLC. I dreamed of the day I would add another Paulus Pony to my family. Little did I know: 2017 was going to be my year.

After tweaking our budget and plenty of begging, I somehow convinced my husband to let me tackle a second OTTB with the hopes of competing at the RRP Makeover. His yes was accompanied by a sigh, and I promptly began scouring the internet for my four legged friend.

I found him two hours later.

Photos by Amy Paulus

The ad for Flashback Justice was the opposite of what I was looking for. I wanted something flashy, tall, clean legged, and ready to turn heads in the show ring. Instead, I saw the photos of an adorable 15.2 hand dark brown gelding with a simple star, set osselets on his ankles, and a recovering eye injury in one eye.

Yet I was smitten. Something about his long face, gentle eye, and relaxed jog video screamed “This is the one Meagan!” I made the call to Wayne (who was in no way shocked that I found a horse I wanted to invest in the same day he said that he supported the idea) and the deed was done. ‘Flash’ was mine.

I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. This little four-year-old has a heart of gold and is going to be the most exciting restart. He plods around the arena and tries his hardest to make you happy. He may not always understand what you are asking of him, but he sure is going to try. He is not phased by anything and loves the little kids at the barn. He quickly became a barn favorite and easily worked his way into my heart.

The sweetest baby horse. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

The day RRP applications opened, I logged on at 8am to fill mine out. With nervous fingers I typed all the reasons why I felt I would be a good advocate for the OTTB and justified my experience working with these lovable horses. Hitting send was the most exciting and nerve-wracking experience. We will find out in February if we have been accepted or not. 

In the meantime, Flash has begun his training for his new career. He is truly the best student, but bless his heart he sure has been accident-prone so far. He has had a stream of injuries related to herd dynamics, bell boot mishaps and general gangly youngster behavior, but I am praying this is the end of his shenanigans.

Between his injuries, we have had the opportunity to work on Flash’s bending and use of his body. He has popped over a few crossrails at a trot just for fun and while he doesn’t quite know what to do with his body yet, he is always game. This is the kind of horse that I can take out on the trails one day and in the arena the next and he is the same horse every time. It is so relaxing to have a horse that you can enjoy working with rather than wonder when they may react to something new. I wholeheartedly believe that Flash was meant to be the horse for me in pursuit of my RRP dreams.

Photo by Julie Hathaway

Until we know for certain if we have been selected, Flash will continue to focus on flatwork this winter and learn how to use his body to balance himself while going around the ring. I have yet to decide what our focus will be, but I am leaning towards the Hunters and either Competitive Trail or Fox Hunting. I know when the time comes, Flash will tell me what he wants to participate in. So we are just taking our time, enjoying getting to know one another, and wrapping one layer of bubble wrap at a time.