Journey to the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover 2020: Ali Barros’ April Update

The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 continues! Read on for our second update from Ali Barros.

Since my last blog post, the world looks quite a bit different. I feel fortunate to be healthy and to still be able to maintain a sense of normalcy in these trying times. Fortunately, I have a block of self-care stalls at a large horse boarding facility, so I am still able to care for and ride my horses. 

The rainy springtime in Tennessee has resulted in very wet footing, and as a result Prince had three abscesses and endless amounts of thrown shoes while frolicking in the 20-acre gelding pasture. Although the horses are not usually turned out in the rain, or when the fields are extremely wet, spring in the south always seems to bring about issues with abscesses and frequent farrier calls. During this period, I was lucky to get one to two rides in a week, which has slowed our progress. 

Prince enjoying a non-rainy day. Photo by Ali Barros.

Since April 11, Prince has miraculously kept all of his shoes on and been abscess free. He is currently in a six day a week training program, with our rides averaging about 40 minutes a day. Our training has consisted of small steps including standing at the mounting block, steering (he has a mind of his own at times), straightness, canter transitions and his dreaded left lead. Over the last two weeks, we have made great progress. One of my main focuses as a trainer is relaxation. At first, we would achieve a relaxed, stretchy trot towards the end of our ride. However in the last week, Prince is able to relax more, wanting to stretch down from the first trot. 

After moving to a new facility two months ago, Prince has had to get acclimated to a busy hunter/jumper barn rather than a smaller private barn where I had my horses at previously. He has been able to adapt to horses being lunged in the arena, the busy cross-tie area full of young lesson students, pigeons in the overhang of the covered arena, and even the farm’s resident goats. Prince is able to adapt to new environments quickly, which I feel will be helpful when we go to horse shows in the future. 

Prince getting desensitized to the farm’s resident goats. Photo by Ali Barros.

Since our flatwork has been improving, I decided to introduce cross-rails. Wanting to give Prince a positive first jumping experience, I dismounted, and hand walked him over the barely off the ground cross rail both directions. He seemed unfazed. I remounted and let him trot the jump each direction. I was proud of Prince for his bravery over the speed bump I put in front of him. It is easy to get caught up in scrolling on the #RRP2020 hashtag on Instagram and viewing horses further along in their journey, but I always remind myself to celebrate our accomplishments no matter how small. 

One unique obstacle we have had to overcome is his talkativeness. Prince is turned out with seven other geldings at the stable I train at. Although my other two OTTB’s Tuscany and Pierre are also turned out in the same field, Prince has sought out the only other OTTB at the farm to befriend. The two have become inseparable. The friendship appeared sweet and harmless until Prince would start calling out consistently when leaving the pasture away from his new friend. The constant neighing spilled over to the cross-tie area and riding arena. Never having encountered this previously  in my training of  horses, I had to research how to stop the constant neighing when being ridden since he was clearly not paying attention to me but rather calling out asking “where are you, friend?”

I noticed most of the neighing would happen when he was walking. Therefore, instead of walking around on the track where his eye and mind might wonder, I would do circles, figure eights, stopping, and backing up. This helped keep his mind on me and the tasks at hand rather than his concerns about where his friend might be. Three weeks since the start of the neighing, he has come to terms that the cross-tie area and the riding arena are not the place to phone a friend. His neighing has greatly decreased except when leaving his friend in the pasture. Sometimes, problems arise that make you scratch your head. I have always believed in asking for outside help (or sometimes even Google, as long as you find a reliable source) when you are unsure of a new obstacle. Horses surprise us all, and you certainly learn something new every day. 

Prince and his fellow OTTB friend Drum. Photo by Ali Barros.

Want to follow along on Ali and Prince’s journey before their next update here on Jumper Nation?  Be sure to “like” the Barros Sporthorses Facebook page!

About Ali

Ali Barros is a 25 year old young professional originally from Medway, Massachusetts currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee. She grew up on the New England Hunter/Jumper circuit as a working student and groom for many top trainers. In 2012, she received a NCAA D1 Equestrian scholarship to UT Martin, moving her to Tennessee. During college and graduate school she decided to event, where she competed up to training level on one of her OTTB’s “Let It Rock.” She now trains hunters, jumpers, and eventers with a focus on OTTBs and young warmbloods. She is thrilled to be participating in RRP Thoroughbred Makeover with her Second Stride adoption “Prince Hansen.”