The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 continues! Read on for our first update from Ali Barros.
A Fairy Tale in the Making
On a chilly October morning, Second Stride posted three photos of a small black OTTB available for adoption on Facebook. While I was walking to my car to drive to the farm, his photos immediately stopped me in my tracks. After seeing how much buzz this horse was generating online, I immediately contacted Second Stride to inquire about this so called “Black Beauty.” He had just stepped off the trailer; Susan Brown, the program manager, didn’t have much information on him yet. She was able to give me his Jockey Club name: Prince Hansen. Not wanting to take any chances with the plethora of adopters waiting in the wings, I said I would adopt him sight unseen. A few days later after a horse show, I went up to Prospect, Kentucky to bring Prince home. When I realized he was RRP TB Makeover eligible, I knew this was a goal I wanted us to achieve together. This will be a new experience for myself, as I have not competed in RRP TB Makeover previously. Although I was accepted in 2018, my mount Wilma was not ready for the competition. This year however, I am confident Prince is up to the challenge. His sweet and calm disposition make him an ideal candidate for the Makeover.
My experience with OTTB partnerships evolved over a decade ago. Growing up in New England hunter/jumper barns, OTTBs were often looked down upon as lesser mounts than their warmblood counterparts. That belief never held much weight to me. I had always admired Thoroughbreds from afar in books and on my television screen. I even completed my fifth grade project on Churchill Downs. The power and athleticism of Thoroughbreds was mesmerizing to my younger self.
When my trainer and parents went to Ocala, Florida in 2010 to find a jumper to purchase, we arrived back to Boston with my first OTTB “Pierre” [JC: Sword’s Pride; USEF: Let It Rock]. The “crazy redhead” as he was known around the barn due to his fiery disposition became my lifelong partner. Two of our proudest accolades include being the 2010 Massachusetts Children’s Jumper Champion and the 2017 USHJA Zone 4 Adult Hunter Championship Seventh Overall (he was the only OTTB who qualified to compete). Pierre piloted me around my first 1.15m jumper round, horse trials, adult hunter course…Never turning down a new challenge. His heart and passion matched mine, which is when I knew OTTBs were my calling.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to adopt “Talon’s Of Tuscany” from Second Stride. This massive dark bay gelding with a kind eye captured my eye on Facebook (by now my parents would rather me deactivate my Facebook to prevent further equine purchases). I asked to secure the gelding by a first right of refusal deposit which was accepted until I could make the drive from Jackson, Tennessee to Prospect, Kentucky. When I arrived, “Tuscany” had just been gelded – therefore, I was unable to test ride him and could only watch him walk in hand. Most prospective buyers might have rescheduled to come back when they could ride or jog him. Following my intuition, I went into his stall and asked Tuscany if he would like to come home with me. He seemed mildly interested in that idea between hay munches, so I took that as a yes. I signed his adoption paperwork and we loaded him in the trailer to return to Tennessee. Tuscany was the 2019 USHJA Zone 4 2’6” Outreach Jumpers Champion, and is currently geared towards the jumper ring.
My newest Second Stride soulmate, Prince Hansen, quickly adjusted to Nashville life with his two other OTTB friends. I gave Prince nearly a month to adjust to his new routine, feed, and shoeing. I began to watch his movement in the pasture, growing to admire his downhill, relaxed movements. What Second Stride saw as a potential western mount, I believe he will become a beautiful hunter. He certainly has the look, with a gleaming black coat and big blaze, but his floating trot is what captures my eye.
My first few rides consisted of mostly walking, getting him used to contact with a copper oval link hunter dee or Happy Mouth double jointed loose ring. By the fifth ride, we were trotting in the bridle. As we progressed, I identified what we would need to work on. Prince is a firm believer in showing off his favorite lead: the right. Even when he is going to the left. Working on his canter departures to the left is our biggest challenge.
Due to extreme amount of rain in Tennessee, January was a vacation month for Prince due to wet footing. Instead we went on walking trails around the property alone and in company. Fortunately, in mid-February I was able to move to a bigger hunter/jumper training facility having the benefit of a covered arena so that the rain no longer prohibits my riding abilities.
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 – click here.
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.”