Journey to the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover 2020: Courtney Poole’s June Update

The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 continues! Read on for our fourth update from Courtney Poole and RRP teammate Megan Thomas.

Restarting the Baby Racehorse

The restarting process is always exciting for these baby racehorses. It’s always hard to tell what kind of horse you are working with until you begin getting on their back.  After Nox had two weeks of rest and relaxation, we were able to re-start him. Although we have only ridden him eight times, we have already taken him off the property twice for two different field trips!

Megan Thomas on Nox.  Nox’s first post-track ride.

Our first field trip was to Fox Point Farm with Charlotte Cannon. Our goal was to have Nox load safely and quietly on the trailer, stand quietly tied to the trailer, be able to handle commotion of other horses, and have a good experience off the farm. He far exceeded our expectations and was wonderful for a 3 year old that last raced three weeks ago.  Charlotte teaches Relaxation and Confidence Building Clinics which are wonderful for young racehorses that often carry emotional baggage and stress from the track. 

Nox’s first off-site clinic at Charlotte Cannon’s farm with Courtney Poole. Photo courtesy Courtney Poole.

During Charlotte’s clinics/lessons, you learn to use stress as a trigger, or cue, for your horse to go into relaxation and endorphin releases as a coping mechanism and reward. This is to prevent the ladder of adrenaline, fear and anxiety. Once the horse has learned to use relaxation and endorphin release to cope with stress/fear, she creates puzzles for the horses to solve with common scary objects. Charlotte teaches the best way to help a horse go from fear to confidence, and you can play with a variety of tools to reinforce this pattern.

Charlotte Cannon sharing her knowledge and expertise during the clinic. Photo by Courtney Poole.

A week later, we took Nox to a local hunter/jumper barn, Brandywine Stables, so we could get access to a larger ring to teach him how to canter. Up to that point, we had not really been able to get a canter in him yet.  We also wanted to expose him to a busy lesson atmosphere and a busy show barn. He did not even need to be lunged, and he went right in the ring and went to work. He learned how to navigate around small lesson ponies, how to trot over poles, and get in his first good canter taking leads easily both directions.

Megan Thomas on Nox.  Nox’s first canter in a big ring!

We foresee a lot of field trips in our future due to the smaller ring at our current farm. Thankfully, we have a truck and trailer, along with lots of friends and places to go. We feel that off the farm trips is a great experience for these young OTTBs.  We have our first show tentatively planned for July. 

Currently, our plan is to do Show Hunters as our primary discipline and Jumpers as our secondary discipline at the Makeover. However I have a love for Dressage and would like to do dressage again at the Makeover in the Rolex Area. My teammate doesn’t share my love for dressage, so time will tell as Nox lets us know what disciplines he excels in. We are very excited to be getting Nox ready for the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover!

About Courtney

Courtney has been riding hunters and jumpers her entire life. Her first horse was an OTTB named Skye (Jockey Club name, Elsberry); she competed with Skye in the Child/Adult hunters but also did Pony Club, eventing, dressage, jumpers, and fox hunting. Courtney is an adult amateur that resides in Locust, North Carolina with her husband, two horses, and two dogs.