Journey to the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover 2020: Lindy Gutman’s April Update

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

If you’re getting on a horse and you put your foot in the stirrup, but don’t actually get your other leg over the saddle and go crashing to the gravel driveway, does that count as falling down or falling off?  Oh wait, wrong horse!

It’s harder to write about our Makeover preparations this time around.  The entire world has changed since I last blogged. We are all anxious and stunned.  It’s surreal. It feels that horses should be less important at this time. They’re not.  They are more important than ever. They are my one bit of normalcy in a tumultuous time. I’ve had arguments in my head:

Should I ride?  Should I stop riding? Should I ride and try to stay inside my comfort zone?  Horses are dangerous. I can still get hurt inside my comfort zone. Should I tell people that I’m riding?  Will people think I’m crazy if they find out that I’m riding? Will they think I’m selfish? 

And the other questions:  Will we be able to compete?  When will we be able to compete?  Will we even have a Makeover? What might the changes be to the Makeover if we have one?  What if the Makeover is cancelled? I’d be devastated. This is my one and done. I’m keeping this horse, and I’m an amateur.  Am I doing everything that I can to keep my husband and myself safe? To keep my friends safe? Does my husband think I’m crazier than he normally thinks?  Should I get some personalized swag?

It’s amazing what my brain can come up with.  

I am so fortunate.  I am able to see my horses.  Many around me and around the country can’t. I board at a barn that is not full care.  We’ve not closed to boarders. We can’t. There are a few that have chosen not to come, and we are helping them out where we can.  Maryland, where I live, is under a stay at home order with no end date in sight. On Monday afternoon, I thought this would be my last chance to see this view for a while.

Photo by Lindy Gutman.

To start, and most exciting, is that Talk Show Man officially gets to stay with us after the Makeover!  His breeder/owner and our veterinarian has a brewery on his farm. Our last visit to the brewery was just after having a Coggins drawn, and before all of this madness started.  Dr. H. told us that he’d had our name put on his Coggins as the owner to make it “official.”  I’m not a hugger, but I gave out a big old hug right then!

We’ve progressed and are more consistent.  He still bucks to express his excitement. I’m hoping that stops.  We do a lot of trail riding, and Riley seems to enjoy it. He’s brave and confident, and he has been the lead horse on most of our rides.  He likes it up there, but deep down I think he’s not quite gotten the game figured out yet. All of our trail horses just go slower than the others, so he ends up in the lead.  He’s (mostly) quietly jumping small logs and trotting around, and just last week we had our first canter up a hill out of the arena. He was perfect! The elephant in the room is my in my head.  If only I could get my brain to cooperate and allow me to relax, the progress would be so much faster! He’s getting so much stronger behind and is tracking straight down hills and not trying to compensate, so that’s good, too.

Just before everything shut down, we went to a little schooling jumper show and did the cross rail division. I was nervous. Scared of the warm up ring, and scared to do my warm up trip in the big ring, and scared of the in gate, and scared of pretty much everything else!  My brain was up to its tricks. 

The show went fairly well.  I don’t ride the jumpers and had a lot of difficulty remembering where I was going. Honestly, I did get lost in a class full of cross rails.  Twice. I was proud of both of us. Riley wasn’t so good at waiting his turn. Like many OTTBs, he likes to move his feet, but in the ring, he was awesome.  He didn’t look at anything, and I was so proud of both of us.

Photo by Lindy Gutman.

I’m feeling like our flatwork is getting much better.  We even tried a dressage saddle, just to see. There are so many things that I need to work on.  Ask him to reach, give when he does, use my body and not my hands, outside rein when he bulges, sit up, sit away, squeeze but don’t chase, hug him with my legs but don’t USE my leg, make sure I give him confidence when jumping and the list goes on!  I mean, how am I going to give him confidence when jumping, when I don’t have any! 

Here’s what happens when I don’t do it right. Photo by Lindy Gutman.

Here’s what happens when I do it right! Photo by Lindy Gutman.

He really looks to me for confidence.  Our trot to canter transition has improved dramatically. The canter back to trot is coming a little more slowly. His balance to the right at the canter is so much better than it was.  The hill work is helping. I’m figuring out how to get him to understand to pick up the correct lead and not just to canter. Fortunately, the lead changes have been pretty natural from the beginning.  The hard part is just not to mess up his balance. Yep, that’s another thing that’s hard, just don’t mess it up.

We also learned how to long line.  It was a first for both of us. It was fun to watch him try to figure it out and was easy to tell when I had it right because so did he!  It’s always nice to have more tools in your box, especially now. Funny thing, when he bulges doing this, my outside rein is to the rescue again.

Photo by Lindy Gutman.

I love this horse.  He’s sweet and kind on the ground, and amateur friendly when I’m on his back.  He has a great work ethic and just wants to know what you want him to do. He gets anxious and then lets me help him to relax.  

I’m lucky.

About Lindy

Lindy Gutman lives in Westminster, MD with her husband, Adam, two hounds, a mini pig, and three Off the Track Thoroughbreds.  She describes herself as an “amateur’s amateur” and has ridden, in some capacity, most of her 51 years. She balances a full time job in sales with foxhunting and showing hunters at the terrifying, towering height of 2’3”-2’6.”  The Thoroughbred Makeover is her loftiest goal to date. Talk Show Man is her first restart project.