The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 continues! Read on for our fourth update from Lindy Gutman.
Fourteen years ago this month, I made a decision that would change my horse life trajectory. I moved my then horse, Buddy, to a farm where there was no “program,” no trainer in charge. It’s a private farm, and though a large boarding facility at the time, it allowed me to start making all of the decisions for my horse on my own. I was able to choose my vet and farrier, schedule times for them to come, and meet them at MY convenience rather than the farm’s convenience. I knew what was really happening, in real time. I chose to have my first OTTB live outside 24/7. I bought a second horse and then my first truck and trailer. This is when I really started to learn.
I’d been a barn rat as a kid and had been well started with and around horses. I never had a pony, but I was dropped off, frequently, at my trainer’s house and just did whatever she did all day. We mucked, we groomed, we horse showed (well, not me, but I watched and helped), we saw the vet and farrier. We did all the things. I felt confident in my ability to make decisions if I had the right people around me to ask, if I had questions.
That’s where Kim came in. She owned and ran the farm that I’d chosen. She was a lifelong horse person with an outside job on the side. She didn’t teach lessons, she took them. She was honest, flexible, open, friendly and not afraid to disagree. If I needed a shoe pulled in an emergency, she could do that. If you needed something you never thought you’d need, she had it and was happy to loan it to you. She has a great family, nice husband, outstanding kids, cool parents. As time passed, we became good friends.
I started here, because Kim passed away last week. It’s hard, as I think back, to say exactly what she taught me, because it happened by the day, by the month, over time. Knowing her allowed me to teach myself. She’d tell me if something sounded great, or crazy. What I do know for sure, is that I would not be here without her. She’d planned to come to the Makeover. While I know she’ll be there watching, I’ll still miss her physical presence at the Makeover, day by day, and over time. That’s Kim on the left.
Kim, pictured at the far left. Photo by Lindy Gutman.
My mission for a while now has been to show that anyone can ride an OTTB. I’d been saying for years, since I purchased Fullback in early 2016, that I had something to say. I just didn’t have the forum or the contacts to share my thoughts. Who was going to listen to me? I was nobody; I hadn’t done anything. And then I got this horse. I had no way to know how special he truly is, or where he could take me, and now I know. He’s unbelievable. He may not be the best at anything, but he’s sure willing to do everything. The Makeover journey is unlike anything I’ve ever done. I’ll be honest, the attention is sort of fun. I’m not used to it. And people are listening. They are reading my blogs. They are sharing my videos. They are commenting on my posts. While I want to shout, I’m still only whispering, but there are people out there that are hearing me.
In the past month, we’ve done some fun stuff that’s out of the box. We went to a mountain trail course and tried water boxes and teeter totters, skinny bridges and balance beams. We went out with the hounds again and got a really good school in with them. We’ve been to lessons on and off property and jumped around off property at a mock horse show.
Part of the mountain trail course. Photo by Lindy Gutman.
Navigating a teeter totter. Video by Lindy Gutman.
The highlight, so far, was the Rick Pelicano bombproofing clinic. He’s the guy who wrote the book Bombproofing Your Horse. I had no idea what to expect, other than that we were going to be challenged. The clinic started with the easy stuff. We walked by blowing balloons and over a tarp. We walked through trash and boxes.
Then the big guns came out, both literally and figuratively. We walked through a row of lit flares. For those of you that don’t know, flares have smoke AND make a lot of noise! Next up, smoke bombs. Yep, they hit the ground, and smoke pours out. They played a DVD that had every noise that you can think of in the background. This was followed by gunshots. I can honestly say that Riley did not balk at anything.
All sorts of action at the bombproofing clinic! Photos by Lindy Gutman.
Then came soccer! Who would’ve know that my horse is the next Pele! As soon as he understood the question, he started to barrel in to that ball with his chest, with his shoulder. He just LOVED it! That’s us, to the left of the ball…the horse with the white blaze and rider in a pink shirt and black breeches.
Playing soccer! Video by Lindy Gutman.
It’s not all fun and games, even though I like to show only the good stuff. Talk Show Man is a bit of a bully. It’s probably, in part, why he was a good racehorse, and I’m sure it’s why he was good at soccer! In addition to the clinics and two riding lessons per week, we take a ground work lesson once a week. Yes, that’s three lessons a week…with three different trainers. He knows perfectly well how to load on to a trailer, and sometimes he goes right on. I do many things myself, so being able to load alone is vital to me. Sometimes I can’t. He walks in my space and, unfortunately, on my feet sometimes.
Ouch! Photo by Lindy Gutman.
It causes me a lot of anxiety, which doesn’t help either. I swear, the stuff on the ground is so hard to learn and it’s so frustrating! So, you take the good with the bad and work on the pieces that need the most work.
We forge along. My riding has improved greatly, and I’m determined to do my best on my biggest ever stage, the Makeover in October. I’m sad that my friend, Kim, won’t be there and even sadder that she won’t be at the barn when I go this afternoon.
Riley and I, we’ll make her proud.
In memoriam Kim Cornwell 12/3/60 – 6/21/20. You’ll be missed.
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.