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

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

Last week one of my good friends whom I ride with frequently told me that I needed two horses.  Good, I thought, because I have two horses.  Two OTTBs.  My number one guy has been Fullback, jack of all trades and master of most.  Show hunter, field hunter, trail horse and all round good guy…unless you want to lunge him.  My number two guy is Talk Show Man, headed to the 2020 Makeover, green to any off the track stuff, happy and willing, brave and learning fast…and less forgiving of mistakes.

But something wasn’t right with Fullback.  It hasn’t been since mid-winter, and I knew it.  He’s got funky hind end confirmation, we’d injected his hocks, changed farriers, treated for ulcers, had his saddle fit (again), done chiropractic work, PEMF, acupuncture.  He’d been seen twice by an osteopath and had his teeth done.  He’d been tested for Lyme and treated, though equivocal.  He’d been loaded on Adequan, Legend, and then I threw some Equioxx at him…and it worked; my horse was back.  The bad news: I knew it was pain-related.  

Enter the sports medicine vet.  Fullback has kissing spine and is headed to surgery on Tuesday, the day after this blog is due.  There’s a new(er) surgery for kissing spine, its ambulatory, with a shorter rehab time, and hopefully he does really, really well.  Like everything, it’s forced me to learn.  He had to be trained to go in the Pessoa trainer before surgery, since its part of his rehab.  Remember, lunging, he really doesn’t so much.  So last week, I trained him to wear the Pessoa.  It was the first time I’ve used one, as well.  

We didn’t lunge, though.  It’s much too exciting.  He only needs to be in it ten minutes a day, at a walk, so hand walk we will.  

Fullback, fat and happy. Photo by Lindy Gutman.

The short story is that I’m down to one horse. For a few months, anyway. Talk Show Man is my new number one.  Everything that I want to do on horseback, to try on horseback, is now his.  I won’t over face him, but I’ll take him every time. He’s learning to self-load, but he’s kinda stubborn in a way that Fullback has never been.  He’s really smart and remembers every mistake that I make.

Last week, during a lesson, I got him in the mouth over a jump.  The next time, he refused that VERY SAME JUMP.  No, I wasn’t afraid of it.  It never occurred to me that he’d stop there.  I was just riding…but he remembered.  I haven’t ridden one quite like this before.  In my next lesson, my trainer hopped on first.  He didn’t stop anywhere.  I got on and had a little trouble.  See, for me, now it builds.  I get inside of my head and can’t get out.  

Kudos to her, she made me fix it.  First time for me.  Usually, she will get on and bail me out.  Fix my trouble for me.  Not this time.  No doubt, the reward for me was that I was able to fix it, since the problem is me.  This was the first time in a very long time that I was able to work through something like that.  It’s huge.  The hugest!

See, I don’t jump if I don’t have a trainer present.  I’m afraid to create a problem that I can’t fix, especially with this horse, since he’s got a memory like an elephant.  He never forgets.  Heck, I don’t even ride in the ring without a trainer present.  

Then, I had my biggest moment ever…I’d told Katie, upon her arrival, that I wanted to jump “that jump at 3’” and pointed to one of the jumps.  Not a big deal, you might think, she’s training a horse for the Makeover…she’s a horse trainer (nope)… but I’ve never jumped 3’ before.  Never, IN MY LIFE!  Never in my whole 51 and 11/12ths years.  NEVER, EVER!

It hadn’t been my best lesson of late and when the jump went up, I said “Really, today?” She said “Yep, today,” and up it went.  And I DID IT!  I really did it!  I know it was 3’ because I measured it.  Yes, I’m one of those.  All of the standards are marked.  I just need to know.

Big jump! Photo by Lindy Gutman.
Still big! Photo by Lindy Gutman.

Video proof is necessary, naturally!  Click here!

Honestly, this week did not go nearly as well.  I had high expectations after last week and our big jump.  Do you know what?  He was a horse.  He was “ready” and while he behaved, we stuck to cross rails and a small grid.  We worked on relaxing and neck reining, in case we can make competitive trail work for us, too.  It bummed me out…a lot.  I want to have forward progression in training all of the time, but…he’s a horse.  A living being, too, just like me.  And he just wasn’t on it.  He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t perfect.  He’s been so good that I’ve gotten used to “perfect.”

We’ve been getting out a lot, to parks and to friends’ houses to ride.  Since we can’t horse show and my trainer’s barn is not open for trailer-ins, we’ve really made the best of it.  I try to get Talk Show Man out in large and small groups and with different horses.  We went to Codorus State Park on Sunday.  He was just spectacular.  He loves to trail ride and led most of the time, with more experienced horses behind him.  He doesn’t like to stand still or wait, though.  We’re working on that.

Handsome face. Photo by Lindy Gutman.

Trying to stand still for a background shot! Photo by Lindy Gutman.

We went walking with the hounds and saw some umbrellas…no problems at all!  He was a bit unsure when the hounds came towards him, but once he saw that he was following them, it was no problem for him.  Until he saw a set of racehorses training four hills over…now THAT was exciting!

Photo by Lindy Gutman.

Photo by Lindy Gutman.

Today, he learned to go in the Pessoa, which was new to me last week.

I’ve never learned so much, so fast.  I’ll be so disappointed if there are big changes to the Makeover this year, though I’ll understand.  This horse is such a gift, and so far, this experience is like no other for me.  This horse, he’s once in a lifetime.

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.