The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 has begun! Read on for our first update from Lindy Gutman.
I never thought that I could ride an Off the Track Thoroughbred. A lifelong horse racing enthusiast and rider, I am a timid adult amateur. I’d been casually riding a Quarter Horse for years, with a dream of heading back to the hunter ring and being able to reliably jump 2’6.”
Like so many things, there’s a story behind this. It was March 2015. I was in Aiken, SC with some friends to play around in the warmer weather. My husband had joined me so I didn’t have to drive back alone, and we decided to go to the Aiken Trials.
There, some betting commenced, and we were the big winners. I think we won $63, or something like that. Post-race and headed back to our tailgate, he spotted the jockey of the winning race and asked to take a picture with her. That’s me, second from left in the red jacket.
My story should have ended there. A few weeks later, I got a friend request from someone that was unfamiliar to me. Our jockey. She’d been looking over her competition and admiring a big grey horse that was entered in the 2015 makeover. On his page, she spotted herself at the Trials.
As she prepared her own horse for the 2015 Makeover, she found her way to Maryland to train. She brought her 2015 Makeover hopeful, Fullback. Fullback wasn’t for sale.
The group of us grew close and at the barn Christmas party that year, I said to her, “The only way I’d consider an OTTB would be if you’d sell me Fullback.” She said, “To you, I’d consider it.” I rode him for the first time the next day.
Living near Baltimore, Maryland, I’ve been to every Makeover, even the old ones held on the track at Pimlico. I’d always viewed participating in the Makeover as a pipe dream. It wasn’t something that I was competent enough to do. Until it was.
I started with my story, because it’s vital to my journey. I’m an amateur. I work full time. I’m not brave. Heck, I’m not even really that good. But I try hard. I try very hard. I’m dedicated, and I want to be better. And I want everyone to ride a Thoroughbred.
My Makeover story started this past summer. Our veterinarian had just retired the best horse he’d ever bred. During an appointment for Fullback, I asked what Talk Show Man was up to, and then I asked if I could retrain him for the makeover. I figured go big or go home. His retirement was not yet public; he’d bowed while resting on the farm in preparation to go back to the track for one more Maryland Million, his sixth. He was in the news here. I made sure Dr. H. knew that he could probably find a better trainer, someone more “qualified.” He wanted to think about it and to learn more about the makeover. Then nothing. More nothing.
At the end of October, I got a text from Dr. H: “…Let’s talk soon about your plans…” I was surprised, excited and a little nervous.
My husband and I picked Talk Show Man up on November 25th and brought him the four miles down the road to the barn where we board. He was a bit wild on the trailer, and when he was unloaded he was sweaty and nervous. I questioned my sanity. Then he met the electric fence for the first time and I face planted. I was sure I’d lost my mind. I’d fallen before I ever got on.
Since then, it’s been mostly uphill. I am trying to do as much myself as I can. I take a lot of lessons, sometimes three a week. We take some of our lessons at home, and some are field trips. We trail ride. I am working with two trainers, and I’ve been lucky that I am learning so much from both of them. One is a specialist in my hopeful discipline, show hunters, and the other is an OTTB expert. They both have great crossover skills into the other area of expertise.
I’ve already learned a lot and become a better rider. I am trying hard to sit up and ride, breathe, think hard about what I am trying to do, and let go of the nerves. I’ve learned that Talk Show Man has a mammoth buck when he gets excited and that he settles right back down if I do. I’ve also learned that he has a perfect automatic lead change if I sit still and stay out of his way. I’ve learned that he loves to hack out and will quietly do so alone, but that if I go with a buddy and his buddy acts up, so does he. He doesn’t like to be in the barn alone…unless he’s eating. He eats a lot. He loves little kids, as long as they are not making a lot of noise.
He’s very sweet and loves people. He likes to be groomed. He’s also handsome. Here’s our first ride.
I’ve never blogged before. I’m not funny, so I’m nervous about this, too. One more thing for me to worry about, and I don’t need more things to worry about. This is my journey. I’m all in.
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.