The journey to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 continues! Read on for our third update from Lindy Gutman.
Winston Churchill famously said “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” It’s my favorite of many quotes about the relationship between horses and humans, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m thriving in quarantine. Our barn is not full-care and so it remains open while others are closed. I’m not particularly social and don’t really need to go out, so this has been fine for me. I’m getting to ride a lot. I’m eating home a lot. I’m spending a lot of time with my husband. I’m spending a lot of time with our two hounds and house pig. Yes, pig. I feel for those who not only cannot ride and who cannot see their horses. That would be too much for me. I don’t know how others are doing it and I’m sorry that they have to stay away.
Orbit, the pig on the couch with her brother’s bone. Photo by Lindy Gutman.
I have been able to maintain a 2 lesson per week pace, and I need those lessons! Shoot, I’d take one every day if time, money, and availability allowed. I’m so determined to do as much of this “myself.” I’m not very good with my body in space, and I need someone to tell me to “look at the center of my circle” and to “align my spine with his” as I go along. I need to be told to “sit back” or “sit down” and “look up.” I need someone to tell me that I need “more” or “less” to get to a jump or to get my lead change. That’s my favorite. I’ve never had, or ridden, a horse with anything other than an accidental lead change. Bonus!
I’m so crooked. It’s funny. I notice it even more when I ride my more finished OTTB. He knows exactly what he’s doing and I find him going around with his head cocked to the outside when I ride him. Since my trainer doesn’t have that problem, I know it’s me and it’s SO FRUSTRATING! When I try to get myself straight on my own, it just DOESN’T WORK! I’m noticing more how I stand only on my right leg. I cross only my right leg when sitting. In the car, I only lean on my left elbow. Now I’m thinking about it all no matter what I do. What side do I sleep on the most? How does that affect my riding? I’ve become oh so sure that everything that I do when I’m not riding is affecting my riding. AHHHHH!
Our improvement has been leaps and bounds since I last wrote. I am having far less trouble with stopping at jumps than I was before. I’m not completely sure if it’s because I’ve gotten better or Riley is getting better at understanding the game and likes it. Honestly, I’m really comfortable at 2’3”. The problem is that Riley barely jumps at that height. I watch my videos and think Seriously?!? That FELT like a big jump. He just canters over them. Last week, I upped my game. When my trainer got there, all of the smaller jumps were bigger. The ones that had been the bigger ones, I left the same. She was impressed right away. I had to remind her that I hadn’t actually JUMPED them yet, it was still just wishful thinking! Then I did; I jumped them all!
So many problems! So many things to think about!
His canter has improved dramatically, and we are starting to work on the walk to canter transition. I have never been prouder of myself. Our final course last week was likely one of the best I’ve ever ridden on any horse.
Video by Lindy Gutman.
One thing that I am comfortable doing without the help of a trainer is teaching him to be a trail horse. I have some really patient and reliable friends to join me who are really rooting for me to succeed. Sure, they get bored just walking sometimes, but they do it nonetheless. I’m hopeful that I’ll return the favor for them someday.
Last Saturday, we were able to go off property for the first time in a long time. We went to the Susquehanna Rail trail for a walk. He was just perfect. Bikes and joggers, strollers and dogs, coming towards him from the front, coming after him from the back. He was quiet in the middle of the pack, at the front of the pack, and in the back of the pack. I was SO PROUD!
Video by Lindy Gutman.
The train was parked! Photo by Lindy Gutman.
Social distancing. Photo by Lindy Gutman.
I’ve said to my husband that taking our deaf Foxhound puppy and turning him in to an acceptable member of our household has been the greatest undertaking of my life. We aren’t the best animal disciplinarians and this dog was so hard. Think high energy and no hearing at all…ever. I’ve never raised kids. This journey, so far, has been even more rewarding.
Nelson resting…finally. Photo by Lindy Gutman.
The extra cool in this for me that that I’ve had a few friends ask me more about this process. One has leased an OTTB, in hopes of getting back in to showing, inspired because I’m having so much fun. Another texted to learn more about it while considering taking a slow OTTB and wondering what it might take to get her going.
It was the inspiration of a friend last year at the Makeover that made me want to do this. Funny that it was a new friend. A friend that I made because of friends doing the Makeover. A friend of a friend. She’s an amateur, like me. She’s not the bravest, like me. She went in to the dressage ring as the second half of a team and KILLED it. She rode her absolute best at her biggest ever show. It make me think that I could do this, too.
This is really the big deal about all of this. Finding places for all of these OTTBs and helping amateurs to understand that with the right help, they, too, can do this. Making new friends that have common interests. I’m obsessed. And I love this horse.
I got involved sort of by accident. Now, I want all of my responsible horse friends to do it and to see that if I can, they can, too.
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.