Riches to Ribbons: Artie Meets the Show Ring

Amanda’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover mount Artie has been thriving in his new training program! So much so that Amanda decided to take him to his first official show outing. Find out how it went in this week’s RRP TB Makeover blog, and be sure to search Riches to Ribbons on JN to read all of Amanda and Artie’s progress so far.

You may be curious as to how I went from writing about Artie’s first few rides to writing about his first horse show. While I may live a little on the edge, there is sound logic to my methods.

Soon after our first few rides and hacks out, I loaded Artie up for a field trip to a fellow Makeover trainer’s farm. It was a low key first outing, which is always my goal. He flatted and jumped around in the ring with a couple of other horses and then went into a stall to hang out while I rode a few other horses. In keeping with the ongoing theme in life and these blogs, Artie is magical. Somehow, he was better off property than at home. #itsartie

That same week, Artie had his second field trip to a venue that used to host hunter shows, so it has a big ring, with a judge’s booth, announcers stand and a nice set of jumps. We went with some other friends, so this was more activity than Artie had seen since retiring from race life. He politely hung out while I taught my student, and then Artie and I went to work. He flatted quietly, and I decided we’d just pop over a few of the smallest jumps.

Up until this point we hadn’t done any courses, and we certainly hadn’t seen jumps complete with gates and flower boxes. I found the smallest jump in the ring and to no one’s surprise, Artie trotted over it as casually as he does at home. In all honesty, I was a bit surprised because I never stumble upon horses who are this nonchalant in their retraining. We trotted a few other jumps and then started trotting in and cantering out of lines. It was going so well, I got cocky and just started cantering around the course, but since Artie has a habit of imitating a unicorn, instead of looking like a rogue moose hopped up on Mountain Dew, it was a breathtaking course complete with clean changes.

The unicorn in question. Photo by Crystal Sorrenti (photographer to the stars, er. me)

It was starting to sink in just how smart my guy was, so I decided to enter a cross derby at the end of March. I’ve done plenty of hunter derbies but the idea of a cross derby was new to me, so I had to do some research. Loch Moy, in Maryland, moves their cross country jumps into their three all-weather rings during the winter, and thus the cross derby was born.

You have a course of 16-18 jumps that takes you through all three rings and over cross-country jumps as well as stadium-style jumps. To be on the safest of sides, I took Artie to school the Friday before the competition to see how he’d feel about cross-country jumps. Despite schooling in a snowstorm, you can hopefully imagine by now, that Artie was a gentleman. He was distracted by all of the horses across the rings, but barely noticed what he was jumping over. In fact, because he was distracted, we actually schooled the beginner novice fences so he’d have to at least look where he was going.

Photo by Beth Takacs

Two days later Artie loaded up with two of my client’s horses as we made our way back to Loch Moy for his very first horse show. I was surprised just how many people were there and for one minute was concerned that I inadvertently picked too big of an atmosphere for Artie’s first time out. At that point, there was nothing to do but unload and see how he’d handle it all.

There was a short schooling period before each division started. I wasn’t concerned about the jumps but wanted to get him in the ring so he could see all the hustle and bustle. Once again, I was surprised at what a professional he was. Even the best of horses have a difficult time in schooling rings. This schooling was no different and perhaps a little worse. There were a few people very in control of their lives, but as a whole, it appeared as if people had blindfolded themselves and then aimed their horse at a cross country jump for the very first time.

I was happy to 1. To have my vest on and 2. To be riding a unicorn. We stayed in the ring long enough to not get run over but hop over a few jumps. I walked out of the warm-up feeling really confident in how our course would go. For once, I was NOT surprised by Artie, because he was as spectacular as I anticipated. After the most pleasant and fun lope I’ve taken across 16 jumps, I walked out of the ring with the biggest smile on my face. He was a winner in my book, but he also was the actual winner of his Elementary division. Few times have I been that happy about a $.50 ribbon.

Our $.50 ribbon. Photo by Beth Takacs