My journey with The Retired Racehorse Project started at a huge turning point in my professional career and life. From the very beginning, I wanted to participate in the Makeover, but my current job made it challenging to swing a second horse. All of the stars felt as if they were lining up for me to compete in the 2016 Makeover at what seemed to be the worst timing.

My now husband had just come back from a deployment, and we were moving to a new state where I had accepted a job building a business from the ground up. While we were only moving an hour and a half from my previous job, I’d be leaving behind the professional support system I’d created, as well as almost all of the wonderful clientele I’d built up over the years.

My Irish Dream and Cover Shoot, 2016 grad. Photo by Amanda Cousins

So early that spring I packed up my life, dogs, 2016 Makeover entry and my other mare. I was starting over with three clients that followed me from Maryland, my Irish Sporthorse and four OTTBs that helped create Ashland Equestrian. I attended the 2016 Makeover with a good friend and fellow trainer, but I still hadn’t made much of a tribe at my new home in Virginia. The RRP Thoroughbred Makeover gifted me with my first professional friend following the Makeover that year. Jean French had contacted me about lessons for herself and to see if I had interest in working with and selling her Makeover graduate for her. Jean and I proceeded to work together as I got her horse, Anna O, going over fences. Jean taught me all of the ins and outs of how groundwork and natural horsemanship could be used to enhance the restarting process. We attended the 2017 Makeover together as friends and fellow Virginia trainers.

Following the 2017 Makeover, I was asked to participate in the Virginia Makeover Rematch with my now graduate, Aunt Glee. My tribe grew bigger following that weekend. It opened the door to making a friend, as well as purchasing her incredible ’17 graduate, Red Tassel, for my riding program (and I steal him for myself sometimes). Fellow Virginia Makeover trainers, Tom and Clare Mansmann, and I became very close. Our collective love for the OTTB, RRP and correct classical instruction has created a new fire inside of me, as well as opening doors to professional growth.

Tom, Amanda and Clare. Photo by Clare Mansmann

Our world tells us that we should be able to make it on our own, and if we can’t, we’re weak. Our sport tells us that this is not a team sport and it’s every man for himself. The RRP community has SHOWN me that we are all a team and we’re only alone if we choose to be. This community has shown me that I’m better when I can bounce my ideas off of others and learn from others. This community has shown me that asking for help does not make me weak. This community has shown me that while it is about a horse show, it is REALLY about being the best examples, the best riders, and the best trainers we can be for the OTTB. If we do that, the OTTB stands more than a fighting chance to make one heck of a comeback in the show world. However, to do that, we can not and should not think it’ll happen alone.

Photo by Beth Takacs