RNC the OTTB: A First Time for Everything

Since their last update, Emily and Rency have conquered their first show and helped educate young kids on the versatility of the OTTB. But, they also have run into a few hiccups along the way (Read: Rency remembered he was a racehorse and has a need for speed!). Find out how the duo are working their way towards the next step in their retraining process below. 

After Rency’s birthday, we conquered a huge milestone by making our debut in the show arena! It was just a small schooling show at our barn, but it ended up being the perfect way to expose him to the atmosphere. That morning, Rency entered his first schooling arena. I won’t lie, I was a little worried about how he would react to all the craziness. Even for seasoned riders, the schooling arena can be a challenge. He was a bit distracted but overall manageable. More than anything, I think he just wanted to meet the other horses.

We showed in the Green Hunters (2ft) which began right after schooling closed, so I was able to use the focus I had built doing our schooling to keep him on track. Our warm-up and first trip went beautifully! He was wonderful, a bit fast here and there, but I didn’t mind.

Photo by Ivy Maron

Our second trip was a different story. I lost my stirrup over one of the inside lines, and my instinct was to squeeze to compensate. Poor Rency felt the added pressure and took off like a bat out of you-know-where, giving everyone in the audience a nice healthy heart attack in the process. Despite his reaction, the thing that made me the most proud was that Ren wasn’t uncontrollable at all. In fact, he came right back to me and finished the course. Not only that, but he was able to complete and place second in a flat class after the whole ordeal. It was a bit much, sure, but I didn’t see it as anything more than a little hiccup.

Overall, I’m incredibly proud of how Ren performed for his first time in that situation. It was a lot to ask, and he was more than game. I’m looking forward to our next show in a couple of weeks, but we have a lot to work on before then. Ren seems to have turned his little mid-course gallop into a habit that I can’t seem to shake, in addition to his newfound hobby of bucking. I’m thinking that these things may both be caused by a mixture of anxiety and excitement, so I’m making a few changes to keep him calm. Ren is getting lots of time outside to burn energy, we are keeping our schooling as stress-free as possible, and I am changing up his feed to eliminate the possibility of tummy-troubles causing discomfort.

Photo by Ivy Maron

Another thing I’m hoping will improve his anxiety/energy levels is expending his extra energy during our schooling sessions. I’m not interested in giving him busy work just for the sake of tiring him out, but I am asking more challenging questions that require him to work harder. Introducing more technical dressage does the trick, but he tends to get frustrated easily. I try not to pick fights with him, but when his attitude picks up, I have to make some tough decisions. He seems to be getting more hard-headed with time, almost like he is getting a bit too confident when it comes to working.

The biggest challenge is that even though Rency has endless energy, his poor owner certainly does not. So when he has an issue with something, he can sit there all day and demand that he get his way; meanwhile, I tire out quickly. I plan on making progress with this by going back to our groundwork to establish a bit more respect where he seems to be lacking it. I’ll definitely be writing on that very soon since I’m a huge advocate for fixing attitude problems with groundwork and since we had a lot of success with it during the early stages of our training.

Ren also participated in a training/riding demonstration for 120+ kids last week and was a perfect gentleman! He was more than happy to let the kids pet him and check him out. Even when the kids picked up his feet to touch his shoes, pulled on his hair and poked around his face and body, he remained calm and collected. I was so proud to tell all the parents/teachers his story and to be able to dispel some of the myths they believed about racehorses. He truly couldn’t have been a better ambassador for the OTTB.

Photo by Ivy Maron

The experience really reminded me of the significance of the Retired Racehorse Project, and how important it is to show everyone just how special these horses be. Rency did something that I would never have expected him to be capable of a few months ago, I’m looking forward to allowing him to represent himself and his breed again very soon.

Speaking of the RRP, I’m so excited to discuss some of the recent decisions I’ve made about the Makeover itself! If everything goes smoothly over the next few months, Ren will be competing in Eventing and Show Jumping!  He is a very brave horse over fences, so I think he’ll love cross-country, and since we already train him with an emphasis on dressage I know that he’ll be ready to conquer a test in Kentucky. I’m really confident about this decision, and I can’t wait to meet and get advice from fellow Eventers along the way!