Kaitlin Hartford
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Kaitlin Hartford


About Kaitlin Hartford

Hi, I am Kaitlin and I am a 16 year old event ride based out of Callahan, FL. I have been riding since I was 2 years old and switched to eventing when I was 11. I have been eventing ever since and I currently have three show horses. EZ a 1997 ISH gelding, Ask My Accountant, a 2007 OTTB gelding, and Excalibur a 2010 Hano/TB gelding.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 3
Highest Level Competed Training
Farm Name KH Eventing
Trainer Hilda Donahue

Latest Articles Written

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 10: Looking Back

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

My journey to the 2016 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover has been much like building a string of pearls. A pearl can’t exist without discomfort and irritation.

My journey began in November of last year when I acquired three OTTBS. Gaston and I were not a fit, Sven was a sale horse, and Evie was drop-dead gorgeous! She was definitely my dream horse. In a short time, she went from head straight up in the air to showing upper-level potential and I knew she was going to be an amazing eventer.

Unfortunately, God had another plan. On Jan. 29 everything changed. We had to rush Evie to the UF vet school. Later that night I lost her to the most horrible colic I had ever seen. My heart was broken. I refused to ride or even touch Sven. I didn’t think I was going to compete in the Makeover, let alone fall in love again.

Sven (JC Family Foundation) has been life changing for me. He has taught me about the ups and the downs of working with a green horse. From the get-go, he would attempt anything we asked of him. Ditches? No problem! Banks? No problem! Water? You get the idea.

Until … enter … “The Pink Sparkly Hearts.” We found the first thing he was scared of. It ended in a cracked jaw. Mine of course — don’t worry, he was fine! Sven decided to tell me “Ladies first!” as I went through the jump and he didn’t. Our confidence was a bit shaken as we headed to our second show together. We had no reason to worry as we took both champion and reserve at The Run for the Ribbons Thoroughbred show, a show series in Ocala designed for OTTBs.

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Other horses, sports, school, and family have made it difficult to take field trips. Other than one intense weekend with my trainer, Hilda Donahue, there never seems to be enough time to take a two-hour trip to school cross country. Therefore, we haven’t yet gotten to where I pictured we would be at this point. There have definitely been discomforts, numerous falls, sore body parts, and popped air vests as the green horse learns the ropes of one of the toughest sports in the equestrian world.

In learning how to train him, I have had to learn his strengths and weaknesses, as well as my own. I have learned how important it is to ride each horse as an individual, not just how I ride one horse because all horses require a different ride.

In preparing for the Makeover, I have learned the horse choose what they love, not you. Your plans will change. If you truly love your horse, you listen to them about what they like and dislike. I have fallen in love with this horse and what the Makeover means because it shows I can be a “nobody” and still change a horse’s life. The Makeover has shown me what I want to do and what I am called for. I’m only 16, but when I grow up I will work with and train different OTTBs through the various levels of eventing.

At birth, my grandmother started a pearl necklace for me. Each year she adds new pearls. Those pearls symbolize what I’ve accomplished and have been through each year. As an adult, I will have a gorgeous string of pearls to remind me of my life’s journey. The pearl necklace Sven and I are creating doesn’t end with me at the Makeover, but rather will continue on throughout life.




Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 9: Ready!

Starting slow

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

About a month and a half ago I started looking for someone to take Sven to who could help me with cross country and improve our dressage. I decided to take a lesson with fellow RRP competitor Tik Maynard, who is amazing with OTTBs.

We first went for a lesson at the beginning of September. At this point Sven was very inconsistent in his flatwork and we were having issues with our cross country and new jumps, but stadium jumping-wise we were great. In our first lesson Tik and I started working on his consistency and my reaction time to reward Sven when he would stretch down.

Beginning of it all

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

This took a lot of work and in the middle of the lesson we started jumping and working a bit on his adjustability and making sure we got good distances. Tik helped me understand that there are three different ways we can approach a fence. You can approach it straight on, cutting to the inside, or drifting out a little bit. It takes your eye to make sure that you are giving a horse, especially a green horse, a good distance. These distances give them the confidence you need over fences.

With Ease

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

I learned so much from one lesson with Tik — we were definitely going back to him for another.

The next lesson my photographer/groom/amazing mother forgot to take pictures but we worked on a lot more on the adjustability. Tik told me that he looked 100 times better than the last time.

We built a mini sharks tooth and we brought it to Tik. Sven has been scared of the sharks tooth and I have eaten dirt several times due to that stupid thing!! However Tik helped me conquer it by helping me teach a defensive riding position that helps me work with Sven over these fences. I also got to watch Tik work with his RRP horse, Johnny Football, at liberty and it was one of the coolest things ever!!

Tik and Johnny Football

Tik and Johnny Football. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

So continuing on from the amazing lessons we had with Tik, we went to the next POP show in Ocala. Our dressage was one of the most relaxed tests we havr ridden. We had great moments of consistency in the test! Our show jumping round was double clear!!

We went out on cross country with the plan being that if we are going well up to the sharks tooth that we would try to approach it. Well we cantered well over all the other fences and we cleared the sharks tooth the first time! We finally ribboned in an event placing fifth! We would have been second if we hadn’t had a refusal!!

I drove him down by myself two weeks ago for a dressage lesson and Tik helped soooo much with his consistency again and we are improving amazingly! We were consistent in our trot and canter throughout the whole thing and we are finally to the point where we are consistently on the bit.

In our final lesson before we leave for Kentucky we jumped around in an open field and aside from one ugly distance on my part he was absolutely amazing. I am starting to feel ready for Kentucky!

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 8 : Found It!

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Hartford. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Hartford.

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

It has been a while since I have blogged — more than a month. It is safe to say I am a bad blogger! However since it’s been a while I have a ton to talk about! But first we have to go back to where we left off.

Which was … show planning. The plan ended up being slightly altered but I will get to that in a minute.

Somehow I always manage to get the first ride of the day. We got to do dressage in the covered ring at this show, which was good for Sven because he has to learn how to deal with all sorts of stuff.

My dressage wasn’t the best due to the fact that I was having a bit of trouble keeping my reins short because my ribs were bothering me. A lot of the comments were “needs more collection.” Honestly I won’t complain though because he had a super relaxed test!


Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Hartford.

Let’s note the fact that I am jumping in a dressage bridle. Anyway so going into the show jumping round he stopped at the third fence because of the flowers but we fixed that quickly. We headed out to the cross country course and we knew we were going to jump the first five fences and blow off the shark’s tooth.

But I also decided that if he was going well we would jump other stuff. He was going great and I was going to “complete” the course while missing a few fences. We jumped around amazingly with that and people were complimenting me on what a nice horse I have!


Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Hartford.

So everyone wanted to know how the “Has Anyone Seen My Bridle?” story finishes. On the way home from the show I got a call: They found my reins!! When I picked them up the next week they were still usable.

On the next blog post we are going to cover how we have been working with a new trainer as well as the latest show. Sorry about the short blog; the next one will be longer, I promise!

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 7: Has Anyone Seen My Bridle?

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

Can I please prefix this blog by saying has anyone seen a loose ring French link snaffle with bright green reins and torn check straps at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala on the back 40. If so that would be mine.

Today was definitely a tad bit crazy! I woke up and life was going fine. We were heading down to the Florida Horse Park to school cross country and then show tomorrow. A show blog will be up tomorrow, but right now this blog needs to be announced, mainly because I need my reins!

Anyway we got to the Florida Horse Park and I signed in and one of my friends, Emily, is actually the organizer. Shout out to the best organizer ever! We headed out onto the cross country course after I had basically debated putting my air vest on because something told me I shouldn’t but I did anyway (major part to my blog). We headed out and had a great warm up and popped over the first few jumps great. A bit hesitant, but he always tends to be when we are going cross country for the first time in a while.

Well, after jumping the first five fences a few times each –did I mention this show is an awesome show where you are able to school the day before over all the jumps you show on?? They are just that cool! — we are coming up to #6, a shark’s tooth. We had previous issues at this same show but I was throwing my heart and soul over the fence and he took his feet off the ground so I started going with him and then all the sudden I was on the ground and my air vest had exploded and Sven was off to the races. And I see why he placed in a major stakes race…

He sadly broke my favorite green reins and my bridle as he was galloping but he is sound. So we trekked back to the trailer and put a new bridle on deciding to stop with the jump and move on to confidence building.  So we jumped the next few jumps amazingly!

So we approached the next thing and I was prepared for anything and this was a simple mulch box. With water behind it about 10 strides out. He stopped. And stopped. So we finally went over it and we went into the water. Went to go back over it and put the two together and I fell again. So we went over confidence building and called it a day so I didn’t push him further then he needed to be. Just an FYI I am currently blogging and searching for my reins.

After taking care of him and putting him away we went to get some tape to tape my ribs up, because I really think my air vest saved me from writing this blog in the ER. Anyway I saw this guy on the side of the road who made my day. So I did what any normal person would do. I pulled off and I went to take a picture  with him. The words on this sign sum up my life.

This guy is amazing

This guy is amazing. 

So after meeting him we went to get dinner and I was laughing at first because I informed mom “it smells like bacon, bacon is for winners” because I was messing with mom and she doesn’t like bacon. Then I said, oh wait, I’m not a winner and acted completely disappointed, joking — sort of. We had dinner and ice cream and stopped at the gas station for ice. While holding the ice I put it on my ribs because they were hurting. The guy informed me after I flung the ice onto the counter (somewhat gently) and mom was laughing at me that we needed strong prayers ASAP. So here I sit on one of the jumps I fell off at wondering what was so scary and thinking about what I can change tomorrow. I made the decision to not run the full cross country course and just the first few jumps to give a good experience and then retire.

Tik Maynard said it best: “We have to keep reminding ourselves to go fast, we’ve got to go slow.” My next blog will be out tomorrow but thanks for tuning into the crazy day!

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 6: 100 Days Out

Some flat work Some flat work

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

Welllll I am finally back! After not blogging for quite a while, because I got so busy and I kind of forgot, here I am! Time for an update on Mr. Sven!

Some flat work

Some flatwork. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Sven and I have been working on a lot of flatwork and stretching down. He has been doing amazing with that and is slowly coming through his back. I have started to work on the freestyle portion of things to really prep for the Makeover, which is only about 100 days away. We will be showing in two weeks at Florida Horse Park and I am hoping to see a much improved dressage test and double-clear both phases!

As we prep for the Makeover I haven’t focused on the Makeover itself. I have more focused now on the fact that I am training Sven for the future. I think he has the talent to make it to the upper levels, but because he is my horse it is up to me to teach him. He is getting a lot braver at home! I have the best dad ever and he made me some new cross country and stadium jumps! I now have a roll top, a coop, and a box!


Soaring over a jump. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

He is becoming such a nice horse and I am so proud of him.

While I was gone this past week on vacation he got a huge cut on his leg so he is getting the week off of real work, so that he can heal properly and get back to work!! So long for now and I promise to update more often!

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 5: Sven Takes a Bow

Kaitlin Hartford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

This past week has been a hectic one, just because it’s my life. There is really no reason as to why life was busy. Just that in general that is life!

The first thing we should talk about is toughing out the tornadoes. OK so maybe I didn’t see a tornado at my place, but I saw a photo my friend took and that thing was massive! Sven couldn’t care less about the storms — I actually think he really likes the rain.

Just in case, on Monday the horses were wearing halters with contact info taped on them on the worst-case-scenario off chance that if they got loose people would know who they were. Storm selfies flooded snapchat, including my horses. But who can resist a cute Sven nose? Until someone asks why you blindfolded your horse…

Exhibit A

Exhibit A. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

On Tuesday I had to go to the doctor to get a cortisone injection put in my shoulder for a injury unrelated to horses. That being said my shoulder was sooooo super sore for the next two days.

On Tuesday no one got ridden, but because I had just entered my other horse’s first prelim event this weekend and RRP countdown is on, they needed to get some exercise. Because my shoulder wasn’t 100% I decided to let my 12 year old brother get on Sven. How amazing is it  that a horse that has been under saddle for five months is able to cart around an intermediate rider?

Sven and Zachary

Sven and Zachary. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Though, just a warning, he doesn’t know how to use a figure 8 nose band. I finished tacking up my horse and all of the sudden I hear “Um, a little help….” I turn around to see this


Oops! Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Then Sven decided he was just going to lay down and eat grass. With the saddle on. He just got lazy.

I started working on Sven’s freestyle routine for the makeover as well. It is a bit crazy but I think that it is going to be EPIC!!! We have been learning how to bow on command. It’s starting to get easier, and he likes to practice on his own which is pretty funny.


Bowing! Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

This was after learning to bow only a couple times: my mom snapped this picture and he did absolutely amazing! He is really starting to get the hang of it. I have a few other tricks I want to teach him, but in the meantime does anyone have suggestions? I would love to hear ideas! We also conquered the big, huge, scary, blue tarp by standing on it.


Yay Sven! Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

One other greatest thing to announce because they are awesome! Excited to announce my partnership with C4 belts again this year. If you look at any picture, I will probably have one on and I swear by these belts!

Sven's first skinny bareback and in a halter.

Sven’s first skinny bareback and in a halter. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Hartford.

Sven will probably just go to a farm about 15 minutes away at some point this week to school and get some pictures!!! Stay tuned.



Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 5: Rocking Horse Schooling Show

Kaitlin Harford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. 

We came back from the Rocking Horse schooling show no worse for the wear, with several new lessons learned. Here’s a recap of the show!

Braiding Sven. Photo by Jessie Hartford

Braiding Sven. Photo by Jessie Hartford

We started by arriving at Rocking Horse super early, but really we were late. We meant to get there to cross country school, but one thing led to another and we got there 10 minutes before schooling closed. So I say we were early because we did mange to get there before 9 o’clock at night. (That was the story at this event, so I consider myself early.)

Both boys got schooled, bathed, and braided. Well, I at least I attempted to braid Sven. It is much harder with a thicker mane. So we just pulled the braids out and I will try again another day. I met another RRP competitor, Suzanne Norris, and we talked all about the RRP and met one other’s horses.

Sven Dressage. Photo by Jessie Hartford

Sven in the dressage. Photo by Jessie Hartford.

Let’s just say I forgot how to ride dressage Saturday morning and these moments pictured were few and far in between. I tried to ride front to back instead of back to front, taking his engine away, but I learned a very valuable lesson there.

This is kind of a better representation of our test.

Yikes! Photo by Jessie Hartford

Yikes! Photo by Jessie Hartford

We untacked and sat around the stall for a little bit, eating breakfast and relaxing before the next two phases. Now this is the cutest picture in the world.

EZ, my older horse and Sven, the baby pony. Photo by Jessie Hartford.

EZ, my older horse and Sven, the baby pony. EZ, I think, was giving Sven show jumping advice! Photo by Jessie Hartford.

On the way to show jumping we learned that umbrellas are super scary so guess what we get to meet this summer! In warmup I fixed the whole front to back thing and it was one of the best rides I have ever had on him — we put in our first clear round show jump round! I was so proud of him and of myself, too.

Show JUmping. Photo By Jessie Hartford

Photo By Jessie Hartford.

The look on your face when you go double clear Photo by Jessie Hartford

The look on your face when you go double clear. Photo by Jessie Hartford

Next stop, cross country. On the way there he was amped up and ready to go! We went through warmup over jumping everything by a mile.

Out of the startbox got quite squirrely to the first jump, a little tiny log. We came around to a roll top — mind you he has jumped them before — and he was petrified. We circled back and realized it was the people behind the jump making him nervous. But he trusted me and went over it, clearing it by about three feet.

We kept going, jumped the next jump and headed to the fourth. Leg, leg leg was all running through my head. Also the leg forward, deep seat I learned when breaking a Gypsy Vanner for someone. That is a different story.

We came up to the fourth jump and there was a horrible, horse eating monster aka. the photographer on the other side of the fence. We stopped and stared. I walked him up to the jump and as we came back we cleared it — by a mile. I am just waiting to see the photographer’s pictures of this one because we jumped it huge! Jumps five through seven went off without a hitch. Here is jump eight:

Jump 8... Photo by Jessie Hartford

Photo by Jessie Hartford

And a video clip of fences nine and 10 and our gallop home.

My goofy pony!

No comment...

No comment…

All in all we had a great show, finishing 10th. Have to brag on my other gelding, EZ, because we got a 6.5 on our free walk! That is close to impossible for us — so proud of him!

EZ!! Photo by Jessie Hartford

EZ!! Photo by Jessie Hartford


Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 4: Sven’s Story

Kaitlin Harford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. Click here, here and here to read her first three blogs for EN. 

This is where we started... Photo by Jessie Harford

This is where we started. Photo by Jessie Hartford.

I never actually explained how I got Sven. This is the story — we can call it far from a fairytale. A tale of blood, sweat and tears is more like it.

I got both Sven and another OTTB named Evie on November 23 of last year. Mom hurt her knee the day we picked the two horses up so I got to drive the trailer down to Ocala to get them.

When we got home we gave Evie and Sven a few days to relax into their new settings then hopped on them just to see what they were like. Being a mare person I clicked with Evie, a sweet chestnut who also may have bucked me off the second day I rode her but ya know, whatever!

Evie (Jockey Club name: Harborton) was definitely not the bravest horse in the world, but she did try for me. We only worked them once a week to keep them eligible for the Makeover. When we found out I was accepted we decided that Evie was going to be my horse and started listing Sven because I didn’t have time to ride everyone at this point.

We took Sven to his first three-phase, which I wrote about here. Shortly after that I walked out in the field to feed one morning and found Evie laying down, a bit colicky. So we used a concoction our vet told us about to settle her stomach and after a few hours she was good. She was pooping and it seemed like we were in the clear. We kept an eye on her all day and that night she was still fine so we let her be. The next morning my brother came in and told us that Evie was down again.

Evie Head 1

Evie left, Sven right. Photo by Kaitlin Hartford.

We immediately called the vet. Of course that day of all days I got sick — I was in bed and didn’t feel well when the vet came. But the vet tubed her and said she should be good in a couple hours once the oil took its course. I went out to sit with her and just be with my mare. A few hours later she perked up and was acting quite normal, but at around 4 o’clock she hit a downhill spiral. FAST.

Evie and I

Evie and I

There was no time to wait for the vet. We loaded her in the trailer and made it a box stall so if she went down she would be somewhat safe. We drove down to the University of Florida veterinary hospital as fast as we could.

They did everything they could to save her, but the sedatives were wearing off so quickly it wasn’t fair to her and she was suffering way to much. I made the decision to put my beloved redhead mare down. I had watched our dog die in my arms earlier that morning so that was one of the worst days of my life.

A memorial I made for Puppy and Evie:

I couldn’t ride Sven for two weeks. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When I did get on I bawled my eyes out for 20 minutes. One of the hardest things in a horse owner’s life is to transition to another horse after losing one who means the world to you. Sven understood though. He took the time to love on me and slowly convinced me to fall in love with him in return.

Like I said: blood, sweat and tears. We have found tears so far. A lot of them.

We started prepping Sven for a hunter/jumper show and bought some decor for the jumps from Michael’s. Mom came home with flowers and pink sparkly hearts. The flowers went off without a hitch. The hearts … not so much.

My mouth came up bleeding and I thought I had broken my jaw. But two days ago, we had a major breakthrough. We mastered the hearts!

Don't worry, We cleared them Photo by Jessie Hartford

Don’t worry, we cleared them. Photo by Jessie Hartford

Sven’s training has been progressing amazingly and he has come so far in so little time. Remember the first picture from when we started?

The Halfway point Photo by Jessie Hartford

Five months left — halfway point! Photo by Jessie Hartford


Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 3: Rolex Edition

Kaitlin Harford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. Click here and here to read her first two blogs for EN.

This is what your car looks like when you get a bunch of stuff, free and bought, at the Rolex trade fair!

This is what your car looks like when you get a bunch of stuff, free and bought, at the Rolex trade fair!

Last month we packed up the car and headed to the prestigious Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Let me say a huge thank you to C4 Belts! I was sent to Rolex by being the top selling ambassador and selling over 100 belts. Their ambassador applications are now open, and they helped me meet some of the best Thoroughbred riders ever! I hope to do as well being an ambassador for the OTTBs throughout the Makeover and past the Makeover.

This weekend I had the opportunity to see many four-star horses compete. But as a Thoroughbred lover does, I followed all of the Thoroughbreds closer to see how they performed. And I most definitely didn’t stalk their pedigrees to see if my guy was related to any of them … But guess what?! He is!

Katie Ruppel’s Houdini (who raced under Rocky Times) is actually related to Sven (who raced as Family Foundation). They both have In Reality 3 back on the dam side. Other than that I couldn’t find much, but I could’ve sworn that he was related to Boyd Martin’s Blackfoot Mystery. They look and jump just a like!

One of the best parts about  this weekend was being able to talk to Leah Lang-Glucsic. Instead of watching dressage on Thursday in the stadium I decided to watch the schooling rings instead. Even though I was watching the schooling ring, and I was away from Sven, I was watching for new exercises to use on him and improve our overall riding.

While watching a couple horses school, I realized that one of them was the one, the only, AP Prime! When I realized it was the $750 Thoroughbred, I really wanted to talk to Leah. As she was coming out of the ring I got a picture with the two of them.

I talked to Leah for quite a bit.  She was so nice and answered all of my questions. AP Prime never jumped around clear in show jumping, aside from one Prelim, until he reached the Advanced level. Leah got him as a $750 Thoroughbred as a 5-year-old, and she just completed her first four-star on him.

She was so sweet and so willing to answer my questions.  he gave me so much hope to be able to do the same thing — to be able to bring my free Thoroughbred up the levels and run around Rolex.  But not only that. She showed me how to be an inspiration to young girls who are looking up to the riders who want to be role models for them. She also showed me how to be the right type of role model.

Leah, AP, and I

Leah, AP, and I

While most kids my age would head over to the Hunter Hayes concert, I had better things on my mind. I attended the Hoedown at Haygard. This Hoedown was held to support the Retired Racehorse Project and the Thoroughbred Makeover. Now let me tell you about said Hoedown. When you put a bunch of RRP competitors and Thoroughbred lovers in a room together, or in this case a arena, it is going to be crazy!

Laura, a Thoroughbred barrel horse owner, and I decided to put a Thoroughbred rap together. Then we decided to rope Kyle Rothus into it as well. I asked Lainey Ashker to join us in the rap but sadly she had somewhere to be. However it does say something about her personality and character when she told me she would have done it had she been available.

We completely embarrassed ourselves but who cares! Laura Weineck, Kyle Rothus (dressage diva) and I had the time of our lives. I made some great new friends. Watching the Equicizer racing was absolutely hilarious because of the many different styles the riders used. My personal favorite was the gallop-so-hard-you-pop-the-springs-and-nearly-fall-off.

Both Lainey and her mother, Valerie, are huge advocates of the off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Valerie Ashker is making a five-month trek from Northern California to Virginia with her 7-year-old OTTB to promote awareness for the Thoroughbred breed. Follow her journey here.

Lainey Ashker competed at the Makeover last year with her horse, Call Him Paddy. Her current upper-level horse, Anthony Patch, is another off-the-track Thoroughbred. They placed 19th at Rolex even though he temporarily forgot how to do upper-level dressage!

Lainey and I

Lainey and I

Of course everyone knows exactly who Lainey Ashker is! But let me tell you a little bit more. Whether we were in the trade fair, the dressage ring, on the cross country course, or the stadium ring, Lainey always is a crowd favorite. Lainey knows that no one is perfect, takes it all in stride, and strives to be the best she can possibly be.

Lainey takes the time to interact with her fans and took the time to talk to me about the Retired Racehorse Project, my horse, and she has helped me with my current eventer a lot as well. Lainey is another person I really look up to as a role model as far as retraining and especially working with the off-the-track thoroughbreds.

Come to think of it, I didn’t watch any actual dressage on Thursday. I was walking around and watching people school, demos and chatting with RRP people! But one of the really cool demos, I must say, actually made me a bit nervous.

Elisa Wallace got eighth place this weekend in her second four-star but the other thing she is well known for is her Mustangs. Watching her demos and how she has trained them over the course of the past few years makes you a bit nervous when you will be competing against her in both of your disciplines.

Steuart Pittman, in an article with the Practical Horseman with Tik Maynard, was asked what professional riders he would like to see compete in the Makeover. He listed names like Buck Davidson, McLain Ward and more. But what Steuart said would be best would be for an unknown teenager to come in and sweep it all.

That is now my goal, and I really studied Elisa’s demo the following day to see how she asked for the commands for the tricks and came home with even more tools in my toolbox to work with Sven all the way through to the Makeover.

Both my horses are about to be put into major dressage boot camp. Sven is just working on building up the basics and will be schooling some cross country through the next month. We should have another show coming up soon as well, so keep a lookout for that!

Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 2

You know you have a horse from Florida when the only hill in Florida is very scary. Back to this in a moment.


Three months ago today was Sven’s first show ever. We headed out to Longwood on a cold, damp morning to compete in his first show ever. We honestly had no clue how an OTTB who had been off the farm was going to act. So we thought the worst when he got off the trailer as high as a kite. But he calmed down in the first 15 minutes of being off the trailer which I thought was amazing!

We had a dressage test which was definitely not the prettiest. At this point he was my second string horse. He was also a sale horse at this point because my should have been RRP horse was going to be mine, but she passed away a week later.

Anyway after dressage we headed out to cross country and having schooled once we did great! We had a stop at a downhill skinny, but everyone did so I am not going to ever blame him for that. Our show jumping was amazing aside from a rail at the end of the course which was totally my fault. All in all we had a great show and it was something huge to build on for the future and for the Retired Racehorse Project.

Dressage, Mirrors, Judges...

Dressage, Mirrors, Judges…

About a month later we decided to head to the Run for the Ribbons Thoroughbred show which has a ring specially designed for OTTB’s only. I can’t begin to say how amazing it is to have someone offer some amazing shows just to showcase these horses.

They have a ring open for other horses as well too so you can take more then just these one horses. We took Sven to the show to do some basic 18″ courses and just have another good experience. Boy did he exceed expectations! We ended up coming home with Grand Champion in the 18″ hunters and the judge said he was improving beautifully with every round! I had so many compliments on how he is going to be an amazing horse and how I was putting a great foundation on him.

Photo by Cara Kowalchuk

Photo by Cara Kowalchuk

Our next adventure begins roughly a month later. I seem to be on a pattern on a once a month outing. This time we headed to Hilda Donahue’s base at Oakmore Equestrian Center in Apopka, FL. It was one of the best trips I have taken in my life. On day 1 we took a dressage lesson.

There were two huge things stressed as we were taking this lesson. I needed to learn to keep my eyes up and we needed to work on keeping him steady in the bridle.  We had an amazing first lesson and Hilda actually got on him so she could see what he had so far. She helped me correct a few changes and he was 10 times better then when we began. This was also the first time she told me not to sell him.

After Hilda Helped

After Hilda Helped

The second day we got to do his favorite part, JUMP! Words can’t begin to describe how much this horse loves jumping. We started warming up and went soaring over the ground poles. By soaring, I mean we were just jumping ground poles by 2′ for the fun of it.

After that we started warming up over small fences in a small back ring. I think Hilda was very surprised on how amazing he would jump. We worked a lot on moving forward towards fences and not backing off. After this lesson is when Hilda told me to never sell this horse for less than 30k. I might have an UL horse on my hands!

We don't touch things...

We don’t touch things…

Back to the Floridians and the hills. This weekend we headed out for one crazy weekend. It began crazy, ended crazy, insanity was in the middle! We began the weekend by the car I was driving back from work breaking down. Nothing like a 16 year old girl stranded on the side of the road waiting for her mom to come get her.

The worst part was that out of eight people who drove past, only two stopped … losing faith in humanity. We picked up the other green horse I am riding for a client and we were finally on our way. At 6:00 P.M. But it is what it is with horses for sure.

We finally get to the Florida Horse Park around 8:30 and get everyone settled in with hay in their stalls and unpacked. It is now 9 o’clock at night and because I am the first ride of the day we get to have fun and walk cross country in the dark. Thank you so much to fellow RRP competitor Linnea Boyce for sending me the course map!

Course walking in the pitch black #eventerproblems

Course walking in the pitch black #eventerproblems

We finally got the course done and were completely in bed by midnight. I must say I have the best brother and mother because they fed and got my boys groomed before they even woke me up! We headed out to walk cross country one more time just to make sure we didn’t miss anything when it was pitch black. Got back to the barn for the whirlwind day to start.

It is loads of fun to have six rides in two hours but thank you to Partners of the Park for doing your best to accommodate me! I was finally on Sven for a 8 a.m. dressage ride at 7:30 which was when I wanted to be on. His dressage score does not completely reflect how his test was ridden but for a horse under saddle for 3 months he was beyond amazing. We spooked at the banners behind the judges box, but we were mostly relaxed through the whole entire test.

Second Dressage test ever

Second Dressage test ever

We quickly got back to the barn to change to the other baby horse who had an amazing clear round over a stadium course, having never jumped a full course before. Then we headed straight to the dressage ring with him and we performed a great test for his first show ever!

We tacked Sven back up and we had a rather baby moment that you can only laugh at in the Stadium ring. Right now we trot the first fence because he is still learning. Well this particular first fence had very scary, thoroughbred eating, American flag fillers to the sides of the fences and he was scared of them so we had a stop there.

I can’t blame him, he is a baby horse, this is his fourth time off property. He doesn’t see much other than what I have at home. We ended up delivering an amazing round after the first fence. He went easily over it upon the second approach.


After a great round and watching a fellow RRP competitor show jump we headed off to cross country!!! We warmed up over the houses and everything absolutely perfect! Here are a few pictures from warm up:

Beginner Novice

Beginner Novice



Our cross country course started out amazing. I was going to let him go BN speeds even though it was set for 300 mpm because he won’t be here long. We went calmly out of the start box and great over the first fence. We galloped on to the second and third which he jumped absolutely amazing.

We jumped the fourth one great and I asked him to come back and he started to but then he saw the dreaded monster cliff a.k.a the hill that nicely sloped into a very shallow pit. I felt him hop and when he hops to stop like he did that means there is a spin coming because he has scared. This happened once before at a roll top.

I prepped myself for the spin to the left which he always does. And then he spun right.. Unfortunately we had an “unfortunate parting of ways” however we technically ended up retiring on course since it wasn’t in relation to a jump. However the guy following me on the golf cart was so insistent I go to the EMT even though I landed on my butt we started walking that way instead of getting on and continuing on course. We walked down the hill before we walked back that way though.

Something isn't right here...

Something isn’t right here…

I talked to mom after the fact as I was scrolling through the pictures she took and I came across a picture she took of me. I asked her why she took it and there were two reasons. The first she said this. “I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t seen you come out and I wasn’t really sure why you were walking down the hill so slowly. Then I used my lens to zoom in and realized that you were slowly walking back to the finish. Not on the horse.”

The second reason she took the pic? Because she thought it would be good for the blog post. I am trying to keep this as real as possible. Be prepared for the successes and failures that come along with horses.

I also got to meet fellow competitor Linnea Boyce and her mare, Clowie! We were actually going to get Clowie and ended up getting Sven instead! Thank you for the wird hair standing up Clowie!

From L to R : Clowie, Linnea, Me, and Sven

From L to R : Clowie, Linnea, Me, and Sven

One more thing to add before I close out part two of our journey. On the way home I was reading a post on Eventing Nation — a post about dandelions. Leslie, this is exactly what I needed to read today. Jim Wofford, thank you for these amazing words. So I believe I added a dandelion to the Florida Horse Park today.

But with a Dandelion comes the Wish Flower. So we learn from our mistakes and begin something amazing! When I see a dandelion there, I will know one of the is mine. When I see a wish flower, that is even more mine. Dreams, goals, aspirations!

My Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover

From the beginning, my dear readers …

Hi, I am Kaitlin Hartford! I am a 16-year-old event rider based out of Callahan, Florida, just north of Jacksonville. I first sat on a horse when I was less then 6 months old, and you can all guess where I caught the bug. My mother and grandmother rode, so I fell in love with it at an early age.

I started by riding anything I could get my hands on. It always seemed to be the tough horses … I rode a miniature horse named Ramber, an evil pony named Princess, and my grandmother’s retired eventer. He was an OTTB gelding that she evented through the upper levels, bringing him along on her own. He was the only non-tough horse for a chunky little 4-year-old girl. This is Time Flieth. He was the first OTTB I ever got to ride.


Time Flieth

As I grew older, I got my first pony. Surprise was a 25-year-old been there, done that hunter pony. He had been around pony finals back in his time. By the time I got him, he was pretty much ancient. I finally owned my first pony, and I learned how to ride in the hunter ring. He taught me a lot and meant the world to me!



When I outgrew Surprise ability wise, the hunt was on for my next fancy hunter pony. Little did I know where that would take me …



We found Joules, a 12.3-hand, what-should-have-been-a-super-fancy-hunter pony. After a year of test after test, we started in the show ring. We soon learned after many hunter rounds at a rather high rate of speed and judges muttering, “Such a shame … such a wonderful rider, such a horrible pony.” This pony was most definitely not cut out to be my fancy hunter pony.

Through the United States Pony Club I had already learned about eventing. We took Joules cross country schooling, and we were instantly hooked.


Joules in her element.

Irish bank

Joules down the Irish bank.

Before sadly outgrowing her (does anyone need a super amazing 12.3-hand pony?) we were schooling Preliminary cross country with ease, obtained our C-1 Pony Club rating, and became an amazing team. I was seriously hooked on eventing, and I KNEW what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.



After I outgrew Joules, I was given an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best horses ever. EZ evented through the three-star level with Buck Davidson, and I have learned a lot about eventing and perseverance. I am hoping that next year, he and I will be competing at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships with the Area III Young Riders team. Maybe we will master a free walk with a score above a 3 by then …



Now for the reason this whole blog is being written. In October I am taking my OTTB to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. It also happens to fall on my birthday! I learned about the Thoroughbred Makeover from a friend of mine.

I became interested in the makeover because of how the competition is run. You choose one or two events out of 10 different disciplines, you take a racehorse who has been off the track for less than a year, and you have 10 months to go from less than 15 retraining rides ever to a worldwide competition! In addition to these requirements you have to be selected to participate.

Sven Confo 1


This is Family Foundation, aka Sven. He is by Repriced out of Deep Discount. Sven ended up racing 42 times and earning over $180,000 on the track. He is a 16.1-hand 2007 gelding. We initially got him to be my mom’s resale project and lucky for me, she hurt herself the day we picked him up.

So … I have taken over the reins on this super amazingly talented OTTB! I can’t wait to share our journey with you over the next few months. Please join us next week for more on our journey to the Makeover.