Clare’s Road to the Makeover: An Ode to the Ammies

For 673 accepted trainers, the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover has entered the homestretch! From the beginning of the year until the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have been blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

Kim O’Donnell with Roseau, yours truly with Make It Right, and Ellen Dry with Walk Away Slow (aka the only adult in the bunch). Photo by Allison Howell.

A client once asked Tom how he learned to control show nerves, to which Tom responded something like, “You do this a few thousand more times.” #helpful

The journey to the Makeover is very different for professionals and amateurs. We’ve had a slew of horses come and go this year alone, we changed horses and divisions, and we’re driving as I write this with three horses behind us, 11 shoes (don’t worry, Soft Rides and Animalintex are
also on board).

Many people have had to opt out of competing this week for a variety of reasons, but more are actually en route to Kentucky, and THAT IS AMAZING. Let’s be honest, to get any horse to anyWHERE at any TIME you choose is a feat in and of itself. Our background in eventing has certainly taught us this, particularly in the long-format days, when you’d work all year for that one three-day with no other option, only to have your horse abscess two days before shipping, sending you into a well of despair and tears, only to have your farrier work magic so then you’re happy crying and you spend the next week of your life in a blurry glass case of emotion and thank goodness there’s video footage because otherwise you remember nothing.

Just me?

Ah, teenage angst…

I digress…

Anywho, we learned from those experiences, and what we learned is that drama is unnecessary and unfun. The world has enough problems of its own, and there’s no need to add to that. So this morning, while Tom pried my horse’s sprung shoe off at 4 a.m., I gathered the bandaging
supplies and sent up a blessing to Soft Ride for sending us boots that fit him perfectly, and off we went.

We strive to live in such a way as to impart this attitude to all of our clients (*most* of the time we do okay), but especially to the two who have been training for the Makeover with us all year. They’re amazing, but they will not brag about themselves, and so I must brag on them.

There’s a big commitment to horses when you make them your career, but it’s no less of a commitment when you do it for fun, it’s just different. Horses are humbling creatures who take our time, our money, a bit of our bodies, and a lot of our minds, but we have a responsibility to care for them, and a large part of that is, of course, their training.

When Kim got Rose (Roseau), she knew she was head over heels for the horse, and she knew her own preferences, and she knew she wanted help with the process. But she didn’t know how much sass was in those twinkle toes, and she didn’t know the mare had a firecracker for a tail. She didn’t know that she’d be taught how to add to her fences, emphatically. She didn’t know that she’d have an extremely capable jumper, and she didn’t know there was a hidden hunter in there (if the jumps got big enough). She didn’t know that she’d learn a new position, but she also probably didn’t know how just strong she was (Kim, not Rose). She also didn’t know that the mare would hack on the buckle like a sedated donkey.

When Ellen got Hank (Walk Away Slow), all she knew was that she wanted a horse to do the Makeover, and she knew she was attracted to the war horse type, and and she knew he’d need a great farrier, and she knew (from us) that Sarah Hepler had a knack for finding horses with great brains. What she didn’t know that Hank actually did have a great brain (fortunately). She didn’t know that he’d go through an awkward balancing stage that felt like he actually was Hank the Septopus, but she also didn’t know that his lanky limbs would learn to snap up over fences. She didn’t know that they’d learn to nail their leads. She didn’t know that he’d get even bigger, and she did not know about the droopy lower lip. She didn’t know how challenged she would be, but how capable she is.

When you make a commitment to do right by a horse, whether it’s a horse you keep forever or one you are preparing for someone else, you might be surprised by what you learn, and not just about riding.

And so, once again, in true sappy-Clare fashion, I present the Year One journeys for Kim and Roseau, and Ellen and Walk Away Slow. Please enjoy these video peeks into their processes, and join me in congratulating these teams, and all those working their way to the Kentucky Horse Park. It has been a tremendous amount of focus, development, and hard-earned but very rewarding accomplishments for everyone involved. We have been honored to be a part of it, and we are looking forward to Year Two as much as they are!

Here’s Rosita!

And here’s Hank!

We’re here in Kentucky and we’re here for the pictures and the parties (which are, evidently, all in barn 9), ‘cause we’ve all already won.

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