What CAN’T eventers do? Many Thoroughbred Makeover Eventing entries cross-entered into other divisions — and not surprisingly, three of them actually won!
Field Hunter: Natalia Neneman and Today’s Tom Sawyer
The Field Hunter competition looked like a blast: Competitors met up in the early dawn fog for a proper Stirrup Cup, before moving forward to a flat phase and mock hunt replete with hounds. The top five moved onto Saturday’s Finale, where Natalia Neneman clinched the win with Today’s Tom Sawyer, a 2013 16.1-hand grey gelding (Discreet Cat x Tikkarita, by Rimrod) owned by Danzel Brendemuehl.
Natalia is an Ocala-based three-star eventer; Danzel owns Classic Bloodstock, a Thoroughbred breeding and race operation out of Ocala, Florida. Natalia was galloping racehorses for Danzel on the side a couple years ago, and Danzel started sending Natalia Thoroughbreds to retrain after they were retired from the track.
“Tommy” was one of those projects. Bred in Kentucky by P. Headley, Nancy Bell & NATO, the handsome dappled grey never made it to the start gate but happily took to a different career path with Natalia. The pair have been out to several local schooling horse trials and jumper shows this year.
“He’s one of the easiest horses I’ve ever ridden,” Natalia says. “He’s so quiet, he want to do the job, he’s pretty, he jumps well, you could put anybody on him.”
Natalia has never been fox hunting herself, nor has Tommy. But, in addition to Eventing, Natalia figured they’d take a crack at the Makeover’s Field Hunter division, reasoning that it was fairly comparable to going cross country (with a few key exceptions, of course, like hounds at full cry and galloping amid a herd of horses). “He was great,” Natalia says. “Tommy went out there and acted like he’d been fox hunting for 10 years, and that was that. He just impressed me all weekend and really he’s just impressed me all year.”
Tommy sounds like the total package, starting with a great head on his shoulders. Natalia says that he walks everywhere on the buckle, has never spooked, and she put a kid on him last week to go cross country.
Natalia is quick to give credit to Danzel, a model for responsible race horse management and aftercare. Danzel is very involved with her horses, from she starting them herself and giving them a good foundation to making sure that after they’re done at the track they have a safe, happy home. “She does wonderful things for all their horses, whether they’re racing or at home in the field,” Natalia says. “She’s an incredible horsewoman and this win is a well deserved notch in her belt.”
Show Jumper: Morgan Boyer and Interactif Spy
Area II eventer Morgan Boyer swept the Show Jumper championship with Interactif Spy, a 2013 15.2-hand gelding (Interactif—Runaway Spy, Mt. Livermore) owned by Jammie Hand. Bred in Louisiana by D&F Horse Farms LLC, “Saint” won $9,305 in three starts at the track. He came to Morgan as a little bit of an upside-down, disjointed mess, with two old bows and what seemed to be full-body soreness, and she gave him some time off. Once they started training in earnest in February, however, he quickly came around — and when they started jumping Morgan realized that the horse had springs on his feet.
Now Saint has found his bliss in the sport of eventing, going from ground zero to his first USEA-recognized Training level event at Full Gallop in August. Morgan laughs that at the event he got a “good riding, lots of bucking” comment on his canter lengthening in the sandbox, but then “redeemed himself by jumping around like the little jumping bean he is.” We get it, Saint: Sometimes it’s just hard to keep all that athleticism in! You can read back on their road to the Makeover via Saint’s Facebook page here.
Morgan is half of a teaching and training operation that she runs with her mom in Stokesdale, North Carolina, called Blue Line Eventing. The two built their business from scratch and have a loyal following of students. Morgan’s success with Saint is a testament to her hard work and affinity for the Thoroughbred breed. She describes their win as “surreal” (they also placed 28th in Eventing).
“We went into this with no expectations other than to see what it was all about,” she says. “Saint completely blew us all out of the water to not only win the Show Jumper portion but to win it by 18 points! Our journey does not stop here — I cannot wait to see where this boy takes us!”
Freestyle: Tik Maynard and Looking My Way
Tik Maynard is a man of many hats: all-around equestrian (including but not limited to three-star eventer), OTTB enthusiast, author and, most recently, new dad (Baby Brooks fits in a helmet and I can’t even deal). The Makeover’s Freestyle competition always includes some of the most interesting and impressive performances of the whole event, and this year was no exception, with Tik Maynard and Looking My Way sweeping the division championship.
Looking My Way, a 2011 16.1-hand gelding (Dublin x Douce Expression, by Western Expression) owned by his breeder Merrylegs Farm in New York, didn’t make much of a splash on the track, winning $930 in two starts.
But “Mason” put on quite a show in Saturday’s Freestyle finale for the win — the chestnut, a spitting image of his 2015 mount Mr. Pleasantree, looked relaxed and happy as they went through their routine. Tik started by putting the horse through his paces sans bridle, then dismounted for an impressive groundwork demonstration of obedience and trust.
In recent years, Makeover Freestyle routines have become increasingly creative and complex, often incorporating costumes and props for a “wow” factor. In contrast, it was neat to see Tik embracing a no-frills format, returning the focus to the connection between horse and rider. You can rewatch their performance here.
In addition to their Freestyle win, Tik and Mason placed 16th in the 99-horse Eventing division.
Congrats to all, and way to go to all the Makeover eventers who branched out to show what their Thoroughbreds could do in a variety of disciplines. We even had an eventer, Sarah Coltrin with B’s Honey, finish in the top five of Competitive Trail!
Go OTTBs. Go Eventing.