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!