Meet Hylofit’s Next Top Amateur and Her OTTB

EN received an overwhelming response to Hylofit’s Next Top Amateur Contest. Thank you to all who entered and shared your stories. EN and Hylofit ultimately selected Canadian event rider Courtenay Tuxhorn as the winner. She will receive the Hylofit System and a lifetime membership to help prepare for her goal of competing in the Training Three-Day at Rebecca Farm and beyond.

Hylofit also selected four finalists who will receive a discount on the hardware and a lifetime membership. Congratulations to our winner and the four finalists: Kathy Nolan, Jolie JantzJeffie Chaplin and Mallory Stiver. EN will publish all five of their entries, starting with our big winner. Read on to meet Courtenay and her OTTB, Bam. Go Eventing.

Courtney Tuxhorn and BA Messenger. Photo by MGO Photography.

In January 2017, BA Messenger (“Bam”) was a newly-retired race winner on stall rest for a bowed tendon at Laurel Park in Maryland. I was an adult re-rider and recent transplant to Canada, spending a few evenings a week after work at an eventing barn outside Calgary getting a failed school horse fit to sell.

I had been browsing the CANTER trainer listings on and off for a while — I saw Bam listed on the site, and it was like I had stepped into a dream. Years of waiting, saving, and riding other people’s horses … yes it’s cliché, but this horse was the one. I picked up the phone, found help among friends and family on the ground in Maryland, and a week later I owned a horse. He spent eight months relaxing in a field, and then boarded a semi-truck bound for Canada.

“What if you ship him all the way up here and he doesn’t jump?” my husband asked me. “Then we’ll do dressage,” I shrugged. “But I think he can jump.” Now, just two years later, Bam and I are qualified for a classic format Training Level three-day event, on our way to realizing our 2019 goal of competing at Rebecca Farm in July.

Bam is not the only ex-racer in this partnership. I was solely focused on riding when I was growing up – galloping thoroughbreds, finding restart projects, and competing in hunter/jumper shows in Maryland and Virginia. I thought I would always be an equestrian, but when the financial reality of entering the job force after college pushed me out of the saddle for more than a decade, I found a cheaper yet also exhilarating form of riding: on two wheels.

Over the next decade I won bike races, learned to swim, won triathlons, won a marathon, and, then, like my horse, suffered a career-ending injury. During this process I taught myself a lot about preparing an athlete to excel at three different disciplines simultaneously — it’s one big reason why, when I finally felt grown-up enough that I could afford to ride again, I wanted to find and train my own Thoroughbred to three-day event.

Training with Hylofit

As a former professional athlete, I know first-hand how important heart rate is for fitness management. I trained with a heart rate monitor throughout my racing career, using it to target load during workouts and to monitor my recovery and my adaptation throughout my training cycle. I would be thrilled to integrate the Hylofit System into Bam’s and my training, and will use it to make us even better at our new favorite sport.

Leading up to the classic format event at Rebecca Farm, I will use the Hylofit System to optimize Bam’s fitness sessions. Specifically, I’ll verify how he’s responding to our canter sets and adjust workouts as necessary. Is his heart rate at threshold during each canter segment? Is 2 minutes the right time between sets for his heart rate to come back into an aerobic zone? How quickly over time is he getting more efficient at performing the same workout?

Because we are located in Canada, most of our training this year has been in an indoor arena. Now that the snow is finally gone, and we can ride outside, what’s happening to his heart rate as we perform fitness workouts over terrain? Similarly, now that we have space to gallop, I’d like to determine his average heart rate at our competition speed and then use that information to do threshold sets on moderate inclines, in order to lessen the impact on his legs while still getting the cardiovascular workout he needs.

We will also use the Hylofit System in our dressage work, specifically to learn what triggers his anxiety both in and out of the ring. He has such a powerful desire to excel that in dressage it can manifest itself as tension. Using Hylofit, I will observe what techniques and what habits in my riding can most effectively calm his pounding heart when he gets nervous. He has demonstrated he can earn 8’s in his movements, and I know Hylofit can help us earn them more consistently by helping us refine our strategies and our timing.

While Bam’s fitness is my top priority, I will also use the Hylofit System to monitor my heart rate during rides alongside his. How in sync are we?  Is my heart rate showing signs that I need to pay more attention to my fitness out of the saddle? I will also observe my heart rate during competitions to see if I can glean some heart rate-related insights into managing and channeling my nerves.

Finally, the Hylofit System will help me fulfill my most important responsibility as Bam’s owner and rider, which is to take care of his health and happiness. On average, Bam and I take two or three lessons per month. Most of the time we are on our own, following a training plan I have designed for us with my research, feedback I sense from my horse, and input from the coaches with whom we ride.

After both of our experiences with injury from racing, I am a worrier verging on over-protection — and to me there is no better antidote to anxiety than data. I video our rides to keep track of our progress. I monitor his vital signs regularly, and I know the contours of his legs and back better than my own. Hylofit will help me take his care to the next level, adding quantitative data to the qualitative data we are already collecting.

Bam is an incredible athlete, and has demonstrated time and again that he’s more than willing to do whatever I ask of him. With Hylofit, I can ensure what I ask of him is always fair, always something he is fit enough and ready to do.

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