Road to the 2020/2021 Thoroughbred Makeover: Embracing the Unexpected (and the Gray Mares)

For over 1,000 accepted trainers in this year’s unique blend of 2020 and 2021 competitors, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2020/2021 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, is underway! The event, which combines entries from 2020 with 2021 due to the cancellation of the Makeover last year, will take place at Oct. 12-17 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Between now and then, several eventing trainers will be blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. To read other blogs from this year’s Road to the Makeover, click here.

Our next RRP blogger is Natalie Johnson, who hails from Area VI and is entered in this year’s Makeover with two horses: Caliche Lane (2020) and Princess Anne (2021). Natalie is a former pony clubber, working student, and professional groom. She has been eventing since age 12 and has competed through Prelim riding mainly Thoroughbreds. She currently works for an equine veterinary clinic.

Caliche Lane at Heritage Park HT in 2020. Photo by Pat McIlvenna.

If anybody had ever told me ago that I’d be “homeless” and own three horses (all cribbers, two being Grey Mares) I would have never believed them. Yet here I am, a 32-year-old married women sitting at my mom’s dining room table with my laptop and my horses living on opposite sides of the cities (Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN).

I don’t want to mislead anybody: my husband and I are “homeless” because we were buying property to build a farm on and sold our townhouse. When some unexpected complications in the selling and buying process came up, we decided it would be best to find something already built. So we are currently living with our parents, moving from house-to-house depending on our work schedules. Last weekend we found a small 10 acre hobby farm that hasn’t had horses for a long time but will be perfect with some help. We will close on it at the end of April and until it’s horse friendly we’ll move all the horses to a nearby hunter/jumper barn.

Caliche Lane is my 2020 Makeover entry, and she has been opposite of the stereotypical difficult mare. My husband and I bought her off a Canter Illinois Facebook ad in August of 2019. She got to rest and do ground work until that December. After the pandemic lockdown and activities slowly started back up we were able to participate in some clinics and shows. When the news of the postponing the Makeover until 2021 came I wasn’t surprised but it was a disappointment as it had been one thing to look forward to for 2020. I dedicated to take the option of competing Caliche in the MEGA makeover of 2021. Looking back at last year I took things slower then I needed to with Caliche but we finished the year confidently at Beginner Novice.

Princess Anne. Photo by Corey Scott Ramsden.

Princess Anne is my unexpected: third horse, second grey mare, and 2021 makeover entry. She was an online purchase after a tough day at work and then packing to the move when I got home. I got a notice of a new video post from Ballyclare Farm on YouTube and my jaw dropped when I saw the video. I immediately thought “Why not get a third horse, we’re going to have a farm soon anyway.” So I contacted Ballyclare right away and had Anne shipped to Minnesota. I have lucky that a friend has let her chill and gain weight at their small farm.

Louie competing at Heritage Park in 2017. Photo by Derith Vogt.

With showing season a little over a month away for Area IV and our house sold the horses have been getting back to more serious work. Caliche and my 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Louie, got several months of light work this winter with the move and the frigid Minnesota temperatures. Louie is feeling great and I hope to start him out with a Training level run since he hasn’t gone Prelim for two years due to injuries and the pandemic. This spring I’m putting a little more pressure on Caliche on the flat since last year I was pretty easy on her wanting to let her figure her body out. She is showing a little more spunk than ever before but I still find her adorable. I have only been getting to know Anne and do some ground work so far. The horses have kept me going through this crazy time and I look forward to the upcoming months.