Well, here I am – a month after the Makeover and finally sitting down to write about my experience. A month of reflection, but more importantly, a month of continuous improvement and constantly striving to achieve my goals, yes, even after the Makeover has ended.
So far, I have stayed quiet and watched the conversations happen around me. I have watched as the buzz surrounding this year’s horses has died down and trainers have started searching for new mounts. I have read the comments, posts and blogs of reflection in the weeks after the Makeover, which now seem to be gone as everyone has set their sights on 2018, ready to leave 2017 in the dust. And I’m a bit confused. We spent the past 10 months preparing our horses and ourselves, trying to be the best we can be only to forget about it a month later?
In the two years that I have participated in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover, my Thoroughbred’s makeover didn’t end after the show. You see, the Makeover is just a step on my journey with my horse, a checkpoint to gauge our training.
As I reflected on my 4 short days at the park, 4 days that were meant to summarize my entire 10 month journey with Java, I knew I had grown from the prior year’s competition.
We may have has some tense moments and didn’t show the judges the best we can be. We may not have accomplished all of our goals, which included staying calm and quiet the entire time and finishing in the top 10. This year I still didn’t come home with a fancy ribbon or a check in my name, but I left feeling like a winner. Not because of a score given to me by a third party or an award from an organization. No, what I received this year was better than anything someone else could have given me. When I pulled out of the horse park this year, I left with commendation from the most important person – myself.
As a trainer and a horseperson, I knew I had a better horse under me this year. Our one moment of tenseness, that just so happened to be when the judges were watching, was just that – a moment. And as I moved on from that moment, I felt like I had more tools in my toolbox than previous years. My horse was better prepared and at a more advanced stage in her training than my mount last year, so I knew my training had improved.
I knew I had brought Java along to the best of my abilities in those 10 months. She said “yes, Mom”, to every question I asked of her, including jumping cleanly and honestly over the most difficult course she had ever seen. She was calm and positive, hanging out in a crazy atmosphere that should have brought her right back to her track days, but didn’t.
This past month’s reflection of the Makeover wasn’t a conversation of “what can I do better next year?”, it was a question of “what can I improve right now”? And improve we have.
Three weeks after leaving the horse park, I wanted to try again. I felt like we were ready for another checkpoint. So, I entered Java in her first horse trial, ready to apply the lessons I learned at the Makeover and test my training again. And what that checkpoint revealed was a huge improvement – a calm and thinking horse the entire time. A fluid and soft dressage test, clean show jumping round and bold but rideable cross-country which landed us in 3rd place.
But again, it wasn’t the ribbon or the recognition that left me feeling like a winner. It was knowing I had grown as a trainer and in 3 short weeks we were a better, stronger pair. So, our journey for improvement continues. We will see where it takes us next!