The weeks since the Makeover has ended have been a whirlwind. A whirlwind of getting back to real life, of figuring out what’s next, of applying what I’ve learned. And, oh, how much I learned.
The Makeover was an experience I’ll never forget. It sounds cliche, but for a rider who usually moves her horses on to forever homes before she gets a chance to show them herself, being a part of such a huge event was eye-opening. Being surrounded by some of the biggest names in the industry and some riders no one had ever heard of before (cough, me…) all competing at one place, for one common purpose, it felt like home. Knowing each person you came across was on the same journey in one way or another, it was like we were one big family.
But, no matter the warm and fuzzy feeling I get looking back at that long, eventful weekend, the process of getting there was difficult, to say the least. I was tested as a rider, trainer, and as a person in general. But, I came out of it alive and with an abundance of knowledge to apply going forward.
For starters, my timeline was much shorter than some of the other trainers (and longer than a few, too). Some people acquired their horses months before January 1st, the date in which you could technically start full training. Some got their horses 6 weeks before the makeover. Everyone’s timeline was different, which means everyone’s training methods and timeframe were different.
I can only reasonably handle 3 horses at a time to ensure each horse I own gets the individualized care they deserve. So, when the email came that I had been accepted to participate, I knew it was time to move my latest project on. The beautiful, steel grey Thoroughbred had come to me unstarted and in my heart I hoped she would be an eventer. In her heart (and gaits, and jump) she was a hunter through and through. So, I gave her the best foundation I could and searched for a home that would help her develop into the horse I knew she could be. That process took until the end of March. So, it wasn’t until April 1st that Rebel came into my life.
When I picked up Rebel from Turfway Park on April 3rd, I had just over 6 months to prepare her for one of the largest shows I would ever compete in. This forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, learn new training techniques, and become more brave than I’ve been in a long time.
Thankfully, this little mare who was a complete stranger to me, jumped into the process whole-heartedly and gave her all to me. Just as much as I built her confidence in new things like hacking around bareback, jumping weird colorful fence things, and actually carrying herself with the weight of a rider on her back. She, too, built my confidence in things I had not done for a long time. Like, actually show my horse. Together, we learned, conquered fears and grew.
So, when the day came to load Rebel onto the trailer and make the trip to the horse park for the event I had been anxious for (and Rebel could care less about), there was no other horse I would have wanted to be there.
Because this was not something I had ever done before, I forced myself to make three goals before ever stepping foot onto the property. One easy, to boost confidence, one moderate, that we could reasonably attain, and one somewhat difficult, to push myself. My goals were to make it to the horse park with a happy horse all weekend, to finish the division (one neither of us had any experience in!) and to jump everything on the mock hunt. Check, check and check!
Not only was Rebel a superstar the entire weekend surrounded by hundreds of horses and people, she took me safely through my first attempt at fox hunting! Sure, we had some baby moments and things I didn’t prepare her for properly, but she gave me her all, just like she had every day before.
So now, looking back on the experience, I can honestly say that when you step out of your comfort zone, on the back of a good Thoroughbred, anything is possible. And I am forever in debt to my little red-headed princess for teaching me that.