This can be looked at as an update and though it is; it is more than that.
On February 23, 2015 I went to the Fairgrounds in New Orleans to look at a stallion that didn’t want to race any longer. His trainer wanted him to go to a good home and I took photos in order to help him sell Mike. However, on March 19, 2015 Mike came to our barn because the trainer was leaving to head back to Church Hill in Kentucky and didn’t want Mike to go. So, that’s how Mikes Dixie Dancer a 2009 Thoroughbred stallion came to live at our barn.
The first few days were basic learning of the ropes. Manners, turn-out and learning what Mike knew and did not know. He was quiet and knew so much already. He also pulled all 4 shoes off overnight the first night. I decided to leave him barefoot. He was extremely ouchy and acted like he was walking on eggshells but I just couldn’t see putting shoes back on until he wore his hooves a little.
Knowing he was very broke made it easy to saddle him up and hop on, but I didn’t. Instead I did basic ground work and lunging. He was great to lunge but didn’t know how to go slow. That very first week I put ground poles in the round pen to see if he could jump. At this stage Mike was up for sale but I didn’t know what to sell him as. Was he a barrel horse or a jumper?
I discovered that he was not a jumper. He didn’t even want to walk over a pole on the ground. (This sucked).
He eventually went over them but it wasn’t by any means great. I decided on that day that Mike would not be jumping but I didn’t give up on him. The first time I rode him was around the end of March. He needed a ton of work but he knew the basics.
I did a ton of ground work with him until around July. This was the first time I became brave and hopped on Mike bareback. He was just fine but all we did was walk. I rode Mike about 2 times in July both in western tack. The idea was to make him into a barrel horse. However, after the second ride I scratched that idea out. He learned the pattern extremely quick and got speed brain thinking he was ready to run.
SO, back to ground work and being a paddock decoration. The other thing about Mike was that he wasn’t completely sound. All due to his hooves. I put front shoes on him around July also.
Fast forward to October 2015. Totally different mind set. He was learning to be just a horse and enjoy time outside. He was doing great during his lunge sessions. I decided to ride him again but in the round pen. He was great and my 8yo son even asked to ride him. Mike was amazing with a kid on his back. He was like an overprotective mother hen. This was defanitely not the same horse from March that I had brought home to sell and then chose to keep.
The thing I learned during the 8 months working with Mike, I had found my perfect horse. His personality complimented mine. His size was perfect for my short height and size. The only thing that didn’t really fit was that he was not a love bug or a huggy kissy type of horse. I was okay with that. He let my son hug and kiss all over him.
Winter was basically more ground work and an occassional ride. Mostly learning to slow down and stop thinking so much.
Fast forward to January 2016. I found out about an amazing event for Off the Track Thoroughbreds (ottb). It was called the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. You had 9 months to retrain a Tb that was basically fresh from the track. Mike fit every requirement. So, January 4th I put in my application. Borrowed the entry fee from my mother and the farm and set out to seriously work/train Mike for something.
I had already nixed barrels because of his intelligence and speed demon brain. That left dressage, jumpers, hunters and eventing. I didn’t know much about eventing and I didn’t think Mike would be able to jump the jumper heights. He couldn’t run barrels, do working ranch, NO to polo and competitive trail. I had the basics for dressage and hunters. PFEWWW….. Hunters and Dressage it was. This was going to be easy, right?
I didn’t know if Mike could even jump though. So, one day while lunging him in the arena I set some cavaletti out. He trotted over them like he knew what he was doing. *my smile could have out shined the sun*
I proceeded to raise the jump I had set up. Each time he jumped it easily. He cleared with no problems 2’9″. *my smile was proof enough of how happy I was*
I went on from there training Mike in basic dressage and jumping cross-rails. He still had a speed brain and needed major work if we were going to do Hunters. More dressage was needed, I was sure of it. And that is what we did for all of January and February. Until we got a bunch of rain at the end of February along with a small storm. No riding or working at all.
At the end of February, the 29th if I remember correctly, I saddled Mike up and was heading to check the fences. He acted rather silly and both of us ended up falling over sideways with him landing on my leg. This was not good. ER visit with plenty of scans and YEP you guessed it. BROKEN BONES. This time it was my foot. *i was not happy*
It took a month for me to get surgery. I had not only broke my right foot but the largest metatarsle was dislocated and displaced. Not only did I need a plate for the break but they fused the joint also. I had actually broken the front of the heel, the large metatarsle and the second metatarsle next to the joint. *you can see all this in the photo*
It really sucked. I had done so much work with Mike and now I couldn’t. However, I did not give up on the idea of us competing at the Makeover. I didn’t care what it took, we were going to show somehow.
From March to May I was on cruches. I hobbled out to the barn almost everyday after 2 weeks of staying in the house sleeping. I missed my horse.
The day I came home from the ER the first thing I did was go see Mike. He was in his paddock and would not come to me even for a treat. He felt guilty and it showed. So, I waited weeks before I went back out to the barn. After surgery I went out to the barn and proceeded to halter Mike, lead him to the cross-ties, and groom on him. My mother thought I was nuttier than a fruit cake. However, I really missed my horse and we had lost a small part of our bond. This is how it went until mid-May when I could start walking without crutches or any sort of boot. I did lunge Mike a couple times while still on crutches. Again my mother and a few boarders thought I was crazy, but I was determined and it helped Mike and his brain. Not being handled during breeding season was not good for him as a stallion.
The first time I got back on Mike I was nervous. I didn’t know how he would act nor how my foot would handle a stirrup. Therefore, I had my mother put us on a lunge line. For anyone that doesn’t know me extremely well, I have never in 30 years with horses ridden on a lunge line. NEVER. This was a first for me but it helped a ton.
I started back riding Mike dressage and doing the basics, adding in ground poles and cavaletti. I also started teaching him the dressage test pattern.
We worked on that for all of June. Then I threw in some jumps. We still hadn’t gone to a show but I didn’t think either of us was ready or needed it. Plus most local schooling shows near us really were uncomfortable with a stallion.
So, we started jumping. Small at first then got bigger but only 2ft. We still had a lot to work on with our brain.
Our first show was a small local one and we had to show in the jumper class. Mike was great and very well behaved. He did everything I asked but still at times during our courses thought he was the driver. *happy doesn’t cover it*
We proceeded to work, train and school at home. I trailered Mike to my riding instructor’s barn twice where we worked on being more Hunter-esque.
I had such a tough time staying with him over jumps. He has such a powerful rear end. I was also trotting jumps with him because he would try rushing them. He would have mini panic attacks around jumps. I was determined that we were showing in Hunters though.
Early September, Mike successfully jumped thru his first grid/gymnastic. I have my HorseCom unit and Eisbrecher to thank. It helped his brain like Riddlin. I was sure now that we would be OKAY in Kentucky.
At the end of October my mother *who I am grateful for* hauled Mike, myself and all of our stuff up to Kentucky. We were heading up several days before and stayed at a local farm until we could go to the horse park.
We were on the end.
The first day of showing was Hunters. Mike schooled everything really well the day before and also that morning. We tacked up braided what I could *his forelock and tail* and got sparkly for our debut in the Hunter ring.
He handled himself very well and listened to everything I asked or said. To say I was proud would be a huge understatement. I didn’t care if we were laughed at or came in dead last. All I cared about was how Mike did for me in an actual Hunter ring with actual Hunter jumps and a setting that we had never been in before. We didn’t win but we didn’t come in last either, more towards the bottom. I was still so pleased. Mike was a perfect gentleman.
Friday we were scheduled for dressage. Neither of us had ever shown dressage. Heck, I had owned my dressage saddle since high school and had never shown dressage. This was going to be a first for us both but at least we knew our test. I think Mike knew it just as well as I did. *the reason for teaching it to him* So, dressage test was directly after the lunch break. We were first. *hey, another first* LoL I went down to school ahead of time. Mike was not happy about being by himself but we walked miles around the small ring and eventually he calmed his brain and relaxed. Afterwards I was so pleased. Mike did everything I asked. He was quiet, relaxed and didn’t fuss at all for any reason. Later I got our test results and had a giant laugh from reading the judge’s comments. Both judges commented on him being LAZY and that I rode the test but not the horse. I was so happy to read that. *why would someone be happy to read that on a dressage test result* Well, I’ll tell you why. I was happy because that is what I had worked my butt off trying to get Mike to learn. I took a SPEED DEMON and turned it into a LAZY, slow gentle soul.
Mike after the makeover had a lay-over at the farm we stayed at before. He stayed there for almost 3 weeks until I could get a ride home for him. It was great for him. He got to relax and just be a horse with plenty of turn-out.
Once he was home I let him be just a horse but still handled him and occasionally saddled him up and worked his brain. I had a happy, content stallion and didn’t want to screw him up.
AFTER THE MAKEOVER——– LIFE GOES ON
January came and I found out about a open stock horse show that benefitted a local 4H club. I couldn’t resist taking Mike. So, we started riding and training in a more western style. Mike loved it. *especially with braided anything being prohibited*
We showed Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship and Ranch Pleasure. He moved just as slow and relaxed as the other horses and our pattern for horsemanship was outstanding for never having done one. We even got 3rd place in Ranch Pleasure. Winning a small prize *a collapsible bucket*. I was extremely proud at this show. Not only did we show together in a coliseum arena, but I had several people compliment me on how well behaved he was for a stallion and how amazing of a horse he was for an OTTB. They all told me that they were surprised because they had never really seen an off the track horse let alone a Thoroughbred compete so well at a western style show. Mike even stood next to mares in an alleyway and never said a word or even looked the wrong way. I was proud to show everyone who was there with there peanut rolling AQHAs that a Thoroughbred could do just as well if not a little better.
Now we are at July. It’s been a little over 2 years since I not only brought Mike home but decided to keep him. My son and Mike have a bond that is special. I have the perfect horse that I made myself from years of experiences. We did a Charity Jumper show this spring. Mike and I jumped 2’3″ and I had an accomplished rider take him for a spin and
Mike was amazing with her. I knew then that all of my training had been spot on. *proud moment*
Mike also has given a few lessons to kids and he really likes it.
He listens to them but always looks to me for guidance. He does everything they ask but if it’s not the right question he will look at me before he answers it wrong. It’s truly amazing. There are so many Thoroughbreds, both off the track and not, that do not fit the stereotypes everyone has put on them. They are not crazy, stupid, talent less horses. They are intelligent, versatile horses that just need the right person to believe in them and the right person to find that hidden talent.
Mike loves western tack. After 2 years I truly believe that. He will jump for me up to 2’6″ if I ask him to, but he is a western horse at heart. His demeanor and attitude proved that to me.
So, today *July 19, 2017* I saddled Mike up in western tack. After I put front shoes back on him. We went out to the arena. I, of course, had to move everything that I had left out. *poles and jumps*. I set up our 2 barrels in slot 1 & 2. Then set up a tire in slot 3. Put cones in the places they were needed. Hopped up in the saddle without lunging and Mike went to work. Just basic leg yielding and bending at the walk and trot. Then were schooled at the walk and trot around the barrels both directions. Moved on to the canter which we did both directions. Walked and trotted the barrels a few more times.
I wasn’t sure how he would handle cantering barrels but figured what the heck, let’s do this. Mike was great. No speed demon. He listened to me and let me drive *or steer*.
So, Mike can now see how he does at the next barrel race. We will probably just run an exhibition but it’ll be fun. Maybe I can bust some stereotypes in the barrel world around here. Promote OTTB’s and let them see that just like not all speed event horses are crazy and talent less; Neither are Thoroughbreds.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE TB MAKEOVER. IT’S ABOUT THE THOROUGHBRED’S LIFE AFTER. We should remember that everyday. It’s not just about trying to sell them, but what we do with them before and after. We should all try to promote not just ottb’s but Tb’s too, and squish those stereotypes everyday. Growing up showing Arabians has taught me that and now I get to keep doing it for another breed. Thoroughbreds.
So, make sure you go hug and kiss your OTTB.