Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Big Goals for a ‘Scrappy’ Adult Amateur

Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Big Goals for a ‘Scrappy’ Adult Amateur

A longtime lover of the thoroughbred breed, the Thoroughbred Makeover has always been a goal of mine. However, the stars never seemed to align and my horses at any given time were neither eligible nor a good fit.

As a 30-something adult amateur based in western New York, I have always gotten things done by being “scrappy.” As a kid, this included being a barn rat, mucking stalls, picking pastures, cleaning tack and doing whatever I could to get a little more ride time. Now, as an adult with limited time and money, I end up doing quite a lot on my own – or I drag along my very kind boyfriend as groom, horse hauler, hot walker and human golf cart. I have a small string of horses which include my retired warmblood mare, a plain bay Thoroughbred gelding who I foxhunt and event, and an additional rotating project (always a Thoroughbred). They keep me busy between my 9-5 office job and other hobbies (yoga, drinking brews and running half-marathons).

Last year, I attended the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event (LRK3DE) with a group of horsey friends. I loved exploring the Kentucky Horse Park and getting to meet several amazing upper-level event riders.  Course-walking with Buck Davidson and Kyle Carter was a highlight! While there, we also enjoyed a few bourbon tastings and toured several Thoroughbred breeding facilities. At the well-known Three Chimneys Farm we were able to meet the stallion Funtastic, along with Sky Mesa, Volatile, Gun Runner and a few other gorgeous Thoroughbred sires.

This September, I was on the hunt for a new project horse and I came across Funnee. This sweet 2-year-old filly was out of the beautiful grey stallion I had met in Kentucky. Funnee had only raced three times, and despite her great breeding lines, she was not talented enough for the track. If you watch any of the videos of her races, she quietly canters across the finish line (in dead last). I had to take her home.

I scheduled an appointment to see Funnee and several other Thoroughbreds at Presque Isle Downs that were being advertised on the CANTER PA website. CANTER is a fantastic organization, and I have sourced several Thoroughbreds through them and Finger Lakes Finest (a local organization in New York). Both of these organizations assist track trainers with finding homes for their unsuccessful or retiring Thoroughbreds.

Acquiring Funnee is another great example of my “get it done” scrappy attitude. After meeting Funnee on a Saturday afternoon, the trainers were able to pull her health certificate and paperwork together fairly quickly. That Monday, I hitched up my trailer and headed to Presque Isle, solo. Since the track was closing for the year, I knew I needed to pick up Funnee relatively quickly. Like I said, as an adult amateur on a budget, I’m fairly independent and I take care of a lot of “horse things” on my own. Typically though, picking up a baby 2-year old Thoroughbred and transporting them three hours is not one of them. I prefer to have backup or a travel companion at the very least!

That first evening was an adventure on its own. On our way, I was pulled over by an officer in one of the sleepy little villages along our route. We were, albeit, a bit lost. The officer was kind and understanding. I even opened up the side door of the trailer to let him meet Funnee before he sent us on our way.

Upon bringing Funnee home, I was hesitant to do too much with a 2-year-old right out of the gate (pun intended). Even though she had been in a full training program, I gave Funnee a few months of downtime, waiting to hop on until late November. We had a series of “test rides” which included evaluating how she was for a short trail ride, flat work in the arena and a quick off-property adventure to a friend’s facility. Being in western New York, a lot of these rides were in the snow, wind and cold weather. We worked on groundwork, getting to know one another, and self-loading in my trailer. Since I travel quite a bit on my own, my horses need to be able to load and unload with just me!

While I knew Funnee’s body would have some more growing and developing to do, her brain was fantastic. I felt reassured that she could handle the pressure of a big venue and new show environment, and together we could work throughout the summer to have a successful outing at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. We submitted our application to the Thoroughbred Makeover and were accepted!

I hope you follow along as we gear up for the 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover. Given my background in foxhunting, eventing and hunter/jumpers, I currently have my sights set on preparing Funnee for Dressage and/or Field Hunters at the Makeover. That being said, we will see where she shines the brightest and let Funnee’s journey dictate our final choices.

I bring some additional perspective, as I am simultaneously prepping my 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Kona, for the American Eventing Championships (AECs), which will also be held at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of August. It’ll be interesting for me to try and balance each of our fitness regimens, training schedules and travel plans – but I have faith that we can get it done.