Thoroughbreds for All Event! Re-cap, Part 3-4

I have not posted the final parts of the Thoroughbreds For All Event, from the perspective of blogger, Stacey Kimmel-Smith.  Hopefully some of you have seen the final two parts through Stacey’s blog already.  But if you have not, no better time than the present! 

I just love the riding of Eric Dierks and his quiet, supportive style.  He seems to promote confidence, suppleness and relaxation in his horses.  I give props to both of them; Kerry Blackmer and Eric Dierks for their riding.  Both the horses seemed everything that OTTB riders have known for some time; willing and as Stacey says, “game.” 

TBs for All Part 3: You might as well jump

 Bruce wanted to try the horses over a few jumps (what he would do if he were evaluating a horse for purchase). The horse rescue organizer/manager reluctantly agreed to let Bruce tutor the riders/horses in jumping — they started with a single cavaletti and quickly worked their way to a vertical. For those of you just tuning in, these are just off the track horses. They show they’re game for anything — jumping into the crowd, no less. Harv would not have handled this as well as they did…

Stay tuned for Part 4: The Oxer!

 All for TBs Part 4: Two great prospects, revealed!

So within a few minutes of being introduced to poles, Bruce moves on to set up an oxer…

In the background, you’ll see a woman on a chestnut just outside the arena — this is Ready for April and Cathy Weischhoff — truly a highlight of an already enjoyable evening. A fancy athletic chestnut, 16.2, Cathy has used natural horsemanship techniques to take this horse to an advanced level in a short timeframe. She seems like a really nice lady, very down to earth, and she’s found herself a “keeper.” There is a video on young event horses where Cathy talks about Ready and his performance at an event at Rebecca Farm (with footage!). Awesome horse.

Stacey Kimmel-Smith, writer of Behind the Bit, can be found by visiting the BTB blog or contacted through email at behindthebit(at)gmail(dot)com.
Thank You again Stacey for letting us share this at Diligent Horse!

Whirlwind Week.


I know I’ve been a little MIA this week.  Getting back into riding shape has been sort of, kind of, intense.  There is a big difference between riding the horse and riding the horse.  I’m trying really hard to get myself moving up and forward in my riding and be the kind of rider I want to be.  Technical, sensitive, adjustable and confident.  I say confident because you won’t see my jumping a 4’6″ course anytime soon.  Heck no, I’m just mastering the cumulative requirements to ride a 2’6″ fence again.   But I’m getting there and my friend who’s been helping me in achieving this goal to be that rider, has been nothing but perfect.  She’s honest with me, direct, but supportive.  And it’s a wonder why her horses are well-trained, well-mannered and just happy.

On Monday I rode the little OTTB again and it was great.  We finished the ride doing a triple combination, ending at a 2’7″ vertical.  On Tuesday I rode a different horse which is such a change from Bax.  The Warmblood is not super tall, but he is big bodied, has longer and larger strides and rides overall different.  He is comfortable in the opposite ways Bax is.  I love all his paces and could definitely ride the canter all day.  We did something that was challenging to both of us which started, after warming up over ground poles and such, with the “circle of death.”  – Four poles set in a circle format, which we had to canter over practicing accuracy in pace, and in steering, to make it to each pole in the center.  Then we did a small course of jumps that were aimed to help me with the jumper turns.  What fun!!  The following day I was tired and came up short in my riding.  My mind and body were not connecting.  There were minor achievements within the ride, but overall I’d chalk it up to an off day.  A day that means I’ll ride that much harder and that much better the next time.

Things have been going well with Reason.  Our tack walks are proving to be valuable assets in the early training process.  I’m able to address his issues in a much more relaxed, low-pressure environment which helps him stay checked in.  We spend some of the time walking on the buckle and other parts of the time doing things that require him to think more through patterns.  His confidence is improving and his attitude is changing too.  I think he’s also enjoying having a regular routine to predict again.  Little by little we are making progress.

A trail ride will be in the works for Reason soon too.  It stinks not having a trailer to be able to take him out on a regular basis because I know it would be really good for him, but I am thankful I do have someone who allows me to use theirs to do such things with.

I’ll have a more thorough update on Reason this coming week.

One End to the Other.

Reason and I after Sunday’s first tack walk after being legged back up.

You know when you’re riding and you feel those moments come through that for a second everything is in a harmonic, rhythm?  Every part of your body and your mind is communicating to the horse just right and in return the horse is responding by traveling in balance, in rhythm and in excellent focus.  You know in those moments that what you’re feeling is exactly right.  You feel it and suddenly you grow an obsession of sorts, of a driving force to go to that place, all the time, every-time.  Parts of my ride yesterday were like that.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that in the saddle!

Bax picked up a nice canter and in the beginning we were cruising over a simple pole on the ground.  My goal was to stay light, stay balanced and ride the pole like it was a fence.  Eyes up, shoulders up, heels down, hand light, seat light, moving with the motion, balanced, supportive and riding in the moment.  At times the distance was off, or I was too focused on one part of the equation, that others faltered.  This is how riding works.  You diligently pursue mind and body to build an ultimate riding machine, so you can better communicate to your horse.  It teaches you to be very aware.  In order to ride that fence right, you have to have all your ducks in a row and all cylinders firing.  That’s why riding is such good therapy.  When you put your mind and body ‘there’ the horse responds with as much as you put into it.  – Some make you work harder for it, some like Bax, make you strive for it because the connection with the horse spans deeper. –  This horse loves to jump.  My friend who owns him described him as “attacking the jump.”  He goes towards it on a mission.  It’s the coolest thing to be riding a horse with as much drive to hit that fence as right as you want too.

We went on to jump a small vertical and work on more technique and played jumper with a tighter turn and therefore a smaller window for preparation and to arrange all those ducks in a row.  It was so much fun!  Then we did an in and out, with a cross rail to another vertical which was between 2’3″ and 2’6″.  The end portion was cantering to the small vertical, which was set on the diagonal, jumping the in and out and then back over the ground pole.  With this I also got to further practice the flying changes coming out of the jump, which is also so much fun.  It felt so good and I was so proud of Bax and I.

Later on in the day on Tuesday, Reason also got his chance to go out.  It was a tack walking day.   Reason was a very good boy.  He gave me some attitude in little tiny bits here and there, but that’s also him and it was over as quickly as it began.  He was very pleased with himself.

Yesterday I rode Reason for another tack walk.  I wanted to casually walk the pasture on the buckle and allow him to take us to the areas he desired.  The footing in some spots of the pasture are hard, crusty and not comfortable for the dark horse to travel over, but he knows where the good spots are.  I do too, but I wanted him to work for himself a bit.  I guided him if he ventured off, but left him alone for the most part.  I created boundaries, but gave him the door and the opportunity to make the right choice.  We had some great walking in.  The whole ride his head was low, there was not fighting, chomping or sour attitude related to the bit.  We watched as a tractor came by to mow the ditch for the county and the cows across the street once again lined up to watch their neighbor horse-friend walk around all dressed up.

Reason is such a curious horse.  Ink was much the same way and it’s something I love and encourage, encourage, encourage.  When Reason heard the tractor coming down the road, long before I heard or even saw it, he began to want to walk straight towards the fence parallel to that road.  We watched as it went by and he kept wanting to get a little closer and watch all the action.

I had only one little test from Reason, but it was needed.  I knew he may test his boundaries at one point and I was open to it.  I knew that it would be an excellent opportunity for me to further establish the guidelines (that he needs to truly become a confident, happy horse).  As we were walking in the opposite direction of the shelter, where Errika was hanging out in, Reason stopped.  I gave him a squeeze to see what he would do.  He swished his tail, I turned him in a circle, kicked and we carried on.  We didn’t have any problems after that and I think he was happy that I handled it that way and happy to see me rise to the leader he needs and wants me to be.  I allowed him to make the decision to react that way as I carried on with walking, there if he needed my guidance, but he didn’t sway.  With that I ended the ride.

Lately everything is going so well and I’m so thankful.  I’m meeting new [horse] people and reconnecting with old people and of course more horses!  I just love it!  The horses have taught me a lot about myself, who I want to be and just, life.  They truly are special creatures with amazing gifts in everything they do.  What is special, what is meaningful lies in the journey, the end goal is a reflection of it.

Horse with Heart.

Thoroughbreds For All Event!

There are such great things happening right now for OTTB’s and that can be thanks to the efforts of OTTB fans everywhere.  From the stories to the work being done to promote them on every level is contributing to the current and future of the horse we OTTB folks love and appreciate.  I hope to see events such as Thoroughbreds for All happening in California in the near future.

Needless to say, you bet I was excited to hear about the Thoroughbreds for All Event- On the RRTP site,”Thoroughbreds For All! is an evening of education and fellowship for people who favor off-the-track Thoroughbreds combined with an invitation for equestrians to shop in Kentucky for the Thoroughbred of their dreams.”  Stueart Pittman of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, and the most recent display of the ex-racehorse proving it’s aptitude and train ability in the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, with New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program hosting the event, put together what was described as a combination of market and education.

Also in attendance; long-time equestrian, eventer and Olympian, Bruce Davidson, rolex 3day Veterans, Cathy Wieschhoff and Dorothy Crowell, and NARA (North American Racing Academy) executive director and instructor, Chris McCarron and racetrack veterinarian, Dr. Alladay.  With this well-rounded group, the event was sure to be successful not to mention educational.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible!  It really is something special to have people come together to celebrate something they are so passionate about through something like this.  Go Team OTTB!

Fellow blogger, Stacey Kimmel-Smith who writes at Behind the Bit, is a Rolex regular and as she says, Becky a BTB friend, suggested that they attend Thoroughbreds for All while at the prestigious 4 star event last weekend.   Upon finding out that she would be attending TFA, I decided to ask her if she’d be so kind as to share her perspective on the event and allow it to be posted here, at Diligent Horse.  Thank you Stacey!

There are multiple parts to this series on the Thoroughbreds for All Event by Stacey, so stay tuned!  Below are the first two parts.

   Thoroughbreds for All: A symposium and celebration of OTTBs

One of my BTB friends,  Becky, suggested that we attend Thoroughbreds for All while we were at Rolex. I knew nothing about it but I love my own dear thoroughbred, so I signed up for the evening clinic/symposium/workshop on retraining thoroughbreds. I had no idea that the cast of speakers would be such an elite and knowledgable group, but with Bruce Davidson there, anything else was icing on the cake — and there was a lot of icing! The other experts are  notable  in the thoroughbred and eventing world and with good reason — experience, experience, experience. Their names are at the end of this article.

The evening centered around helping the audience understand the world through the eyes of an ex-racehorse, and to help us to size up the potential and best use of the individual OTTB. Someone has already summarized the event in a brief article if you want to read it. I’ll cover it in a bit more detail but overall it was fun,  informal, the food was delicious, and I would have spent twice the amount of the ticket for this experience.   Bob went too, and he enjoyed it as well.

I have captured some video of the evening — it starts out a little dark but it improves, so keep watching! In this first part, we see our team of experts evaluating one of five adoption candidates presented–a former Kentucky Derby runner, Advice.

I’ll note that the horses presented aren’t specially selected; they are intended to be representative of what’s out there. While the horse presented below (Advice)  has a lot of “jewelry” from his race career, others in the group looked ready to move into hard work. Still, the beauty and quality of Advice is undeniable.

Later Cathy Wieshhoff  showed off her gorgeous chestnut TB, Ready for April. We were all drooling as she showed us her training techniques. Her horse was focused on her like a border collie, and I found a video of Cathy online demonstrating the same concepts.

TBs for All part 2: Bruce Davidson talks track horses

“I hear they pay good money for bucking horses”

In this segment of the Thoroughbreds for All symposium, we see three riders (Eric Dierks, Kerry Blackmer, and Steuart Pittman)  from the Retired Racehorse Training Challenge in an even-more-challenging situation. They each hop up on an unfamiliar, fresh-off-the-track, OTTB in a very charged situation, and they ride them. The horses are typical just off the track condition — while they’ve had a bit of let-down time, they have not been in regular horse tack, retraining has not yet begun. As if that’s not enuf, there are are probably 200 people in bleachers watching, clapping, laughing, talking–oh, and a loud microphone  with occasional feedback.

I have nothing but admiration for the riders and their coach, Bruce Davidson. You’ll hear lots of gasps and laughter because the horses are reactive (yes, there is bucking!) and the banter is so amusing. They take it all in stride, so to speak.

Stacey Kimmel-Smith, writer of Behind the Bit, can be found by visiting the BTB blog or contacted through email at behindthebit(at)gmail(dot)com.
Thank You again Stacey for letting us share this at Diligent Horse!