It’s a question that has been posed to me quite a lot over the last few weeks in the final run up to The Retired Racehorse Project, which is part of the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at the Kentucky Horse Park this Oct. 23-25. Yes, when I clicked the "send" button back in February 2015 with my application I had the fleeting moment where I thought what am I doing?!!?!? But I was also filled with excitement of the journey and what challenges would be posed along the way. I am the first and the only U.K. participant and can't wait to experience the culture and different training techniques and methods in the U.S.
So, a little about me and my horse for the makeover project. My name is Louise Robson and I run a business in the Buckinghamshire countryside in the United Kingdom called Thoroughbred Dressage. It’s a stable dedicated to the retraining of racehorses into dressage. I have several owners who base their horses with me, but probably my most noteable owner is HM The Queen. The horses owned by HM are; Mister Glum (Glum), Quadrille (Quad), and most recently Princes Trust (Phillip). Glum is the foundation horse to Thoroughbred Dressage and I started riding him when I was 15 years old. He competed up to Prix St. Georges (PSG) level and was one of the highest competing ex-racehorses on the dressage circuit until his retirement in September 2012.
Currently Quadrille is my highest competing ex-racehorse. He is competing at Advanced Medium level, with aims of PSG in 2015. He has been to regional and national level at all levels so far. Prince's Trust arrived two months ago and is currently recovering from a pulled front tendon.
Now, on to my project horse. Tinchy Ryder, aka Ryan. He was found in the North of England (Yorkshire) at the top of Sutton bank ( a 25 percent incline to reach the top) at Bryan Smart Racing in early spring 2015. He is by Dylan Thomas (winner of £3.3 million on the flat). After an undistinguished career, Ryan retired sound from racing in December 2014. After looking at 50 horses before I found Ryan, I knew he was the one the moment he was pulled out of stable. At 4 years old Ryan is still growing into himself, but he has such trainability and a lovely, sweet, willing temperament. He loves people and fuss and talks to everyone on the yard. He loves scratches and will sidle up to people in the yard so they will give him scratches and attention.
Ryan has qualified for the RoR (Retraining of the Race-horses) finals, to be held at the end of September, at intro (walk and trot) level. He is winning at prelim level as well and will be a super dressage horse as the years go on. We have had moments along the way where the communication between us has been muddled, but we are slowly finding our dancing shoes and hoping to show what we can do in October.
My other half, Tom, aka Ginge, is a full-blown lover of Country music and is preparing Ryan (and the rest of the yard) by playing Zac Brown band and Luke Brian at top volume (along with the occasional Florida Georgia Line). Stetsons and cowboy boots are now a part of the daily attire and all of the horses are showing their support by donning the Stetson, even when he accompanies me with International Para-Rider Amanda Shirtcliffe and her horse, Ruby Rose, the Stetson is with us.
So…am I bonkers? A little bit yes, but also no. It will be a fantastic experience, which I will take a lot away from. I am lucky enough to be a speaker on the panels at the symposium and I get to ride my OTTB. What more could I want?!?!
Finally, I want to thank AmlinPlus Horse Insurance (amlinplus.com) for sponsoring my trip to America with Ryan. They have helped make this dream a reality.
The countdown is on. Just seven weeks until Ryan and I are airborne and ready to cross the pond!