Back In Tack

By Brooke Schafer

It has now been 6 weeks since I acquired my Thoroughbred Makeover gelding. In 6 short weeks he has begun to transform from a lean sleek fit racehorse to a round fat happy retired horse. Or so he thinks.

Six week transformation. Top photo from Feb 15, 2016 and bottom from April 1, 2016.
Six week transformation. Top photo from Feb 15, 2016 and bottom from April 1, 2016.

I only rode him a few times when I first got him just to get a feel for him before giving him a true vacation. I had planned on then allowing him to be on full turnout until April 1st. As usual though, plans change.

Upon arrival to feed him and his paddock mate one afternoon, I found him standing awkwardly in the paddock, nervously whinnying over his shoulder. There stood my TB Makeover horse, my future Rolex horse, with his left stifle locked, dragging his foot behind him as he tried to make it to the gate. My heart sank.

This is never a good sight to walk up on...
This is never a good sight to walk up on…

I was able to get him up to the barn but during that time his stifle would pop in and out repeatedly. I knew what I had to do: it was time for him to go back to work. (One of the best solutions to this problem is work. Riding including hill work helps to strengthen a horse’s hind end and keep their ligaments tight. Downtime from the track had allowed him to lose muscle tone across his hind end and ultimately resulted in the issue I was now having).

So back to work he went. Mostly just easy trot work and some light cantering. I slowly incorporated circles (he was less than thrilled with this plan) and have been working to teach him to not be a giraffe but to be more like a beautiful ground-covering hunter (we’re still in the giraffe stage).

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I will not be asking him to jump any time soon. Some old race injuries still need time to heal and because of that I will be focusing on dressage and just general behavior. Teaching him to be a good citizen on and off his back will be the most beneficial to both of us in the long run.

I’m excited to see what kind of horse I have by competition time. So much can happen between now and then, but its the journey that makes it fun.

Call Me Wonderful back in tack
Call Me Wonderful back in tack

Brooke Schafer is an equine enthusiast born and raised in the heart of the Bluegrass of Kentucky. She has grown up riding and competing several breeds and disciplines including Arabians, American Saddlebreds, Hunter/Jumpers, Dressage, and Eventing. Brooke is a lover of all things equine and is also the artist behind Keepsake Equine Custom Art.  She has a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology and currently works in the public school system with grades K-12 as well as inpatient and outpatient settings. When she isn’t working or painting, Brooke enjoys riding her Thoroughbreds, American Saddlebreds, Arabians, and Sport Horses at her family farm in Central Kentucky. When hearing about the Retired Racehorse Project and the Thoroughbred Makeover, Brooke jumped on the opportunity to use her multi-disciplinary background to retrain an OTTB and showcase him in October at the Kentucky Horse Park.