Exciting News!

It has been a really good week for Kurt and I. Kurt found out he will be stationed at Dover AFB for at least a few more years which is always good news for us. Then he found out that he was promoted to Master Sergeant. He had studied so hard for that test and really didn’t think he would make it (didn’t have much time in rank or time in service for this particular testing). It was also a super low promotion rate of 18%. There were only 3,841 selected out of the 20,528 eligible. He was shocked to get the news and I am just so proud of him. He works harder than anybody to be the best at what he does.

I had also found out that I was selected for the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover- http://retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=243:26-thoroughbred-makeover-trainers-selected&catid=79:thoroughbred-makeover. There are 26 of us who were selected from over 142 applicants. There is a really diverse group and I am excited to read more about the other participants.

I wanted to do the makeover to highlight the CANTER MA retraining model and illustrate that 501c groups can be a great place to horse shop. I liked the format of this particular project because it wasn’t a challenge of who was the better rider or which horse progressed the fastest. You basically are going to just show your training process and the real good, bad and ugly side of retraining Tb’s. That is the whole reason that I write this blog. It is so much fun to get to see all the steps.

I was thinking that I would go “shopping” at our CANTER farm but when the parameters of the project said that a horse could have less than fifteen rides and still be considered not to have retraining, I decided to use Gib. I need to make sure that I don’t get so busy that I can’t focus on this project (and my regular job..let’s not forget that!) so it made more sense not to add another horse to the list of horses that I need to ride. Gib only had about six or seven rides on him so we can consider him eligible for the makeover. I still have Letterman, Sky, PJ, Legend (rehabbing) and Gib in my rotation so that is quite enough already. I hope to get Sky and PJ sold but no real hurry on that. I am lucky enough to have a great bunch of girls who help me with the riding. We are going to have so much fun this summer!

We will be keeping a page on the RRTP website to chronicle the process. I may post both places but I haven’t figured that all out yet.

I thought it might be interesting for readers to see what I wrote about on my application. I am bit insecure when it comes to talking about myself but I will post it here because it is real and from the heart.

If you are a professional trainer, identify your business name if any and the services you provide My personal business is JLM Sport Horses, but I am looking to represent the CANTER Mid Atlantic retraining program that I have been involved with as a trainer for five years. CANTER was one of the first 501c programs to start a retraining program that aimed it’s focus at retraining ex racehorses. In the CANTER program it is a requirement that all CANTER horses have a minimum of thirty days of retraining before they are sold into new homes. I restart the horses with basic lunging techniques and groundwork to teach them about accepting the contact, going forward, and understanding basic voice commands. By using this method I am able to provide a sound foundation for beginning work under saddle. My flatwork is always done slowly to ensure that the horses are working from back to front with a focus on going forward and working into the contact correctly. I teach all of the horses’ basic lateral work that includes moving from inside leg to outside rein in both directions. I believe that grids and jumping should always be a part of the program for all horses even in the earliest stages of retraining because it helps them build muscles, and adds variety. We also hack off of the farm in order to get the horses used to going new places. We may just start with a 15 minute trail ride and work up from there depending on the horse’s comfort level. We will take the horses to XC schoolings, starter competitions, chases, paces, and much more depending on how long they are in the program and what is suitable for them.

My primary focus is retraining thoroughbreds off of the track for both CANTER and personal clients. I have also broke horses of all breeds, and worked on dealing with horses labeled as problem horses. I also do quite a bit of sales with great success.

Name and location of the farm where training will take place, including a brief description of the facilities. JLM Sport Horses is an 11 acre farm in Camden, Delaware that is specifically designed for the process of letting down and retraining thoroughbreds. The farm features no climb fencing with a white flex board on top to ensure safety in turnout. The barn includes eight stalls that all open into small paddocks with stone dust footing. These paddocks can be used for either layup or for initial transition to turnout, as these paddocks are able to be opened to allow access into larger fields. With this type of turn out setting, the horses are able to come and go as they please since the turnout is 24/7. I find that this allows horses to decide if they want to be in or out, which minimizes stress for them in an unfamiliar situation. I have lush pastures that are rotated accordingly to maintain a healthy pasture despite the small acreage. The facilities also include a 100x200ft riding ring with lovely footing that is a mix of sand and wash stone dust. In the ring is a small course of jumps which include lots of fillers at low heights for the introduction of jumping. There is also a small arena with good footing that we use for lunging and free jumping. Trails are located right off of the farm, as well as a large state park that is a 5 minute trailer ride away. The park has sand footing and trails that are enclosed by wooded land on each side, which make it a great place to introduce OTTB’s to trail riding without overwhelming them. We feed some of the nicest alfalfa hay around to the thoroughbreds to help them gain or maintain their weight and muscling. The easier keepers eat great quality timothy hay. I feed Triple Crown Senior (high fat/protein but low sugar) to the harder keepers and use Triple Crown 30% ration balancer for the easier keepers. We add fat via rice bran, Omega supplements, or Coo l Calories when needed. I have extensive experience with feeding thoroughbreds in order to add and maintain proper weight and muscling.
Primary equestrian discipline in which you have successfully competed: I would call myself a jack of all trades because when retraining thoroughbreds, you don’t get to pick the discipline they want to do.
Highlights of competition success: I enjoy focusing more on the retraining process than I do competing. I believe that there is a place for those of us who really want to do the initial 30-120 days of retraining on these horses without taking them up the levels in various disciplines. A properly restarted horse will be a horse that is able to move up the levels because all of the building blocks have been installed correctly.

A successful competition with a horse that is beginning their retraining is all about having a positive experience. Competing a young horse isn’t about winning ribbons, it’s about building confidence and ensuring the horse is happy and comfortable. I am the type of trainer that focuses on building positive experiences in every outing; making sure that I enter the level where the horse will be sure to have a good experience. My version of success is when a horse goes to a competition and is relaxed and happy about the job it is being asked to do. Most of my competing is at the very basic levels of every discipline where I am introducing the horses to their first shows. Success is when I have done an excellent job preparing a horse at home so that they know what to expect at their first show and they have a great experience. I don’t focus on perfection, only that I leave with a horse that has come away with more knowledge than they arrived with, and a positive experience.

Describe your experience working with ex-racehorses: Thoroughbreds are my absolute passion. I was the kid riding the young green TB in pony club that had all the pony club moms covering their eyes. It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to other breeds; it was just that I wanted to ride a thoroughbred. I was lucky enough to have a family that was involved in the racing industry. My mom ran the layup barn, taught riding lessons, and did a lot of sales of thoroughbreds. I was very involved even at a young age with restarting our thoroughbreds that were off of the track.
It probably isn’t something to brag about, but I have always had the reputation of being the person that would ride anything and could bring along a really tough horse. I really enjoyed the quirky TB’s and the tougher they were, the more determined I was to work with them. I had a lot of patience (or I was humbled into developing a lot of patience), and I enjoyed getting into the horses heads to figure out what made them tick.
I have spent the last ten years heavily involved in the retraining and resale of OTTB’s. I pride myself in developing really nice OTTB’s that have solid basics installed into them that allow any amateur rider to pick right up and go with the horses that I have retrained. I have an excellent reputation as a good trainer and an honest seller.
My work with CANTER gives me access to a wide variety of horses: quiet, hot, small, big, quirky, easy, talented, sound, sound with prior injuries, confident, lacking confidence, tough mouth, really soft mouths, and every sort of issue you can think of. Working with a diverse group of horses requires me to think out of the box and train each horse as an individual. I believe that I have a very large toolbox that enables me to be successful in dealing with horses of every sort. I am far from the perfect rider, but I do a good job of figuring out horses and teaching them to be solid citizens. I have no timeline or fixed agenda. I allow the horses to guide me in the direction they want to go, so that we work as partners. I am a quiet rider who is soft but tough when needed.
I have an excellent knowledge of what type of feed program works best for OTTB’s and allows them to build weight and muscle without having any adverse effects such as being too hot. I understand saddle fit and how that affects the performance of OTTB’s. Therefore, I pay attention to properly fitting tack so that the horse is comfortable and not hindered under saddle. I tailor my turnout situation to creating the most relaxed horse possible. I am excellent at figuring out any underlying issues that an OTTB may have and treating them to get them comfortable again. I work with an excellent farrier which is essential in ensuring we have a comfortable horse. No foot no horse! The dentist and chiropractor play a large role in my program as well to ensure optimal comfort and physical performance of the horse. My extensive experience allows me to understand how a horse’s job at the track will correlate into retraining. I can recognize when a horse is muscle sore and whether I need to back off or push through it. I believe that I do a really good job at bringing a horse along on the flat, so that they develop the correct muscles without getting sore or cranky.
I am especially good at dealing with horses with confidence issues. I have reformed horses that wouldn’t get near a pole on the ground into successful jumpers by taking my time to build their confidence.
Describe your experience working with racehorses. My family has always been involved in the racing industry. Growing up my step-father was the leading trainer at Delaware Park for many years. We ran a large racing stable based out of Delaware Park and we also lived on the training farm that had a track. I wasn’t interested in staying in the family business so I went off to college and currently work as an HR manager for a federal agency.
I am still very involved with running the Delaware Park branch of CANTER Mid Atlantic. I spend time making visits to the track to list horses on the website and also to network with trainers who are donating horses to our program.
Identify any individual, organization, farm, racing stable, business, or trainer that you expect to involve as a horse owner, sponsor or supporter if you are selected. My plan would be to shop for a horse on one of our CANTER Mid Atlantic farms. We have many lovely horses that have been donated (over 50 horses a year are donated) and are just getting their rest on the farms that board our CANTER owned horses. I would like to show that just because a horse is donated to a non-profit doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. Many people donate because they know that we do a great job at ensuring the future of the horses by bringing them along with proper basics which allow them to find quality homes. I could chronicle the process that I use in determining if a horse is ready for retraining and why I select a particular horse. I typically always video this process for my blog and show the horses lunging and free in the paddock. I talk about what I am looking for- feet, soundness, physical, and mental state. Also, what I look for in a horse in terms of conformation and attitude. I would represent CANTER and our retraining program. This is already a well established process that we have been doing for the past five years. I take pictures and videos of the first ride and most of the rides after. I chronicle the good, bad and ugly of the retraining process of every horse on my blog. This blog https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/ already has a very large following. I believe that the CANTER program is one of the best 501c retraining programs that exist. We take the ordinary horse that is coming out of a field after layup and turn it into a horse that is in demand because of its quality retraining. I want to show people that a quality rehoming organisation can be a great place to shop for a horse.
Is there anything else you would like the RRTP Board of Directors to know? I believe that I would be a great trainer for this project because even though I am considered a professional, I am just like most riders who work a full-time job and ride for the enjoyment of the sport. I don’t have any huge accomplishments behind my name but I don’t feel as though that is what makes you a good retrainer of thoroughbreds. I already have a very large following across the country who have bought horses from me because they feel that by reading the blog about the horses retraining process, they can really get to know the horses. They see me bring those horses up through the first ride to the first shows. They develop a relationship with the horses even if they have never seen them. Part of what attracts them to the horses is that the horse is being ridden by an average rider. It shows that you don’t have to be perfect and that the horse can take a joke which is very important in the retraining process! They also know that I am honest and that I care more about the right match/home than selling a horse. Nobody is perfect, people or horses. If I hit stumbling blocks along the way than I admit to it and talk about how I aim to solve the problem. That is part of what makes people draw to reading the blog. The blog https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/ gets over 150 visits a day and over 20,000 in one year.
I also believe that I am a person that values all thoroughbreds, not just the 16h TB geldings that have upper level potential. Let’s face it, most people who buy thoroughbreds are amateur riders looking for something quiet and fun. A good trainer should have as much passion for the average horse as they do the extremely fancy horse. I just love training thoroughbreds and sometimes the horses that are just plain and average are my favourite types. I enjoy reshaping their bodies and watching people be shocked by their transformation. I get as excited to teach a horse the baby steps of learning to go into contact as I do jumping a big fence. You really have to have passion for the elementary steps of training thoroughbreds, not just the glory of moving them up the levels.

10 responses to “Exciting News!

  1. I saw your name on the list. Congrats! 🙂

  2. I am soooo excited for you. You and Gib will be GREAT. And there can be no better person to represent a racehorse retraining philospy of patience and honesty.

  3. Congrats!! Can’t wait to read all about it :).

  4. Congrats Jess, I knew you would make the list!!!

  5. You’re going to be great!! You do such an amazing job of laying out your process – good, bad and ugly. People need to know it’s not always a walk in the park, but there is usually a way through – if you look and listen for it. Can’t wait to follow along…. PS I heart Gib.

  6. rebecca macchione

    Yay, do we all get to vote for our favorite? Maybe this is the part where everyone with a fabulous TB that Jess started in retraining should speak up and tell how amazing, delightful, trainable, rideable, clever and special our Canter TBs are. I’ll start. I have Burg Hill, (Fergus) and he gets more incredible every single day!

  7. I’m so excited for you Jess! I can’t wait for more people to be able to see the good work you do. And agree with Rebecca, think of all your “babies” out there in new homes. I adore Shoes (Shine My Shoes) more every day!

  8. Almost forgot to congratulate Kurt and the fact that you will be staying put for a while.

  9. Congrats to you both! So exciting! Gib’s a lucky guy.

  10. I am extremely impressed with everything you said on your entry – no wonder they chose you for the project! Sincere congratulations and good luck. Congrats to your husband, too. Definitely a great week for you guys!

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