Hi! My name is Isabela de Sousa, and I’m really excited to be blogging for COTH and posting about my journey to the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover with my new horse, Cozmic One!
Before I go into detail about my journey, here’s a little bit about me. I’m 16 years old, and I’m from Lexington, Kentucky. My mom, Karen Wolfsdorf, is an equine veterinarian at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, and my dad, Sergio de Sousa, is the manager and a partner of Hidden Brook Farm, a Thoroughbred farm in Paris, Kentucky.
I’m lucky enough to be working with some amazing people. My current trainer is Andrea Simpson of Fairbanks Riding, and I also work with Daniel Bluman of Bluman Equestrian, and I’m learning so much from each of them. Currently, I am showing in the jumpers and the equitation on whatever horse I have the opportunity to show. I’ve been to three equitation finals, and I hope to go to more.
I’ve retrained three off-the-track Thoroughbreds so far, and Cozmic One, or “Coz,” will be my fourth. I’ve shown in the show jumping and show hunters each year at the RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover, and I’ve been lucky enough to win the show jumping three years in a row .
I won on Dewey Square (2015), Carajillo (2016) and Late Night Mark (2017), and I’m excited to say all of them are doing well with their new owners. I’m especially excited to know that my first one, Dewey Square, is in training with Clark Montgomery (eventing Olympian)! They think he has a lot of potential to be an upper-level eventer. His owner and I are great friends, so we stay in touch.
Now I’ll introduce you to my horse for this year, Cozmic One. Cozmic One is a dark bay Thoroughbred out of the famous race mare Zenyatta, and by the great stallion Bernardini (same as Dewey Square). He’s 6 years old and is around 17 hands. He’s been turned out for about two months. He only ran four times during his racing career, never placing above fourth. My family and I co-own him with his original owners, the Moss family. My dad and I were trying to get him for last year’s Thoroughbred Makeover, but instead it worked out better for this year! I am so grateful to have the chance to work with such a high-profile horse.
What I love about retraining OTTBs is that I’m not only teaching them, I’m learning with them. I’ve realized that it’s OK to make mistakes—mistakes happen, and we learn from them. It’s also a great way for me to really try out what I’m learning from my trainers. It’s like a test—but trust me, it’s fun because I get the chance to apply what I’m learning. It’s so rewarding to see how far they can come in such little time between now and the Makeover. To think that it’s only the beginning of their second career, not usually even a full year after their training in racing, is incredible.
So far I have only ridden Coz a couple of times, and even then I didn’t do much. At the moment I’m just trying to establish a connection with him. I’m trying to get him to relax and stretch his neck and use his body in a different manner than he’s used to. I’m also getting him to start responding to my aids, and allowing him to realize that everything is OK. Each ride he has gotten better and better. He’s a quick learner, and he’s transitioning well mentally and physically—and his personality is also really starting to come through!
I know that many of you might not have heard about the Retired Racehorse Project, so I’ll go into more depth for you. The Retired Racehorse Project is an organization trying its best to help promote the Thoroughbred breed. Every year in October they have a show called the Thoroughbred Makeover, and this show displays 10 different disciplines.
Each year they have a growing number of trainer applications, and this year they had a 38 percent increase in applications. This is absolutely amazing. Over the last three years, I have been able to see the difference the RRP is making, with more publicity about how the versatility of the breed, and how more people seeking OTTBs. I encourage every one of you to come watch the Makeover, because if you aren’t impressed with these horses already, you definitely will be when you see one doing polo, dressage, working ranch, eventing, freestyle, field hunter, show jumping, etc. These horses really are the jack-of-all-trades and can do it all.
I am very excited to get started on my fourth year and hope you will follow our journey to the TB Makeover! For more frequent updates please follow our Facebook page, De Sousa Stables and follow along with my COTH blogs!
Isabela de Sousa comes from a family of horsemen and trains out of the De Sousa Stables in Lexington, Kentucky, where she also helps with all the barnwork. The teenager won the show jumping division of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in 2015, ’16 and ’17 and also shows in the hunter, jumper and equitation divisions at shows when she can. Read all her COTH blogs.