Stephanie Cook’s goal for the year with Texas Checkmate was to top the Take2 Thoroughbred League’s jumper standings, but a rotational fall from another horse in May resulted in a broken pelvis, a broken C-5 vertebrae and 12 broken ribs and seemingly ended that campaign.
But with the help of good friends and a lot of determination, Cook endured 12 weeks of rehab, “Checkers” continued earning points, and she was back in the saddle in time to finish out the season and win the 2015 year-end standings.
For the first time, the horse capital of the world hosted the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, on Oct. 23-25 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. And it seems only fitting that local riders took the stage amongst a backdrop of Thoroughbred farms.
Tik, this is a letter to yourself. Read it in 10 years.
I'm curious. Have you had kids? Do you still have Remarkable?
Do you look back and think, "God, what have I done with my life?"
Yes, I will be naive compared to you. I don't own property or an Audi, but I married a woman who gets me. And there are horses that nicker and poke their noses out to greet me each morning. So it's pretty good.
The Horse Park of New Jersey Horse Trials in mid July was my first competition with Remarkable 54. I felt under-prepared, and I was prepared to withdraw if necessary. I approached the weekend like a training session, but we were still nervous.
I gave Remarkable 54 the chance to look at many fences before jumping them. In both jumping phases he broke to the trot a few times, which I didn't mind at all. I would rather have him slow down, look, and then go, than run anxiously. Thoughtfulness and relaxation travel well together, so we hit that road and went slow.
Last year when I became aware of the "America's Most Wanted Thoroughbred" contest, I called Steuart Pittman of Dodon Farm Training Center (organizer of the event) and spoke to him about Heritage Farm training a horse in 2015.
I searched for a prospect, but I could not find one that was suitable—sound enough, the right sized, the right type. I was even able to get a few horses on trial, but still no match.
When Mark Mead walks Gold Panda into schooling ring at a horse show, he immediately knows all eyes are on him. After all, it’s pretty hard to miss a palomino Thoroughbred in a hunter schooling area these days.
“If I’m at a place where people have never seen him before, when I’m riding around people are looking at me like ‘What’s he doing with a cow horse?’ ” said Mead. “But then they see me pick up canter, and he’s got an 18-foot beautiful lopey stride, and I know their view changes. It’s really cool.”