Happy November and goodbye to another year of thoroughbred metamorphosis! Congratulations to all my fellow competitors and a big thank you to everyone who made this event so wonderful. It’s hard to believe we’ve made it to the other side of this big thing that I’ve been anxiously waiting for — and I mean, up all night, mad, anxiously — for almost a year. So much has happened since I commented on bringing Finn to the makeover in December 2021 when he first came to my home at BTE Stables in Paris, Kentucky.
Now, if you haven’t heard it already, Finnick and I didn’t have what most people would call a successful competition. I like to gloss over the fact that I landed in the dirt before we even crossed the starting cones of the Competitive Trail course – but for all of you, I’ll explain what happened.
We went to Kentucky Horse Park on Tuesday, the day before the competition. Finn looked amazing. We had a nice ride in the horse park that evening, when everything was a little calmer, and then I thought to myself that everything was just icing on the cake. I expected me to take it there and we’d both be too overwhelmed and scratching ourselves before Wednesday even started. So when I got off the horse with a smile on my face, I already felt like I had won something.
I was on edge Wednesday morning, which I’m sure didn’t help Finn, but I pushed him a few times, and he handled it so well. I was really happy and thought that even if I hadn’t removed it from the property before the makeover as I had planned, maybe we could! He was a superstar when I drove him to Head of the Lake, where the Competitive Trail takes place. He held his own during the warm-up, and we even trotted around a bit and he felt good. However, the longer we had to wait for those ahead of us, the more anxious I could feel him becoming. He didn’t like it when the chasing competitor entered the warm-up area and started galloping around our vicinity, something I had never exposed him to before.
When we were called to class, I felt better, taking him away from what was bothering him. What I didn’t take into account was the cheering crowd that pushed him further. I sat a few mini-backs waiting for the competitor in front of us to cross the head of the lake but when they finished and the crowd cheered he reared up again and as explained to me he went sat down and put me down. I emerged unscathed and he was quickly caught by a passerby.
I didn’t turn on him because I could feel it would just be a repeat event. However, we took his gear off him and he immediately relaxed. After everyone was done competing that afternoon, I walked them through the course courtesy of event management with the most supportive crowd ever and we even paddled in the Head of the Lake!
I hate that my fall was even part of our story – and technically that’s the main point of what people want to hear about – but in my mind, it was 30 miserable seconds of a full week of absolute joy. From the start, when Finn sat next to Odin and our friend Leah Alessandroni…across from Breeders’ Cup winner and Eclipse Prize champion Whitmore and her exceptional mother Laura Moquett, of whom I cannot can’t say enough good things…meeting fellow ABR blogger Leigh Beamer who showed up to the Makeover with her own fin…to take a photo with Ashley Bump at the finish exam with her one-eyed Ariesberg who has participated in Barrel Racing…to the Finn fans who come to visit us at the pits, and so on and so forth – I have a whole mental album full of heartwarming, enlightening and loving memories from this week.
Every moment someone was doing something nice for me or someone else. I hadn’t competed in a horse show since high school and after years of reading articles online criticizing people who looked like me for daring to sit in a saddle, I had basically decided that I had to completely change to be worthy of it. When I started riding again, I was excited knowing that I had people in my area who weren’t judging me and were just happy to have another riding buddy. I’ve cultivated a circle of friends who remind me that I don’t have to change who I am to be happy, to love myself, and to experience whatever I want to experience. There are no words that can express how grateful I am to my village for bringing me to the horse park and supporting me while I was there.
A few people have asked me, what now? Well, Finn is back home, just as happy and healthy as ever. I can’t wait for my next outing where I’ll feel that beautiful gallop we discovered together and we can both reminisce about that week when we had so much fun and were part of something bigger that we. I don’t know what the next step is. Would love a redemption ride somewhere on the line where we cross the head of the lake and instead of just walking it. Other than that, I’ll be happy just to have some quiet time with my big guy, give him peppermints, and scratch my eye socket when it itches.
I wish I had a better story about bringing Finnick the Fierce to the makeover and blowing everyone’s mind, but that’s not the case. Instead, I have a story about my sweet horse doing its best and a community of people supporting each other even in difficult times.