Saturday, February 23, 2013

Retired Racehorse Training Project's 100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge: In Case You Missed It...

On December 1, 2012, four horses (including one former Eclipse Champion) representing four Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred farms embarked on the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s (RRTP) 100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge at Dodon Farm Training Center in Davidsonville, MD. Fans had the opportunity to see the horses in person at the Maryland Horse World Expo in January and can also see them at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo in February. At the end of their 100-day training period, the horses will be judged on conformation, movement, jumping ability, and trainability by guest riders, judges, and online fans. As the Thoroughbred Challenge unfolds, Sarah Andrew will chronicle the horses’ progress. Please enjoy part 8 of this series. 

In Friday's hour-long session with the Retired Racehorse Training Project's class of 2013 at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo, spectators were treated to a mini jumping clinic and for some, their first glimpses of the horses. The RRTP horses all showed off everything they've learned during their stay at Dodon Farm, from lead changes to jumping little grids.

Gunport was her classic overachieving self, battling nerves in the beginning of the session, but eventually focusing on her job and gamely jumping all obstacles with tight knees and catlike agility. Michelle Warro expertly piloted Gunport, and kept the mare's feet moving until they settled into a rhythm.
Gunport and Michelle Warro at the PA Horse World Expo
Like Gunport, Alluring Punch began his session with a tight neck and a tense back as he eyeballed the intimidating arena and listened to the echoes of the microphone and audience. Once Steuart Pittman worked through some exercises on the flat and began taking little cross rails, the gelding recognized his routine, and rode through a little course and some gridwork with style. He still has a baby face and babyish mannerisms, but it actually looked like it was a help with his training- his expressions make it easier to read his body language. By the end of the session, after Pittman dismounted, "Punchy" stood quietly in hand, nuzzling people and taking in his surroundings with curiosity- it was a far cry from the horse he was when he entered the arena an hour earlier.

Alluring Punch and Steuart Pittman at the PA Horse World Expo
Suave Jazz lived up to his name, yet again, and was suave indeed. From the last time I saw him in January, his neck and hindquarters have rounded and become quite defined with all the careful, quality training that he has received at Dodon Farm. I also noticed more reach in his trot. During the demo, he did not put a foot wrong the entire time, and handled the arena, the jumps, and the work with Fonzie-like cool. Katie Klenk is a great fit for him, since she stays out of his way and encourages him to relax and loosen up.
Suave Jazz and Katie Klenk at the PA Horse World Expo
Saturday is the big day. Judges will evaluate the horses and a large, enthusiastic crowd is expected. Please be sure to vote for the horses at the RRTP website, and I hope to see you at the Expo!

- Sarah Andrew

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