Monday, January 14, 2013

Retired Racehorse Training Project’s 100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge: Gunport

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 will have the opportunity to see the horses in person at the Maryland Horse World Expo in January and the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo the following month. 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 3 of this series.
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project

 RRTP's 100 Day TB Challenge Participant
“The Perfectionist”
2009 filly
Mizzen Mast – Directive, by Deputy Minister
Breeder: Sagamore Farm (MD)
Owner: Sagamore Farm

On June 3, 2012, Gunport made her racing debut at Colonial Downs (click here to watch video). The comment on the race chart describes her performance in one word: "outrun." With this effort, she made it clear that she was not competitive as a racehorse. Her connections at Sagamore recognized the filly's balance and athleticism, and she joined the RRTP team and is now one of the 100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge's fantastic four.
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Gunport is 16.1 hands, with a short, strong topline, long legs, refined build, and a beautifully-set neck; she is an athlete from every angle. In her 14-day training video, RRTP President Steuart Pittman remarked,"I'm sure Sagamore is not interested in breeding for the show ring, and would rather have had this horse win some races, but they should still be commended. Somebody's got a good eye to create a horse like this, and it reminds us that breeding a racehorse isn't all that different from breeding a sporthorse."
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project
During the first stages of her off-track training, a horse like Gunport is best handled by an experienced trainer like Dodon Farm's Michelle Warro. Of the four horses in the 100 Day Challenge, Gunport has the fewest hours under saddle, and she is also a sensitive ride.  In her first training video (click here to view), she handled the new environment and the new rider willingly but nervously. In the first few minutes of her two-week training video (click here to view), she was on her toes while she settled into a trot. An unskilled rider might be tempted to micromanage a horse like Gunport, but if she feels restricted, she gets quite tense. Michelle keeps her moving, does not fuss with her face, and expertly guides the mare into a nice rhythm at the walk, trot, and canter.
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project
As they work through the gaits during their training sessions, rhythm is key. If the mare goes behind the vertical or becomes unbalanced, she centers herself through the help of her rider. When she relaxes, she stretches long and low, which in turn unlocks her back muscles. If Gunport rushes, Michelle settles her with leg and seat and she regains her tempo. The filly has all the physical ingredients to be a quality performance horse, and these ingredients are skillfully fine-tuned by her rider.  
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project
Truffling. Purring. Chuffing. High blowing. The Thoroughbred Trumpet. That heavenly rhythmic snort that enthusiastic horses make with each canter stride. It's the sound Thoroughbreds make when they are out on the track in the morning, and it's also the sound they make during a bright canter or around a course of jumps. Whatever you call it, Gunport does it during all her canter work. Once she understands her task, she becomes bright and eager to attack it, merrily truffling the entire time.
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project
Gunport's work ethic is outstanding. In the capable hands of her trainer (click here for her 30-day video), her nervous energy quickly turns into verve, and she becomes a game, willing partner. Around the cross country course during our January photo session, Gunport cantered brightly, waiting for Michelle's next cue. As the approached little logs, she handled them neatly and with great style, like the A-plus student that she is.
Gunport: Retired Racehorse Training Project
In week four, Gunport suffered a little setback when she sustained a swollen hock (click here for training update). She is out of training until she is fully healed, and my fingers are crossed that we will hear more about this promising perfectionist very soon.

- Sarah Andrew 

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