The end of a career?Or just the beginning?
The life of an ex-racehorse is uncertain to say the least once he is retired from the track after years spent racing what else is he good for? for many this sudden end to a horses career does not always bode well but as many ex-racehorse owners will tell you these horses in particular can be given a chance to shine once again.
Meet Naseby or Jerry as his friends call him a beautiful orange thoroughbred owned by Naomi an extremely talented up and coming eventer who very nearly gave up riding.
In 2014 Naomi had given up she was dealing with a big confidence crisis in her riding feeling that she was no good and that she would never get anywhere with it, ready to hang her hat up for good she decided that a little bit of retail therapy was called for after a less than desirable day at work.
“The next thing I know I’m driving halfway across the country at 7am to view a horse. After ringing the folks on their holiday and rescheduling a second viewing and begging my dear old dad for a loan I became the proud owner of the most beautiful bright orange ex-racehorse Naseby”
I’m sure you would agree that most people would turn to a glass or two of wine but not Naomi she loved horses and Jerry just spoke to her so the deal was done, she had bagged herself a new horse and hopefully with it a fresh start to her riding career.
Naomi’s first ride on Jerry and her acquaintance with the floor
Excited to try her new horse out Naomi got to riding Jerry but it wasn’t an immediate love affair Jerry had other ideas…
” Well he jumped me off twice the first time I jumped him and I sat on the sand in tears wondering what the hell I had done and re-finding my fear that I couldn’t ride. But this pretty little head just looked at me and I knew that I had to man up and get my act together.”
This could have been the end for Naomi but her sheer grit, determination and sense of responsibility to Jerry spurred her on and of course that beautiful face beaming down at her as she sat in the sand as if he was saying “come on let’s keep trying”.
“Our first outing was at a local winter dressage competition where he won. The smile was put back on my face and I knew we were going to be ok. Our first X-Country training didn’t go to plan as we parted company on the steps when he attempted to take them all at once. Oh dear another setback!!
This was followed by two eliminations at our first unaffiliated events. Cue massive confidence knock and tears. Going to different venues schooling just wasn’t enough, but I was not going to be beaten, I had decided that this was going to be my one horse to make something of”.
So what did Naomi do next??
Well what any self-respecting cornish girl would do of course (no not go to the pub!) Naomi went to a girls first true love her dad for help….
“So after hours of planning my fab Dad and I set to building a set of steps from the lawn out to the field (very lovely parents I have). Day in day out Jerry and I walked and rode these steps into and out of the field. By July I manned up and entered Bicton BE80 – with my stomach in mouth the entire day the dreaded XC phase descended and I rode like my life depended on it.
Well he only went and bloody WON it didn’t he!! Well our first year eventing might not have gone to plan but we somehow managed to qualify for the Blenheim Palace Amateur Eventers Dressage Championships. My boy couldn’t get any better, I mean yes we still have our ups and downs, but he gives me his all”.
With such a boost to the duo’s confidence the 2016 season kicked off to a great start but Naomi wasn’t satisfied with her performance, she wanted better she knew they could do better….
“2016 started well with a 4th placing at Millfield and just outside at Pontispool due to time faults for going too quickly. Time to step up a level!! Oh dear the luck isn’t going to continue. Now I was the general manager of 3 restaurants all in busy tourist destinations working from 8am-1am 5/6 days a week. This proved to be very problematic and instantly showed at West Wilts. We struggled majorly again and I knew something had to give. The season improved and I set myself goals”
Naomi understood Jerry and what made him tick so she decided to take him back to school to try to iron out as many issues as possible….
“I mean look at the boy he’s just the kindest and most beautiful horse I’ve ever met and will take anything on, unless he doesn’t understand. Time to increase his understanding, cue jumping nothing but skinnies (thanks Dad for making one adjustable in height) and planks!! Thankfully Jerry is Mr Consistent when it comes to dressage and I can usually call on him to have us in the mix after the first phase”.
It wasn’t just an education for Jerry! Naomi Knew that she had to improve her riding in order to improve both of their performances…
“It then becomes my job to ride properly; this however proves to be the problem. Now unfortunately at times my competitive edge gets the better of me and I ride for the position rather than the sensible educational ride I should have given”.
A sign of a truly talented rider has the ability to assess their own performance and identify their strengths and weaknesses objectively. In doing this the duo improved in the following months through hard work and committment to each other….
“This winter we made the step up from Novice to Elementary Dressage. Blimey, what a difference!! Having looked at the test but not really thought about it, I didn’t know what a ‘Simple Change’ was, however he still won with 72% OMG we are on fire. Just think what we could achieve if I actually could be bothered to learn the test properly and do a bit more training!”
“Eventing season 2017 started at Bovington with an average dressage score, but a great double clear adding a few time penalties leaving us in 20th position. Port Eliot followed with a fab dressage score of 27 and an even nicer double clear inside the time to finish in 4th place”
So what next for the duo?
“Our 3rd outing took us to Millfield Prep school. Yet another great dressage in the drizzle put us in the top 5 with 29.5, however we had a 20 minutes delay in the showjumping and unfortunately ended up jumping in the rain. Jerry decided that he was boss and took off going into one of the related distances and rolled a pole, so an annoying 4 faults to add meant I had to go clear XC on time. Fortunately this was achieved and we had another 4th placing!! “
“The is definitely going to be our year. Next came Pontispool, well the less said about the dressage the better, a beautiful clear SJ lead us then out to the XC where fence 12 was proving a problem. We got to it, Jerry hesitated but with some persuasion from me we scrambled over it and home in under time!! Thankfully managing to pull ourselves up from 22nd after the dressage to finish 8th!! Lots to work on and definitely not as ready to move up to BE100 as I had thought”.
“Now this year has thrown us another challenge, but hey in for a penny in for a pound!! So after being repeatedly told how beautiful Jerry is and that I should show him, I went and entered Royal Cornwall Show (our county show). Well having never shown before I thought why not?! After seeking lots of help and advice through the fabulous Twitter family, I went and entered a smaller show as a pre run, and in true Jerry style he WON both of the classes I entered him in and then became Ridden Champion. What more could I ask of this boy. So the challenge comes as to whether we can reproduce this on the larger scale!!”
The future for Naomi and Jerry and some friendly advice…
Naomi has learnt a lot through owning an Ex-racehorse and has some great advice for any one who owns or is considering owning one…
1 – They are more intelligent than the average horse and this needs taking into consideration. He finds learning new things easy, but quickly gets bored with them. So You have to think of variations to achieve the same outcome.
2 – No matter what they have done before you, always take them back to the beginning. Jerry had competed at BE 100 before I bought him, however he had his trust in that rider!! Therefore by taking it back to the beginning I was able to gain his trust. I worked this out the hard way!!
3 – Patience!! This is a must. You do not know what they have been through in their training and racing. Jerry can have the occasional ‘moment’ when things get too much for him. For example, if he has a stop at a fence he can expect to get a smack and then can lose himself and spin backwards. You just have to sit and let him get on with it, but if you can give him a little scratch on the neck he quickly comes back to you.
4 – Challenge and trust them. When I bought Jerry I hadn’t really jumped over 80cm since I was 18 (a long time in riding years) this year after having had him for 2 ½ years I schooled him over the 100 fences at Pontispool and even over a couple of the Novice fences (Yes eyes closed). This would never have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the beginning with the training and earnt his trust. He now knows that if I say go, we go. Even if sometimes it is from a standstill and not very attractive!!
5 – Just give it a bloody go. You’ll never know what you can achieve if you don’t try!! I’ve pushed every boundary going in the last 12 months and I’m so flipping grateful that I have. And that I have a fantastic support group around me to pick things up, when it doesn’t go to plan.
In the 4 BE90 events that we have done this year, we have had 3 double clears and 3 top 10 placings qualifying us for the Blenheim Eventers challenge and the Mitsubishi Cup Regional Finals.
We also WON the Riding Club Horse Trials qualifiers with a double clear, so will be heading to the NAF 5 star Championships in August!!
None of this would have been achieved if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith in buying an Ex Racehorse!!
Final thoughts from Naomi…
“We will always have a challenge as I am never going to be happy with the results and will always think that he and myself can do better!! Thankfully now I have him trusting me and we have created a fantastic bond, I know that nothing can stop us and we will go as far as my dreams can take us. I just keep reminding people that I’m just a little Cornish girl with big dreams, riding the most amazing ex-racehorse. If you’re in two minds about getting an ex-racehorse, just go for it!! You have got nothing to lose, but the best partnership and friendship to create. He is my horse of a lifetime and I know that if I dream it, we WILL achieve it”.
In a nutshell...
This partnership is truly a remarkable example of how given time, patience and understanding anything can be achieved. Many ex-racehorses are thrown on the scrap heap but this story is truly heartwarming and proves that the ex-racer can go on to do many great and wonderful things.
It also shows others how to overcome fears and confidence issues by persevering and working hard and Naomi is a fantastic example of this. Yes she is hard on herself at times and should give herself a break but without her tough can do attitude she wouldn’t have achieved half of what she and Jerry has achieved.
Recently Naomi secured sponsorship with Animallife and I wish her and Jerry much success with this as they truly deserve the recognition for their achievements. There really is a lot of great things to come for this pair and I really look forward to watching them go from strength to strength.
Naomi is a wonderful positive person and loves Jerry with all of her heart I love to see this much love between a horse and rider and I really hope that other racehorses find happiness in exactly this way.
I highly recommend giving this pair a follow Naomi and Jerry are on Twitter here merrigo_round
I would like to say a huge thank you for Naomi and Jerry for agreeing to take part in this feature and I will be keeping you updated on their progress.
Thanks for reading