The moments -- and horses -- that took our breath away at the RRP’s Mega Makeover by Natalie Mayrath
FALLING OFF CAN HELP YOU WIN… ?
If you’d asked Lindsey Partridge how her day was going with Thunderous Affair (aka “Lissy”), she would not have suspected it would end with the pair being named 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover Champion, sponsored by Churchill Downs. “I literally fell off,” she says, explaining that it was a “rough morning” at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Mega Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, an event that fit two years into one, displaying highly competitive and talented groups for both the 2020 and 2021 classes (read further to experience just a taste of the magic).
Lissy, who had made it into the finale in two divisions (Freestyle and Competitive Trail) and went on to earn blue ribbons that day in both categories, is highly sensitive to the energy of other horses around her. While riding at a walk that morning, they encountered another horse, and Lissy reared and sprung into the air. Partridge tried a quick abandon-ship dismount but didn’t quite land squarely on her feet, lost hold of the reins, and Lissy proceeded on a free gallop through the cross-country area before somebody caught her.
Partridge laughs now that running loose may have contributed to her 4-year-old’s calm composure in the show arena that afternoon. “She was extra-tired after galloping through the horse park in the morning… Maybe that’s everybody’s new plan, is to let your horse loose in the morning!”
The horse's - and rider’s - dominance in the 2020 Makeover is impressive in many regards, beyond the mare’s “wild side.” Partridge gave birth to her second child in July, missing training during pregnancy, and then finding herself on the fast-track preparing a horse who she says cannot be rushed or pressured. “I didn’t do anything with her while I was pregnant, so when we went back to our first show in the beginning of August, she was leaping in the air on all fours, and I could only get her calm enough for someone to lead me around the trail course.” There were moments, where I was like, ‘Do I have to pull this horse from the competition?’”
But Lissy has what Partridge calls “all the good qualities” of a Thoroughbred. “She’s so athletic, she’s so talented and she’s wickedly smart.” At the end of the day, the horse won the hearts of the judges, spectators, and commentators with her obedient and relaxed attitude in the ring. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it could go pretty darn amazing or it could be a catastrophe,” Partridge explains.
“She’s been so hard. She didn’t trust me in the beginning. We would literally just go places and hang out… she was so calm and relaxed here and able to trust me to do everything,” she said while holding back tears during the presentation ceremony.
In taking Championship honors, Partridge reasserts that she has plenty of talent herself in bringing retirees along in new disciplines. She has competed nine horses at various RRP Makeovers throughout the years, capturing the overall title back in 2015 with Soar. Her Harmony Horsemanship method puts a singular focus on the human-horse relationship as the ultimate goal.
The 16.2 hand gray/roan mare never made a start, but did train to race. Thunderous Affair is by Liaison out of the Thunder Fan (Thunder Gulch). Partridge, who says she always buys her horses sight-unseen, bought her off of a picture, with placement help through CANTER Michigan. Partridge says this precocious mare only showed a tiny little bit of what she’s actually capable of during this show. “She can do so many things, we only got to scratch the surface in her freestyle,” Partridge says. She hopes that Lissy will be her new demo horse accompanying her on the road for many years to come.
NAPRAVNIK FAMILY TRADITION: WINNING
If they wanted to keep the Makeover Eventing title in the family, there was only one possible result for Jazz Napravnik and Legend’s Hope (“Chester”). They delivered and then some, winning the Eventing division to make it back-to-back Makeover Eventing blue ribbons for Jazz and her sister, former jockey Rosie Napravnik, who won the Eventing division at the 2019 Makeover on Sanimo. For a family who is used to winning, Jazz described the moment as “pretty freakin’ special” for their family. “My sister and I have a special bond. We are always there, one for the other, rooting each other on, so for her to win, and then me to come win, is a special moment. My sister, my mother, they shed a tear, and I shed a tear during my pinning before exiting the arena,” she recounts.
Jazz and Chester also won the People’s Choice award, sponsored by Achieve Equine, which is decided through text-voting by fans for their favorite horse of all the discipline winners. Jazz shares the sentiment for a horse she says is full of talent. “I always fall in love with the horses that nobody likes, but I’ve finally fallen in love with a horse everybody likes,” she said while accepting the honors. She said that this horse must’ve “learned to jump in the womb” considering his natural ability. “He’s an example of everything a Thoroughbred can be, and I wouldn’t want to sit on any other horse.”
Jazz brought three mounts to the Makeover this year: Crazy Bernice (“Bernice”), her promising Dressage prospect, Page McKenney (“Page”), a war horse she helped break and train as a youngster, and Chester, who proved himself as expected. “He came out of racing on the flat, and was briefly considered for the Maryland Hunt Cup,” she says. “But everyone collectively decided that he would be better-suited as an eventing horse,” Jazz recalls. She was eager about his future, especially on the heels of her sister’s Makeover Eventing win. “Rosie had just won at the 2019 Makeover. So I published a Facebook post asking who would sponsor me winning the Thoroughbred Makeover on this horse full of ‘brawn, beauty, brains, boldness’ and within less than 24 hours his current owner came to see him,” she says. The rest is history, and Jazz is grateful to Barbie Horneffer for giving her the mount through his training. “I’m pretty sure she hopes that he walks back into that Rolex Arena (at the Kentucky Horse Park) again in a few years,” she quips, referencing the Kentucky 3-Day Event.
Legend’s Hope is a 2013 Gelding By Not For Love, out of Lunar's Legend (Polish Numbers). He additionally finished in the top three in the Jumpers division, and also hit the top three on Page in the Field Hunters. For Bernice, “it wasn’t her day,” Jazz explains, as she “brought the crazy in the wrong ways,” but she is full of confidence in a successful Dressage career for this well-bred mare.
It was an emotional moment that honored her late employer when Laura Sloan and Forthegreatergood were crowned 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover Champions, sponsored by Churchill Downs, after a victory in the Field Hunter division.
She got choked up recounting the death of Richard Verrilli, a Master of Fox Hounds. Upon his passing his widow, Donna, told staff members, “Go take a horse.” Sloan immediately chose this horse, and she hasn’t looked back. With the support of Donna, Sloan brought the horse along to a Makeover appearance honoring Richard’s memory. “It means a lot, I am just speechless. I’m just so happy to be able to do this for the lady I work for, and for Moore County Hounds!”
Sloan had originally found Forthegreatergood while simply “looking for something over 5 and calm,” she explains. “A friend called me and said ‘I just got this horse in….’ I just wanted something sane, I didn’t know he was gorgeous.” As it turns out, she got the looks and the temperament, and now a Makeover Title.
Cameron Sadler, 2020 Field Hunter winner, was overwhelmed with joy at making the winner’s circle in her third try at the Makeover. Read the full story at StreamHorseTV.
LOOKING TO BUY?
The ASPCA Makeover Marketplace expanded their catalogue this year to include free listings for non-profit Thoroughbred rehoming and retraining organizations who have 2022 Makeover-eligible prospects for sale or adoption.
“Creating opportunities for more equine enthusiasts to find their Right Horse is a vital component of our work,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “The RRP is an instrumental partner in shifting the perspective of who a retired racehorse is and showcasing the incredible potential they will bring to their next homes. While their racing careers may have ended, these retirees still have much to offer as they transition into new and varied careers.”
The catalog will feature each horse’s Jockey Club name, basic details, and contact information for the trainer or non-profit organization. Sign-ups for a free catalog are now open at tbmakeover.org/catalog. Visit the digital marketplace HERE.
ABOUT THE RETIRED RACEHORSE PROJECT
The Mission: The RRP exists to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers, and organizations that transition them.
The Impact: Since its 2010 founding, the RRP has inspired thousands to choose an OTTB. Thanks to 160,000+ Facebook followers, 3,000,000+ website hits annually, constant press coverage, and sell out crowds at horse expos, the popularity and value of OTTBs are on the rise.
There are more interesting articles in our section on Retire & Rehome.