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Makeover Watchlist: Barrel Racing

The Barrel Racing division at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium consists of a judged horsemanship pattern and two timed barrel runs. During the horsemanship pattern, horses will be scored on their demeanor, responsiveness, and ability to maintain an even pace. The inverted score from the horsemanship pattern and the times from the barrel runs will be combined. The five horses with the lowest scores will come back on Finale Saturday to determine final placings. The winner will be in contention for the $10,000 award of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.

We interviewed three Barrel Racing competitors to gain insight on their training process for the Thoroughbred Makeover.

Megan Overy and Just in Flash

Megan Overy is a junior competitor from Missouri. She is sixteen years old and has been around horses her whole life. She started riding and training horses at a very young age. This is only her third year competing in barrel racing, but she has been fairly successful in the sport. The Makeover has been her first experience with off-track Thoroughbreds.

Megan and Otto

Megan is entered in the Makeover on Just in Flash, also known as “Otto.” Otto is an Iowa bred gelding by graded stakes winner Line of David and out of Lady Noble, by Noble Causeway. He made three starts and earned just $1,163 on the track. His best effort was a fourth place finish at Prairie Meadows and his final start was in June of 2018. In addition to Barrel Racing, Megan and Otto are also entered in Competitive Trail. You can view Otto’s profile and ride times at https://www.tbmakeover.org/horse-profile-19?horse=134

OTTBwestern: What inspired you to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover?

Megan and Otto

Megan: Giving Thoroughbreds a second career is a great interest of mine. I’ve always loved training and barrel racing and I find nothing better than giving a horse another chance, especially when it’s a discipline I can adequately educate and prepare them for.

OTTBwestern: How did you acquire your Makeover horse?

Megan: We train for a breeder in Rogersville, Missouri. When she acquires retired racehorses who might be a fit for me or rodeo, she lets me know.

OTTBwestern: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments in your Makeover journey?

Megan: I’d say my biggest struggle has been consistency with running at home versus running at jackpots and rodeos. But that has led to my greatest accomplishment, which is running a faster than average time at a High School Rodeo. Other contestants have been competing for years on a horses that have been running for years, so it brought me to tears when we made a run faster than the majority.

Megan and Otto

OTTBwestern: What are your plans for your horse after the Makeover?

Megan: It’s my intention to keep him and use him as my main barrel horse as I finish my next two years of High School Rodeo and hopefully throughout college as well.

OTTBwestern: What advice would you offer to other trainers that are interested in competing in the Makeover?

Megan: Just get out there and do it! These horses will give you 110% every day. They are so versatile. You could get almost any Thoroughbred and turn it around to be something you wanted. They have the best work ethic of any other breed I’ve ridden. I’ve already met so many welcoming people in this community. It’s like nowhere else. It’s a great group to be a part of and these horses will give you their world if you give them a chance.

Casey French and Awesome Choice

Casey French is a professional from Tennessee. As a young rider, she showed in AQHA judged events, AHSA shows, and barrel racing. As a teenager, she became increasingly involved with High School Rodeo. She won the Louisiana High School Rodeo Barrel Racing Championship on a Thoroughbred mare and continued rodeoing in college. During her senior year at McNeese State University, Casey was offered an internship with Boyd Gaming at Delta Downs. She worked in the racing office but found her way to the backside to be with the horses. She has had the opportunity to learn from several successful Quarter Horse racing trainers and Barrel Racing trainers, including renowned trainer Cody Bauserman. Casey is a WPRA card holder with multiple championships and reserve championships at large IBRA and BBR barrel races. You can follow Casey at https://www.facebook.com/bettysquadblog/

Casey and Alvie

Casey is entered in the Thoroughbred Makeover on Awesome Choice, also known as “Alvie.” Alvie is a Florida bred gelding by multiple stakes winner Awesome of Course and out of Courtly Choice, by Doneraile Court. He sold for $50,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. He made just two starts, won one race, and earned $19,541 on the track. His one win was at Indiana Grand Race Course and his final start was in October of 2016. He had an official work at a later date that made him eligible for the Makeover. You can view Alivie’s profile and ride times at https://www.tbmakeover.org/horse-profile-19?horse=38

OTTBwestern: What inspired you to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover?

Casey: My first thoroughbred Doro Thy’s Secret, “Dorothy,” was the first standout barrel horse that I owned.  She excelled at rodeo and showed me that Thoroughbreds could get the job done!  So, a few years ago when I noticed girls around my area were participating in the Makeover, I was intrigued. They helped me to get involved.

Alvie

OTTBwestern: How did you acquire your Makeover horse?

Casey: Ultimately, I wasn’t just looking for a horse to participate in the Makeover. The Makeover is just another fun thing along the journey!  With that in mind, I told my friends Brittany Bennett and Melanie Lyell what I wanted. Brittany probably sent me 15-20 horses to look at and when I came across Alvie’s photo I could not pass him up. To me he had the look of a barrel horse, the price was right, and even though he wasn’t a mare like I requested, he was everything else I included in my wish list!

OTTBwestern: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments in your Makeover journey?

Casey: I picked a horse who had been turned out for a year due to injury. He was a total Makeover project from head to toe. He needed a lot of TLC before riding could even begin and it’s still a work in progress. This a continual battle that I’ve slowly been chipping away at over time. Ideally, I would’ve liked to have gotten more ride time than I have but that’s part of it.  When I was able to begin riding, I couldn’t get him loaded in the trailer! Then after that he was scared to death at shows! Which was a complete shock because at home he is so relaxed, we had never seen him excited. But all those same things mentioned I feel are all our biggest accomplishments. He now hauls and loads amazing. And he finally is starting to relax and focus on his job when he gets into the arena. Not only that but we have made huge progress in his conditioning and overall health.

Casey’s husband moving roping steers on Alvie

OTTBwestern: What are your plans for your horse after the Makeover?

Casey: After the Makeover we will basically just keep doing the same thing that we’re doing now.  I haven’t really focused much on preparing him just for one competition. I’m trying to do my best to prepare him for everything that’s yet to come. So really, I just let him call the shots. When I feel like he’s ready and he tells me he’s ready for the next thing, we will move forward. I feel like that’s our best shot for future success. Ultimately my goal is to have him competitive enough to consistently haul with my other horse or alternate them out when need be. I think that’s still well into the future, but that’s my hope.

OTTBwestern: What advice would you offer to other trainers that are interested in competing in the Makeover?

Casey: I think you really must think about what your long-term goals are going into this and hold yourself accountable to that. For me it was about finding my next partner to compete on and expanding my horse and horsemanship knowledge, which it has continued to daily!  But if I were a person whose main goal was to win the Makeover or if I were just getting my feet wet in the training world, my advice would be to go with one of the older horses. They really seem to adapt well and have lots of training and life experience under their belt! Also, you can’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes to be better we have to be a bit uncomfortable, and sometimes that means we show what cards we are playing with.

Shalia VanSickle and Market Risk

Shaila VanSickle is a junior competitor from Maryland. She is seventeen years old and has been around horses her entire life. Her parents both ride and train their own barrel horses and have helped her start horses as well. Shaila has mainly ridden western but did take jumping lessons while studying abroad in Germany. The Makeover has been her first experience with owning and training a Thoroughbred.

Shaila and Dragon

Shaila is entered in the Thoroughbred Makeover on Market Risk, also known as “Dragon.” Dragon is a New York bred mare by multiple graded stakes winner Alphabet Soup and out of Risky Kitten, by Formal Gold. She started 64 times, won three races, and earned $39,724 on the track. Her three wins were at Finger Lakes and Mountaineer. This lovely warhorse made her final start in September of 2018 after five years on the track. You can view Dragon’s profile and ride times at https://www.tbmakeover.org/horse-profile-19?horse=75

OTTBwestern: What inspired you to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover?

Shaila: Truthfully, my initial motivation for applying as a trainer was to get more experience working with horses and the opportunity to perform on such a large platform. What really opened my eyes was the RRP Trainers group on Facebook. It was truly humbling and amazing to see how everyone interacted as a big group with one goal, which is to help Thoroughbreds get a second chance. I was so surprised at how inviting the other trainers were and how willing each of them was to help one another. I plan to apply as a trainer for 2020 and hopefully many more years after that!

Shaila and Dragon on a trail ride

OTTBwestern: How did you acquire your Makeover horse?

Shaila: My Dad had a friend who worked at the Mountaineer racetrack, Melinda Sanders. I had contacted her, and she said she had a dozen or so horses for me to look at. When we pulled up to the barns, Dragon stuck her head out of the stall and I asked, “is the gray for sale?” I hardly knew anything about the mare other than seeing her jog on blacktop, so I think I got extremely lucky with finding a horse who has been so willing to please and exceptionally talented.

OTTBwestern: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments in your Makeover journey?

Shaila: We have had a lot of challenges. I’d say the biggest one would be her dependency on other horses. The very first show I took her to, she bucked and reared while tied to the trailer when I took my other horse away. She progressively got better, and the last few shows she has tied quietly at the trailer by herself. One of our greatest accomplishments was learning to relax under saddle and understanding gait transitions. These still are not something she does perfectly, but she has gotten much better over time. What surprised me was how quickly she took to the barrel pattern. Granted, she had all the fundamentals and basics she needed before starting barrels in May, but it was crazy how much she seemed to like working. For the first few months, I tried to let her pick her pace. I work hard to keep her quiet outside of the arena and walking in the alley. She still has her moments, but the progress she has made is impressive.

Shaila and Dragon

OTTBwestern: What are your plans for your horse after the Makeover?

Shaila: I plan to keep her for a while!

OTTBwestern: What advice would you offer to other trainers that are interested in competing in the Makeover?

Shaila: I would say that if you want to push your riding and training abilities and become part of a tight group of awesome people, the Thoroughbred Makeover is for you. It is such a great learning opportunity and especially rewarding for any amateur trainer who is trying to get their foot in the door.

The Western Thoroughbred is proudly sponsoring buckles for the winners of Ranch Work and Barrel Racing and the top-placed western riders in Competitive Trail and Dressage! For more information on attending, participating, or competing in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover visit: http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org

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