My name is Emily VandenBerghe and I am a freshman at Oxford High School, in Oxford, Michigan. I have ridden horses since I could pretty much hold on (about two years old, my mom says). I join Metamora Hunt II Pony Club at the age of eight, which introduced me to foxhunting. I quickly fell in love with the sport and joined Metamora Hunt later that year.
Emily and Indy compete over the outside course.
In 2014, I got my first Thoroughbred, which quickly made me fall in love with the breed. I started helping retrain off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs), and in December of that year, my mother purchased two cute OTTBs which would be our new sales projects. Shortly after we brought them home, we heard about the Thoroughbred Makeover and my mother thought it would be fun for us both to enter. Sadly my horse came up with a bad bruise, but we where able to switch horses and I was able to compete another qualify horse we had.
The Makeover process was definitely a learning experience and a ton of fun on top of it. My 2016 mount was a coming four-year-old cute little bay gelding name Loose Cannon, aka Indy. We purchased him sight unseen, like many before, and I immediately adored him for his looks alone. Our first ride was bareback in the pasture. He seemed to be a sweet kind baby, but after our second ride - and him kicking me - I was really feeling frustrated and did not want to ride him again. We had him checked for ulcers, which came back positive, and had him adjusted. His hip was so out, our chiropractor could not believe how he was even as pleasant and well behaved as he was. We also started treating him for his ulcers that week. This was very frustrating as I knew our family would not be able to purchase another horse for the makeover so I decided to just try to get on him again.
Because we do not have any indoor, I pretty much would just ride him around the snow covered pasture whenever I had the time between school work. After a pasture injury sidelined him in May, he rested until after the Equestrain Team and 4-H shows were done for the season. Indy and I picked back up with our official training in late July. Because of it being late in the year, we tried to get out and about as much as we could. With just two to three weeks of consistent work on him, we decided to take him to his first schooling dressage / hunter show where he did amazing in the ring, but was not so well behaved outside of the ring. We kept working with him regularly.
Once cubbing season started we would take him out hunting once a week. He went to his second show in September, which was a Event Derby, and totally blew us away with his behavior and willingness to do everything that was asked. He went double clear in the jumping phase, which totally thrilled me. The only other show we were able to get to before departing for the Makeover was Metamora's Hunter Trials. We also took him over to a local hunter barn to get him over some courses, which we where not able to do at home.
Emily and Indy out with the hounds.
Heading to the Makeover, I kind of felt prepared, but not as much as I'd hoped. I wish I would have had more time to work on grids and flatwork, but time had ran out and we left for Kentucky before I knew it. Indy arrived like a champ and acted as if he had been doing this his whole life, settling very quickly into his stall. Thursday morning was a bit chilly, so many of the horses were a bit frisky, but Indy came out and warmed up well. The first phase of the Field Hunters was the flat, where we were asked to walk, trot, canter, gallop, halt, stand, and back. We did fairly well despite the fact he did not want to come down from the canter and did not pick up his right lead!
Next we moved on to the Mock Hunt, where we were asked to gallop over hilly terrain and jump coops, stone walls and go through a water crossing. Indy was perfect and I was so proud of him. The last and final phase was the Individual Test. The judges asked us to gallop away from the group, down a hill to the first fence, around to a few more fences, through a water crossing and open a gate, then around to jump a dropped rail, halt and stand. It was windy and cold, but Indy still did the test amazingly well, and later we were told he was one of the best-behaved horses out there. The judges were impressed at how well he galloped away from the group, and had not hesitated to the first fence like so many before us.
I think the most rewarding part of the whole Makeover was doing so well, knowing that we had very little time to prepare and I did all the training pretty much myself with out my mother or other trainer's help. Indy and I ended up placing 8th overall amoung professional and amateur riders. We also won Top Junior Field Hunter and took home the $500 check. Mom says I pretty much, study, sleep, and ride. Hmmm, she probably is right!