I was recently asked by a friend if the Thoroughbred Makeover was worth it.

Was it worth the cost?

The time?

The exhaustion, the nerves, the pressure?

And I told her that if her goal was to have this single horse show be a goal to finish the year on, rather than the end all-be all of her horses life, then yes. If you thought of it as one more mile on the long and at times arduous roads that you will take with that single horse, then yes.

If you were doing it with dollar signs and stories of grandeur in your eyes, then no.

This was a month ago. Before the current raise of entry fees and the rule book for 2019 was published. And I still stand by this comment, and hope you all will heed my argument.

When I entered Called to Serve in 2015, the TB Makeover was in its infancy. It was the beginning of its journey at the Kentucky Horse Park; and as a local eventer, I expected the show to cost a comparable amount to any other show that I have participated in there. It is roughly $300 to enter a recognized event or dressage show, and was nearly $450 to do a single division at a USHJA A show. When you get an insiders view of the Kentucky Horse Park and just how much it costs to rent one facility or arena, nonetheless twelve, you begin to realize just how hard the organizers have it, and how much the fees are out of their hands.

But the entry was the least of my worries. How it fit with my business model was the greatest worry I had.

My usually business model consists of this:

1. Find the horse.

2. Get the horse exposed to as many things as possible.

3. Sell horse before horse kills himself.

And for me, this means setting a goal of selling between 30-120 days of training, obviously praying for the lower end of that range.

So for me, it wasn’t the $200 to enter that scared me, it was the $350/month board, $150/month farrier, $5,000/running through the fence vet bill, and $7500/colic surgery that did.

My risk was about to increase much more by adjusting that 30 days to 10 months, and I wondered if the reward would justify it.

And I realized that it depends on what you set the reward at.

Is the reward in selling that horse? Then no, a financial advisor would tell you that owning a horse for one year and selling it after an unrecognized show is not a good financial decision.

Is the reward winning the entire competition and walking away with $15,000? Well, 500 entered and only 1 did that, so again, I would forewarn that the odds are stacked against you. I even won my division, and would heed the warning that most horses just KNOW when you are “rich” and immediately slip and fall in the mud. If you’re particularly lucky, they do so the day before a PPE.

But if the reward is different, if the reward is less quantitative, then yes. You should enter.

If the reward is developing friendships that last a lifetime, go for it.

If the reward is getting to compete at the storied Kentucky Horse Park where the greats have launched over 4* fences, get in there.

If the reward is taking a thoroughbred off of the track who was famed for his terrible demeanor and dangerous reputation, and showing off his balance, beauty, and brilliance as a sport horse, then you’ve found your reason.

Do I think that the Thoroughbred Makeover can get better? Heck ya, and I’ve been the first to tell their followers, their board, and even their president. Do I think they should have warned interested competitors that fees would increase and not demand this increase immediately following the holidays? You bet ya, and I have already spoken my piece. There was room for growth in 2015 when I did it, but the margin for that growth has decreased as the years continued on.

I love some of the rule changes. Optimum times in the jumpers, emphasis on jumping in eventing; and a longer duration of showing to give horses breaks.

I also love that the organization is willing to listen. Do they demand us to believe they are perfect? No. They are the first to ask for input and opinion, and answer almost all requests.

But do I still think that the reward can be worth the risk? It’s 100% up to you as an individual.

Some people might feel that the reward is so great that they can, and will, continue to enter year in and year out. Others, like me, will do it once and end up with a horse that is a lifer. And some others may simply watch from the wings and learn from each individuals endeavor.

And if the risk is too great, that is fine. You can still take on that Thoroughbred. Set that end of the year goal as another show or simply a trail ride. Be the best ambassador that you can be for this amazing breed. No organization, entity, or person can, or should, stop you.

Mak (not my RRP TB) at the TIP championships.

To most, my takeaway from my personal Makeover experience would simply look like a huge check and a big blue ribbon. But what they don’t realize is that I’ve already spent the money on adult equine-related things, a goat ate the ribbon, and all I was left with was the experience.

I made amazing friends. I experienced a dressage test that still brings tears to my eyes. And I developed a horse that was given to me to show just how much these horses can change.

So, if those rewards are the ones you are seeking–do it. Get that entry in. Because, trust me, $300 is worth every penny of that reward.

4 Comments on “The Makeover: Is The Risk Worth The Reward?

  1. Carleigh,
    You are an amazing, impressive horsewoman/Woman in general ! Your journey with all of your horses that you have worked with has been and continues to be very inspiring! I’m still mad/sad that I missed your winning test. But I have seen you and Nixon do some pretty impressive work!! I love reading your blog, Happy Holidays!

  2. I love this (especially #3 lol)!!

    Having married into a racing family, the Makeover has always been a common topic of discussion and my husband is entered for the new “Canadian Version” in SK in February. It’s a long drive for us, at one of the worst times of year weather-wise, but we are entered and will evaluate when the time comes to leave if the 14 hour drive through the winter is worth the risk.

  3. Pingback: Training for Life – A Yankee in Paris

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