The fourth of our interviews with riders eventing with ex racehorses is with Laura Jane Meller.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself, how long have you been riding? Have you always been interested in eventing?
I started riding when I was 7, my next birthday is my 26th. I always wanted to grow up being just like Mary King, so most certainly interested in eventing!
- I think Mary has inspired many of us twenty something year olds! Who is your ex racehorse? Tell us a bit about them.
My horse is El Toreros aka Joey. Joey’s last race was 04/09/16 and he was thrown in a field after that. I went to see him on 08/10/16 and brought him home after having a quick walk and trot round.
He’s quirky and has a huge horsinality. He’s not been the easiest of horses but he tries very hard for me every time. He’s really taken to cross country and after only 3 visits to a cross country course (one of which, and his first time at that, I hit the fence!) he was jumping into water, over 95cm hanging logs, trakehners and anything else I point him at. His dressage isn’t great but he tries, and did brilliantly at his first test on 30/04/17 getting 66.95% .
Joey was gifted to me in October from the same trainer who I had got Ross (Divine Folly) from in May last year, but unfortunately lost some time before.
- Did you retrain Joey for eventing yourself?
Yes! I’ve had lessons with my coach but I’m pleased to say I have done all the hard work. He’s not the first ex race horse I’ve retrained for eventing, I had them directly from the track too.
- What level are you two currently competing at?
We have our first unaffiliated ODE 80cm on 21st so in 3 weeks.
- What are your aims for the next couple of seasons?
We intend to do 2 or 3 BE80s this year and try and squeeze in a 90 at the end of the season, with hopes to work up BE90 – BE100
- Are you competing any other horses at the moment? If so, tell us a bit about them and what level you are competing.
Horse 1 – my other horse Budweiser. Bud’s previously evented up to CIC** and gave to me when he needed a quieter life, and I needed to learn to Event. He’s done a brilliant job and we are entering Unaffiliated and BE100s this season.
Horse 2 – my friends ex racehorse, I’ve started introducing him to dressage and hope to get him out on an XC course by the end of summer.
- Is there anything which stands out to you that makes an ex racehorse/thoroughbred special for eventing?
They are bred to be athletes, they are the fittest and fastest of breeds and I think that makes for a very special horse to Event. Events are getting tougher, longer and require more stamina. Even at the top I can honestly say I’ve never seen an ex racehorse look like they were struggling on the XC course! There is a reason we are breeding more and more thoroughbred into the new generation of event horses and this is why.
- I agree, thoroughbred blood is still really desirable in event horses. Is there anything which stands out as being particularly challenging when asking an ex racehorse to event?
Dressage – although a lot of ex racehorses learn their new job well, reasonably quickly and without very little argument… I feel that Thoroughbreds don’t always have that ‘flashy’ / sub 30 / flicky toe trot which warmbloods have, which tends to give a lower score going into the jumping phases.
- Would you consider another ex racehorse for your next event horse?
Absolutely. I’ve had 5 ex racehorses and I’d most certainly have another.
- Do you think more could be done to show how adaptable ex racehorses are?
Yes. I feel that eventers and the occasional dressage rider are the only ones who will accept an ex racehorse. Show jumpers do not appear to have the time of day for a thoroughbred, more specifically an ex racehorse and this needs to change.
They need more publicity in the right way, a good rider needs his or her story following in the public eye, showing exactly what challenges we are faced with but overcome to successfully retrain the ex racehorse for Eventing.