RRP (and the Little Orphan Annex award winner!)

Most of you fellow OTTB enthusiasts know that the Retired Racehorse Project Makeover show was last week. A few bloggers were there with their horses, and it was fun to follow along and watch the videos and live stream. The Makeover is totally a bucket list item to me, and looks super fun. I reaaaaally want to try my hand at it someday, if ever there is room in my life for another OTTB. It’s pretty amazing to see one big week-long showcase of all the different things they can do, and with less than a year of retraining at that.

Image result for retired racehorse makeover

It seems like there’s always some kind of drama following this show (maybe something to be expected when you get so many different disciplines and green horses together?) and unfortunately this year was no different. My goodness, the drama around the barrel racing. Wow. Did anyone else see that unfold on social media?

For those who aren’t familiar, the Makeover is a show, but really it’s a training competition. It’s all judged and scored, and even the more simple timed events (like showjumpers and barrel racing) have flatwork tests where the quality of the training that has gone into the horse is judged. For barrel racing, its a relatively simple horsemanship test, the results of which are rolled together with timed runs to come up with a final score. No event at the Makeover is immune from a judged portion, because, remember, this is really a training competition. They’re trying to encourage people to prioritize a solid foundation over rushed training that leaves a lot of holes.

Image result for retired racehorse makeover

So anyway, the girl who ended up with the two fastest times on the actual barrel runs had a lower horsemanship score, which brought them down a few spots in the rankings. A lot of barrel racers WERE NOT HAPPY about that. They argued that barrels was a timed event, plain and simple, and the fastest horse should be the winner. Period. They shouted that it was rigged, and that horsemanship and judged flatwork had no place in barrel racing.

Which… wow… there’s a comment to stop you in your tracks. I think if ever you find yourself arguing that horsemanship and a solid foundation have no place in your sport, whatever that sport may be, you might want to re-evaluate what you’re doing here. Effing yikes.

A lot of people seemed to have a hard time understanding that nothing about the Makeover judging is typical of standard showing. The cross country is scored, the showjumpers do flatwork and gymnastics and optimum time rounds, etc etc. Because, again, it’s a training competition, not a regular show. It’s pretty abundantly clear in the rules, which outline all of this and are available online to anyone. Even I knew the format and I’ve never done the Makeover. Reading remains a difficult task for some, I suppose.

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But anyway, Fallon Taylor won the barrel racing, which seemed to just add fuel to the “IT’S RIGGED” fire, and then Fallon also won the grand 10k prize for Most Wanted Thoroughbred, and lord I thought some folks’ heads were gonna explode. Which, to be fair, I was kinda sad about her winning the overall too (I voted for Rosie!) but it’s good publicity for the OTTB in western events, so whatever. Either way… woooow the drama. It’s a damn shame, IMO, because the Makeover is just so freaking cool. If you can watch those freestyles without a tear coming to your eye, you’re not human. The Makeover isn’t perfect, they’ve got kinks to work out for sure, but still… it’s insanely cool. OTTB’s are awesome.

One of the big highlights of the Makeover was of course the winner of the Little Orphan Annex Memorial award, funded by fellow bloggers in honor of Hillary’s mare Annie. This award went to the highest placed chestnut mare, which ended up being a super badass little creature named Great Reward – winner of the polo division!

Is she sweet?
Is she salty?
Maybe both

Hillary and I were both thrilled to see her win it, she was really fun to watch and definitely embodied that spicy chestnut mare spirit that Annie had. Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped make this happen, it was a truly special way to remember such an awesome mare.

22 thoughts on “RRP (and the Little Orphan Annex award winner!)

  1. I just got back from the Makeover. In fairness, there was a lot to be upset about regarding the overall winner, including how she represented (and misrepresented) the organization and thoroughbreds in general, leading up to the event. Most of the disciplines are run a little bit differently, so they include a judged portion. I have no problem with this. (I’m not a barrel racer, though.) The Retired Racehorse Project’s entire goal is to increase demand for thoroughbreds after their racing careers. Part of that goal is to change the narrative about the racing industry. Race owners care about their horses, they aren’t dumped, aftercare is important to them, thoroughbreds aren’t crazy, they don’t all have terrible feet, they are incredibly versatile, etc. All entered trainers should support that goal, and represent the organization that way. (It’s even in the rule book.)


    1. Setting the drama with the winner aside (which is a completely different discussion IMO), in this post I’m specifically referring to all the comments I saw online about the barrel racers not wanting a judged horsemanship portion, ie the “fastest horse should win” argument.


      1. To be fair, there was an issue with scoring the barrel racing, and for a time, the horsemanship portion was over-weighted for a period of time. This information was not widely circulated, nor was the later adjustment. It sounds as if it could be scored differently in the future, to put more weight on the discipline-specific tests
        Since you mentioned the rule book, she didn’t even know there was a horsemanship portion until she showed up. .
        For the record, I do want to point out that drama was started on the public page, not by any of the competitors. The Makeover tends to be a pretty drama-free event onsite, and the trainers’ Facebook group is one of the most laid back groups on the internet. I just want to make that clear, so people understand that it was not the competitors who didn’t understand the rules (except for Fallon herself).


        1. I’m not trying to defend anyone here, just saying there may have been a reason behind it, and Fallon didn’t know the rules either, she just happened to be on the beneficial side of it.


        2. Yeah I heard all of this. There were scoring issues in several divisions.

          I can’t speak for what people were saying on site, I wasn’t there. I can only speak for all the comments and arguments that I saw online, which weren’t (mostly) Fallon-centric or scoring-issue-centric, but were from outside parties (not directly involved in the makeover) and their views on how it SHOULD work, and that there should be nothing subjective involved in the judging of barrel racing. That it should be time only and that’s that. To clarify further, that’s all I’m talking about here – those comments and nothing else.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m out of the loop here, really having only watched/followed the eventing, but I’m curious (because I’m nosy…) what happened that she was misrepresenting the org/thoroughbreds, if you’re willing to link or elaborate!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A lady somewhat local to me always participates in the makeover with a couple of horses – it is neat to watch her progress and success at the show.

    Too bad about the barrel racing drama – sounds like it is pretty clear how the RPP/show is run, so why argue with it? Sheesh. And totally agree with you about the lack of horsemanship type comments – wow. I have seen that in some western events though.


  3. Admittedly I’m way out of the news in all regards this month, but I had no idea there even was drama. Wow. Of course, though. Horse people. Forever making me shake my head in disbelief.


  4. I know the absolute tiniest bit about the Makeover (nerd alert: read part of the rule book cause I was curious) but I understand it’s a judged competition and therefore it makes total sense that the barrel racers have flat work. I used to barrel race, and am so glad I got out of it because it does not have a good image too much of the time IMO. Sad that people behaved this way and took away from the point of the competition in a small way. I do like that Fallon wears a helmet, but agree it’s a bummer she won the grand prize.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with the view its a training competition and not who’s the fastest and is pretty darn clear from the get go.

    But can I say I loved seeing some of the bloggers I follow compete. That was so awesome and fun to virtually watch.

    And I’d forgotten about Annie’s award. That lil’ chestnut mare is just adorable.


  6. This has to be the best explanation ever of RRP! I love the concept and I think it really shows how versatile an OTTB is. My one thing is that I wish there was a division for the “long haul” training/rehab project. I got a then 8 year old gelding off the track with a severely bowed tendon, terrible skin, and a host of other issues. It’s taken a solid 18 months of our 2.5 years together to get him to a point of showing. I would have loved to have taken him to show off our hard work.

    As for people loosing their minds over the barrel racing, you are more than right. Just like a horses hoof, no foundation no horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t know every division had a judged component! That’s fantastic, imo. (And as someone who’s dealt with former barrel racers and watched quite a bit of it in my day, man I WISH more barrel racers thought about horsemanship and flatwork….)

    The Makeover just seems so neat. What a wonderful way to showcase an athletic and adaptable breed! And that mare that won the Annie award is ADORABLE. ❤


  8. I have a friend who is a GOOD barrel racer (as in, went to the NFR more than once). She is also an excellent horsewoman. She bought a 3-year-old (QH) two years ago (green broke but for reining) and spent TWO YEARS putting a solid foundation on him before he ever raced. This summer (late summer, even) was his first race series, and in very large part due to the time and effort she put into his foundation, they did great.

    The fastest horse may win, but the well-trained horse wins faster.


  9. I believe that, in early years in the U.S., the FEH had a similar drama and teaching moment. Some spectators were taken aback that a horse with a stop in the jumping component could place over a horse that jumped clean. But the point is not the jumping round, it’s the quality and promise of the horse itself, a horse that is very young, and greener than the grass underfoot. A stop by a young greenie in an unfamiliar setting – or even at home – is not a career direction, it’s just a training moment. What was needed was education for the spectators. And hopefully the onlookers now understand things better than they did then.

    Perhaps the best light on the online fuss over the barrel racing placings would be that this, too, is a teaching moment for the online onlookers. That this is a chance to better present what the Makeover is, what it wants to achieve.

    Although I have to say that if that if ‘no foundation, no horsemanship’ is really representative of the barrel group, I’d be fine if they just weren’t in the Makeover any more. That’s not the future these horses deserve. Hopefully, though, that was just a few outlier commenters, misrepresenting their own group.

    I also am curious about what exactly was said & done by the winner that was a problem for representing OTTB’s? Not to stir the pot (really!) but just to know what the discussion is about.

    Controversy can be strangely productive in terms of attracting new eyeballs and spreading the word! Hopefully more people become acquainted with the Makeover, its successes and its message (thanks to Chron and EN for helping publicize it).


  10. And … more on point … even just online, it was deeply moving and inspiring to see what those trainers accomplished, and how wonderful and willing the horses are, and what great hearts these TB’s displayed! ❤


  11. I didn’t get to watch it online (as the world generally ignores the millions of us who don’t live in cities with unlimited cable internet access), so thanks for the recap. I am sad, but not surprised to hear the barrel comments. My farrier & his family train & compete barrel horses, but they do it properly. Which involves several years of doing things slowly, very little actual galloping, & lots of trails, long warm-ups & cool-downs, & quiet, happy horses who last a long time.Unfortunately, they still haven’t given in to my relentless nagging to put helmets on (well, their kids do, but mom & dad don’t), but I’m never giving up! It has always baffled me how few people seem to understand that a tight, clean, efficient pattern on a calm, balanced horse will always be faster & more consistent than a strung-out stressball who can barely steer. And will stay sound longer. Save more money, win more money, what’s not to get??


    1. My sister runs pro… it’s amazing how many people ask why her horse is so well behaved going into the arena- I’m always like ummmmm because she’s broke lol


  12. Yahooooo Annie’s award!!

    Fallon has so much of drama wherever she goes… the top barrel racers and the ones who are legit and long standing don’t have gimmicks or drama following them… their horses have awesome foundations and they are some of the nicest most humble people.


  13. I think the whole concept of the RRP is so awesome! If I ever find the guts to try again with an OTTB, I would love to try and participate.
    Congrats to that adorable red mare winning the Annie award!


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