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Anything worth doing is worth doing right. That’s the spirit Margaret Webb adopted in the retraining of her Thoroughbred mare Athera.
The former racehorse—a 5-year-old bay mare ridden by Kodie Young and coached by Trey Lawson, both of Oak View Stables in Olive Branch, Mississippi, where Webb is farm manager—took second place in the Show Jumper discipline at the Thoroughbred Makeover October 12-17, 2021 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. They also placed eighth in the Field Hunter division, and Young was the top junior rider in both events.
“All of their ‘blood, sweat and tears’ paid off,” Webb said. “It played out perfectly...she showed such maturity for a young horse.”
The Thoroughbred Makeover celebrates former racehorses that have been exceptionally trained to continue in a “second career” in another discipline. However, Webb believes that training Athera correctly is the first priority, not necessarily winning.
“If we keep her happy and confident, the ribbons will come,” she explained. And that’s what happened in Kentucky, Webb noted with pride. “It went as flawlessly as it could have in the jumper ring.”
In the Field Hunter division, Webb believes they could have been more prepared, but she sees the experience as another stepping stone.
Until 2019, Athera was a racehorse, with six wins and 34 starts. She sustained an injury in her last race, and Webb acquired her through Changing Saddles, a Kentucky-based organization with a mission to find new homes for racehorses. “She just spoke to me,” explained Webb.
The horse then had some “vacation time,” with training restarting in the spring of 2020. But their journey to Kentucky had a number of setbacks.
For starters, the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover was delayed because of COVID-19—in fact, this year’s event included both the 2020 and 2021 competitions.
In addition, Webb had to find a new rider after she was diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer. She was getting treatment for most of the fall and winter of last year.
During that time, Young asked if he could help by exercising Athera to keep her in shape. When it became clear Webb would not be able to show the mare, Young took the reins.
“She’s extremely willing and brave to go over fences and I think that’s due to the way Margaret started her,” Young, 18 years old, said. “The mare is very smart, and even though she was off for three or four months, she retained a lot.”
The arena at the Thoroughbred Makeover was Young’s first show in Kentucky, and one of the largest arenas he’d ridden in. He has been a student at Oak View Stables since he was 6 years old, with Trey Lawson and Rose Marie Lawson as his coaches.
“I’m extremely proud of the young rider he’s become,” Trey Lawson said. “He’s performed well under pressure and shown his qualities as a horseman.”
Webb is currently looking to find Athera a “forever home,” but in the meantime, she is working with the mare to regain some of her own fitness. In the future, she hopes to find another young horse to bring to the Thoroughbred Makeover.
“The goals of this horse show are novel...it’s not necessarily about who rode the best, but who did the work to make their horse rideable,” Webb explained. “It gives you a good reason to slow down and do it right.”
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