Julia Whitehead, a Junior rider from Collierville, Tenn, rides out of her family’s home barn. Julia has done all of the retraining of her OTTB, Leland, but she has received a lot of help from her employer and trainer, Robyn Miller, of Point Pleasant Farm in Mount Pleasant, Miss. Robyn has coached Julia and Leland with her expertise in natural horsemanship since May 2022.
Tell us about your OTTB: Name: Lee’s Luck, known as “Leland,” is an 8-year-old gelding who retired from racing in December, 2021. He had 65 starts, making him a “war horse,” and won over $100,000 on the track. I found Leland through Canter USA’s Illinois affiliate, and fell in love with him the first time I saw his sweet face. Leland was the perfect horse for me in the Ranch discipline because of his short stature, 15.1 hands, and his stocky build that resembles a quarter horse.
Did your horse have any racing injuries? If so, tell us a little about that injury and the rehab process: Leland retired completely sound, even after 65 starts and as an almost 8-year-old horse.
Why did you decide to enter TB Makeover? I wanted to test my ability as a trainer and challenge myself by transitioning a horse straight off the track to a new and quite different career.
What other breeds and disciplines have you ridden and shown? I have ridden several breeds including Quarter Horses, Warmbloods, Mules, and Mustangs, and currently have a Quarter Horse mare who I show in Ranch versatility, cow work, and obstacle competitions.
In your opinion what makes the Thoroughbred special? I love Thoroughbreds because I find they have a love of people and a lot of try. They are raised around humans and have a lot of handling from a young age, and that is all they know. They learn to fit into our world incredibly well, and all of the Thoroughbreds I have worked with love people and try their hardest to please.
What has been the biggest challenge throughout the retraining process? Leland has struggled with confidence, especially when alone, so a big challenge has been getting him to trust me instead of looking to other horses for comfort.
Who has helped you the most during this retraining process? My mom has been very supportive throughout the entire training process and has been a huge part of my success. She has been willing to go on any adventure that Leland and I might want to go on. She has cheered us on at home and at competitions, and has cared for him when I wasn’t able to.
What are you most excited about leading up to TB Makeover? I am very excited to meet new trainers and their horses, and watch these recently restarted Thoroughbreds compete in their new disciplines, including everything from Eventing to Ranch work to polo.
One word that describes your mount? Willing