Ruben’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover

The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care‘s managing editor and lifelong Warmblood owner shares her experience training her first OTTB for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Here’s what she has learned.
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Ruben
Transforming Ruben from racehorse to respectable hunter has been one of the most fun journeys I’ve taken with a horse. | Photo: Shawn McMillen, courtesy Alex Beckstett

Ten months and 26 days ago, I said yes to a plain-looking bay Thoroughbred gelding named Candy Ruby. The 7-year-old son of Candy Ride had recently retired from racing, and I was itching for a horse to call my own after a two-year hiatus. There was no trial ride, no prepurchase exam (I did do one post-purchase), no other horses considered. In hindsight, I got pretty lucky.

I applied for and was accepted as a trainer for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover, something I—a lifelong lover-of-all-things-Warmblood—had quietly been wanting to do since I first watched the event in 2015. Transforming “Ruben” from racehorse to respectable hunter has been one of the most fun journeys I’ve taken with a horse. I’ve also learned so many things about the Thoroughbred breed and the retraining process. As we head into the week of the Thoroughbred Makeover, I’ve reflected on how we got here.

The Early Months

Ruben’s first few months off the track were rough. Most Thoroughbreds benefit from some time “letting down” from racing and learning to just be a horse. So right before the holidays I equipped body-clipped Ruben with a nice new blanket, pulled his shoes, and turned him out 24/7 in a field with three other geldings. Despite my daily check-ins, one thing after another seemed to go wrong. Within a few weeks, Ruben’s blanket was ripped to shreds and his rump was covered in teeth marks. After a prolonged hard freeze, his thin-soled feet started to get sore. Any unblanketed inch of his body developed rainrot, and one weekend his hind legs swelled to the size of small tree trunks with cellulitis from standing in the unrelenting mud

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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