It was a “mid-life crisis” that drove Lindsey Partridge to enter the Thoroughbred Makeover competition early last year.
“Okay, it was an early mid-life crisis,” the now 30-year-old admits. “I was going to be turning 30 and I felt like I hadn’t done anything for myself and my own development for a while.
“I used to show a lot when I was a kid and then that took a backseat to teaching everyone else, so I felt this was the perfect thing for me to do because I love Thoroughbreds. I love horses with energy and versatility.”
So, the natural horsemanship trainer and owner of Partridge Horse Hill facility in Pontypool, Ontario, bought two race-trained Thoroughbreds in February 2015 with the intention of entering both in the Thoroughbred Makeover, hosted by the Retired Racehorse Project (retiredracehorseproject.org) at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington in October. In the three-day competition, trainers from around North America demonstrate the versatility of retired racehorses competing in one of 10 disciplines and a freestyle event. A winner is selected for each discipline and an overall winner is awarded the title America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred, complete with a $10,000 cash prize.
Lindsey’s horse Soar (aka Kahleesi) won that title, wowing judges with her performance in Competitive Trail and then a freestyle that featured a bridleless riding segment. “She’s just a really awesome, really versatile, really quiet mare,” said Lindsey of the eight-year-old Thoroughbred. “I knew if one of my horses was going to win it, it would be her,” she added.
But it was her other horse, a seven-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred named Lion of Wallstreet (aka Cupid) who was in first place at the end of the first day of Competitive Trail. “I was really surprised that after the first day my horses were No. 1 and 2, especially that Cupid was No. 1,” she said.
No doubt it was Lindsey’s philosophy of life-long learning with horses that helped her produce such great results on two separate horses at the competition. She has been riding since she was “hooked” from a week of pony camp at eight years old, dabbling in many disciplines, including show jumping, western and speed events and boasts several equine credentials: an Equine Canada rider level 8, a level 3 Parelli student and a gold-certified Natural Horsemanship Association trainer and coach.
It wasn’t an easy task for Lindsey to prepare both horses for the competition, as she had to juggle training with her full-time job as a public health nurse, and her business teaching riding lessons. “The way my horses got most of their training is that I would ride them in my lessons with students. It worked really well because my horses learned patience. There’s a lot of standing around and waiting while my students do their exercises and I also was able to demo an exercise with whatever horse I was riding,” she said.
On weekends, Lindsey would load the horses up and take them to clinics, horse shows, swimming in the pond on her property or to her cabin in upstate New York so they were used to seeing many different things. “There was a lot of work in getting them to be confident and prepared for Kentucky,” she said. “But when they got there, they got off the trailer and were like ‘Ya, whatever, this is fine. It’s just another thing mom is bringing us to. During Competitive Trail, my horses were the only ones in the group to walk calm and relaxed with their heads down into the water.”
According to Lindsey, she prepared for Competitive Trail by attending extreme cowboy clinics with her horses. “I’m glad I over-prepared. I’m not going to say the obstacles were easy [in Kentucky], but none of the obstacles were really difficult compared to what we see in extreme cowboy racing,” she said.
A Bump on the
Road to Kentucky
After months of squeezing in time to train her horses in between her other responsibilities, Lindsey encountered a major setback just weeks before the October 23-25 competition dates.
On September 13th, she noticed Soar was lame due to an abscess. “She was dead lame and I wasn’t able to do the last few competitions I’d signed her up for,” said Lindsey. That included missing the extreme cowboy racing provincial championships she’d qualified for and no training rides for the month leading up to the Thoroughbred Makeover contest. “It was really stressful. I had the vet and farrier coming out almost every other day to see if they could do anything.”
Finally, just four days before they were set to leave for Kentucky, Soar was sound again. “We ended up putting acrylic shoes on her,” said Lindsey. “And that was after days of iodining her foot and draining and soaking it and just praying she’d be sound for competition.”
Coming back to Canada with America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred has opened up some new doors for Lindsey. Since she returned, she has been contacted by a filmmaker who has asked her to come to North Carolina to star in a film.
The movie, titled Unbridled, is a fictional story set on a ranch in North Carolina – a place abused girls go to heal with horses that have also been abused. Lindsey said she will star as a natural horsemanship trainer who helps the girls with the horses. Both Soar and another of her horses – a palomino gelding named Dreamer – will be featured in the film as well. Soar will be Lindsey’s horse in the movie and Dreamer will be the ‘lead’ horse – the horse the film’s star bonds with.
Lindsey plans to travel to North Carolina sometime in the spring for two weeks with her horses to complete the filming.
As for Cupid, Lindsey sold him to a someone who will use him for trail riding, saying she felt he didn’t enjoy the competition environment. But she has no plans to sell Soar.
“This has been a total dream come true,” she said, noting she bought Soar specifically for the competition from an ad on Facebook, for less than $1,500. “I just wanted something with decent conformation and that was sound. I chose her because she was grey with four white socks and a blaze and I wanted a horse that was going to stand out.
“I just lucked out that she is so versatile. She snaps her knees up real pretty when she jumps – she could have done anything. I felt like if they had let me compete in more disciplines, she could have done the jumping and barrel racing and if I had time to train her, the dressage.”
She added, “This competition is just so great for the breed. It really shows people what these horses can do.”