Under saddle, Grace has been focusing on Prize’s dressage and jumping skills, while providing him with a varied training routine that’s even involved mustering cattle and a demonstration at a local Pony Club. Several times a week the pair partake in dressage lessons with Jenni Beulke, an element of Prize’s retraining that is benefiting Grace as well. “I’m no dressage rider myself,” Grace admits. “We’re really refining both his and my skills, which has been great for me as well!” Like everyone who meets Prize, Jenni has developed a soft spot for the charismatic gelding, as Grace explains. “She’s fallen in love with Prize, and is really invested in what’s happening with him and his future too.”
Prize is showing immense talent over jumps, with an exceptionally good back end and a great attitude. “When he was a racehorse he obviously schooled over the jumps occasionally to keep him fresh – so he really had to learn how to come back and not just bowl into the jump as flat out as he can. He learnt that very quickly; we just did a lot of grid work. We have been really working on refining his jumping skills, rather than just jumping for fun, but his natural jump is amazing,” Grace explains.
It’s hard for Grace to choose between Prize’s brain and his ability when asked about his greatest asset – as he possesses both a wonderful temperament and an athletic body! “Physically, he’s an exceptional horse,” she states. “However, the biggest thing is he’s very sound in the brain, so that’s his biggest asset; how sensible he is. That comes down to how well exposed he’s been in his first career, but he also has to be sensible in the head to have raced until he was 10. So everything should come together for him in that sense. He has the right temperament for it.”
Prize’s transformation from retired racehorse to future performance horse has been a joyous process for Grace, her network, and the team at Racing Victoria. It’s no surprise that when Grace put the word out that he was available for rehoming, she was inundated with enquiries and applications. After narrowing these down to a shortlist of suitable homes, the team at Racing Victoria went through the process of speaking to shortlisted applicants and checking their references, before those deemed suitable could visit Prize for a test ride.
“I get the easy part!” Grace laughs. After applicants visit Prize to meet him and have a test ride, Grace provides a report back to the RV team, in which she offers her opinion about whether they are the right match.
“I honestly believe he would try anything and be good at anything. Ideally, he would go eventing,” Grace explains, when asked what kind of future she sees for Prize. “He’s working so well on the flat, he loves going out on cross country and he can jump really well. So that covers three bases, but there’s no reason he couldn’t be a Pony Club horse or just do low-level showing… he’s quite good to look at, he has quite nice movement. There’s nothing he hasn’t done and done well. I’ve chucked everything at him. I’ve even taken him trail riding with a couple of horses, and a horse like him you’d expect to jig-jog the whole way, but he didn’t, he was happy to walk on the buckle.”
Applications have been received from all over Victoria and interstate, and when we spoke to Grace she was excited to advise that Prize was heading out on trial with a delightful young rider. “It seemed like a perfect match to me. She wasn’t the most experienced rider who applied, but she’s a very kind, soft rider, and that’s what he needs. Prize gets upset when he gets things wrong, he just needs someone who reaches down, gives him a pat and encourages him to keep going and get it right, and that’s exactly what she did when she rode him. She never got upset with him.”
All fingers and toes are crossed that Prize has found his perfect person. For Grace, it will be a bittersweet farewell; the end of one retraining journey, and the beginning of a new chapter for the charming Prize. There’s no doubt the success he enjoyed on the racetrack will not be the final achievements in this gelding’s performance career; a diamond in the rough, he looks set to become a fun, extremely capable and trusting partner for a young rider in the equestrian disciplines. We look forward to the next update!EQ
You can find out more about Racing Victoria’s RESET Program here.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ:
Vale Subzero (September 2020 issue)
Beacon of hope for Brightlight Boy (August 2020 issue)
From racecourse to Royal Windsor (June 2020 issue)