I’ve been thinking about this article from Eventing Nation on and off for a week now.
He raced in California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before retiring in November of 2014 [at age 5].
So Bills went with Chris to Florida in January 2015, and four months later he was entered in his first event at Training level. “I wanted to enter the Novice, but I entered late,” Chris says. “I contacted the organizers and they said all they had was a spot for Beginner Novice or for Training, so I figured we’d just give the Training a shot. He was a little unsure of things, but he has such a big heart, he just tried all weekend long.”
By August 2015, they had moved up to Prelim after completing three Training events; the next year, they came out at Intermediate and did three CIC** evenets over summer and fall 2016, and came in 15th at the Fair Hill CCI** in fall 2016.
The horse came back out at Intermediate in early February 2017, and did his first Advanced at Pine Top in late February. Last week, they came out at the Carolina CIC***.
When asked how he was able to move up the levels so quickly, Chris is quick to give all the credit to Bills and his incredible Thoroughbred heart. “Bills just never stops trying. The cross country has never been an issue for him,” Chris says. “He has struggled with connection issues on the flat, but he’s always been incredibly bold over jumps.”
So let’s do the math: first event ever at Training in January 15 after 2 months off the track. 25 months later, he ran his first Advanced; 26 months later, a three star. Their spring plans include another CIC*** and then the CCI*** at Bromont in June.
I will be the first one to say: I am not an upper level rider. I have never taken a horse beyond Beginner Novice; I have never retrained an OTTB. Arguably, I have done such a shitty job of training my own green horse that we’re still dealing with basic things after a decade.
But: 26 months from racing to three star? That can’t possibly be ok, right? Even if we assume the horse had a ridiculously high base of fitness from the track, even if we assume he is some kind of prodigy at cross country, does he still really and truly understand his job as a three star horse after barely two years? Even more, does he understand it well enough to handle all the challenges and complexities of some of these huge courses?
I’m genuinely curious. Is this a reasonable, if fast, timeline, or do you think there are dangerous training holes?