He’s Down with OTTB: Training Talk with Two-Time Winner of the Thoroughbred Makeover Freestyle Tik Maynard


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Horseman and eventer Tik Maynard bared his soul in his hit memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, which was released earlier this year and has earned accolades from reviewers and readers across the board. Those who have read the book learned the story of Remarkable, an off-track Thoroughbred Tik retrained, and who, in some ways, is responsible for Tik’s book being published. An article Tik wrote about OTTBs for Practical Horseman Magazine caught our eye at TSB, and when we contacted him to see if he was interested in writing a book—we found out he already had one in the works!

Some of those who have enjoyed IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN have asked what has happed with Remarkable, so we caught up with Tik—a very busy new father with eventer wife Sinead Halpin—to see whether OTTB was still a favorite acronym.

TSB: In IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, you share the story of Mr. Pleasantree, aka Remarkable, the off-track Thoroughbred you purchased and trained in preparation for the 2015 RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. You won the Freestyle competition with Remarkable that year. Three years later, where are you with his training?

TIK: I competed Remarkable for two years after the Makeover and brought him up to the Prelim level of eventing. At Three Lakes Horse Trials in Florida in 2017 we were halfway around the cross-country when there was a five-stride line from a table to an angled brush next to a tree. The brush was higher on the tree side, and we were supposed to jump the low side of the brush away from the tree. But there was a 3-inch gap between the brush and the tree, and somehow Remarkable got his eye on that gap. I think many horses would have stopped or run out, but he seemed to say, “If you want me to try that, I’ll try it.” He got halfway over, and then he couldn’t fit the rest of the way. I got him off okay, and then we reapproached and jumped the correct part of the jump. He didn’t bat an eyelash, and we finished the course. It was a scary situation though. I could not believe how much he trusted me. And I let him down. I can’t think of another horse that has been so wiling to try for me.

TSB: Are you still planning on bringing him up through the levels as an event prospect?

TIK: It took me a year of competing at Preliminary to realize that he does not have the jump to keep moving up the levels. Although I would love to keep competing him, I don’t want to force my goals on him. Just cause I want him to be an upper-level horse does not mean he does. I think he is much happier competing at the lower levels. I would love to lease him out to somebody in our program if the right person came along.

TSB: What are his strengths?

TIK: His try. His heart. His sense of play. His trust in me. Playing with him at liberty.

TSB: What challenges are you currently facing with him? How are you meeting those challenges?

TIK: The biggest challenge is his lack of scope with bigger jumps. I am meeting the challenge by backing down and saying, “If you don’t want to do that, that’s fine. Let’s do something you want to do!”

TSB: If you could name one personal goal you’d like to meet alongside Remarkable, what would it be?

TIK: I’d like to find a horse that complemented him and try to put together a little routine involving two horses at liberty.

TSB: What are some of the things you’ve learned through your work with Remarkable? How has he improved you as a horseman?

TIK: He can be pretty spooky in new situations. I try to give myself time to really feel prepared with him before we do something in new place. For example, the day before competing at the Makeover, during the ring familiarization time, I had a friend and my dad go stand behind all the banners that he was nervous about and feed him treats. Then when we competed he wasn’t spooking away from the rails and toward the in-gate.

He was probably the horse that started the shift in my head from trying to get a horse to do something, to trying to create confidence in a horse so that it is not a big deal. It seems so obvious, but I deal with it almost every day with young horses that are getting used to cross-country obstacles. Am I trying to get them into the water? Or am I trying to get them confident about the water? It is a pretty big paradigm shift in thinking, and often I still have to remind myself which one I’m trying to do.

TSB: Do you plan to compete at the Makeover again in the future?

TIK: In 2016 I went back with two horses, Haxby Park and Johnny Football. My goal was to do a liberty routine with both of them. It did not go according to plan. I’ve since heard that for acts like that you want to show 80 percent of what you can do at home, and I wish I had known that then. My whole act sort of fell apart when Johnny got distracted by the loudspeaker. On the plus side, I learned way more that year than the year that I won. Preparing two horses at once was way out of my comfort zone, and I was just learning nonstop in the lead-up to the competition. Linda and Pat Parelli gave me some lessons while I was still in Ocala, Florida. Then I came to Kentucky early and spent a few days with Dan James, who is amazing at balancing horsemanship and showmanship!

In 2017 I went back to the Makeover as a judge with Dan James for the Freestyle. That was also a great learning experience. It was really interesting to compare so many different acts, and to try to find a way of marking them all fairly. It is 50 percent for harmony, 30 percent for degree of difficulty, and 20 percent for entertainment. For the harmony we were really looking for relaxed happy horses—no tail swishing, no mouth open, nothing out of control. For the difficulty level, though, we were looking for a horse that could be relaxed and happy, but one that could also jump, or gallop, or spin. And that is the same thing that can make a dressage test hard: Can they do snappy transitions, but also have a nice free walk?

In 2018 I again competed at the Makeover, this time with Penny Hallman’s Looking My Way. His barn name is Mason, and although he is a big chestnut like Remarkable, they are very different.

TSB: Knowing what you know now, how did you approach working with a new OTTB in preparation for the event? How was it the same as what you did with Remarkable? How was it different?

TIK: I entered him in the same two divisions, the freestyle and eventing. I think the biggest thing is Remarkable really has a much bigger personality and play drive. It made my job easy, I just had to show him off! With Mason I had to really slow things down, explain things carefully, and take my time a lot more. It does mean some stuff was better, but it also meant I couldn’t necessarily show off such an extravagant gallop and play.  I had to do the little things well. Things that were slow and controlled and thoughtful, like circling around me at the walk and trot, coming to me, and lying down. It worked! Mason and I won the Freestyle competition.

TSB: If others are interested in participating in the Makeover, what advice would you give them?

TIK: The hardest thing for me, but also the most beneficial, is to approach it like a fun event. There is money up for grabs, but I try to forget it and just have a good time. And when I have a good time, usually my horses have a good time. And if the horses are having a good time, usually the judges and the audience can tell.

TSB: How is the Makeover changing the horse world for the better?

TIK: They are really creating more of a demand and a focus on horses that might otherwise not have a home to go to. It is a fantastic event! The underlying problem, of course, is that there are too many horses, dogs, and cats in the world, and not enough good homes to take them. I really support spay-and-neuter programs, and I think everybody should really think twice about breeding animals when there are so many that need homes and don’t have them.

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksYou can read the full story of Remarkable in Tik’s bestselling memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, available from TSB, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

For more information about the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and how you can be involved CLICK HERE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.


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