Hot Blooded: How Tyler Weith Made His OTTB Into A Winning Hunter

Welcome to a new series on NF Style called “Hot Blooded,” which celebrates and highlights the Thoroughbred athlete in all equestrian disciplines, from racing to jumping.

Tyler Weith is no stranger to hunter ring. The former captain of the Drexel University Equestrian Team started riding horses at the age of 5 and ever since, his riding has taken him along the A-circuit from Ocala up to Saratoga.

Now, as the trainer of W Show Stables, located in the heart of horse country in Lexington, Kentucky, Tyler is taking on a new challenge: retraining off-the-track Thoroughbreds. In the past year—which included the first time he’s ever sat on a Thoroughbred—Tyler found quick success with the mare, Greely’s Magic (by Greeley’s Conquest). The pair won the Show Hunter division at the 2016 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Symposium.

We wanted to know more about this dynamic duo that has taken the show hunter ring by storm. Read on to discover the exact steps he’s taken with his impressive mount, from track to show arena:

NF Style: How did you acquire your horse?

Tyler Weith: We found Greeley’s Magic at the Racehorse Training Center in Lexington, Ky. She had just completed her final race in December and my partner, Jean Carmichael, knew she had found something special.

Just to confirm our interest, we set up a jump in the middle of an aisle in the training center with two buckets and a mop. Once we saw what she did, we were hooked. We decided to purchase “Maggie” together in December 2015, and took her home to start her new life as a hunter.

Does Maggie have any racing accolades?

Greeley’s Magic was a terrible racehorse. She had three starts, won a mere $256, and was deemed way too slow to race. This couldn’t have been any better news with the hunter aspirations we had for her.

What was retraining like?

Retraining Maggie wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. She was a wild eyed, fiery girl when she arrived, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t a fast horse. She would rear in your face on the ground and jump in the air at noises in the indoor, or when horses came towards her.

For a while, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Yet, working with my partner Jean, my eyes were opened to the ability of these off-the-track horses. I saw progress in the filly immediately. We started with very basic flatwork and slowly added poles with flowers. Once we started jumping her over 10 inch cross rails, we knew she was special.

Are there any quirks about Maggie?

[Her] only quirk is that she is incredibly lazy at home. She doesn’t want to work, and a crop or spur is always necessary. Resentment of work is normal for a 3-year-old horse, however it’s different with Maggie, in that as soon as she is ridden to a cavaletti or a jump, the focus immediately comes together. Her ears are forward, she’s in front of your leg, and ready for more. I have never met a lazier 3-year-old, or one that understand her job as well as Maggie does.

Were there any challenges the two of you have overcome while retraining?

A big thing with training horses is meeting their individual needs. I personally believe in giving every horse what it needs to be able to perform at its best. Challenges are completely normal. The real question is whether you’re willing to ride through it. So yes, there were plenty of challenges, but none that I couldn’t ride through or find a way to address for this individual horse.

What is your proudest moment with Maggie so far?

My proudest moment so far was waiting in our second round at the RRP Show Hunter Finale. The other finalist horses, most of which were older than Maggie, were jigging around, incredibly nervous. But sitting there on a 3-year-old who was entirely comfortable, waiting patiently to show off what she had learned, was an incredible feeling.

What is your most helpful tip for retraining OTTBs?

The most helpful tip for retraining OTTBs is to understand that every time a racehorse comes out of his stall he is used to being taken to run or race. He then goes right back to his stall to anxiously wait for the next one.

When we take these horses and try to turn them into submissive show horses, we have to be patient. Every day is a day to show them they aren’t racing and that it’s okay that this new discipline is entirely different.

Sometimes the mental and physical state of a racehorse permits retraining, and sometimes it doesn’t. We as horsemen have to make that decision for each horse, but patience is ultimately required to communicate that their entire lives, jobs, and programs are going to be completely changed.

Do you see a place in the upper levels of any discipline, not just racing, for thoroughbred in the future?

I have said this before: it is sad when people say it’s impossible to sell a Thoroughbred. Some of these horses have the quality and ability to continue competing in the hunters, jumpers, and equitation divisions.

At one point in time, Thoroughbreds dominated the show ring. A great example is Likely Legend, a racehorse that Jean Carmichael found to continue on to be the 1997 USEF National Reserve Championship Second Year Green Working Hunter.

As someone who has ridden primarily Warmbloods and only sat on his first thoroughbred in 2016, I am excited to say I plan to continue training and working to start bringing quality thoroughbreds back to the show ring.