There are lots of reasons why a retired racehorse is a great choice to be your next riding partner, but sometimes they exceed our expectations. When dressage rider Melissa Quinan decided it was time to get her own horse, she really wanted a Warmblood, the preferred breed in the dressage world. But they are pricey and Melissa’s horse had to fit within her ICU nurse’s income. She devised a plan to get to her goal. She would get a more modestly priced project horse, take him up the levels and sell him to raise some of the cash she would need for her “dream horse”.
Although Thoroughbreds are not regarded as good dressage horses and many believe if you are serious about dressage, you must have a Warmblood, they are extremely affordable. Melissa knew Julie Parent, who had gotten a mare from Thoroughbred Placement Resources and was very happy, so she decided to give them a call. There she would meet the three-year-old retired racehorse, Coach Potenza. She liked him and decided to buy him and move forward with her plan.
Melissa took Coach to Chesapeake Dressage Institute (CDI) in Annapolis, Maryland, where she began to train him for a career in dressage. Things were going really well with Coach’s training when life circumstances intervened. This caused Melissa to consider giving up Coach but instead she found a way to keep him. The solution was to take him up to her brother’s farm in Pennsylvania; this meant a two hour drive to ride him, but she would be able to keep him.
There was no riding arena and it seemed to rain every day. There wasn’t a whole lot of riding time, but Coach always came out like he hadn’t missed any days and settled right into work. On one occasion, Melissa’s parents were in town for a visit and watched her work with Coach. Her dad noticed Coach’s focus was always on Melissa. He told her, “That horse looks everywhere you go. He really loves you!” Melissa’s plan to raise money for another horse fell by the wayside, because this Thoroughbred had stolen her heart. Melissa states, “Let’s be honest, there’s no way I’m selling that horse. I couldn’t ask for more, he’s got a good brain and he tries. He’s cute and a good mover.”
It was two years before Melissa could bring Coach back to CDI to begin regular training again. He was true to form though and settled right back into the dressage training routine. It wasn’t long before they were looking for a competition.
Ride For Life is a very popular show in Maryland and it was Coach’s first show ever! Upon arrival at the show grounds, he immediately settled into his stall and was completely calm. The next day, while warming up for her test, a rider got bucked off right next to Melissa and Coach. As the horse ran around, Coach stopped and waited for someone to catch him. “He had the best opportunity to be a butthead and he didn’t make one wrong move,” exclaimed Melissa. Coach finished in the low 60’s, a very respectable score in dressage. “Overall it was a good experience and a win for us,” Melissa says. “Each time we get out there it will be another step. I don’t think anyone would believe it was the first time he showed in years.”
For the future, Melissa’s goal is to do more shows and see how far she can take Coach. She’s planning to take Coach to his next show in August. Right now the duo is competing at Training Level, but once the fundamentals are more solid and consistent she thinks it will be fairly easy to progress up the levels. The future is very bright for this pair.