For 15-Year-Old Competitor, Thoroughbred Makeover Is The Start Of Something Bigger - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

For 15-Year-Old Competitor, Thoroughbred Makeover Is The Start Of Something Bigger

Tayah Fuller and Recidivist. Photo courtesy Rommy Fuller-Young

When she was still in elementary school, Tayah Fuller watched her favorite rider, professional eventer Elisa Wallace dazzle in the Thoroughbred Makeover's eventing and freestyle disciplines.

“I would watch all of her YouTube videos, and she was going to RRP constantly with different horses,” remembered Tayah. “That looked so cool, bringing racehorses to an event. I'd study her videos and I'd go in my yard and set up hurdles and gymnastics and doing them on foot. I looked a little insane. I'd have my grandmother announce, 'Tayah Fuller at RRP!'”

This year, 15-year-old Tayah got to realize her dream as she took a horse to the Makeover herself, finishing as the third-best junior in the dressage division, and the ninth-best junior in show jumping with her gelding Recidivist, a 4-year-old son of Into Mischief.

This was Tayah's second year in the Makeover, after she made her inaugural journey last year with Ragnar Lothbrok. For many competitors, the event isn't just about a week's competition – it's a year-long experience of finding the right horse and bringing them along through the ups and downs of their first season in a new job. For many, the online community surrounding the lead-up can result in strong friendships between riders all going through a similar rollercoaster. Tayah knew after her first year that she wanted to keep going back.

“She waited about five or six hours into the trip home (last year) and said, 'I just wanted to wait until you were tired and then ask if we could do another RRP round,'” said Tayah.

Tayah's mother, Rommy Fuller-Young, made a deal with her – if you want to do this again with another horse, you need to make it a sale project and finance it yourself. Tayah went back to ReRun's New York branch, where she'd gotten Ragnar Lothbrok, and connected with Recidivist.

“She earned the adoption fee; she worked three jobs all summer and paid for a lot of the trip, the upkeep, farrier bills,” said Rommy. “She really earned it this time.”

As is true for many Makeover participants, Tayah has since fallen in love with “Rune” and now suspects he's a permanent member of the family.

Rune proved to be a polar opposite from her first Makeover mount. Where Ragnar Lothbrok toughed out dressage training but preferred jumping, Rune finds the stretching and lifting required for dressage easy and intuitive. For him, it was the jumping that took time to evolve.

“The first time I pointed him at a jump, he stood there and said, 'I don't understand,'” Tayah remembered. “It took months to get him to jump first try, but in the last few weeks he really put it together.

“We gave him time, we made it simple for him. Now, I just have to support him. If I decide we're going, he'll believe it.”

Ultimately, it's Rune's sweet personality that makes him irresistible for Tayah. She was proud of the heart he showed at Makeover, where he tried — even through some nerves — to do everything she asked of him.

Those moments in the show ring were also a source of pride for Rommy.

“It was magical,” said Rommy. “It's so not about the event itself, it's about all those small victories you see every single day. Our first Thoroughbred was super sensitive – he was super girthy, you couldn't touch his ears, you couldn't touch his mane. To see how far he's come, he loves all that now. The relationship you get to see between horse and rider is something special.

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“Tayah is a sensitive kid, and she's always done well with Thoroughbreds because they're sensitive. It's awesome to see your kid basically fulfill this huge childhood dream. It's sort of surreal. It's not just a competition; it's a huge motivational process.”

Tayah has always been a fan of the Thoroughbred, though she first encountered them at a riding stable and not the racetrack. Her first horse was an appendix Quarter Horse, but she was so proud of his Thoroughbred blood she bought OTTB swag, pretending he was a full Thoroughbred.

“I loved the breed, even when I didn't own my own,” she remembered. “I would watch videos on Thoroughbreds, do school projects on Thoroughbreds; it was always Thoroughbreds.

“I thought it was interesting how they were bred – to be high energy, go go go, and then switch to a different discipline. I love Warmbloods; they're beautiful, but I think Thoroughbreds have a really good brain and it's cool how they can switch their entire lifestyle so easily and be so good at it.”

Tayah and Rune in their Show Jumpers round

Tayah has dabbled in a little bit of everything in horses – hunter/jumper, Western, then 4-H, eventing, and Interscholastic Equestrian Association competitions. Rommy thinks her daughter's horse habit is hereditary and reminds her of her own days in the saddle.

“From a very young age, I knew it was going to be horses [for her],” Rommy said. “It wasn't a phase. It was every single day, her obsession. When she was younger I'd intentionally put her in other sports because I knew she'd get to a certain age where it was just horses, and that's what's happened.”

Anyone associated with the Makeover knows it's just the first step in a horse's journey to a new career, and that's true for both Tayah and Rune. She hopes to convince Rune to become an eventer and will spend next season boosting his confidence and sure-footedness on the cross country course.

And for Tayah, the Makeover is very much just the start of something longer-term.

“It definitely makes me feel like I want to work with Thoroughbreds and train them for something new,” she said. “It's cool to go back and watch videos of him from January, and videos from Makeover. It's something I want to do when I'm older.”

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