I have to say that a lot has changed in the last month. Groundwork lessons with our new trainer, Katerina (who goes by Ponti Kriti on social media), have gone incredibly well. After just two sessions with her, there was a tremendous difference in Ria’s overall attitude. We still have work to do, but Ria hasn’t had any more “panic attacks” since starting the new training, which is a huge step forward. She is much easier to calm down once she gets a little anxious now and just seems to be a much happier, more relaxed horse. It’s been so rewarding to see her like this, particularly when I’ve had numerous people tell me that Ria would “always have a lot of anxiety” and that that was “just who she is.”

A new style of training

Much of this training has involved becoming “attuned” (as several great trainers call it, including Warwick Schiller and Katerina) to Ria’s thoughts and body language. The general idea is that when horses feel like you understand what they’re trying to communicate, much of their anxiety and concern falls away. Ria has really responded to this sort of training, along with general positive reinforcement training with rewards like treats and praise.

A new home

Ria moved to a new farm at the end of April, which is a beautiful little place in southern Maryland with just eight stalls. While, unfortunately, this place is further from home for me, it has impeccable care, which is incredibly important to me. I get photos of Ria from the barn owner and manager on a regular basis, and I know she has Ria’s best interests at heart. She has also been wonderful and patient with helping Ria make the transition from a dry lot to the lovely grassy paddocks they have. Already, Ria has become great friends with her next door stall-mate Ollie, who has also been her pasture companion.

New health updates

I had Ria checked out last week by the new vet, as Katerina suggested that Ria looked slightly off behind. After a thorough evaluation and some x-rays, we discovered that Ria has very mild kissing spine (grade 1 of 4). The vet indicated that this shouldn’t affect her performance long term, but it’s something to keep an eye on and continue to work on improving her topline. The vet also mentioned (as the farrier had recently) that Ria may need to get hind shoes, as the soles of her rear feet are pretty thin. My guess is that was due to the bluestone surface of the dry lots from the previous barn, so hopefully things are already improving with the change to a grassy surface.

And maybe a new saddle fitting

I’m also having a saddle fitter out next week to make sure that Ria’s saddle still fits her, as her body has changed a lot since she was last fitted in December. In addition, I’m looking into a number of options to upgrade her half-pad to something that would be more supportive for a horse with kissing spine. Once those items have been taken care of, I expect to be back in the saddle on a more regular basis. I think Ria is better able to cope with her anxiety under saddle now, so hopefully we won’t have any more bucking fits.

Overall, I’m thrilled with how the past month has gone and look forward to the next one!

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here.

Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

Over the past month, Ria and I have gone back to the basics of training. I’ve done a lot of pure relaxation work with her, as she’s a very anxious horse in general. I am sure that anxiety is where 99% of her issues are stemming from. Some exercises have included simply redirecting her focus back to me when she gets too distracted and anxious about something. I’ve also gotten much better at reading her body language and determining when she’s concerned or stressed. Then I can back off from any requests when something makes her too worried. While we still have a ways to go, Ria has definitely started to become a much more relaxed horse overall. Much of the relaxation and liberty work that we’ve done together has been helping me with my own anxiety. I’ve taken to meditating on a regular basis so that I can be a better owner and trainer to Ria.

Liberty work

We have also started doing some liberty work with the help of an old dressage trainer of mine. After one training session with her, I was able to start doing some join up/hooking on exercises with Ria. She would match steps with me (walking when I walked, stopping when I stopped, and even turning and backing up when I did). We’ve developed a much stronger connection with each other as a result.


While I don’t think we’ve quite nailed down lunging yet, we’ve made a ton of progress over the last several weeks thanks to my dressage trainer. We’ve had several sessions where there weren’t any fireworks from Ria, and she’s become much more relaxed. Most recently, I was able to walk, trot, and canter her on the lunge line while relatively relaxed. Once we’re able to lunge consistently without any fireworks, I’ll be hopping back on her. At this point, I’m hopeful that she’ll be comfortable enough with lunging in the next week or two for me to try again. Once I’m back in the saddle, I’m going to continue doing a lot of relaxation exercises with her.

March 3rd officially been 6 months since I first claimed Ria out of her final race at Timonium. While things have definitely been a challenge at times, I’m just so glad to have her in my life.

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here. To learn more about Lauren, click here.

Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

Ria’s nose has healed completely now, and thankfully we didn’t have any other physical setbacks over the last month. I’ve continued to take things very slowly with her and have tried to keep our training sessions different every day. I started introducing some clicker training into our regimen, which has been very helpful so far. She now has no trouble standing still at the mounting block and is currently learning to “smile” on command.

As we have progressed with her training, both on the lunge line and under saddle, Ria has become much less concerned with the bit, which is great. She still opens her mouth and chews when she’s anxious, but those moments have reduced greatly over the past few weeks. I’ve recently gotten into Warwick Schiller’s training videos on YouTube, which are insanely helpful with regards to Ria’s own training. I’ve been spending some days just working on bonding and connecting with her as well, which I think has been going very well.

A birthday adventure

We celebrated her 5th birthday last week on February 2nd, which turned out to be much more exciting for Ria than I ever intended. My partner and I hand walked her out on some of the trails nearby, which she absolutely loved. I could tell that it was a little too much for her baby racehorse brain to handle when we got to the open field on the trails though. She reared up twice and couldn’t stop dancing around. She clearly wanted to have a strong gallop across the field and kick up her heels in high spirits.

At that point I decided it was best to head back to the barn. I opted to turn her out in the paddock for a few minutes to get some of her energy out, but forgot that when the rest of the horses are in the barn, the gates are kept open. Ria ended up getting loose on the property for about two minutes before we were able to shut her in another paddock. Definitely one of the most nerve wracking moments I’ve had with her, but she had a grand old time.

One step at a time

Despite our progress in certain areas, Ria has started to develop a bad habit of bucking under saddle when she gets spooked or frustrated. The first several times I was able to keep my seat and get her back under control, but I experienced my first real fall off her this past weekend. She spooked badly at the wind slamming into one of the arena windows and took off bucking. This time I lost one of my stirrups in the process and came off. Thankfully, I had on a MIPS helmet and an airbag safety vest that deployed. I got a little whiplash from the incident, but both Ria and I are fine now.

We’re going to go back to some of the basics on the ground for a little while, and I’m going to start bringing in some professional trainers to help us through the process. The good thing is that she doesn’t have one mean bone in her body, and she tries really hard. She can just act up a little when she gets too excited, frustrated, or afraid. All of those are things that can definitely be improved with more training!

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here. To learn more about Lauren, click here.

Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

It seems like every time I start to make some progress with Ria, we hit some sort of hiccup! This past month started out well, with several more rides under Ria’s and my belts, including the start of a few ground poles. I also decided that a friend’s old dressage saddle seemed to work a little better for both me and Ria, so I returned the Kent & Masters and bought the dressage saddle instead. A few days before Christmas, I had my boyfriend come to the barn to take a video of me riding Ria, so that I could see how she actually looked under saddle.

Video review

After seeing the videos, I was concerned with how much she was opening her mouth and trying to evade the bit, so I sent several videos to my OTTB mentors. One suggested that she looked weak behind, which could indicate EPM. I was also thinking that she could have some dental issues going on, as I discussed the bit evasion with her previous racetrack trainers, and they all mentioned that she’s done that for several years, despite having worn pretty mild bits. (I have her in a French link lozenge at the moment) Out of an abundance of caution, I scheduled an appointment with the vet and stopped working with Ria under tack until I understood what was going on with her physically.

Vet review

The vet was able to come by last Wednesday morning. When I went to pull Ria from the paddock, I noticed that she had blood coming out of both nostrils. After getting her back to the barn, we determined that she had whacked the top of her nose pretty hard sometime during turnout that morning. Thankfully, the vet assured me that it wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about. I had her evaluate Ria for EPM, which she found no evidence of (phew!), and then had her teeth floated and x-rayed. After reviewing the x-rays thoroughly, the vet determined that her teeth were textbook perfect, so there was no reason to think that the bit was causing her any pain.

While under sedation, Ria’s head dropped pretty low to the ground, leading to a worsening nosebleed. By the end of the appointment, the wash stall we were in looked like a murder scene. I’m still so grateful that the vet was already on her way when I discovered it, because I would have been a nervous wreck otherwise.

Looking ahead

It’s taken longer than we initially expected for the swelling around Ria’s nose to go down, so we were briefly concerned that she may have fractured her nasal bone, but that no longer seems to be the case. She’s doing much better now and I’m hoping to get back in the saddle later this week.

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here. To learn more about Lauren, click here.

Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

From Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

Over the last month I’ve had to step back and reevaluate my short-term expectations for Ria (JC name- Sevilla Sangria). Unfortunately, her weight and overall body condition hasn’t improved, so after about two weeks of training with Kim Clark, we both made the decision to ship her back home to Virginia to focus on improving her health.

A Training Update

Kim’s report on Ria was that she was very sweet and intelligent but has next to no attention span (which was something I had definitely noticed in my lunge work with her). They made great strides with regards to Ria’s lunging and increasing her attention span, but there wasn’t much chance to do more serious work with her.

Kim’s feedback to me was that she believes I can restart Ria myself, with the help of our farm owner and manager, so she won’t have to ship back and forth between farms again. I’m simultaneously nervous and a little intimidated, but also excited at the prospect of training her myself.

The New Plan at Home

My plan is to keep things very slow with her and only do groundwork until her weight and condition are better. We’re going to keep working on lunging for now, with some desensitization work interspersed. I also plan to walk her out on some of our trails on foot to get her used to the area and see how she handles the wildlife and other distractions. Eventually I’m going to try ground driving her so that by the time she’s rideable, we should have an excellent foundation. 

Since returning to Virginia, I met with the barn owner and veterinarian to discuss how best to help Ria. We have opted to add an additional lunch-time meal for her, so she is now getting 9 pounds of Purina Ultium grain a day. She is also on unlimited hay, 2 pounds of alfalfa pellets, and now Cool Calories. She also recently started Gastroguard to treat any stomach ulcers and will be getting bloodwork and deworming done later this week. I’m hopeful that this will all make a difference for her and am so grateful that I have such a wonderful team at the farm to help.

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here. To learn more about Lauren, click here.

From Lauren Floyd, WVS club member:

It’s been a little over a month since I claimed Sevilla Sangria (now nicknamed “Ria”) out of her last race at Timonium. She spent about a week at DeNovo Farm in Maryland before shipping down to a small farm in Mason Neck, Virginia. Ria was on high alert the first few days at DeNovo but never offered to spook. She was just intensely curious about her new environment. She absolutely loves turnout and getting to graze regularly. I knew she was a real sweetheart at the track, thanks to several WVS barn visits. It seems that she’s gotten even kinder and more laid back since her retirement.

Moving to Virginia

Ria has already proven herself to be a very playful, curious horse. She loves to nibble on her lead rope or my t-shirts and has to inspect everything new. I’ve been letting her explore just about everything at her new home in the hopes that things won’t distract her later on when we start more serious work. I also bought her a jolly ball to hang up in her stall for her to play with. Within the first 24 hours, she had played with it so vigorously that she ended up ripping it off the wall and flinging it out of the back window of her stall! Since then, the jolly ball has been hung more securely.

In general, I’ve taken things very slowly with her, but Ria has handled everything like a champ. It took almost no time at all for her to get used to being cross-tied, or for her to learn how to walk at my shoulder on a loose lead rope. (She was a little forward and didn’t follow my lead as much when I first got her).

Ria had her first hot shoeing experience about a week and a half into her retirement and did a great job. She got a little bored at times when the farrier wasn’t working on her directly, but she tried her best. The farrier was very happy with how she handled it. More recently, I’ve been working on teaching her how to lunge properly. After a few sessions, she’s really starting to get the hang of it and isn’t constantly stopping to look at me like “What the heck are you asking me to do?!”

Lots to learn

Ria has also done a really spectacular job with being introduced to new or scary things. At one point, I let her loose in the indoor arena at the farm and did some desensitization work with her and a giant green exercise ball. She couldn’t stop staring at it but only spooked the slightest bit when it rolled towards her the first time. By the end of the night, she was happily eating peppermints off of it and kicking it around the arena. Another night, I was hand grazing her and two separate dogs came up at various points to bark at her. She didn’t bat an eye. Since then, I’ve learned from a previous handler that she has had experience with dogs in the past, but not with barking ones.

We did have a little setback where Ria’s hind pasterns and fetlocks swelled up for a little while and was intermittently lame. I backed off any new groundwork with her while we worked on treating the problems. The vet determined was due to a combination of scratches, rain rot, and some minor foot bruising. The farrier had pulled her back shoes during his initial visit, so it sounds like that probably made her more tender-footed. She does also still need to gain some more weight. I’m working on a feeding regimen that should help bulk her back up.

Later this week, Ria will ship out to Kimberly Godwin Clark’s Leighton Farm in Upper Marlboro for a few weeks to be professionally restarted.

Overall, I’m just so proud of how she’s handled everything. I can’t wait to see how she does with Kim!

To learn more about Lauren, click here. To read updates on our first OTTB series, meet Peyton Place.