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Nadine DeKoning and Cash on The Run

(a.k.a. Johnny)

Bellissimo Joe - 5 year old Thoroughbred Gelding

CJ, Jayden, and Johnny at the

Kentucky Horse Park

Warming up for the competition

Family Pictures

NorthernGates Stables 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover Entry

written By Nadine DeKoning




The 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover competition was a truly amazing experience.  I would like to start the retelling of this journey with a sincere and heartfelt thank you to our sponsors: MasterFeeds, Greenhawk Winnipeg, and Meridian Equine AcuTherapy. 


What is the Thoroughbred Makeover?


“The Thoroughbred Makeover is a national gathering of the farms, organizations, and individuals who transition Thoroughbred racehorses into second careers. Off-track Thoroughbreds with nine months of training or less will compete in up to ten disciplines for a projected $100,000 in cash and prizes. The weekend also includes seminars, demonstrations, a sponsor fair, a marketplace of horses, and a great party.”


Our Journey


By the time I heard about the 2015 Makeover in late April it had already been underway for four months.  I asked Justin if it was something we would be interested in doing and he said yes.  Right away we submitted an entry and got in. 


The next step was finding a thoroughbred who was eligible.  I went to the track multiple times but there wasn’t a single thoroughbred there for sale in April.  I asked my friends and end up finding a nice grey thoroughbred down the road from us.  The grey horse was a 5 year old gelding named Bellissimo Joe.  Joe’s training started off great but training on a deadline is very hard.  The summer rain forced a lot of indoor riding and Joe didn’t enjoy it as much as when he was ridden outdoors.  In late summer Joe banged his leg and needed some time off. 


While all of this was going on I was still going to the track on weekends to look at horses.  On June 26, 2015 I brought home an adorable little 3 year old thoroughbred named Cash on the Run (a.k.a. Johnny.)  There was no real plan for Johnny when he got to the farm other than he was to have some downtime. 


One day my coach came to give me a lesson on Joe but then Joe ended up needing the day off.  I asked him if he wanted to see my new guy instead.   Johnny was very willing to jump the little jumps in the lesson so I decided to take him to the show on the weekend. 


By late September Johnny had 9 off the track rides on him, and most of those rides were at horse shows.  With less than one month to the competition it was decision time.  Our choices were: to start training Joe again after his time off and take him to the makeover, or to seriously start training Johnny and take him instead.  My gut instinct was Joe needed more time and a slower training schedule, but with a little work Johnny could be ready to go.  Justin and I decided to take the young 3-year-old and have fun down in Kentucky.  Johnny was quickly becoming my favorite horse to ride so I was very happy with this decision.


A week before leaving for the makeover I took Johnny to a Mac McQuaker clinic.  He was a very good boy.

On October 21 Justin and I loaded our two kids into the truck and Johnny in the trailer for the 26 hour drive down to Kentucky.  We dropped Johnny off at the Kentucky Horse Park on Wednesday morning and then went to the hotel for some much needed rest. 


The Kentucky Horse Park is amazing.  It is a very family oriented place.  After dinner Justin took the kids to the playground and I had a memorable ride on Johnny in the warm October air as the sun set.  It was magical.


We all woke up bright and early on the Thursday morning and went straight to the Horse Park.  Johnny is only 3 so I didn’t teach him how to lunge.  He was full of energy in the morning ride so I decided to ride him again later in the day.  At the end of the second ride he still felt like he could easily do two more laps around the park but I didn’t want to overdo it.   He was trying very hard and was such a good boy.


Friday was the first day of the completion.  We had our one hunter round and unfortunately Johnny very much looked like a young green hunter going around. He still jumped everything in his path showing what a willing partner he is and with time he will only get better.


The Jumper classes were held on Saturday.  The Jumper rounds were judged like a young horse class and not on time against the clock.  Johnny was a super star.  He ended up coming in 10th out of 43 horses.  By this time Johnny had come to realize the kids were little treat dispensers and wanted very much to cozy up next to them all the time.




I loved the whole competition but one of my favorite parts was early Sunday morning when the Judges did a seminar on how to pick a good Thoroughbred to buy.  They asked for demonstration horses so I took Johnny in it and they had some very nice things to say about him.   


This was easily the best competition I have ever been to because all the people there were so friendly and I got to experience it all with my family and a great horse.  

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