Team Cosmik is at 92 days and counting before liftoff.
That is when Mikayla Hay ’17 and retired thoroughbred Cosmo will return to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., to participate in a special competition from Oct. 27-30. Hay and Cosmo, named Team Cosmik, are part of a select group of trainers and adopted horses who have been invited to return to participate in the competition.
Hay is the granddaughter of Frank Stubblefield H’74, an instructor and polo coach in Culver’s Horsemanship Department. From Russell, Ontario, she is spending the summer with her grandparents so she can work with Cosmo, who came from the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, a reschooling facility that matches adoptable racehorses with new homes for second careers.
Sarah (Strain) Harris, a 1993 graduate of Culver Girls Academy and a former Equestrienne, made the arrangements. Harris and Hay met at Kentucky Horse Park last fall when Harris noticed Hay’s Culver horsemanship jacket and introduced herself. She and her husband, Gabe, were volunteering at the Secretariat Center booth during the Thoroughbred makeover competition.
Their initial meeting turned into a discussion about the possibility of Hay training a Thoroughbred that would be donated to Culver. Hay was approved to become a trainer and received the OK to use her training as her senior service project.
It was such a wonderful experience. I just wanted to give back in some way.
Harris rode her freshman year at Culver, which included a memorable trip to Dallas to ride in the Cotton Bowl Parade. “It was such a wonderful experience,” she said. “I just wanted to give back in some way.”
When Hay returned to her grandparents at the end of December, she found Cosmo, a five-year-old dark bay gelding, had been delivered to Kristina and Sam Hume’s farm near North Judson, Ind. Harris adopted Cosmo and donated him to Culver with the understanding Hay would train him as a jumper and he would be used in parades – including a possible Presidential Inaugural Parade appearance in 2017. The Harrises also adopted a new family horse, Alex.
During the rest of the school year, Hay spent weekends working with him. This summer she has worked with Cosmo twice a day every day. The Humes’ farm, which has stalls for 35 horses, riding rings, and open pastures, is just five miles away from the Stubblefields, so it is easy for Hay to work with him.
They told me he was too pretty to race.
Horses enter the reschooling program for a variety of reasons, Hay explained. Some simply aren’t fast enough, others are aging out, and others sustain an injury. “They told me he was too pretty to race,” she smiled.
And his training is going very well. They recently started jumping and Cosmo has really taken to it. “You can see him get excited,” Hay said. “He goes ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to do this!’”
While some Thoroughbreds can be skittish, Hay said Cosmo’s attitude is more like a puppy. “He follows me wherever I go,” plus, she can feel the growing trust between them. “We’ve connected with each other.”
Several people are helping Hay with the costs of boarding and training Cosmo. The Humes, who came up with Team Cosmik, have discounted their normal changes and the farrier has donated his services. The cost of taking Cosmo back to the Kentucky Horse Park for the October competition will be about $2,000 and she is looking for donations to help defray some of those charges.
The Kentucky experience is something Hay is really looking forward to, but she also knows it will be a test for both her and Cosmo. Her daily reminder, courtesy of the Humes, is a small white board on the door of the tack room with the countdown written on it. And underneath the 92 days is written a gentle tease: