An OTTB Intermediate Level Eventer
It’s sometimes hard to make a name for yourself when you’re the third part in a trilogy. In the case of Act Three, an off-the-track Thoroughbred who is thriving under the second career in Eventing, there was no such issue. “Pippin,” as he is called, is now tackling Intermediate-level competitions after striking out at the races. Donned in pink, you’ll see him storming around the Cross-Country course, with now close to 50 total recognized events under his belt.
His name, Act Three, was chosen because he was the third colt in a string of full brothers, the first two going on to be stakes winners. Even though Pippin raced all the way through his five-year-old year, unlike his brothers, he only won one race. He was even claimed in a race, only to be returned to his breeder. When it was clear that Pippin did not want to race, his team believed it was time for him to find a second career. Based in College Grove, Tenn., this is where his owner and rider, Lauren Romanelli, came into the picture.
Bought solely off of a Changing Saddles LLC Facebook post and the “sound-enough” audio of his jog video, Lauren was immediately drawn to this bay gelding with a big, white star. The timing was perfect, with Lauren’s personal horse recouping from an injury, allowing time for a project. Knowing how much he appealed to her, a client of Lauren’s ended up buying him for Lauren to train as a project. At 6 years old, it seemed that Pippin was a bit old for the usual reselling market, so Lauren just wanted to see how far he would go. Her client agreed to trade Pippin, in exchange for Lauren training another horse, and the rest is history.
According to Lauren, if Pippin were a person, he’d be Sheldon Cooper from the TV show The Big Bang Theory. Everything needs to be exactly the way he wants it, and how he wants it. He hates to be touched, and will only tolerate being groomed with one, specific brush. He can only be bathed in hot water, and only eats Mrs. Pastures cookies. Despite this, he is a gentleman, no matter how annoyed he is.
It seems that Pippin’s quirkiness suited him perfectly for a job in eventing. Lauren claims that he was so easy enough right off the bat, that she felt that he could have gone Beginner Novice the very first day that she rode him. Although Pippin is the 5th Thoroughbred that Lauren has evented, he was the first that she produced herself through the levels. “What I’ve learned about Thoroughbreds is that the things they excel at, they really excel at. Things like running and jumping, but not as much putting their heads down.” Dressage may never be his best test, but Pippin jumps great and confident on Cross-Country. He may have been afraid at first, but he was very agreeable and willing to learn once introduced to it. He took right to water, even cantering in the ocean! After becoming a team in 2016, they competed through Starter, Beginner Novice, and Novice level, before moving up to Training in the summer of 2017.
Even though it was smooth sailing bringing Pippin up through Training level, there was a time where Lauren thought they may have to give up. Upon moving up to Preliminary level in 2020, Pippin began stopping. A very scopey and careful jumper, Pippin would often scare himself on the other side of the fence. He wouldn’t have refusals at scary jumps, but rather after scary jumps. Lauren had begun to feel unhappy taking him to competition, and believed that maybe this was not the right path for him. However, she connected with Canadian Eventer, Karl Slezack, who took over Pippin’s reins while in Florida for the winter. Together, Slezack helped build Pippin back up from square one, filling in the missing pieces. At the same time, it was discovered that Pippin had mild-moderate kissing spine, and was also getting sore within his body. Upon many discussions with the vets, it took shock-wave therapy to get his body to feeling good again. More confident with Karl, and feeling better in his body, Pippin was ready to go. On paper, his competition record might not look perfect, but it was a ton of learning along the way to get him to become the best horse he can be.
Now at the present, Pippin and Lauren have successfully completed their first event at Intermediate level, at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, FL. Leading to the move-up, The combination of Pippin not batting an eye at the height change in practice, and Lauren realizing that she wasn’t scared either, was all that was needed to solidify the step up. This had been a long time coming. After an abscess got in the way of moving up earlier in the year, now was their moment. Dressage and Show-Jumping were good, but it was the Cross-Country that stood out to Lauren the most. Pippin ate up every fence, even enjoying himself on the extra gallop stretches given at this level. Lauren mentioned that she left the box being aware they might have problems, but he stepped up to the challenge. “He’s a businessman now. He knows his job, and does it well. He made it feel not intimidating at all.”
As far as the future goes, Lauren would like to try and run a 3-star event sometime next year, if Pippin stays confident and comfortable at the level. Now approaching 14 years old, he’s surpassed all Lauren had hoped for him, so it’s whatever he wants to do at this point, she says. It was never a goal for Lauren to go above the 2 or 3-star level herself, so she’ll keep going as far as Pip wants, without pushing. To sum Pippin up, Lauren said, “He is the horse that is helping me achieve all of my dreams. He takes it all in stride, and yes I am smiling in every picture while riding him, because that’s just how much fun he is to ride!”
One piece of advice that Lauren has for people looking to bring a Thoroughbred like Pippin up the levels in Eventing, is to get in a program that supports you. “Your vet, farrier, and trainer, will be who believes in you and what you want to do. Do the work, but you need to commit to the hardness of it. If you aren’t able to do the work, then find someone else who will do it for them. You don’t have to do it yourself.”