by Sarah E. Coleman
Amber (Van Wiebe) Jacobson, a 2010 KEMI grad, rode Silence is Awesome (“Awesome”)to the win in the Ranch Work discipline, sponsored by MidAtlantic Horse Rescue at the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America. In addition to winning the Ranch Work discipline, Amber and Awesome also finished ninth out of 54 in the Competitive Trail division, sponsored by Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care (FL TRAC).
Amber travelled to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington from her home base in Longview in Alberta, Canada, where she owner Running Fawcett Thoroughbreds Ltd. Amber is a Thoroughbred owner, breeder, colt-starter and boarding facility owner.
Originally from Calgary, Amber was not unfamiliar with the Bluegrass, having taken part in the KEMI breeding season session in 2010. While in Kentucky with KEMI, Amber was placed at Margaux Farm, where she learned a massive amount about Thoroughbreds. “I learned more with KEMI in 6 months than I could [have learned] back home in 15 years,” Amber says. “The [access to the] amount of horses, professionals and experience you get is unmatched anywhere else.”
“I Knew I Had The Horse …”
A passionate horsewoman, Amber didn’t ride until she was 24. “The Makeover was really my push to learn more disciplines and push my comfort zone,” she said. And what made her decide to give the Makeover a try? “I knew I had the horse,” she explains. Awesome, (by Silent Name out of Just Awesome by Siphon) was bred, raised and raced by Amber.
Amber bought Just Awesome at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale when she was in foal to Silence is Awesome. Awesome, a 4-year-old, 15.1-hh bay mare, had nine starts and one win, and earned $4,100 in her racing career before retiring. “She was claimed, but I bought her back after the racing season was completed. I just knew there was something special about this horse—she truly is a fighter.”
Though Makeover competitors could begin riding their horses on December 1 of 2018, Amber didn’t put Awesome into work until January of 2019. “She was a harder keeper that just needed some additional downtime,” she explains of the delay. “I don’t think we really focused [on a specific discipline] until March, when I sought additional help from Kent Williamson, a working cow horse professional.”
Amber knew she wanted to compete in the Ranch Work as it’s something she’s slowly gotten into while living in ranch country. For a second discipline, she pondered running barrels, but eventually set her sights on Competitive Trail as she felt it complimented Ranch Work the best. “With only nine months of training, I think it was the better choice!” she says.
Once her discipline decisions were made, Amber shifted from discipline-specific preparation to pure foundation preparation, focusing on putting quality basics on Awesome. “Kent [Williamson] taught me what basics I was lacking,” she explains of the shift in focus. “Once I, as well as Awesome, had the foundation down, we started the cow work and really having fun!”
A Versatile Mare
Awesome has shown more versatility than any horse Amber has ever restarted. Before coming to the Makeover, the duo, with just 7 months of training, competed in the Alberta Ranch Horse Versatility Association (ARHVA) competitions as well as at the Cochrane Lions Ranch Rodeo, where they were overall champion in Ranch Rodeo, winning Sorting, Penning and Doctoring as a team. The ARHVA competitions include ranch trail, ranch ride, reining, conformation, cutting and cow work; Amber and Awesome finished second overall and won the Ranch Ride, Ranch Reining and Cow Work.
So, what makes Awesome so broke? She has a very strong horsemanship foundation, Amber explains, which is what makes her so versatile. “She’s extremely cowy and is the most broke horse of all of our family horses,” she says, thanks in part to the training Amber and Awesome received from Kent.
More than anything though, Amber credits the bond created between rider and horse throughout the Makeover process as the reason the mare is so broke—and trusting. “It was unbelievable. It’s something I will cherish forever,” she says.
So what’s up next for the indominable duo? Awesome if for sale, but Amber is quick to point out that she’ll cry if the mare sells, not if she doesn’t! “I plan to continue to train and compete in the Alberta Reach Horse Versatility as well as at ranch rodeos. I also hope to try some barrels and sortings—and one day working cow horse!”
A KEMI Connection
Did KEMI prepare Amber for a competition like the Makeover? “It definitely did!” Amber says. KEMI taught me “the overall care required of a horse–let alone a Thoroughbred! The feeding, grooming, showing and handling I learned [thru KEMI}–it all helped, and still does, with every horse I have. The Makeover was an opportunity of a lifetime. Just like KEMI!”