14-year-old Poultney freshman retrains retired racehorse

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Tayah Fuller and her horse Zyn, with whom she competed at the October Retired Racehorse Project event in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Rommy Fuller-Young)

Tayah Fuller is a 14-year-old freshman at Poultney High School. In addition to being a competitive gymnast for more than 10 years, she began riding at four years old and is an eventer.

“If you’re not familiar with the sport, it’s right up there with motocross,” said Rommy Fuller-Young, Tayah’s mother. According to useventing.com, eventing is best described as an equestrian triathlon. The sport originated as a cavalry test comprising three phases: dressage, cross-country and show jumping. The sport tests horse and rider pairs more completely than any other.

“Eventing is the crazy sport of the equestrian world,” said Fuller-Young. “It requires skill, is very technical and it’s challenging to train a horse to be strong in all three phases. . . . It’s badass.”

Eventing also requires a close bond between rider and horse. Tayah’s horse Zyn was born Ragnar Lothbrok on Feb. 13, 2015. He was a first-time starter at Belmont and was retired to ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption in East Greenbush at four years old, which is where Tayah found him.

Tayah adopted him sight unseen when she had to retire her primary eventing horse Torrey, “her heart horse,” said her mom. “Tayah never asked for another horse, but we knew she’d need a high-quality horse.” Ragnar fit the bill, Fuller-Young said, because “he had a good brain.” Tayah adopted him in January 2020.

Tayah and Zyn competing at the October RRP event (Photo by Rommy Fuller-Young)

From the start, Tayah and Ragnar, whom she renamed Zyn a few weeks after bringing him home, were in tune with each other. Tayah’s mom said Tayah never had any particular goal for him, “but she has an intuitive sense of what horses can do and what they’re ready to do.”

Tayah had to handle Zyn carefully, “get him used to new things and improve his suppleness,” Fuller-Young said, so that he could compete in the eventing world. “She never had an exact agenda for Zyn; she just went with how things felt.”

Tayah is fully responsible for the care of all of her horses, Zyn and Torrey as well as her pony Rizzo, which includes their nutrition, body conditioning and weight as well as mucking and cleaning, watering and wound care.

“Her father and I feel it’s important for Tayah to have a good work ethic,” said Fuller-Young. In addition, when Tayah is competing, she needs to keep up with her schoolwork. “Her principal and her teachers have been unbelievably accommodating and supportive,” Fuller-Young said.

Tayah’s careful work with Zyn led them to Kentucky in October to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project in Lexington. As Fuller-Young wrote in a Facebook post before the family headed south: “The vast majority of those accepted to compete at RRP are adults – mostly professional trainers – and competitors have about a year to retrain their horses for the event. Tayah had just turned 13 when she began training Zyn, so this trip is about the experience, not the competition.”

However, at the event, Tayah and Zyn held their own, coming in third for Show Jumpers and third for Eventing. On Facebook, Fuller-Young said “They put down the best dressage test they’ve ever done this morning, an exceptional show jumping round, and a flawless XC round!!!!! She had to finish XC with an open gallop to show that he will come back to her, and watching them sail across the field in the Kentucky Horse Park was a moment I will NEVER forget.”

To get to Kentucky, Tayah’s community completed two big fundraisers with hundreds of people from Fair Haven, Castleton, Poultney and Rutland providing support. “The entire community was rooting her on,” said Fuller-Young.

On Facebook, comments on Fuller-Young’s Kentucky posts from members of the community were supportive and excited: “Keep throwing your heart over and following it with your partner” to “I am crying with joy! Congratulations!” to simply “Magical!” and “Awesome!!!”

Tayah is very goal-oriented, Fuller-Young said. “Her goal is to bring Zyn up through some of the higher levels of eventing.”

But her future plans, her mother said, are not focused so much on winning but rather on finding the best in herself and her horse.