Elisa Wallace knows a good horse when she sees one. Problem is, she’s capable of bringing out the good in every horse she encounters. So it was no surprise to find Wallace competing in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in Lexington with a horse she purchased sight unseen from a Facebook ad.

Wallace of course has rocketed up the international eventing rankings on the back of her Australian thoroughbred Simply Priceless (aka “Johnny”). The pair finished 8th overall at Rolex Kentucky 2016, and were the top placing Americans at Land Rover Burghley (14th).

We were eager to check out Wallace’s newest hot-blooded project Heron’s Waltz (aka “Henri”), a 6-year-old gelding who earned $59,500 in 32 starts on the track.

“He’s a little on the higher-strung side so it’s taken a while to get him to connect with me,” Wallace admitted. “But he’s competitive and he really is a very smart horse and I’m actually really excited about him as a potential upper level event horse.”

4-star horses are extremely rare as Wallace is quick to note, and while conformational attributes like “scope” and “uphill build” are most desirable in the sport of eventing, Wallace says the mental makeup is every bit as important.

“There’s a certain mental cockiness, per se, and Johnny has shown me that and this guy definitely has it. That’s definitely something you need when you’re out there…they need to have that ability to go and get it and be gritty.”

Of course, identifying a horse’s potential is only the beginning. Without proper training, potential remains exactly that.

“I’m really particular about how my horses behave on the ground,” Wallace explained. “I feel like the relationship I have with my horses helps build for when I ride them. The biggest thing is getting them on the truck and taking him everywhere and just getting that mileage so they start to understand how to contain themselves in a bigger atmosphere. The groundwork and consistency, and just getting the foundation of your basics and then building upon those. Once you spend that time and go slow, then you can do things faster.”