On October 5 and 6, Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore will host the first national gathering of the organizations, farms, and trainers who provide the bridge to second careers for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses. The event is called the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium and is organized by the nonprofit Retired Racehorse Training Project.
Twenty-five thousand Thoroughbred horses are born into the great American sport of racing each year. Whether they win or lose, most retire from that job when they are one quarter of the way through their natural life expectancy. Some go to breeding farms but most enter a marketplace in which sport and recreational riders are the buyers.
According to United Sates Equestrian Federation statistics, forty percent of horses registered for equestrian competition in 1982 were Thoroughbreds. By 2010 that number had dropped to ten percent. The Thoroughbred sport horse declined in popularity as European breeds entered the US market with powerful marketing campaigns highlighting the success of their horses. A 2011 paper presented at Keeneland Race Track by Steuart Pittman of the Retired Racehorse Training Project detailed the causes of the declining use of Thoroughbreds for sport and proposed strategies to reverse the trend. The event this weekend is a response to that call to action.
The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium features twenty-six trainers from fifteen states and Canada in ten equestrian disciplines. Each acquired a horse who knew nothing but racing at the start of the summer and chronicled the training process on the organization’s web site at www.retiredracehorsetraining.org.
The afternoon sessions on the homestretch of the Pimlico track include demonstrations sponsored by the US Polo Association, the US Pony Clubs, the Masters of Foxhounds Association, and the United States Eventing Association. Hillary Simpson will appear on grand prix show jumping winner Arkansas who raced as Blackcuda, and the top finishers in this year’s Extreme Retired Racehorse 100 Day Barrel Racing Challenge will gather for a re-match. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron will do what he does everyday at his North American Racing Academy and show the audience how to ride like a jockey. Cyclone Larry, who played Secretariat in the Disney movie, will not only appear with his decorated junior rider but Secretariat’s Penny Chenery will appear on the track video board via Skype to greet him and reminisce about her days riding Thoroughbreds as a child.
Saturday’s on-track excitement will climax with “Who Let The Cows Out” where Thoroughbred ex-racehorses from Dale Simanton’s Gate to Great training program in South Dakota will take jockeys in their silks and cowboy hats into a pen of cattle for a boys-against-girls team sorting challenge.
Morning sessions in the Triple Crown Room both days are less entertainment and more education. Topics include Business Models, How to Market Your Thoroughbred, Trainers Forum, Soundness Issues, Health and Care, and an Open Forum for discussion of how to expand the work and better serve this population of horses. Speakers include Hall of Fame jumper and racehorse trainer Rodney Jenkins, first female jockey and now sales agent Dianne Crump, international eventer Cathy Wieschoff, grand prix show jumper Hilary Simpson, CANTER’s Allie Conrad, New Vocations’ Amy Allison, Tebogo Sport Horses’ Patricia Vos, Thoroughbred Daily News’ Sarah Andrew, Back Forty Media and Marketing’s Heather Benson, Thoroughbred Charities of America’s Dan Rosenberg, Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program’s Kristin Werner Leshney, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and Adeena Springs Retirement Program’s Stacie Clark, Spurlock Equine Associates’ Dr. Gary Spurlock, MidAtlantic Equine Medical Center’s Dr. Janik Gaslorowski, Triple Crown Nutrition’s consultant Dr. Bill Vandergrift, Caledonian Forge’s Angus Whyte, and MidAtlantic Horse Rescue’s Beverly Strauss.
RRTP Founder and Maryland-based sport horse trainer Steuart Pittman marvels at the enthusiasm and support the event has generated. “Thirty eight vendors and nearly that many sponsors evenly split between the racing and the equestrian worlds have come together to show the public what these horses can do. We are overwhelmed by the response.”
"Demonstrating the trainability and talent of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses to sport and recreational riders is the key to placing them in second careers,” says Dan Rosenberg, board chairman of Thoroughbred Charities of America. “This event and the organization behind it are making that point decisively, and we are proud to be a part of it."
The weekend’s schedule, vendor list, ticket information, and progress reports from the 26 trainers can be viewed at www.retiredracehorsetraining.org. The event will be live streamed at HRTV.com. A 60 second promotional television commercial for the event can be viewed here and embedded into online stories.
Sponsors include include Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation, Thoroughbred Charities of America, The Secretariat Foundation, Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, The Maryland Jockey Club, The Jockey Club T.I.P, WinStar Farm, Bourbon Lane Stables, SmartPak, Dark Hollow Stables, Bit of Britain, NutraMax, Maryland Million, Thornmar, Somerset Racing, Stubben, Tebogo Sport Horses, US Polo Association, US Eventing Association, Triple Crown Nutrition, The Maryland Horse Trials, Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, Five Star Tack, The Chronicle of the Horse, MediaWise, Inc., Dodon Farm Training Center, Covertside, The Equiery, Wow! Graphic Designs, Maryland Horse Industry Board, Caves Farm, Green Pasture Design, ThinLine, Pennsylvania Equestrian, Masters of Fox Hounds Association, Halcyon Springs Stables and Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue.
Additional information, tickets, and press pass applications are at www.retiredracehorsetraining.org.
On a crisp morning in December of 2016, I dragged my husband to Penn National to look at some horses to hopefully be my next eventing partner. I also had a horse to look at in Maryland at Kate Chadderton's farm. Keep in mind every horse I wanted to look at was a gelding. I did have a couple at Penn National that I really liked and then went to look at the one Kate had. After I rode the gelding at Kate's she asked me how I felt about mares. My response was, "I don't, but bring her out."
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