November 2013 | Thoroughbred Makeover Showcases Ex-Racehorses
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Thoroughbred Makeover Showcases Ex-Racehorses

November 2013 - Stephanie Lawson

Thoroughbred Makeover Showcases Ex-RacehorsesEx-racehorses returned to the track October 5 & 6óbut with a new perspective. Over 800 visitors attended the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Racetrack to watch the remarkable displays of Thoroughbred versatility.

The first-ever Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium†drew 800 Thoroughbred enthusiasts, horse trainers, horseracing luminaries and horse lovers to Pimlico Racetrack on October 5 and 6.

The stars of the show took over the track's home stretch: 26 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses and their trainers. From jumping, pole bending, dressage, vaulting, and polo, to team sorting with cows and barrel racing, the makeover showcased the breed's remarkable versatility.

The trainers came from 15 states and Canada and 10 equestrian disciplines. They had the summer and early fall to develop the skills for a second career for their chosen ex-racehorses. The trainers showed off those new skills in fifteen-minute presentations designed to inspire and educate as well as show the audience the versatility and trainability of ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds.

Some of the horses went home with new owners, as many of the makeover horses were offered for sale.

"What these animals learned to do in just a few months was extraordinary," Steuart Pittman, RRTP founder and president, said. "My hat is off to the trainers, to the horses, to the amazing team of volunteers, and to the Maryland Jockey Club for welcoming us to Pimlico with open arms and very large hearts."

The Symposium offered morning seminars featuring horse health, the business of running a rehoming facility and how to market and sell retired racehorses. The seminars were designed to educate owners, trainers and horse lovers about retired racehorses.

The racing industry supported the event. Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas welcomed the crowd to Pimlico and made an offer to host the event again in 2014. Secretariat's owner, Penny Chennery, made an appearance on the Jumbotron via Skype, and racing hall of fame jockey Chris McCarron tried cow penning on a retired, retrained racehorse.

The event underscored the growing momentum of using off-the-track Thoroughbreds for equestrian sports. The Retired Racehorse Training Project aims to increase demand for these fine equine athletes. With the support of the racing industry and an enthusiastic response from media (including three stories in the Baltimore Sun newspaper, interviews for local radio stations and pieces in Baltimore and Maryland-area magazines), the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium will be back next year at Pimlico.

Retired Racehorse Training Project is a 501(c)3 charitable organization with a mission to increase demand for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses through public education and promotion. RRTP was organized in 2010 and maintains a web site that serves both the racing and riding industries with resource directories, educational content, and horse listings.

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 10 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.

"The horses spoke for themselves," said Pittman. "They truly are the smartest, most elegant, most trainable and most loyal breed of any horse."