Every seat was filled. And still, people streamed into the arena.
They congregated four- and five-people deep, at the fence surrounding the arena, or peered down from above, hoping to glimpse the action from a mezzanine.
Little children hung over the railing and stretched as far as they could to get closer to the horses who were the center of attraction.
Four ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds, fresh from the track and retrained for the public demonstration, did not disappoint as they showed off their new job skills at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo last weekend.
Just as Steuart Pittman, the mastermind behind the Retired Racehorse Training Project, predicted, the ex-racehorses and trainers did more to dispel myths about the craziness and flightiness of Thoroughbreds than all the words and pictures of a Madison Avenue ad campaign.
Seeing, after all, was believing. And many eyeballs watched a demonstration that Pittman admits, gave him goose bumps.
“There were 1,660 seats and there were as many standing as sitting,” Pittman says. “We knew we’d have a good crowd, but we never expected this. People were enthralled.”
After roughly five weeks of training, three horses—Four X The Trouble, Solidify, and Brazilian Wedding—trotted and cantered around for the audience, demonstrating their balance, connection and ability to learn. And, a fourth horse, High Level, after a mere two weeks of training, proved to be a capable student too!
The horses were schooled as part of a Trainer Challenge, which tested the skills of equestrians Kerry Blackmer (paired with Four X The Trouble,) Tiffany Catledge (paired with Solidify and High Level) and Eric Dierks (paired with Brazilian wedding).
After performing for the crowd, an online audience, who watched the demonstration streamed via the Retired Racehorse Training Project website, voted for a winner of the challenge.
Dierks won the contest, but all four horses won the day!
“Eric was very popular online and was the clear winner. He used the contest not only as an opportunity to train Brazilian Wedding, but to teach the public,” Pittman says. “And, he produced. He transformed that horse in five weeks.”
It gets better.
All four horses have attracted prospective buyers! In some cases, multiple offers have come in on the Thoroughbreds. And they are selling for between $7,000 and $10,000.
The fact that horses off the track would sell at this price point after only weeks of training goes to the crux of Pittman’s argument. That Thoroughbreds can be sold for sums that provide trainers an option to dropping a slower horse into a low-level claiming race, where they could become injured.
“One of the highlights of this whole event was a comment that Jimmy Wofford made about wishing he’d taken a trailer to the demonstration, because he’d take all of them,” Pittman says.
Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com applauds the work of the Retired Racehorse Training Project and encourages others to follow in their footsteps.