Twenty-six trainers from 15 states and Canada converged on Pimlico racetrack last weekend to demonstrate the versatility of ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds trained for new disciplines.
Former racehorses cut cattle, worked with hounds, barrel raced and show jumped on the dirt course near the track’s finish line in a powerful demonstration that helped prove Thoroughbreds are more than deserving of new careers.
Steuart Pittman, founder of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, which organized and hosted the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico, declared the event an unqualified success. It drew 750 people over two days.
“There were lots of highlights of things that happened on the track, but what stood out to me the most was that everybody who participated was so, so happy,” Pittman says. “They were happy that it was happening … there was a spirit, everybody was thrilled that, finally, these horses were being celebrated and recognized.”
Pittman credited the Maryland Jockey Club for its unstinting support, which included free use of the facilities, and complimentary security and track personnel.
“We had a lot of racing people there. Not only staff of the Maryland Jockey Club, but exercise riders, and trainers, and people who were connected to the horses,” says Pittman, noting that the Maryland Jockey Club and his nonprofit charity plan to capitalize on the weekend event by creating a bigger event next year.
“We operated on a shoestring budget this year,” he says, noting that the buzz has already begun to create a bigger, better event in the coming years.
But as it was, the weekend was pretty spectacular, he says.
Off-track Thoroughbreds demonstrated polo, foxhunting, show jumping and extreme barrel racing, among other disciplines. And hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, founder of the North American Racing Academy, demonstrated how a jockey rides.
Pittman noted that the historic track, on a beautifully sunny weekend, was the perfect locale for a demonstration that helped drive home the point that OTTBs are valuable future sport horses.