A rules change enacted by the United States Hunter/Jumper Association (USHJA) in January, which officially recognize Thoroughbred-only hunter/jumper divisions at horse shows, is expected to buoy the robust TAKE2 Thoroughbred Show program, and help elevate the popularity of the breed.
Rick Violette, Jr., president of TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program, Inc., and executive director Andrea Belfiore agree that the January decision is good news for Thoroughbreds in general, and specifically, the TAKE2 show program, which they began three years ago.
In January, with the stated intent to “integrate Thoroughbreds back into the show ring and provide an avenue for them to do so,” the USHJA created the C-rated Division for Thoroughbred hunter/jumpers, a move that will enable competitors to earn points and standing at the highest levels of competitive horse sport.
The rules change, which is set to take effect in December this year, validates programs like TAKE2, which began three years ago, with funding from the Thoroughbred industry.
“Having a recognized C-rated division will provide huge encouragement for more and more horse shows that offer these Thoroughbred classes,” Belfiore says. “And, because the C-rated divisions mirror the TAKE2 Program, with regards to fence heights and eligibility requirements, we are hopeful that TAKE2 classes will be” recognized so that TAKE2 riders can earn points and standing in the USHJA/USEF.
From where Violette sits, as both the head and founder of TAKE2 and the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, it’s all good.
The oft-maligned breed that once dominated the sport horse world is making a comeback, he says. And it is his goal, and that of his Thoroughbred industry-sponsored organization, is to see that the Thoroughbred resurges.
“We’re trying to reignite the flame, so that the red X gets taken off the poster of the Thoroughbred, and that by busting myths about them, we help demonstrate (through the shows) what a terrific breed they are,” Violette says. “These horses are naturally forward, they have a goal, they’re smart, and they learn quickly.”
Violette helped create TAKE2 to promote second careers for retired Thoroughbred racehorses as hunters and jumpers.
With wide support from the racing and breeding industries, including funding from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the New York Racing Association, and New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., TAKE2 has sponsored 90 restricted classes and divisions at top-rated horse shows across the country. The shows offer significant cash prizes, while highlighting the success of the Thoroughbred sport horse.
Launched in 2012 with horse shows in New York, New Jersey and Texas, the TAKE2 shows have exploded in popularity. Now held in 10 of the 12 United States Equestrian Federation Zones in 18 states, TAKE2 hunter/jumper classes have been going on in Wellington and Ocala, Fla., and are also part of the esteemed HITS series.
In three years, TAKE2 has invested $250,000 in its successful series, he says, noting that the series offer competitive prize money as another way to incentivize equestrians to show Thoroughbreds.
“Our goal is to make it easier for retired racehorses to get a job after racing. Thoroughbreds do a lot better when they have a purpose, or a job, rather than being somebody’s yard ornament,” Violette says.
Citing world-class rider and coach George Morris, the current chef d’equipe of the USEF and “founding father” of hunt seat equitation, Violette says there’s a very good reason the fearsome coach has been quoted time and again proclaiming the Thoroughbred as the best competitive sport horse.
“The jumping industry used to be filled with great Thoroughbred show horses, like Jet Run and Idle Dice,” Violette says. “The Thoroughbred was king, before they got squeezed out by the European sport horse. Fifteen of the 20 horses in the Hall of Fame were Thoroughbreds!”