USHJA rule lauded as boon to TB sport horses

Rick Violette Jr., far right, accompanies Gotham winner Samraat. Violette is the driving force behind a three-year old show series for OTTBs. Adam Coglianese Photo

Rick Violette Jr., far right, accompanies Gotham winner Samraat. Violette is the driving force behind a three-year old show series for OTTBs. Adam Coglianese Photo

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.

Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association

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.

TAKE2 High-Score Hunter Ship Shape. From left: Betsy Gallagher, Hannah Taylor, Miranda Scott, Adele Einhorn, Andy Belfiore. Shawn McMillen Photo

TAKE2 High-Score Hunter Ship Shape. From left: Betsy Gallagher, Hannah Taylor, Miranda Scott, Adele Einhorn, Andy Belfiore. Shawn McMillen Photo

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.

2013 TAKE2 High-Score Jumper Sterling and owner Megan Northrop. Will Mayo Photo

2013 TAKE2 High-Score Jumper Sterling and owner Megan Northrop. Will Mayo Photo

“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!”

11 responses to “USHJA rule lauded as boon to TB sport horses”

  1. Gail Forrest

    Thoroughbreds are the very best horses. I teethed on Thoroughbreds and owned and showed mine for over 30 years. The non-Thoroughbred division at A rated shows had 3 horses to compete. years ago….now there are endless. Let’s have a Thoroughbred division at the A shows! No one wants to spend the time and effort these days to learn to ride these incredible horses…shame on instructors and students.
    Bring them back in full force to the circuits.

  2. Ben Goldberg

    I hope the racing industry does something about reducing the amount drugs that administered to the horses on the track. One of the big problems with horses coming of the track are that they are full of steroids, pain and other performance enhancing drugs. Often these are horse are not sound and or challenging to keep sound and healthy for the long term. Thirty years ago when less drugs were used on the tracks, the horses were healthier and were able to have second careers. Unless there is something done about the over drugging of race horses, it will be very hard for trainers to find good sound horses to compete against European breed horses and other stock that have not been abused by drugs. I think this is great opportunity for the equestrian community to pressure the racing industry to reduce the amount drugs that are used legally on horses that are intended to race and that are racing. The goal of this division should not just be finding a place for horses to compete but also ensure the quality of life of all retired race horses.

  3. Geri

    I’m back to riding at the age of 69, and even though I could afford a warmblood now, I’m riding the horses that I love– 4 OTTBs, a spotted mustang, and an Appy. I look forward to these shows.

    1. Dory Munder

      Geri, I just turned 70, and I’m reorganizing my retirement to fit in an OTTB. I had one YEARS ago and he was invaluable to me as a teenager. I have been away from them for 50 years but I’m on my way back — I want the JOY back in my life!

  4. Gayle Gerth

    This new category is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the hearts of our Thoroughbreds. Thank you Mr. Violette for making this possible
    We breed, raise, train and race Thoroughbreds. It is a passion to be part of these animals lives. Some make it as racehorses, but others do not. We are always looking for permanent homes to give our horses a chance at a second career. They are raised with love and kindness and most respond with same. If you should have any interest, please contact me.

  5. Andy Tuck

    ..this “poor kid” loved to ride those OTTB’s, they could do it all…..figured out you needed to spend money on good riding lessons, clinics with George was a great investment.

    Love those OTTB’s, even at my age (67) want it to be at least 1/2 TB.

  6. M. Douglas Mutch

    The Take2 division this year at WEF is what has brought me out of retirement and put me back in the show ring after 20 some odd years of being on the sidelines. Being a big believer in the Thorougbred in the hunter/jumper arena, riding an 8 year old gelding in this division, still eligible for the pre-greens, who is now, after five shows, jumping around on looping reins and like an old pro is proof that this is a very good thing!

  7. Peg Pfeiffer

    We are so excited about this program, but when we finally were able to enter it at HITS Ocala this year, it was during the week classes on Wed and Thurs, bringing only pros to the class. Seems like the pros were riding for owners and corporations and the only 2 young riders on their own rescued horses placed last and last. The pros won all the ribbons even if they made a mistake. The 2 young girls of 14 traveled 1200 or more miles to attend the TB classes and it was not a good experience. The shows need to offer Pro and non-pro divisions, or under 18 and over 18. If this is to be for pros to showcase wealthy owners ex-racehorses, kids that cannot afford and expensive warmblood, but have an OTTB will just not show them on the circuit. please consider a non-pro or owners and riders only division. Help out the so called “poor kids” that have to ride a TB.

  8. Susan Crane-Sundell

    This ruling will really help to bring the Thoroughbred back to the sport horse world. Much obliged to Mr.Violette for his enthusiastic and staunch support of the Thoroughbred and founding the TAKE2 program. Also wishing the very talented Samraat a great 3-yr-old season on the stakes circuit.Hoping we may see him run for the roses this year!

  9. Janet McKinney

    I have Appaloosas (also much maligned breed) but I love all the OTTB promotion. My all time fav. TB was Touch of Class. I will never forget her victory lap at the ’84 Olymics. I tear up just thinking about it, let alone watching it over again. I have it on a video I did at the games. It turned out really well ’cause I was holding my breath the whole course. The end was kind of bumpy. Still a glorious moment.

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