Before the last Thoroughbred had pranced out of the Kentucky Horse Park, Sue Smith’s phone started ringing, her email buzzing.
On everyone’s lips was the same question: Could she get them a competitive OTTB?
“I actually had to caution people to hold off’ leaping to adopt a Thoroughbred, says the longtime executive with Thoroughbred re-homing charity CANTER-PA. After nine years spent trying to convince prospective buyers to at least consider an ex-racehorse Thoroughbred, Smith says it feels pretty good to be part of a shifting tide.
A change that has come with the growing success of the Retired Racehorse Project’s yearly Thoroughbred demonstrations and competitions, which topped itself this year with its biggest, most inclusive Thoroughbred Makeover competition in Kentucky last month.
After roughly 165 horse & rider teams competed in myriad disciplines for big cash prizes, Smith, a board member of the Retired Racehorse Project, says people began clamoring right away for a horse to compete in the next Thoroughbred Makeover.
“People are already on the lookout for horses,” she says. “I had to caution people to hold of until we know what the eligibility requirements of the next show will be.” Thoroughbred Makeover rules often restrict the amount of post-racing training a Thoroughbred can have to qualify for competition, she says, adding, “We have requirements on the length of time a horse has been retired from racing, to make it fair to everyone, and to level the playing field.”
Once the rules for the next Makeover event are released, it’s Katie bar the door! The Thoroughbreds will be in big demand, and horses and horsemen alike will win.
“I would say we’ve been inundated with requests from people who wanted to enter the Makeover. Last year, from our small (CANTER) affiliate we had over 10 horses who were selected for that purpose. Not all made it to KY but that was their intent … Some of the others who were selecting horses for the Makeover had the intent to re-sell, which is a great service, as well,” Smith says. “I personally feel strongly that the best thing you can do for your horse’s safety is to provide him with basic training. One of the keys to any horse’s security is to have value and marketable skills that will hopefully protect him in the event that he changes hands.”
A Thoroughbred who has some good training under his belt stands a higher chance of being sold on to a good, safe home, she adds. And, training also increases their resale value.
“We saw numerous horses available for sale at Retired Racehorse Project with five-figure asking prices, so in a matter of 10 months a horse who was perhaps worth $1000 when he left the racetrack is now valued at 10 or 20 times that,” Smith says. “And while there is no guarantee that any horse will never end up in a bad spot, the likelihood is reduced when people attribute a considerable dollar value to the animal.”
When Smith was a kid, Thoroughbreds were in demand. Now’s she thinks that trend is coming back around.
“We just talked to a top dressage rider who is working with a very big name in the sport,” Smith says. “We didn’t have a horse at the moment who matched her criteria, but it was still pretty neat to get the call. It’s great to see the interest returning to Thoroughbreds.”