BY STEUART PITTMAN—Five graduates of last year’s Retired Racehorse Project’s $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, performed this weekend in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo.
Their task was to demonstrate to the crowd that off-track Thoroughbreds are the most trainable, elegant, versatile partners that a human can find anywhere.
The Thoroughbred Makeover Rematch was a headline feature of the expo and one of five educational sessions presented by Retired Racehorse Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing demand for Thoroughbreds and building bridges to second careers.
Diabolic and Nicole Cammuso began by demonstrating their western reining skills and the speed around the barrels pattern that won them second place in barrel racing and fourth in the freestyle at last year’s Makeover. The crowd loved the action, but also appreciated the way this six-year-old veteran of nineteen races stood motionless after performing.
Sharia Harris, a seventeen-year old who rides at Philadelphia’s inner-city Work To Ride program, was the top placed junior in the field hunter division at the Makeover and the top placed junior in polo on a second horse. She performed on Late Starter, her field hunter mount, despite having not ridden the horse since last fall.
Dressed in formal hunting attire, Sharia galloped the winner of $184,000 as though hounds were in full cry and pulled up quietly to stand by the rail where small children were delighted to reach through the rails to stroke his forehead. She then delighted the crowd by taking a surprise spin around the barrels pattern.
Emily Daignault-Salvaggio, also dressed in hunting attire, then presented her magnificent grey gelding Gin Joint, winner of the field hunter division at the makeover and 11th in the show jumping division. The Adena Springs-bred horse by Macho Uno ran the last of his 44 races almost exactly one year ago at Charles Town, but looked and acted more like an A-circuit show horse.
Emily jumped two lovely rounds, one as a steady hunter and the second as a show jumper against the clock with angles, rollback turns, and galloping lines, all without a loss of rhythm or form. It was a truly magnificent performance from a horse who spent most of the winter on vacation.
Elissa Ogburn, the quiet sixteen-year-old from Maryland, admitted to feeling a bit outclassed when the attention turned to her and Land Run, her hard-knocking racehorse from Oklahoma who ran 47 times and then placed 34th in eventing and 16th in dressage at the Makeover.
The crowd fell silent and jaws dropped as this beautifully presented and impeccably trained horse demonstrated a quality of dressage work that nobody was prepared for, and their jumping was effortless. Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue’s Bev Strauss noted, “He looked like a different horse from the one she brought to the Makeover. They have worked really hard this winter.”
And then came Yo Koffy. The gorgeous bay seven-year-old won $162,000 racing, but was claimed out of his last race at Charles Town by Clovis Crane, a champion rodeo cowboy who makes his living training racehorses at Crane Thoroughbreds. Clovis had started Yo Koffy as a young horse and somehow let himself get attached.
The expo crowd found out why. First, he appeared in English tack with Clovis’s 14 year-old daughter Amara Underwood, carefully stepping over quite large show jumps like he’d done it all his life and making Amara look like an accomplished pro. Amara rode the horse in the show jumping division at the Makeover and placed 8th.
Amara dismounted, removed her saddle and underneath was a bareback pad. Clovis jumped aboard and proceed to gallop, stop, spin, and demonstrate how it was that they managed to win the working ranch division at the Makeover after only seeing cows twice in his life.
To earn a place in the Crane family horses must take care of children. Clovis and his wife have five. Yo Koffy finished his act by cantering around the arena carrying both father and 4-year-old Dalia, who was smiling and waving to the crowd like a celebrity.
The Yo Koffy story goes further. Last week he was seen ponying two Crane Thoroughbreds youngsters at the Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale at Gulfstream Park in Florida. They clocked some of the best times of the sale and sold for $290,000 and $150,000 respectively. Clovis credits Yo Koffy with giving them the confidence they needed to show off their talent.
People say that Thoroughbreds can’t be ridden in groups, are spooky, and can’t be trusted. Just in case anybody in the crowd was still clinging to these stereotypes, the good people at Amwell Valley Hounds from East Amwell, New Jersey entered the arena with a pack of hounds and a very loud hunting horn. All five of these Thoroughbreds quietly followed the hounds around the arena as though out for a leisurely hunt. The atmosphere was electric, but the Thoroughbreds were not. Point proven, five times over.
The applause meter measured the roar of the crowd as each horse was reintroduced to the crowd. Yo Koffy pushed the needle to 65, well above the others, despite what appeared to be deafening applause for each. The Crane family wins a $500 Shopping Spree from our loyal supporters at SmartPak. All five won gift bags from Alpha Omega, another of RRP’s top sponsors.
Horse expos are an essential part of Retired Racehorse Project’s work. When thousands of people, particularly young people, see how these animals enrich the lives of the humans who own them, the futures look brighter for the thousands that will retire from racing each and every year.
Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) works to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in the marketplace and inspiring an army of equestrians to provide the training that secures their futures. RRP offers online directories, educational resources, and publishes Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine. Its popular Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is scheduled for October 27-30, 2016 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org