A diehard Thoroughbred fan with a barn full of horses and a heart full of hope has launched a campaign to glorify the off-track Thoroughbred.
Christina Sawelsky of Sharon, Mass. has organized a 12-mile trail ride through a lush Massachusetts estate in order to bootstrap the attendance of two or more OTTBs at a major equestrian event this November. And additionally, she plans to raise funds for the nation’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred charity, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
With the goal of bringing Thoroughbreds back to the Breed Demonstration at the popular equestrian tradeshow Equine Affaire this November, riders will mount up on Aug. 21 for the Ride to Equine Affaire.
All breeds are welcome on the course that wends across the 1,700-acre property once belonging to Harvard botanist Oakes Ames. (Please visit this site for registration details: www.benefitridetrfequineaffaire.com).
“I’m doing this with my great friends Cassie Holm and Monica Southwick and my daughter Elisabeth to promote the off-track Thoroughbred at Equine Affaire,” says Sawelsky, a registered nurse who has adopted five OTTBs from the TRF through the years. “I wanted to bring back the OTTB’s place in the Breed Demo at Equine Affaire. And in order to do this, we needed to be sponsored by an accredited organization like the TRF.”
Rather than ask the TRF to write a check to sponsor OTTBs at Equine Affaire, Sawelsky decided to raise the funds through the Ride to Equine Affaire trail ride. The accredited ride, which makes points available to competitive trail riders, will also feature a raffle sale and barbecue style dining.
“Borderline State Park is a beautiful venue, and I’m already getting a lot of interest,” she says. “I just got a huge donation of blankets and saddle pads, and people are donating gift cards, wine baskets, decorative horse shoes—we’re getting a lot of great raffle items.” Proceeds will also be donated directly to the TRF in support of its herd of 900 Thoroughbreds.
And if all goes to plan, the funds raised this month will ensure a couple of ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds find their rightful place at the Breed Demo during Equine Affaire, Nov. 10-13.
Sawelsky is still deciding whom among her TRF adoptees to take, because each has so much to demonstrate. Charlie Business, for example, was an injured racehorse who retired to the TRF with a bowed tendon before she adopted him six years ago. Now Charlie’s biggest goal in life is to become a “pasture puff,” she says, noting that he’s a great, though lazy, riding horse. Her newest horses, Quantity and Private Relations demonstrate the Ying/Yang of the repurposed Thoroughbred, she says. “Quantity is like a Ferrari. He’s very quick and alert to everything. Private Relations is like a comfortable, old, big truck. He just plods along, which is surprising because he’s only 5,” she says.
Regardless of who shows up in the ring at Equine Affaire, Sawelsky insists that it’s important to keep driving home the point that Thoroughbreds make wonderful riding horses.
“I wanted to get the OTTBs back into the Breed Demo because it’s important for equestrians to see how versatile they are, and to showcase their talents,” Sawelsky says. “There are people from all walks of life who come to Equine Affaire. And it’s important for them to see that there’s a Thoroughbred for all of them. These horses can do anything, from barrel racing to cutting cows, polo, hunters and jumpers. My goal is to showcase them in a positive light so people can see that they’re great horses. And with the right people behind them, there’s no limitations on what they can do.”