A film underway on ex-racehorses, all abuzz

Kara Colvin and Cody Joel

Some of the finest stewards connected to the Thoroughbred industry sat before the unblinking lens of documentary filmmakers recently to offer insight and commentary on the issues surrounding unwanted ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds in America.

Hall of Fame jockey and four-time Eclipse Award winner Pat Day spoke of the heartbreak that comes when he imagines a horse who is forgotten in a field, left to “die on the vine.”

And, representatives from Three Chimneys Farm and Thoroughbred re-homing organizations New Vocations and Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, offered compelling commentary.

The dawning awareness that ex-racehorses can go on to do many useful things, serving as competitive athletes, or best friend to riders of all levels, infuses the film with hope, even as it sheds light on the grim realities of horse slaughter.

Perhaps one of the most hopeful signs is the unabashed enthusiasm with which the documentary film project has been embraced by top-tier industry professions, says Cody Joel, director of the film, Back on Track.

“Time and time again, we’re hearing from people who tell us it’s about time a film project like this was done,” he says, noting that the film crew was on its way to interview Kentucky Derby winning trainer Graham Motion, and Kim Zito, wife of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.

Pat Day pictured between takes

Joel and film producer Kara Colvin, who conceived the idea for the film,  have crisscrossed Kentucky since January, filming horses and influential industry officials.

“The idea for the film dawned on me at 2 in the morning while I was brainstorming ideas for my documentary filmmaking class,” Colvin says. She and Joel are studying film at Savannah College of Art and Design.

“It’s such a big issue in the Thoroughbred world, and film is the most influential medium there is. I thought if we could get a few dedicated people, we could make something really important.”

It appears many agree with the intrepid young filmmakers.

So far, the following interview subjects have gone on camera: Graham Motion, (Trainer, Animal Kingdom); Case Clay (President, Three Chimneys Farm); Jen Roytz (Communications Director, Three Chimneys Farm); Lisa Molloy (Facilities Manager, New Vocations Ky); Kim Vito, wife of Nick Zito; Melissa Recknor (Volunteer and Adoption Coordinator, Makers Mark Secretariat Center); Pay Day (Hall of Fame Jockey).

Big Brown gets some air time

And Michael Blowen, president of Old Friends Kentucky, and Charles and Amanda Ames of CANTER Kentucky have agreed to interviews.

“More and more people are reaching out to us!” Joel says. “We’ve been amazed at how excited people have been about this project; we have to keep adding locations to our destination map!”

As buzz for the project grows, so do the chances that the piece may be aired in several media markets.

Already, Australian Racing television has indicated they will broadcast the film, and the duo will also pitch the piece to HRTV, and a condensed version will be submitted to film festivals. Larger goals include consideration by the CBS affiliate in Kentucky, and PBS, Colvin says.

Thrilled as they are with the response, theirs is not a quest for accolades and publicity. Rather, for Joel, a Kentucky native, and Colvin, a longtime convert to the joys of Thoroughbred ownership, this project is a venture from the heart, one they hope will help horses.

The film's title page

“The main objective of our film is to motivate the public to adopt these horses,” says Colvin, owner of ex-racehorse JW’s Best Bet. Her horse has been with her since she was 13, carrying her across eventing fields, bravely and cheerfully. Now that he is older, he is a beloved pasture friend who deeply inspired her movie idea.

And Joel hopes the film will raise awareness without casting aspersions.

“There is no ‘bad guy’ in this film. Our goal is to tell a positive story about all of the good things going on in the Thoroughbred industry that help the horses.”

via Vimeo


22 responses to “A film underway on ex-racehorses, all abuzz”

  1. Carryn DelBene

    I’m so thankful this movie was made. I have been telling people for 16 years since I got my first OTTB. there is a very dark side to racing. He was the most magical animal I have ever known. We lost him in August of last year and though my heart still aches for him, I was able to adopt another wonderful OTTB from the Canter program in Michigan. They are smart, gentle, funny and always willing. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a horse.

  2. louise martin

    Susan this is such wonderful news! All of the negativity that is out there right now regarding breeders and owners and the plight of the Off Track Thoroughbreds, this is so wonderful and encouraging! It gives me inspirations to continue with my small projects to raise money for the rescues.

    As you know, my thirty year old OTTB mare, Deena, is the one who “told” me this was something I could do. I truly believe there is hope for more and more of these wonderful creatures. Looking forward to Back on Track!! Can’t wait to share this with all of my friends. Thank you Susan the interview was fantastic!! Your work is always in the “Winner’s Circle!” 🙂

  3. Kara Colvin

    Thank you everyone! We are ecstatic that so many people are supporting this documentary.

    We both love hearing stories about everyones OTTB and how wonderful these horses are. In the film we are planning to have a portion dedicated to all retired racehorse owners. If anyone is interested you can email a picture of you and your horse to backontrackdocumentary@gmail.com to be a part of the creation of this film.

    We also have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Back-on-Track/241744192587209

    Where we update on our progress, upcoming locations for filming, and shots from the footage.

    Thank you Susan, I couldn’t be more grateful for this article.

  4. Leslie Stidham

    I also have an OTT and he is my best friend….This film is overdue but am soooooo happy you guys are doing this. I think it will shed a light on the need for loving homes for these wonderful horses that gave so much of themselves. Now if we in California could lower the cost of Hay I would get another OTT. For now the count is 1 OTT and 1 donkey.

  5. Boodiba

    Gave you a plug on Facebook just now!

  6. jean

    I have a lovely mare who was match-raced then abandoned because she WON. No one would run against her.She almost starved to death but now she is fat and safe and what an attitude. Fun to ride,too!

  7. Donna Brothers

    Great story, Susan, thanks for sharing!

  8. Martha

    Cheers for these two to be doing this film! Can not wait to see it!
    My own OTTB just celebrated his “actual” 16th birthday last Monday. Although he and I are both “retired” from riding due to arthritis and bone chips(yes. BOTH of us!) He is my best friend and partner and will be til the end of time. *just dont tell my husband 🙂

  9. Jo Ann Trivilino

    Have you contacted Animal Planet? I think that the Discovery Channel Network would want to find a spot for your film. When do you expect to be finished with it?

    Also an OTTB owner for many years…

    1. Kara Colvin

      We have not contacted Animal Planet or Discovery, but once we have more of the documentary completed we are planning on looking into both! We’d love photos of you and your OTTB for the film. You’re welcome to send us photos at backontrackdocumentary@gmail.com!

  10. Staci Hancock

    This is fantastic! Can’t wait for the film to come out.
    I grew up showing ex-racehorses. Thoroughbreds are smart, amazing athletes who shine in the ring. We need to work in finding our racehorses second careers.
    That can start with banning medication in racing so we have sound horses with bright futures after they are finished at the track.

  11. Lori Romano

    I am bringing home my newly adopted OTTB tomorrow morning. He was abandoned on the backside after the racing season ended in November 2010. He has been fostered by the most wonderful, caring person I have ever met. What she does for these horses is amazing. I find it totally unacceptable that someone can simply pack up and leave a horse standing in a stall like that. What I don’t understand is how the track can allow it. It’s obvious they know who left the horse there. This will be my first OTTB. He will never, ever know anything but love for the rest of his life. I can’t wait to see this film.

    1. nancy

      It happens here in NC all the time. People have left horses on the side of the road. The USERL (US Equine Rescue League) tries to find foster homes for these horses. People have adopted many of the abused horses after they have been rehabilitated. We are also fortunate that the NC Vet College donates time to care for the horses. I can’t believe people treat horses (and animals, in general) so poorly. It does not reflect well on our society at all. I can’t wait to see the film. The trailer is beautiful.

  12. sharry

    yes about time this will also help other horses everywhere too-where can i get this film?

  13. Wendy Wolff

    Bravo for bringing this story out on film! There are so many good people out there who work very hard at finding our horses second careers and loving, competent homes…but sadly…there are just not enough of those to go around…with your help we can do more! Thank you! ps..don’t forget the Stronach family @ Adena Springs North and South…they are shining examples of this effort!

  14. TBDancer

    What a wonderful idea–and isn’t it about time?? Many of us support horse rescues by donating “time and treasure” when possible. While the word is getting out as to the plight, specifically, of the ex-racehorse, a film such as this gets the message to the masses more quickly.

    I hope they find some “little guys,” owners of maybe one or two OTTBs who are not big names in the show world or who have horses that never made the record books, and include their stories. The list of connections to this project reads like a Whose Who. Their voices are important, but it’s the nameless many “behind the scenes” that will make rescue of these fine athletes really work.

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