Over 300 ex-racehorses hailing from 62 tracks will compete this month for $100,00 as they seek to prove the Thoroughbred sport horse is a winner on any field of competition.
Horses who once rocketed across finish lines at Penn National, Mahoning Valley, Charles Town and Mountaineer racetracks, among many others, were retrained and will compete at polo, hunter/jumper, barrel racing and many more disciplines, says Steuart Pittman, creator and founder of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.
“Based on what people are telling me privately, the value of an OTTB is rising,” Pittman says. “Demand is up. Prices are up. It’s becoming easier and easier to place an ex-racehorse.”
In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Pittman discusses the upcoming Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, which is presented by the Thoroughbred Charities of America and takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park on Oct. 27-30. The four-year-old annual show, which attracts amateur, junior and professional riders to its rings, helps build positive buzz about the enduring value of the OTTB.
Q: What makes the Thoroughbred Makeover great?
Everything. If you’re interested in securing the futures for Thoroughbreds after they race, this helps do that. Training, in my view, is the most effective thing to secure their futures. If a horse is educated, it helps pull them out of the unwanted-horse population. And, if that’s your goal, this (event) is an incredible way to accomplish that …
By educating thousands of people, we’re demonstrating there’s a market for these horses. And it helps that racetracks have had buyers literally beat down their doors to get a horse.
Q: How have opinions changed about OTTBs since you first started the Makeover?
If you look at the composition of entries, you’ll see pretty clearly that people from all disciplines and backgrounds are participating. We’ve got entries in Working Ranch, Barrel Racing and Freestyle, and a lot of these people have never done Thoroughbreds before. They’re coming out with stories that are incredibly positive about a breed they’d overlooked before.
Q: What are you most excited about this year?
The Bridges to a Second Careers Roundtables. We have everyone from on-track horsemen to (people working in) aftercare to private re-sellers participating in five roundtables. They’re all sitting down at one table to discuss what works and what doesn’t in Thoroughbred retraining. After they meet, they’re going to come out with proposals and recommendations. I’m also really excited about a trainer demonstration we’re doing on Sunday, which will be fascinating to watch.
Q: You sound very happy about this year’s event.
This is the best spectator event you could have for OTTBs. You’ve got 10 different horse sports with horses who started on a level playing field. (Makeover rules stipulate that competition horses have published racetrack work or raced after Oct. 1, 2014, and did not begin retraining until Jan. 1, 2016). If you’re interested in training horses, it’s fascinating to see what people produce in less than a year. The way a polo player gets a balanced canter is different than how an Eventer gets a balanced canter. Taking a racehorse gallop and turning it into a polo canter or a show-horse canter is an art.
For more information or for tickets to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, please visit RetiredRacehorseProject.org.