Their coats glistening, their tack polished, nine off-track Thoroughbreds took center stage this past weekend beneath the lights of the Equine Affaire Coliseum.
During a brief appearance they demonstrated their prowess at a variety of disciplines showing no signs of, in some cases, very troubled pasts.
As they trotted around the large indoor arena, moving in rhythm with their riders, a broodmare and racemare who each escaped the slaughter pipeline moved out with the grace of any other show horse attending the three-day equestrian event.
“I think it was great,” says Christina Sawelsky of Sharon, Mass. She was one of four organizers of the OTTB portion of the event. “I just want the Thoroughbred to make a comeback in the show world.”
With that simple goal, Sawelsky partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF, Inc.) earlier this year to produce an appearance by nine OTTBs at the massive equine gathering, giving the occasionally overlooked breed a place in the Breed Pavilion and in the Coliseum demonstration.
Wearing matching black and white saddle pads donated by OTTB Designs, the inspiring demonstration began with a roping and reining show by OTTB Still Guilty, ridden by Jamilee Bravard, followed by eight horse/rider teams who walked, trotted and cantered.
Participants were: Cody Monster and Micki Quinn; Winning One and Alexandra Bowden; Valid Mission and Cassie Holm; Three Angels and Laurie Tuozzoulo; Rubicon and 13-year-old rider Emma Myruski; Regal Staff Two ridden by Heather Perry; and Charlie Business and Quantity, ridden by Christina and Elisabeth Sawelsky.
Crediting the TRF for supporting the effort to showcase OTTBs throughout the three-day event, Sawelsky says it seems more and more people are jumping onto the OTTB bandwagon. “We had a lot of people stop by our booth to tell us how much they love the breed,” she says. “There are a lot of Thoroughbred people out there. We had a catalogue of adoptable horses at the TRF, and there was a lot of interest in the horses. We talked to a lot of people and we’re exhausted, but it was a great weekend!”
And the rags-to-riches stories of two horses, Rubicon and Three Angels was read by an emcee while the horses moved through the gaits as if they’d been born to be show horses. Rhode Island equestrian Laurie Tuozzolo rescued Three Angels from the slaughter pipeline after working as her groom at Suffolk Downs some years ago(please be on the lookout for a story soon by Off-Track Thoroughbreds.com), and Emma Myruski rescued Rubicon from an auction house after the meat buyer had already purchased her. (Please see their story here: Girl gets broodmare out of kill pen; ‘I promised’).
Their stories, as well as her own experiences with five OTTBs she has personally adopted from the TRF, were what compelled Sawelsky to help make a big splash on their behalf at Equine Affaire.
“This event has been a year in the making, and it was a real success,” Sawelsky says, noting she was one of four organizers. Others were her daughter Elisabeth, as well as Monica Southwick and Cathy Holmes. “We already have ideas for next year!”