Over the last 20 years I have ridden a number of OTTBs (off-the-track Thoroughbreds), but most recently I have been riding an absolutely stunning and incredibly earnest gelding named “Rocky,” owned by Gayle Davis—a friend and fellow event rider. This enormous chestnut won his Advanced division at Millbrook Horse Trials with US Olympian and TSB author Phillip Dutton in the irons in 2012, right before Gayle purchased him.
Most spectators are surprised when they hear Rocky came off the track, as he floats across the ground like a Warmblood and his conformation wouldn’t lead you to believe he’s all Thoroughbred. Riding Rocky has truly been a treat—I am incredibly grateful to be able to ride such a naturally gifted athlete. He might be the most powerful horse I have ever sat on, and when you combine that sheer strength with his sincere attitude and wealth of knowledge, you can’t help but smile as you glide across the ground!
My positive experience with Rocky and with the other OTTBs I’ve ridden means that I find the mission of the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) all the more valuable. RRP is a non-profit organization that kick-started in 2010 when a small group of devoted Thoroughbred enthusiasts came together with a clear vision in mind: To promote ex-racehorses by offering them a second chance at succeeding in life beyond the track. This was made possible by increasing demand for them in a wide range of equestrian sports, and supporting those farms, trainers, and organizations that helped transition them.
Shortly after RRP began, the Thoroughbred Makeover Project debuted in 2013 and grew exponentially within the next two years attracting crowds, thoroughbred advocates, equestrians and all sorts of individuals from across the country, as they all gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park. The 2015 event was a huge success with its $100,000 in prize money for close to 200 horses that competed in ten disciplines with less than ten months of training. The 2016 Makeover continues to evolve, adding more educational opportunities to its program, as well as building in more time for potential OTTB buyers to evaluate the horses that are being showcased.
At Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com), we wholeheartedly support the retraining and rehoming of OTTBs, and we are proud to sponsor the Thoroughbred Makeover but to have a number of authors who are actively involved with RRP and the Makeover as well.
In 2008, TSB worked with Anna Morgan Ford, Program Director for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program and winner of the 2015 Equus Foundation/USEF Humanitarian Award, to create the book BEYOND THE TRACK. Ford’s book (written with Amber Heintzberger) has become a trusted resource of those entering into partnership with OTTBs. New Vocations was founded at Ford’s family farm in 1992 and now has five locations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The organization rehabilitates and rehomes over 400 ex-racehorses each year. (Read an excerpt about choosing the right OTTB from Beyond the Track that appeared in Practical Horseman Magazine by clicking HERE.)
Leading US event rider Phillip Dutton is the author of the TSB bestselling MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON (written with Amber Heintzberger) and is known for his ability to rehabilitate ex-racehorses and turn them into successful event horses. (He details the stories of a couple of his well-known OTTBs in a special section in his book.) Currently Dutton—who was just named to his sixth Olympic team, representing the US in Rio de Janeiro this year—has several OTTBs in his barn, one of which is “Icabad Crane,” the horse that won the $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in 2014. (Watch a free “How to Be a Successful Eventer at Any Level” webinar with Dutton HERE.)
This year two TSB authors are retraining OTTBs with the Makeover specifically in mind: USEA Hall-of-Fame eventer Denny Emerson, author of HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD has two OTTB mares, “Frosty” and “Raven,” that he is working with in preparation for the Thoroughbred Makeover this fall. Emerson keeps his large Facebook audience up to date on what’s happening with these two exciting young mares—you can follow along HERE.
Yvonne Barteau, author of THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, is participating in this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover Project on her horse “Indy,” a 15.3-hand Thoroughbred gelding. Barteau has trained over 10 horses to the Grand Prix level and has won numerous USDF Horse of the Year titles, but before she was a Grand Prix dressage rider, she got her start on the track. Beginning in high school, she worked—first as a groom and then as a trainer—at harness-and flat-racing tracks up and down the East Coast. You can keep up with Indy’s progress by watching the wonderful video journals Barteau regularly posts HERE.
Stay tuned over the next few months as we touch base with our TSB authors who are participating in RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover Project, bringing you highlights and an inside look at their experiences!
-Lila Gendal, Publications Assistant
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.