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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!

TSB Publications Assistant Lila Gendal on the OTTB Rocky.

TSB Publications Assistant Lila Gendal on the OTTB Rocky.

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.

BETHTRIn 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.)

ModEventwPhilDut-300Leading 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.)

GoodRiders-web-300This 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.

DrHorseManifesto300Yvonne 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.

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New Vocations Racehorse Adoption has a new "champion"! Metro Meteor, the Painting Racehorse, will be on the TODAY SHOW April 4, 2013. Tune in and check it out!

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption has a new “champion”! Metro Meteor, the Painting Racehorse, will be on the TODAY SHOW April 9, 2013. Tune in and check it out!

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption was founded in 1992 to offer retiring racehorses a safe-haven, rehabilitation, and continued education through placement in experienced, caring homes.  The New Vocations focus is on adoption versus retirement, believing that each horse deserves to have an individual home and purpose. Close to 4,000 retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds have been placed in qualified homes through New Vocations’ efforts since its inception, including 429 ex-racehorses that were placed in 2011. These horses have come from 18 different states and have been adopted by families throughout the country.

New Vocations Program Director Anna Ford expanded the organization’s reach when she wrote BEYOND THE TRACK: RETRAINING THE THOROUGHBRED FROM RACEHORSE TO RIDING HORSE, alongside cowriter Amber Heintzberger. Their marvelous book provides the most thorough, clear, step-by-step system for successfully transitioning ex-racehorses to new careers, providing thousands of horses (and their lucky owners) the opportunity to enjoy each other in both recreation and sport. In addition, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of each book goes to support the New Vocations program.

Now New Vocations has a rising star in the art world on its side: Metro Meteor, a contemporary artist who, while you may not have heard of him yet, is about to break into the big time when he appears on the TODAY SHOW, April 9, 2013.

Although he has only recently been recognized for his artistic eye, there is already a waiting list for Metro Meteor’s abstract paintings…and 50% of the proceeds from all sales go directly to New Vocations! Why does this emerging artist choose to champion the cause of racehorse adoption? Well, because (of course) he started his life on the track (did I forget to mention he’s a HORSE?)

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Metro won his first race and placed in his first stakes race as a two-year-old. Running turf races out of Saratoga and Belmont, Metro won eight races and $300,000 in purse money. But he was prone to bone chips in his knees and underwent two surgeries during his racing career before his knee issues led him to only racing in low-level claiming races. Luckily, the manager of the racing partnership that owned him retired the horse and put out a call for a good home—and Ron and Wendy Krajewski took him, hoping for a trail horse.

It wasn’t long, even with only light work, before Metro’s veterinary prognosis indicated he needed to be retired completely from work. Ron’s bond with the horse inspired him to find other ways they could spend time together, including groundwork and…painting! Ron is a painter by trade, and using clicker training concepts, he taught Metro to target and “swipe” a canvas with a brush. Ron chooses the colors, but the layering, texture, and form is all Metro.

On a whim Ron offered a few of Metro’s pieces for sale through a local gallery, and they were a hit. He decided to continue marketing Metro’s work with half of the proceeds going toward paying his ex-racehorses expenses and veterinary bills, and the other half donated to help fund New Vocations and their mission to find other “Metros” new careers…and unexpected ways to share time and space with humans.

When Ron contacted New Vocations to explain what he wanted to do, Executive Director Dot Morgan was amazed and excited. “It was an interesting email that became downright inspiring!” she says. “Ron described his adopted Thoroughbred Metro Meteor, how he’d taught him to paint, and that he wanted to commit part of the proceeds to New Vocations. But then he went on to say that six paintings had sold the first week and he was sending 50% of those sales to New Vocations! In addition, an article about Metro’s mission had appeared in the Gettysburg Times and just been picked up by the Associated Press!

“He included a link to a video of Metro painting in his stable studio,” Dot continues. “I watched the video and was astounded! This was potentially one of the greatest awareness building stories I’d ever seen. It was obvious that Metro’s ability to help horses beyond the track would far exceed his numerous accolades at the track. Here was the high profile spokesman that racehorses needed, and it was one of their own!”

You can watch Metro and Ron painting here:

And don’t forget to tune in and watch Metro Meteor’s story on the TODAY SHOW, April 9, 2013.

BETHTRBEYOND THE TRACK, a book that was called “breakthrough racehorse literature” by Liz Harris of Thoroughbred Charities of America, is available from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

Amber Heintzberger, cowriter of BEYOND THE TRACK, has a new book coming out—again featuring off-the-track Thoroughbreds! You can preorder MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by CLICKING HERE.

And, our new Brookmeade Young Riders fiction series follows the adventures of Sarah Wagner and her off-the-track racehorse Crown Prince. You can order the first two books in the series Practical Horseman called appealing “not only to young beginner riders but also to older and more seasoned horse lovers” by CLICKING HERE.

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On June 15, “The Rail” horse-racing blogger Leslie Knauf described how two sports perhaps perceived far apart on the equestrian spectrum—racing and dressage—have in fact long been interwoven.

“The highly contained nature of dressage,” Knauf writes, “with its collection and extension of the horse’s three gaits — walk, trot and canter — within a relatively small arena would appear to be the antithesis of racing — galloping at top speed around a vast oval — but its fundamental principles of rhythm, looseness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection can provide a solid foundation for all forms of equestrian sports, including racing, where it already has had Triple Crown implications.”

This was news to me! Sure, I know the stories of ex-racehorses that have gone on to successful dressage careers, even at the highest levels (of course most notably Hilda Gurney’s Olympic mount Keen). But has dressage actually been used to prepare a Thoroughbred for competition on the track?

Knauf goes on to explain: “More than 35 years ago, the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was a gangly, unraced 2-year-old with significant coordination and conformational issues. Paula Turner, then the wife of Seattle Slew’s trainer Billy Turner, reportedly used her previous training and competitive experience in dressage and three-day eventing to help Seattle Slew develop the impulsion and self-carriage the young colt needed to overcome his physical challenges as he embarked on his career as a racehorse.”

It would appear the 1970s were the heyday for this dressage-racing integration! And with the winning examples provided, it certainly appears to have been a formula that worked.

I do think that there is today more awareness regarding the need for retraining those Thoroughbreds that do not “make it” as racehorses for one reason or another. Programs such as New Vocations Racehorse Adoption, directed by TSB author Anna Ford, go to great lengths to prepare these horses for the new homes and new “jobs” that can secure them a long and healthy future. (Anna Ford’s book BEYOND THE TRACK is a wonderful resource for those considering adoption of an off-the-track Thoroughbred.)

However, it would seem that there are also great possibilities for racing trainers to more actively incorporate dressage principles as they prepare young stock for the track. This kind of “cross-training” is surely not so farfetched as it seems.

Perhaps Leslie Knauf’s point, made toward the end of her New York Times’ piece, should be more boldly stated, and yes, repeated: “…the paradigm for racehorse training already is starting to shift toward incorporating fundamentals of other competitive horse sports, including dressage, as part of their racing training, which promises the potential for an even brighter future for racing’s most important players. The odds are heavily in favor of all involved — especially the horses — coming out as winners.”

—Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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TSB author Anna Morgan Ford is featured in the July issue of Practical Horseman, available now.

Anna Morgan Ford, Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption and author of BEYOND THE TRACK (with equine journalist Amber Heintzberger) is featured in a two-part series in the July and August issues of Practical Horseman magazine. The articles, by Kim F. Miller, are based on the techniques Anna uses to prepare off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) for a new life and a new career at New Vocations. In addition, you can find excerpts from Anna’s bestselling book BEYOND THE TRACK on Equisearch.com.

As Triple-Crown season winds down and racing no longer dominates prime time, many of us forget about the amazing Thoroughbreds who train and race hard during the early years of their life, often to find themselves “retired” from the track—due to injury or poor record—at a young age. These horses are often capable, athletic, and sane, and more than ready to enjoy life with you on the trail or in the competitive arena. Anna Ford’s book BEYOND THE TRACK makes it possible for any compassionate horse person to make an OTTB his or her next riding partner, and to successfully and safely transition the horse to life after the home stretch.

The first part of “From Track to the Arena,” featuring Anna Ford  and covering turnout, nutrition, leading, and ground manners, is in the July issue of Practical Horseman, which is available now wherever magazines are sold.

BEYOND THE TRACK is available from the TSB bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

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