Here is a picture to brighten up your Monday (even if it is after five on the east coast)! Sent to me from Bernadette at Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue, here is OTTB Maggie’s Charm with one of her best friends:
This is really the most exciting development that I’ve seen in the racehorse retirement front: Steuart Pittman’s new Retired Racehorse Training Project.
It’s described in the press release as a “charitable organization whose mission is to increase demand for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses through public education and promotion.”
In addition to a really hella-cool idea, this includes a fun new GAME: the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, which will pit three sport-horse trainers against one another to select and start OTTBs, reschooling them for five weeks and blogging their progress (!!) before they show up at the Pennsylvania World Horse Expo to show the class how much their horse learned. This sounds like so much fun. Heavy-weight judges include Stephen Bradley and James Wofford, both eventing stars. I can’t wait.
The website, http://www.retiredracehorsetraining.org, is meant to be a hub for education and support, and contains something that I am very excited about: the Bloodline Brag. It’s a database where you enter in your horse’s Jockey Club name, breeding, and fill in information about his quirks, temperament, talents, etc., to give us a better idea of what traits are really passed down in Thoroughbred breeding. I have been trying to figure out a way to do something like this myself, but I really don’t have time, so thank goodness they’ve come up with it!
There are already horses listed on it… just a suggestion, the program doesn’t capitalize first letters, so if you want this thing to look nice and professional, be sure to write Mr. Prospector and not mr propeostocr.
Pittman gives us this sobering statistic in the press release:
“United States Equestrian Federation statistics show that Thoroughbreds declined as a percentage of horses registered for national competitions from 41% in 1982 to 10% in 2011,” according to Pittman. “One cause of this trend has been a lack of effective education and marketing about the attributes that these horses bring to the sport and recreation rider. Thirty years ago we all revered retired racehorses because we all rode them. Today we have a new generation of riders who need to hear the good news.”
Ten percent? That’s bad, people, that’s bad. Let’s hear it for Pittman and the others that are putting together the Retired Racehorse Training Project! I’m so excited!
I’m so excited to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennifer Montfort from CANTER New England. She’s going to tell us why the Suffolk Showcase is the coolest thing since, well, Thoroughbreds.
So, by now you’ve read Natalie’s I NEED TO HAVE THEM posts highlighting some of the horses we have for sale through our trainer listings. And you’re of course wondering how you can get your hands on one, or what “Suffolk Showcase” is all about, right?
We at CANTER NE have been working especially hard the past few weeks as we approach the end of the Suffolk Downs meet on November 5. It’s an extremely busy time for us; as trainers make their plans for the winter they need to find new homes for horses that aren’t making it at the track anymore. Each weekend brings more horses for sale, but it also brings news of horses who have found new homes.
As Natalie has shown, there’s a ton of really great prospects available for sale, and the highlight of the end of the season for us is our Suffolk Showcase. This event aims to break down any barriers people may have that are preventing them from coming to the track to purchase a horse. And it also aims to give the trainers at the track one big chance to present their horses for sale.
If you’re in New England, and at all interested in OTTBs, you should attend. Really. Here’s why:
Over 80 horses, all in one place. It’s like the Keeneland sales. Well, sort of. We DO provide you with a catalog with information on each horse including basic information, a brief description, and trainer contact info. We also bring each horse out individually to a showing area where they will be presented and jogged. We DON’T have hip numbers, an auctioneer, or bidding wars. So you don’t have to worry about itching your nose and ending up spending $100K on a horse, we promise.
CANTER volunteers are there to help you. See a horse you like? Not sure what the next steps are? Ask a volunteer! We’ll be there and available to answer any questions you have to help demystify the process. We’re also happy to go see a horse or two (or 20!) with you. We’re like personal shoppers for Thoroughbreds. Who doesn’t love a personal shopper?
Meet the horses you’ve been admiring online. All those pictures of horses you’ve drooled over on our trainer listings page? Those pictures don’t do them justice. Really. We certainly try our best to get great photos, but they will never compare to seeing that horse right in front of you. You’ll see them move, you’ll see their personality, you’ll see how they handle a group full of people staring at them. And you’ll get to hear great stories from the people who work with them every day.
There is a horse for everyone. No, really. There is a horse for everyone. Pasture pals, trail horses, family pleasure mounts, polo ponies, hunters, dressage mounts, and eventers. Bay, chestnut, grey, black. Flashy and plain, big and small. It’s like the jumbo mega Crayola box of horses.
Just showing up supports Thoroughbred retirement. Even if you don’t purchase a horse (why wouldn’t you!?) it’s a great day to enjoy with a bunch of people who all believe that these horses deserve great lives once it is time for them to hang up their racing shoes. And it helps us show trainers that there IS a market for their horses, which in turn helps more horses find homes. You’re paying it forward. Awesome.
All good reasons, right? So bring your trailer and come on out and see what Showcase is all about, this Sunday, October 23, from 9 am – noon on the Suffolk Downs backstretch.
If you have questions you can contact us at 617-207-1238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@canterne) for all the newest updates. And if you can’t come, please share our posts, blogs, etc. with all your horsey friends. There are open stalls everywhere!
There you have it. And as Jennifer says, please share and share and share! I’m going to sweeten the pot…
Reblog, retweet, or share this post on Facebook. Make sure you mention why you think Thoroughbreds are the greatest horse on the planet. Then email me at email@example.com, and show me where you linked it. For every ten links, I’ll give away a download of my ebook, The Head and Not The Heart. For every hundred links, I’ll give away a signed paperback copy!
This is the argument that sporthorse enthusiasts and professionals have been making for the past two decades, while they merrily import Warmbloods and breed their own horses, seeking out the sturdy legs and stamina that Thoroughbreds were once known for – American Thoroughbreds are bred to run too fast, too briefly.
Here’s a little history lesson from Professor Sid on the length of US graded stakes races:
When Graded races first started in the US in the early 1970s, two races were given Grade 1 status at 1 3/4 miles or beyond: the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles on dirt and the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano at one and three-quarter miles on turf. At the same time—and can you believe this?!—there were no Grade 1 races at six furlongs, and only one at seven furlongs—the Vosburgh. Now, however, there are no Grade 1 races at those extreme distances, but there are several at six furlongs, with most on dirt in the eight-to-nine furlong range.
It’s interesting to note that The Jockey Club Gold Cup started at 2 miles. I loved it as a kid because it was a mile and a half race. The JC Gold Cup dropped to a mile and a quarter in 1990, leaving it just another under-filled stakes race right before the Breeders’ Cup, which itself has enough sprint divisions to suit every sort of short-distance runner.
The question that this article brings up, though, is that without a proving ground for horses to run more than eight or nine furlongs, do we really know if they just can’t do it? The long-distance horses either disappear (there aren’t races written for them) or they go to steeplechasing (where, interestingly, horses tend to run well into their mature years.)
So, are Thoroughbreds these days little more than glorified Quarter Horses, galloping six furlongs as fast as they can and retreating to the breeding farm at age 3? Or could they be so much more?
Be sure to click over and read the whole post from Sid Fernando.
With thanks to Equestrian Ink – Writers of Equestrian Fiction, who have allowed me to guest blog once again on their fun website, comprised entirely of horsepeople who love to write, I’m sharing my guest blog post from last year. I like this one – for one thing, it was written in March of 2010, when I was two months into training Final Call, whom you might recall was the Original Retired Racehorse!
Who’s having fun here, exactly?
I spend my days with Thoroughbreds. I breed, I train, I reschool OTTBs. In prepping my posts at Retired Racehorse Blog, I do a lot of research, lurk on a few message boards, and try to find out what people are doing with their Thoroughbreds. There are so many issues out there, so many OTTBs that are slipping through the cracks after their “forever homes” turn out to be very temporary indeed, that I knew there must be some sort of communication gap between the racetrack and the boarding stable.
What I find is that there is a significant population of riders and trainers which thinks that anything outside of perfectly contained, on-the-bit, submissive obedience, is nothing short of dangerous.
Horses are motion. They are prey, constantly on the move, scenting the wind, listening to the sighs of the natural world around them, waiting for the shoe to drop. When you are prey, you are always waiting for the end, and you know it will be messy.
Extreme submission calls for the horse to put away his instincts and follow blindly. Some might call this a beautiful expression of partnership. But submission/domination is quite the opposite. You might be having fun, but what is your horse thinking? Nothing. He’s waiting for you to think for him. It really doesn’t sound like fun for either party. You’re working too hard – your horse is just going through the motions.
I went through a very windy spell as a teenager. My Thoroughbred, Amarillo, had taken me through some frightening rides, I’d taken some very bad falls, and although we had found a physical reason for the behavior and corrected it, the incident left scars. I’d grown up on his back, but now, after six years together, I was terrified to take him to shows.
I eventually got up the nerve and took him to a horse trials. Convinced that he was going to start leaping about and showing his heels to everyone (and I’d seen his heels, from underneath of him, and wasn’t looking forward to a repeat performance), I took him for a walk around the grounds. He went like a giraffe, all neck and his head so high I couldn’t have reached his nose, despite being just fifteen three. His reach was incredible; even at the walk, I could barely keep up with him. He pulled at the halter and broke the chin strap. I felt dread at the thought of getting on that beast.
But eventually, the time came to tack up and I swung into the saddle, sick with anxiety. I got the same reaction walking him under saddle that I had in a halter and rope. Amarillo’s brain was clearly going at a hundred miles an hour, and I had nothing to do with it. We went towards the warm-up area to prep for dressage, and I felt like I was looking at the world framed by two pricked ears.
Then someone’s voice called out to me across the ring. “Look at that horse, he’s having such fun!”
And it clicked. Amarillo was happy.
He was happy to be here, amongst all the other horses and excitement. He was a racehorse. He was in his element.
I loosened my tense fingers, asked for a trot, and he ducked his head into the bit, not to buck, not to grab it and bolt, but to round up, trot with pleasure, do his job as he wanted to do it. There was no question of submission, there was simply the two of us, jogging across a field somewhere in Florida, surrounded by joyous, leaping horses. And if we didn’t perform a Grand Prix dressage test, well, we got a few sevens and eights in a Training Level test, and we did it on each other’s terms, not on my own iron-clad ones.
Thoroughbreds thrive on one-on-one communication. They know their jobs, as racehorses, and the very good ones know how to work with their jockeys to get to the front of the pack and stick their nose in front. Trying to dominate a racehorse is simply nonsensical. Asking for total submission, a denial of the heart and intelligence that makes them great.