Retired Racehorse Project
- What does the Retired Racehorse Project do?
At its core, the mission of the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) is to increase the value and demand for Thoroughbreds after racing as riding and show horses. We do this through a number of ways, including putting on the annual Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium (the largest and most lucrative retraining competition for recently retired racehorses in the world), publishing Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine (a quarterly magazine on-par with MidAtlantic Thoroughbred or Blood-Horse, but focused on all topics related to Thoroughbreds outside of (and often including) racing); putting on demonstrations, clinics and seminars around the country for equestrian audiences; maintaining the Bloodline Brag (the industry’s largest database of off-track talent in Thoroughbreds), by engaging our more than 160,000 social media followers and more.
2. How long has your group been active?
The RRP was founded in 2010 by Steuart Pittman, a former upper-level eventing rider who had achieved his greatest wins in the sport on the backs of ex-racehorses. He had long noticed the trend of Thoroughbreds falling out of favor as viable competition mounts with equestrians, who were gravitating more toward Warmbloods imported from Europe.
3. What is the thoroughbred makeover?
The $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is the world’s largest retraining competition for recently retired racehorses. It is not an ordinary horse show, but rather a training competition. Horses, each with 10 months or less of retraining since their last race, can compete in one or two of 10 disciplines (barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunters, freestyle, polo, ranch work, show hunters and show jumping). The winner of each division is entered into the finale, where they compete for top honors.
Trainers must be approved to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover. The 2019 application process opened December 15 and runs through January 15. Horses eligible for the 2019 competition must have had a race or published work after July 1, 2017, and must not have started their post-race retraining before December 1, 2018.
The RRP hosted its first Thoroughbred Makeover in 2013 with 26 competitors and several hundred spectators. Each year since the Thoroughbred Makeover has grown. This year we had roughly 500 competitors and thousands of spectators from across the U. S. to central Kentucky to take part in the competition and celebrate the Thoroughbred as a racehorse and sports horse.
4. What makes RRP different than other aftercare organizations?
When people think of an aftercare organization, most visualize a group that takes horses off of the track, rehabilitates and/or retrains them and ultimately adopts them out to non-racing homes. There are more than 60 such facilities accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (which has become the accrediting body for aftercare facilities in America), and many others who, while they might not currently meet TAA’s standards for accreditation, are still reputable organizations.
While that is an integral piece of the aftercare puzzle, there is a much larger picture. Even all of the aftercare facilities — accredited and non-accredited — in the U. S. do not have the bandwidth to accommodate all of the horses that retire each year. That is why the private market — those trainers or equestrians who purchase or are given horses off the track, often to train and resell — is necessary as well. Often, these trainers have more time, resources and available funds to invest in a horse and, because they are putting months, if not years into a horse’s training before selling it, they are often able to sell it at a higher price because the horse has a deeper foundation of training, show miles, etc.
Both the for-profit and non-profit sectors are essential to accommodate the number of horses retiring each year, but only if there is an active market for those horses.
This is where RRP comes in.
Equestrians need viable reasons to choose one breed over another. The RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover has been a huge driver for Thoroughbred adoptions and sales. With more than $100,000 on the line, people are incentivized monetarily to choose a Thoroughbred and put a solid foundation of training into it, which will serve it well for the rest of its life. It’s also a unique and challenging departure from a typical show, in that it truly tests a trainer’s talent by saying “show us what training feats you can accomplish with a young horse in 10 months.”
Other efforts, such as the Thoroughbred Incentive Program and TAKE2 program, are driving the momentum as well. These programs fund Thoroughbred-only classes and top-placed Thoroughbred awards at thousands of horse shows throughout the country. For riders, that means that if you’re on a Thoroughbred, you’re eligible for more prize money than if you were sitting on a different breed of horse.
But equestrians need to know about these opportunities in order to acquire a horse and take advantage of them.
Everything RRP does is aimed at encouraging more equestrians to choose a Thoroughbred over other breeds as their next horse. Every hobby, riding discipline and breed has at least one publication dedicated to its audience (the Quarter Horse, for example, has numerous publications, including the Quarter Horse Journal, America’s Horse, Quarter Horse News, etc.; the hunter/jumper discipline has Practical Horseman, Chronicle of the Horse, Horse & Style Magazine, The Plaid Horse, etc.). RRP created the only magazine dedicated to Thoroughbreds in sport, which offers feature stories on successful horses & riders, training tips, news from the OTTB world and more.
We put on clinics, seminars, and demonstrations at major equestrian events around the country to show the versatility, trainability and capabilities of retired racehorses. We also have a massive online following, which we use to keep equestrians and Thoroughbred-enthusiasts informed of all opportunities and news related to the breed.
5. How can people help/get involved?
There are several easy ways people can get involved and support our mission:
- Become a member of RRP! For $45 annually, you can help us continue to expand the market for Thoroughbreds after racing, and you’ll get a subscription to Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine to keep you informed of all your support is helping to accomplish
- Volunteer — whether you volunteer at the Thoroughbred Makeover, an aftercare facility or another horse show around the country, you will not only help Thoroughbreds after racing but truly see what these horses can do after the track
- Attend the Thoroughbred Makeover — With more than 500 horses competing, chances are you may know one of them, their sire/dam or their racing connections. It is virtually impossible not to be inspired once you see the transformation these horses make in their first year off the track and the love their riders have for them.
- Get YOUR horse into the Makeover — If you own a racehorse that is coming toward the end of its career, get it into the Thoroughbred Makeover. If you’re not interested in competing it yourself, RRP can try to help you find a Makeover-approved trainer to take it on for the competition. (and giving the trainer a stipend to go toward that horse’s training, board and care is a fantastic way to support them AND your horse!)
- Make a donation — Whether to RRP or to a different organization/sector of the aftercare cycle, supporting Thoroughbred aftercare not only helps the horses currently coming off of the track, but also those who will do so in the future.
- If you’re donating your horse… — If you’re donating your horse to an aftercare facility after racing, make a donation to go toward its care, rehabilitation, and retraining while it’s with the facility.