The Off-track Thoroughbred community has been getting to know Robin Coblyn pretty well lately, mostly because of her home-bred gelding, Four X The Trouble (Tempyst), who has been lighting up the screens with his handsome face ever since the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge started in January. Coblyn breeds and sells Thoroughbreds; whenever she can, she re-acquires them when their racing days are done, as was the case with Tempyst.
But her interest in helping retired racehorses doesn’t stop with the foals she bred and raised herself. Coblyn is also involved with Maryland’s Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue (TPR) and is a key member of a very big project that the charity is developing: “New Track, New Life,” a DVD series and retraining manual created especially for the growing numbers of people about to mount up on their first OTTB. I spoke with Coblyn about this exciting project, and, she explained, it all has to do with the hard work of racehorse trainer and TPR president, Kimberly Clark.
Clark, Coblyn explains, has been devoting her time and energy to retraining Thoroughbreds for years, even while she was still training at the racetrack. “Kim is incredibly passionate about these animals,” Coblyn says. “The number of horses she has placed, and where they are, and what they are doing, is just phenomenal.”
In helping owners retire their racehorses and placing them with new riders, Clarks found that people who weren’t racetrackers didn’t understand how their horses had been treated all their lives. Misinformation and miscommunication — and the frequently used term “fire-breathing dragon” — were scaring people away from OTTBs.
“People didn’t understand their horses and couldn’t deal with them the way the horses were used to,” Coblyn says. “People need some kind of understanding of the racetrack life. Kim wrote a blog with some simple retraining concepts, addressing those questions like ‘why won’t my horse pick up his hoof when I’m standing on his right side?’ and ‘Is it safe to ride my horse in a group?'”
Clark’s online training manual, A Guide to Understanding and Retraining Your Off Track Thoroughbred, was written to help riders and trainers understand the OTTB’s unique lifestyle and prior training. It is currently available in PDF form on TPR’s website, goodhorse.org.
Eventually, Clarks and a group of other Thoroughbred enthusiasts founded Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue. After putting together the 501c3 and creating TPR, the idea came to make Kim’s blog into a DVD series with an accompanying book. Coblyn, who has been a film producer since 1989, was the perfect fit for the DVD project. Naturally, she’s pretty happy about the job. “I’m finally getting to do things with horses,” she says, “And that is my passion!”
The DVDs would explain not just how to retrain an OTTB, but what their life had been like before, from the breeding farm, to the training center, to the racetrack. “It’s good for riders and also for organizations and rescues that might get in an OTTB for the first time and get stuck, because they don’t know what to do with one. OTTBs are turning up everywhere,” Coblyn says, not just at Thoroughbred-specific aftercare programs.
TPR’s eventual plan is to release two DVDs, one on “Racetrack Life” and one on “Retraining,” with an accompanying book that riders can take out to the barn with them. “We need to finish the on-the-track production, and then film Kim in the retraining process,” Coblyn explains. “The DVDs will be divided into chapters, with 8 to 12 minute segments—information bites that are the right size to think about and digest.”
Finding the money for such a big production has taken time, and is on-going, but the TPR team has gotten started with filming anyway. “We started fundraising last year,” Coblyn says. “We got a small grant from Thoroughbred Charities of America, but that’s gone. We put in four or five days of filming at Fair Hill and have used some of that to create a promo.”
Coblyn’s background in film production has been a big help in getting the promo video created. “I found other film professionals who would offer their skills for a non-profit at a reduced rate. Then I bought myself a computer and software, and taught myself how to edit.”
Even the voice-over artist on the video comes from within TPR’s ranks; it’s board member, former hunter/jumper rider, and exercise rider Lucy Krone. “She’s the tour guide to teach people what goes on at the track,” Coblyn says.
The promotional video is for the continuing fundraising effort, as TPR seeks grants and individual donations, as well as seeking strategic partnerships within the racing industry and with fellow aftercare groups. “I think there’s a lot of synergy there, if groups are willing to work together. We have meetings with people in the industry; we’re branching out instead of just going with the grant organizations.
“This is important for racing. If horse racing wants to continue as a viable sport, they need to prove they are an industry that can take care of their own.”
TPR’s New Track New Life Promotional Video. They request OTTB enthusiasts share it widely!
For more information, or If you want to donate to TPR, visit their website at goodhorse.org.