OTTB Trendiness

mary quant vintage crayons

Trends, trends, trends

Trendy. Just saying it out loud all by myself makes me think of the Sixties – the Swinging Sixties. Petula Clark singing Downtown, Anthony Newley’s bell bottoms, Sidney Poitier in To Sir with Love, Mary Quant’s make-up, and of course Twiggy – the racehorse lean model.

So, what in the world does this have to do with off track Thoroughbreds? Allow me one more digression and I’ll spill all.

I am totally non-uniquely qualified to write this column. You are totally non-uniquely qualified to read it. We are both totally qualified. We are card carrying members of the twenty-first century world of consumers, readers, and horse-centrics (you can interpret centrics as either meaning eccentric or meaning centered and preoccupied by). I feel like I am a sponge for middle of the road trends in North America. Neither a trend setter nor a total trend laggard. I mean, I like something on Facebook or on the web and look at the hits and see that millions or mere hundreds of thousands of me-like creatures are piqued by the same thing.

So, I have to ask all of you something. Do you feel like there is a rising tide of references to off track Thoroughbreds? More accolades for off track Thoroughbreds? More purchases of off track Thoroughbreds? More attention being paid to off track Thoroughbreds? For instance, the growing popularity of blogs such as this one or of Susan Salk’s wonderful

Sarah K. Andrew's Horses and Hope Calendar raises money for One Horse At A Time; frequently, OTTBs are pulled from Camelot's kill pen.

Or, the totally viral response to Steuart Pittman’s Retired Racehorse Retraining Challenge. A cyber phenom that translated into a live bodies on the ground phenom at the PA Horse World Expo in Harrisburg. See for instance, Sassy Grey blog, Sarah Andrew blog.

How many off track thoroughbred lovers were tuned into Sarah Andrew’s wonderful shots from Camelot? How many of the $37,000 plus in charity donations from sales of her calendar (that’s approximately 2500 purchases at $15 a pop) were fueled by OTTB driven dollars? Plenty, I’d imagine.

How many people who bought copies of Raja Racehorse are far above the targeted reader age of 10-12? C’mon fess up. I know you’re out there believing in him.

I’ve even clambered onto the band wagon on behalf of CANTER New England and the New York Chapter of ReRun. Both are volunteer driven organizations.  Both are in great need of funds to sustain the work they do. So, tapping into the spirit of doing good by looking good we created two cool caps with five dollars from each sale going to help CANTER NE and five dollars to help ReRun NY.

The doing good by looking good award in the equine couture category goes to Caitlin Taylor with her OTTB Designs. Individually made by Caitlin each luxuriously embroidered saddle pad (and now coolers) has thousands of gold stitches celebrating the regal heritage and athleticism of the OTTB. Caitlin has had huge demand from enthusiastic riders who want to show their OTTB pride. And did I mention, Caitlin donates a percentage of the price of each pad or cooler to the Thoroughbred charity of the buyer’s choice?

The Chronicle of the Horse seems to have beefed up its coverage of Thoroughbreds. For instance Allie Conrad of Canter Mid-Atlantic has been contributing wonderful blog columns. Is this déjà vu all over again for decades long subscribers of the Chron?

The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program may be the lever needed to move mountains.  Its Thoroughbred Connect has proven enormously helpful.  These two initiatives each deserve their own blog entry. In the meantime, check out the informative websites.

Another initiative from the racing side of the aisle, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance deserves a blog entry of its own. What its effect will be is still an unknown.

Thanks to the suggestion of a reader Ray Paulick recently began devoting part of his report to off track thoroughbreds.

Three Chimneys Farm, where Seattle Slew last stood, where Dynaformer, Smarty Jones and other horse-centric household names live, is calling attention in its advertising to lesser known Thoroughbreds and lauding their off track accomplishments and value. Sadly, this is not immediately evident on their website homepage.

chestnut Thoroughbred, racehorse

Attention is being paid by the racing industry. How much change will we see? Photo: flickr of Rennett Stowe

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, NYTHA, is seeking video footage of OTTBs performing over fences in post-racing careers. However, neither the home page, the benevolence page, or elsewhere in a quick search of their website was there any mention of off track Thoroughbreds. We are waiting with bated breath.

Eaton Sales, a company that makes money by selling young Thoroughbreds for racing purposes, is showing an interest in OTTBs. If this market savvy company, wants to be seen with OTTBs, is it trend time? Is this Business Time as Flight of the Conchords might say?

This is just what I pluck out of the air.  Air increasingly humid with OTTBs. So, it’s time to get scientific (or at least organized and persistent).

In the spirit of Steuart Pittman’s retraining challenge. I am mounting the Thoroughbred Trend Tracking Challenge. I am going to track via Google alerts key phrases like OTTB, retired racehorse, off track Thoroughbred, and Thoroughbred. I’ll report back to you in five weeks on what the tracking reveals.  Will it be the usual suspects floating repeatedly across the screen? Will new references come up? What will the content consist of? What enthusiasms will go viral? Will interest translate into any changes in conditions for off track thoroughbreds? The market for them? Opportunities for them? What new and surprising developments will emerge?

I’ll report back during the week of April 2, 2011.  Until then, Happy Thoroughbreds!



Filed under Media Coverage, Racing, Retirement Options

3 responses to “OTTB Trendiness

  1. Hi Fiona!
    Great article — these retired racehorses need all the help we can give them and it’s wonderful that you are highlighting so many of the great efforts that are springing up for these amazing athletes. I thought I would mentiomn to you that each year for the past three years now, Old Friends of KY and MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS Custom Millinery team up for a 6-month online couture Derby hat auction series called “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”. For six months leading up to the Derby, I (the hat designer) create one hat each month to honior a particular retiree at Old Friends. 100% of the proceeds go to the horses of Old Friends and so far we’ve raised nearly $12,000! You can see the next auction hat honoring 1993 Super Derby and Pennsylvania winner Wallenda at the following link if you like —
    Thanks for spreading the word for the horses, I’m going to order one of Sarah Andrews’ calendars!
    Sally Faith Steinmann
    Owner/Designer, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS

  2. Hi Fiona,
    It’s funny, but I’ve been wondering the same thing. Is it that awareness as a whole is growing, or am I just more aware because I spend my time searching out OTTB success stories?
    I’m going with the *trend* idea. Because major business interests in Thoroughbreds, like farms, oversight committees, etc., have stepped up to fund initiatives, or shout from the rooftops about the virtues of the OTTB, it seems that awareness is on the rise. Oh, and the Chronicle just came out with a piece on a Smarty Jones OTTB today, I think. And the Paulick Report is doing all those fine, fine stories as well.

    Thanks, meantime, for mentioning my site in your piece. And, I hope Natalie is having fun in Disney!

  3. Jo-Claire

    Hopefully this trend will help what was reported in this study….
    The case study is based on data published by the U.S. government and the Jockey Club. According to the study, an amount equal to 70% of the annual Thoroughbred foal crop, on average, die at slaughter each year.

    I have a rescued OTTB, rescued him after he was dumped by his trainer and then sold at a cattle auction for 70.00, we saved him from the killbuyer by 50.00. Fotunately the track he came from, Suffolk Downs, has uninvited the trainer to race at their track because of what he did to this horse and the mare dumped with him. We were able to track her down and rehome her as well.

    Now I have one of the most amazing horses, who went from being a stud in Oct 23, to one of the calmest horses you’d find.