Category Archives: Outside Sites

This weekend: Your Retired Racehorse questions answered at Pimlico

When the Retired Racehorse Training Project announced their Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium a few months ago, October seemed forever and ever away. Heck, I even thought I might make it to the event. I’d make plans… eventually. Closer to October. Or so I thought.

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Well, now it’s October and I’m getting ready for another business/family trip in the week after the symposium, so I won’t be able to catch a train to Maryland after all. But if you’re in the Mid-Atlantic and you are curious about Retired Racehorses, this is your opportunity to see them in action, hear from experts, and start putting together a cohesive answer to that lurking question: “Is a Retired Racehorse right for me?”

The Makeover is slated to be the star event, when more than twenty riders from across the country and from a variety of disciplines will show off what they’ve accomplished in the past three months with their project horses, all off-track Thoroughbreds with no further training than the races.

And in-between demonstrations there are some pretty unique exhibitions on offer: Chris McCarron’s “Ride Like a Jockey” (something I think all of us should learn how to do), presentations on hunting, show hunters, polo, show jumping, Pony Club, eventing, and dressage; and perhaps the most intriguing/bizarre: Who Let The Cows Out? This event, which ties in with the western presentation, will feature jockeys trying to pen cattle, because of course.

But the symposium forums look especially interesting. I wouldn’t miss these: a session on the business side of Thoroughbred retirement, a trainer’s forum featuring a panel of Thoroughbred experts: Rodney Jenkins, Cathy Wieschoff, and Hillary Simpson, and an open forum on the future of racehorse retirement and the racing industry’s involvement.

There are also sessions on soundness, sales, and healthcare which will doubtless be very informative, especially to the newbies who are looking for their first OTTB.

Here’s the full schedule of events.

It’s going to be a very educational weekend at Pimlico, and I’m definitely jealous of everyone who will be attending! I encourage anyone who wants to share photos or trip reports to email me (natalie @ nataliekreinert dot com) and I’ll post them here at Retired Racehorse with your byline!

Here’s the very compelling promo video:

What are you looking forward to most at the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium?

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Racehorse Training: Everything Old is New Again

This week the racing world prepares for the Preakness Stakes. As all the racing journals focus on the stories behind the trainers who are prepping their three-year-olds for the second leg of the Triple Crown, so the sporthorse writers are featuring the human (horse) interest stories in that mysterious racehorse world.

In doing so, an interesting angle has arisen: the old training models of a man lauded as a True Horseman, Shug McGaughey, and the new training methods of a group of dedicated horsepeople who are providing “before-care” for their racehorses.

Circuitous gallops on training track for Mosaic Racing Stable

Mosaic Racing’s Circuitous mid-October 2011. Photo: Fiona Farrell

In The Chronicle of the Horse, there is an article on Mosaic Racing Stable, a small, New York-based operation whose horses aren’t just galloped around a track. They also learn skills that will come in handy in their second career: a laudably lucid forethought in a business where it’s nearly a given that a horse will need a second job by the time he’s just reaching maturity.

If Mosaic Racing Stable is a familiar name, that might be because contributor Fiona Farrell wrote about their unique training style here at Retired Racehorse Blog last March.

In addition to setting aside 15% of a horse’s earnings towards its retirement, the horses from Mosaic are given basic lessons they’ll use later in life — lesson that also make them happier, healthier horses in the meantime. Founding partner Monica Driver explains their practice of sending the horses to Aiken, S.C., for the winter, where they get some turn-out and hop over fences:

“Horses need downtime from any endeavor, I think. They need time off to graze, hang out and be horses, especially when they’re asked to live in a city and do something as physically and mentally demanding and stressful as training and racing,” she adds. “We don’t believe much in 2-year-old racing, and we don’t believe in year-round racing for our horses.”

Horses learn to bend, go over cavelletti, and walk on a loose rein. It’s not such a go-go-go life for them, and they reward Mosaic with performance: their first racehorse, Vicarious, won more than $100,000 at the racetrack.

What seems insanely forward-thinking in a sport like horse racing really might not be lifted straight out of history. The Mosaic method gets nods from trainers like Michael Matz and Rodney Jenkins. Well that makes sense, right? They’re both former show jumpers. But what about veteran Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens? Jimmy Jerkens, Allen’s son, says:

“Years ago at Belmont, my dad used to use a corral where they’d set up jumps [for steeplechase training],” he recalls. “It was a little course inside of a quarter-mile training track. I remember he had a couple of fillies that were kind of sour from doing the same old thing, and they got a kick out of it, and it seemed to turn them around. When you have a horse that’s very sour, you’ve got to try to do things to turn their heads around. Sometimes things like that are a godsend.”

And that brings us to the other story of the week, the connections of Orb, the handsome Kentucky Derby winner who will try to bring home the Woodlawn Vase, the silver trophy awarded to the winner of the Preakness Stakes each year.

There are many articles out there about Shug McGaughey, Odgen Mills Phipps, and Stuart S. Janney III, and I can’t add much to them, only quote them here. I do know what when Orb (not the horse I had money on) came in first in the Derby, I agreed with my husband when he said “Good for Shug!” This is a man you think of as a horseman in the best possible way, not just in the way that there is a horseman’s entrance at the track. A true horseman. 

Why, when there are a lot of fellas in the horse-racing game who have been training for a very long time? Well in McGaughey’s case, just for starters, you have the pristine record. One drug violation in 34 years, and that one, he says, was a veterinarian error that he felt very badly about. “I try to do what’s best for the horse,” McGaughey tells Sports Illustrated.

In this recent Sports Illustrated article, writer Tim Layden explains the good feeling about a “throwback” trainer and horse:

Orb, meanwhile, is a majestic bay colt, 16 hands tall and — McGaughey guesses — something between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds. He is muscular, yet not thick, and lean, yet not slender. “He’s an old-time looking horse,” says McGaughey. “He’s not like those speedier, blockier-type horses that are very popular today. He’s a homebred, with a homebred pedigree on the female side, and I think he’s a throwback to all that.”

Orb was bred by owners Ogden Mills (Dinny) Phipps and Stuart S. Janney III, longtime horsemen with deep roots in the history of the game. Like earlier generations, they breed horses with the primary goal of racing them, hence their emphasis is on steady development, rather than sudden growth for a stunning appearance in the sales ring or while working a fast eighth of a mile at a two-year-old sale.

Good horses, bred to run. Good trainers, training instead of medicating. Good people, teaching horses the skills they’ll need in the future, beyond the racetrack. It’s been an interesting run-up to the Preakness. I’m looking forward to seeing what all of these good folk bring to the table next.

Read more: http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/training-race-horses-tomorrow-today
Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/news/20130513/preakness-stakes-orb-shug-mcgaughey/#ixzz2TZTKbdE4

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Thoroughbred Trainers Wanted for National Symposium

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

It’s your time to shine! You’re gonna be a star, kid, and I’m gonna take you there…

Well, let’s not go that far. I don’t have time to be your agent. But I’m the one that’s telling you about this awesome opportunity.

The Retired Racehorse Training Project, continuing their grand tradition of producing top-of-the-line Thoroughbred education and showcasing projects, are looking for 26 trainers, who will select and train 26 horses and show them off before a massive adoring crowd and a panel of judges at the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium on October 5-6 at Pimlico Racecourse.

That was a long sentence, I apologize.

But here’s the thing — this is the chance for your  OTTB project horse to be seen on a national scale. You know you do good work — your horses know you do good work — the happy smiling people who buy your horses know you do good work — but who else knows? This is an amazing opportunity to showcase not just retired racehorses… but your ability to work with them.

I would have done this in a heartbeat just a few years ago. Can you imagine Final Call in this sort of project? In less than six months he went from racing to winning a hunter pace and we could be famous stars at Pimlico.

Maybe not famous stars. But definitely feeling that way.

Anyway, time is limited, and you need to put in your application by May 17th. The application requires a lot of writing, as you’re going to be asked about your experience in competition, training retired racehorses, training racehorses, what sort of facility you’ll be keeping the horse at, etc. etc. etc. There’s also a request for videos.

Once the trainers are approved, they’ll need to find a racehorse to reschool. The horse has to be just that — a racehorse, who has had no other training. So anyone who is thinking of giving this a shot needs to be well-versed not just in training young horses, but in training racehorses. I can’t help but think that someone who has worked with racehorses is going to have an advantage here. Many people work with OTTBs who have had a leetle bit of retraining first. Just a little. That’s not what the RRTP folks are looking for here.

The presentation at the National Symposium in October does involve a panel of judges who will provide feedback and commentary on the horses, but there will be no winners announced. Everyone who appears at the symposium with a horse will receive a check for $1,000.

I can’t tell you how jealous I am of the lucky folks who are going to get to train a horse for this project. But will one of the 26 come from Retired Racehorse readership? Here’s hoping…

Get the full details at the RRTP website and don’t forget to keep me posted.

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Lazy Sunday Update: Kentucky Derby Weekend Edition

What’s new? So there was this horse race yesterday, a horse won it, he got some roses, no big deal…

I KNOW, I KNOW. Everyone wants to know about BADMINTON.

Oh, and the Kentucky Derby.

Well, as I type this, the cross-country for Badminton just ended. I have no idea what happened because I was writing something else. I don’t know what Thoroughbreds are there but I have to tell you, if you’re a good enough horse to get around Badminton, you’re a good enough horse. You’re a good enough Pegasus crossed with a dinosaur to get around Badminton. Those are big, fabulous, horrifying, wonderful fences out there. Witness this alarming box someone planted a hedge on and then made horses jump over for fun:

Two Thyme and Ruth Edge Badminton 2011

Suck it in! Two Thyme at Badminton 2011.
Flickr: Nick Kidd

You know you’d jump it. If you knew your horse would jump it.

But in other news, Kentucky Derby, where 19 racehorses run the line between future sire and future OTTB. Orb won the race, so he’ll be moving on to the stallion barn the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18th. Orb made a decisive closing run in an incredibly filthy track, giving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his first Kentucky Derby win. I was rooting for Shug when I was five years old and my hero, Easy Goer was making a bid for the Derby, so hey, Shug, we both won this year!

We celebrated here with mint juleps in our new fancy crystal set. Of course we used Maker’s Mark bourbon because they sponsor retired racehorses with the Maker’s Mark Secretariat CenterNow we have lots of left-over simple syrup that I am resisting, with great difficulty and heroism, the urge to pour into my French Roast and turn my calorie free caffeine party into a more delectable and decadent treat. What did you celebrate with? Or are you saving all your party for Cinco de Mayo?

In other, other news, I’ve started writing horse-centric pieces at Examiner.com. I thought this would be an interesting way to write about Thoroughbreds for a new audience. Examiner pieces show up in different Google results than Retired Racehorse’s does. Technology SEO blah blah blah. I’ll link to the pieces at Retired Racehorse Blog’s Facebook page and also here in a weekly update of what’s been going on around the Internets and OTTBs and all of that. Click on the box to the right of this to “like” the Facebook page and keep updated on lots of Thoroughbred news from other bloggers and websites. And if you go to Examiner and click “subscribe” next to my name, important people will think I’m popular and it will move my articles up in the queue, thus more exposure for OTTBs!

Current articles are:

Racehorse Retirement Focus on Kentucky Derby Weekend, which is about the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and their first accredited adoption and aftercare facilities.

Kentucky Derby Winners, Bios, and Fiction Dominate Horse Racing Reads, which follows the interesting little trend at Amazon in which most of the horse racing books sold are either fiction or bio pieces… nothing to do with gambling! I like it.

And that leads me into my book update, which is that for the rest of today, Sunday May 5, my short story collection Horse-Famous is free at Amazon, and my first novel, The Head and Not The Heart, is now 99 cents at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Find them via my Amazon author page and my Barnes & Noble author page!

That’s my news on a lazy Sunday. I hope your weekend has ponies in it!

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Stay inside, read about horses instead

I don’t have to tell you it’s cold. Unless you live in Texas, where it’s apparently seventy, and then I’m not actually telling you anything BECAUSE WE’RE NOT SPEAKING RIGHT NOW. HMMPH.

Look, it’s my own fault I live in New York, I know, I know… but really, 16 degrees? Is that necessary? I ask you.

It’s so cold that omg omg here are ponies wearing sweaters.

Idk why they're wearing sweaters but you know you love it.

Idk why they’re wearing sweaters but you know you love it.

But luckily there is so much excitement on the Interwebs and so you never have to go outside. You can just sit inside and read your computer. To help you in that task, here’s a run-down on what’s going on in the world of Retired Racehorses…

The Retired Racehorse Training Project finished season 2 with a slightly modified approach, giving four OTTBs 100 days of schooling at Steuart Pittman’s Dodon Farm. (Last year, as the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, each OTTB went to a different trainer, which meant we saw four different approaches to retraining racehorses.)

The RRTP seeks to show off retired racehorses as desirable athletes who can be retrained for a variety of disciplines, instead of poor sad rescues as a lot of people like to characterize them, and for that, Retired Racehorse Blog is deeply appreciative!

Here’s a great quote from the write-up in The Chronicle of the Horse:

The training challenge is somewhat modeled after the 100-day testing for warmblood stallions, Pittman explained. He noted that most of the spectators in the stands at the Expo probably weren’t yet ready to tackle retraining a Thoroughbred off the track, but he hoped it would become a goal for many of them. “I want them to be inspired to learn to ride better, so that they can get the same thrill that we do on these horses,” he said. “Watching these horses inspires people to ride better, which is good in itself. It’s not just about placing more horses; it’s also about improving horsemanship.”

Improving horsemanship in the United States is rapidly becoming a hot button issue, as national fixtures like George Morris bemoan the current horse show model of Learn To Pose On A Push-Button Pony, which isn’t exactly producing world-class horsemen (although it is producing a lot of framed eight by tens in corner offices).

To put it bluntly: broken wrists and turned-out toes might produce a blue ribbon at a big hunter show, but they’re not going to get results on a young horse of any breed or history. Who are our future trainers, then?

CANTER Mid-Atlantic is reporting a banner year, helping nearly 150 trainers and 350 horses at six racetracks in 2012, according to The Blood-Horse. Those six tracks are Pimlico, Laurel, and Bowie in Maryland, Charlestown and Mountaineer in West Virginia, and Delaware Park in… well, I’m not telling you, just guess.

CANTER Mid-Atlantic is run by volunteers. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, maybe you can get in on the CANTER action. Check out their volunteering page. Then, as a reward for your altruism and community spirit, visit their available horses pages and get yourself a sweet new ride. You deserve it. It’s cold outside. Treat yoself!

2013 is the Year of the Foxhunting Thoroughbred, and I’m pretty sure someone ought to declare it the Year of the Foxhunting Natalie, too. I was so distracted by the LUXURY FOXHUNTING HOLIDAYS advert on the sidebar of this web page that I nearly didn’t read the release. But I summoned all my strength and persevered. The Masters of Foxhounds Association is joining the club and offering Thoroughbred incentives for 2013.

Executive Director Dennis Foster notes that some of his best hunting horses have been Thoroughbreds off the track. “They are one of a kind and the only breed that has that second wind when other breeds give out. The Thoroughbred contribution to foxhunting goes beyond just ex-race horses. Their influence on other breeds makes them the most important horse in foxhunting.”

Hunts and hunt members who use registered Thoroughbreds are eligible for cash and prizes (via the Jockey Club T.I.P. program) and there are also ESSAY contests! Fun!

And, finally this author has a new blog post at Equestrian Ink in which I wax poetic about Saratoga and how much I miss summer and how I wrote this novel set in Saratoga, blahblahblah. You can read it if you want.

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Get toasty for OTTBs, plus horsey books for summer sizzlers

Horse calendar

We all know you have one just like this. Bob Langrish says thanks for the summer home.

If you’re in California, you should go ahead and X out next Thursday on the MAJESTY OF HORSES calendar that we all know you have. Because on June 28th, all-around wonderful people and OTTB enthusiasts/utilizers SQUARE PEG will be putting on what sounds like the most fun fundraiser ever. (Sorry horse show organizers! Still love your work! Keep it up!)

From the press release (which I get because I am now The Media):

“It’s Italia, Half Moon Bay’s go to spot for fine Italian fare, shows its love for Square Peg by hosting the second “Square Peg Celebrity Bartender event” from 5pm until closing, on Thursday June 28. Celebrate the spirit of Aloha with island-themed menu items and some island-inspired drinks, which will be made at the bar by no other than Square Peg’s executive director, Joell Dunlap. There will also be a raffle with fabulous prizes for the winner to take home.

Square Peg Foundation is a non-profit horse rescue and adaptive riding center in Half Moon Bay.
The foundation depends on funds raised through promotions such as this one at It’s Italia in
order to provide the most beneficial environment for the students and horses.

What: Celebrity Bartender at It’s Italia (fundraiser)
When: Thursday, June 28th. 5pm – Closing
Where: It’s Italia 401 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Dress: Hawaiian
A portion of the proceeds and ALL the tips at the bar go directly to Square Peg programs!”

I’m not sure where Half Moon Bay is, but come on, California can’t be THAT BIG. There’s like, Disneyland and Santa Anita and then the redwood forests. I’m sure this is right in the middle. Everyone get on your best Tommy Bahama shirt and report back after you sober up. No—scratch that—before you sober up. 

today's weather

Live Weather Center 9000 says it's hot.

Meanwhile, back on the east coast, it is one million degrees with a heat index of 110. If you are out riding, you are a crazy person. Luckily, I have an alternative occupation for you on this fine Midsummer’s Day. I slaved over an armload of library books so that I could write the 2012 Summer Reading List for equestrian tastemaker Dappled Grey, and I have nine wonderful books that you simply must pick up. Oh, and my own book, The Head and Not The Heart, is on there as well. There will be a test.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fundraising, Outside Sites, therapeutic riding

Ignoring the good: A horsewoman’s take on the NY Times expose

The March 25, 2012 edition of the New York Times carried a multi-page story detailing horrendous lack of oversight at America’s racetracks, and indicted the horse racing industry for allowing greed to overtake common sense and common humanity, placing the lives of horses and riders at risk every day. 

Although it is impossible to disagree that there are problems in America’s racing industry, reaction to this article is divided, in part, as horsewoman Melinda Rice Moss writes below, because there is simply no mention of the men and women doing the right thing with their horses; according to the New York Times, it’s all bad news. And that, she maintains, is an annual rite of spring.

Thoroughbred mare and foal

Melinda Rice Moss with her OTTB broodmare/eventer and foal by Hook and Ladder

I am a ninth generation Saddle Fitter, but more importantly, my family owned racehorses and I grew up on the Maryland tracks.  I worked as an exercise rider, groom, you name it. I even had an exercise rider’s license at Bowie before I had a driver’s license.  Throughout my adult life I have stayed in the Thoroughbred racing business in one form or another.  In 2009 I moved to NY to be with my fiance, Dr. Bernardo Mongil, DVM, a 4th generation horseman; at Monhill Farm we stand stallions; breed, raise, race and train Thoroughbreds.  One look at our website and you will understand that we are the die-hards who always try to do right by all our horses, even retiring them sound and placing them in homes for little or no money after their race careers.

In a nutshell, here is my opinion on the NY Times Article:

Does there need to be better regulations and stiffer penalties in horse racing in the U.S.? Absolutely. Even the racetrack vets should be held more accountable, as they often see and treat many of the horses not just on race day,  but also for pre-race checks. I agree, with the influx of slots and casinos there has been an increase of a lesser class of horse running for higher purse money, whereas before the slots were introduced those same horses may have been retired.

Thoroughbred stallion

Griffinite, a young sire at Monhill Farm, was a rescue from the infamous Paragallo abuse case.

The money from the casinos that goes back to funding the racetracks needs to be better distributed with some sort of financial program(s) set aside for retirement of ex-racehorses (a legit, regulated one—which by the way is in the works, or so I hear), better drug testing and research, etc. If you keep up with the racing industry publications, these are the same topics that have been discussed for many years.

Thoroughbred racing used to be “Old” Money, a “Sport of Kings” where the elite participated and only the best of the best competed. Unfortunately, in the last fifty years racing has fallen behind the rest of the major American sports (NASCAR, football, baseball, etc). For many, many years Thoroughbred racing refused to accept sponsorships (a big mistake compared to what all other major sports have done), and so since the late 1980’s, the sport has gone through a major downturn, and had all but died out, until the installation of slots came along; hence the many new problems with illegal medications, trying to “pump” up the horses to make them more competitive, creating an even bigger problem as the article speaks of.

However, as in every sport there are the good, the bad, and the downright lowlifes. It seems that every year about this time—Spring, when all the big money races and the Triple Crown Trail come up—there is someone (often times PETA and some so-called “rescue” organizations, as well as the journalists trying to make waves) that come out with new “news & stats” trying to knock down the sport. It seems to me that in that five-page article there was more negativity about the sport than an attempt to create awareness of the big picture of racing.

As my mom used to say: “Bad news travels ten times faster than good news!” The media always latches on to the tragedies, and not just in horse racing. What about all the great every-day feel-good stories on the race track (or in the world in general)? We don’t often hear about those types of stories. Rarely does the media recognize the Breeders/Owners/Trainers and all the staff behind the scenes that care for the not-so-sound horses, or those that just need extra TLC; people (even grooms and riders) who spend their hard-earned money, even taking food off their own table, to care for a horse that needs extra care, in order to be rehabilitate it for a second career after the races or just for retirement. Not every race horse breaks down, gets destroyed by uncaring trainers or owners, and/or gets “dumped next to an old toilet in a junkyard” as the article so pointedly stated.

Thoroughbred filly by Griffinite

A Griffinite filly stretches out her legs at Monhill Farm.

Bernardo (who is also an equine vet) is a good example of an Owner/Breeder that truly tries to retire his horses sound for second careers, refuses to race a horse that is unsound, and always tries to do right by the horse. My friend Robin, whom you met via the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, does the same. She also follows her horses (as Bernardo does) after their careers. There are just as many GOOD Breeders/Owners/Trainers for every bad one the media talks about. I honestly can name more “Good” people in the industry than “Bad”. It is we “die-hards” who truly love our horses and do right by them, which is why I am such an advocate for the racehorse. Most racehorses are treated better than the average backyard or lesson horse.

These types of articles and the people that try to knock racing down really aggravate me. What Thoroughbred racing needs now is a new generation of Owners/Breeders/Trainers that understand and support racing, and the horses, for what it is, and a commitment to help better regulate it.

What some readers may not know is that the exact same situations (horses that break down, are mistreated, dumped at slaughter houses, or unsound, or horses with severe training issues are passed on to uneducated or unsuspecting “new” owners) are very common among all the other equestrian sports—the Western Show/Reining Quarter Horses, the jumpers, the Eventers, the Dressage horses, it happens everywhere! Show horses snap a leg while cantering in a show ring, or step in a groundhog hole with or without a rider.   The reality of dealing with horses, is that accidents happen all the time.  The difference is that other equestrian sports don’t have anywhere near the same regulations or penalties, nor do they get the same media attention, as horse racing.

How does the old saying go? Believe half of what you read and all of what you see?

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Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, racetrack life, Racing, Stereotypes