Tag Archives: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Here is a jockey sorting cattle on a retired racehorse

Here’s something not even the capricious Horse Racing Gods could have predicted: Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron sorting cattle, mounted on an OTTB, at Pimlico Racecourse.

Life is strange and full of wonders.

Now for the record, I don’t know how to sort cattle, so I can’t comment too heavily on McCarron’s method, although at a guess I would say he also doesn’t know how to sort cattle. I think he’s a little taut on the reins for this horses’ liking – I think the horses do most of the work in this game and he’s saying “yo dude, let go of my face and I will totally round up this cow for you.” (The horse is from southern California in this particular dream dialogue I am cooking up.)

But I could be wrong. Cattle sorting enthusiasts, set me straight! What’s happening here?

UPDATE: Wonderful commenters gave us the inside scoop, and their details turn this great story into a truly extraordinary one. This horse, named Automobile, is literally fresh off the racetrack, and has less than a half dozen rides under his girth before he found himself sorting cattle. He was a replacement horse when the originally scheduled horse developed a cough. (So feel better, poor guy with a cough!)

So I encourage you to watch this video with fresh eyes, not just an OTTB doing his job, but an OTTB being asked to do something entirely new! And accomplishing it with relative aplomb!

When I think about how many horses I’ve been on who have taken one look at a cow in the far distance and decided it was halfway past time to head for the hills….

This guy is an inspiration!

And so without further ado, straight from the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium to you, Chris McCarron sorting cattle, on an OTTB, at Pimlico Racecourse.



Filed under Media Coverage, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, Thoroughbred Horse Shows, Western Thoroughbreds

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

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.


Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

Thoroughbreds For All… And for all, a good night

by Kirsten Collins

After the cross-country phase of Rolex Kentucky’s 2012 event, more than 300 patrons attended a symposium on OTTBs presented by New Vocations and the Retired Racehorse Training Project. Kirsten Collins sent this report on the event to Retired Racehorse Blog:

There are so many good things to say about New Vocations’ event “Thoroughbreds For All” that I hardly know where to begin.  The event was flawlessly planned and executed.  Attendees were greeted first by volunteers and then by the sights and smells of a country buffet served in West Wind Farm’s covered arena.  Round tables were full of newly-acquainted horse people who enjoyed the sunset meal and conversation: the mood was bright and upbeat.

Parklane Hawk and William Fox-Pitt, Thoroughbred, Rolex 2012 winner

An OTTB wins at Rolex: It would be a fitting end to a very Thoroughbred-centric weekend! Photo: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos.

This scene played out literally in the middle of horse country, near Lexington, Kentucky.  From one’s bleacher seat under the canopy of a covered riding arena, looking out at the breezy green April countryside, one suddenly became aware of a pretty little bay horse walking in, and then another.  Hosts Steuart Pittman and Anna Ford introduced themselves and the horses, and all eyes fell upon the two bays…and then a third bay…  and so it went until a nice selection of Thoroughbred ex-racers were introduced.

Soon enough, Steuart and Anna were joined in the arena by eventers Bruce Davidson Sr., Cathy Wieschoff, and Dorothy Crowell and by equine vet Dr. Steven Allday.  They passed the microphone between them as they assessed half a dozen Thoroughbreds that are now in the New Vocations program.  Cathy and Dorothy were much alike in their assessments, both seeming to prefer a more short-backed horse (Cathy mentioned that it seemed easier to “connect” them) whereas Bruce pointed out that his best jumpers had been long-backed horses.  Dorothy uses a simple assessment tool when considering a new horse, simply called the three S’s:  sound, sane, and a horse that makes her smile.  Dr. Allday commented on the specific medical issues with each horse.  Three horses were selected for a riding demonstration that would follow.

But first, jockey Chris McCarron brought two students from his NARA jockey school that he mounted on two of the New Vocations thoroughbreds.  Chris focused on his riders’ hands and talked about a technique he teaches called “down and low with the reins.”  It is his experience that this technique produces a quieter mount and that Thoroughbreds seem to respond well to it.  He complimented his two student riders on their soft hands, which he felt was an essential skill.  Chris then donned his helmet, mounted one of the horses, and produced a brief but beautiful ride, demonstrating not only three gaits, but also a lead change.

Audience members were delighted to find themselves auditing a riding lesson given by Bruce Davidson Sr.  Three riders – Eric Dierks, Kerry Blackmer, and Steuart Pittman – mounted three of the horses selected from the early session.  The horses were not calm and quiet mounts; they had never before seen bleachers and a sea of faces in their riding arena, and they reacted to it.  But because all were ridden by experienced riders, their anxiety was limited to a very few antics; mainly jigging, head-tossing, and looking.  Every horse held it together, and the two with the longest tenure in New Vocations program even took their first jumps.  Everyone in the arena (with the exception of Kerry) chuckled every time Bruce calmly said “Just drop the reins, Kerry.”

Dorothy and Cathy got a chance to showcase their off-the-track mounts.  Under Dorothy’s care, her young horse Hennison gets work every day.  And yes, that means jumps, too.  She warmed him up as the fences were set, talking gently to him as well as the audience, and then let him trot several jumps before he trotted in and cantered out of a double combination.  Dorothy mentioned she worked with her horses for four to eight years before bringing them to a four star level.  Cathy’s horse Ready For April is eventing at the preliminary level, and he is flat-out lovely.  She is an advocate for ground work with a rope and trains all of her horses with this method.  She demonstrated by trotting Ready For April over a new jump before mounting and riding him over it.  Her delight in her horse was infectious.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

To close the evening, the wonderful eventer Molokai, still a looker at age 29, pulled Dorothy into the arena as she talked a bit about their years together.   “Mo” put a classy finish on the evening, reminding everyone what is possible when a horse is given a chance to prove himself as an athlete.


Filed under eventing, Media Coverage, Sport Horses, Training Theory

The week in OTTBs

It’s been a big week for OTTBs, but I feel like I could say that every Saturday, looking back at all the news, initiatives, heroes, and controversies that make up the Thoroughbred world. It’s truly the year of the Thoroughbred. Here are some of the stories that caught my attention:

“I’m utilizing Thoroughbreds in a suicide prevention model to deal with the fallout of war.”

Paulick Report and Three Chimneys’ Good News Friday story this week is on Saratoga War Horse, a program designed to assist veterans of war as they transition back into everyday life at home.

Saratoga War Horse is a three-day course that gives local veterans the opportunity to interact with Thoroughbreds in a trust-building exercise.  The concept – based on the equine communication methods of Monty Roberts – is that by using a horse’s own language, humans can form a bond with the animal.  Nevins said with soldiers, who may have buried their emotions and shut down internally, the results have been remarkable.

Bob Nevins, a veteran of the Vietnam war, hopes that Saratoga War Horse will become a nation-wide program. It has already attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, who are studying its effects on participants.

Paulick Report has the details and a video you’ll want to see.

"Chandler" hops around a hunter course. Photo: Bigeq.com

“The incentives of the TAKE2 program should help to turn back the clock by creating a fresh demand for Thoroughbreds on the horse show circuit in New York.”

The New York Racing Association, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders have made their first big aftercare move, announcing TAKE2, a sponsorship of Thoroughbred-only classes at the spring 2012 AA-rated Skidmore College Saratoga Classic (held in mid-June at Saratoga Racecourse) and the AA-rated Saratoga Springs Horse Show, held the first two weekends of May.

Both The Saratoga Classic and the Saratoga Springs Horse Show prize lists include a division of Low Thoroughbred Hunter and Thoroughbred Jumper 1 m. and 1.15 m. II 2B.

New Jersey horsemen are sponsoring Thoroughbred only classes at the AA-rated Garden State Horse Show.

Thoroughbreds have been shoved out of the top ranks of the hunter/jumper show world in the past few decades, as riders have flocked to European warmbloods, and a growing number of new competitors and would-be riders seem to have no idea that Thoroughbreds once dominated show horse ranks, or that 15 of the 20 horses in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame are, in fact, Thoroughbreds. The growing efforts from the racing industry to renew understanding and awareness of the tremendous show-ring potential and ability of Thoroughbreds is key to reversing this trend, and I applaud any efforts by the racing establishment to put the spotlight back on OTTBs.

More on the TAKE2 initiative and other announcements from New York’s racing organizations are here at The Blood-Horse.

“Combining public education with a marketplace for buyers and sellers to meet is a formula that has potential to increase demand for ex-racehorses everywhere.”

That quote is from Steuart Pittman, regarding the new Thoroughbreds For All! symposium that will be taking place following the cross-country phase of this year’s Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in April.

What it sounds like: the best party a Thoroughbred enthusiast could ever ask to be invited to, with demos from Chris McCarron and his jockey school students, training demos, evaluations of adoptable OTTBs by Bruce Davidson, Cahty Wieschhoff, and Dorothy Crowell, and an appearance by WEG silver medalist Molokai.

There will also be catalogs of Thoroughbreds available in central Kentucky, which will assist fired-up party-goers in acquiring a brand-new OTTB before they even have to find a cab to take them home.

Tickets are $35 and there is a limited number. You can find more info here at the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s website.

horse show ribbon

The Jockey Club T. I. P.'s beautiful ribbon. From their Facebook.

The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program, the high-point awards program that will recognize Thoroughbreds in open competition in disciplines ranging from dressage to western pleasure, has updated their web portal with a full calendar of horse show dates, information on OTTBs in sport, help for those trying to identify their OTTB, and their non-competition prizes, which include awards to Thoroughbred-based charities or therapy programs, and an essay contest for junior applicants.

Horses need to have their Jockey Club name available in order to qualify for the T.I.P incentives, but if you don’t have your horse’s registration papers, you can contact the Jockey Club for assistance, even if the horse doesn’t have a legible lip tattoo.

All of the info can be found from their homepage, here.

“Do OTTBs have the same capability for jumping that warmbloods do?”

That was my pick for Google search term of the week. Type it in and it will take you to my piece Show Jumping’s Wake-Up Call, (which happens to be featured in Australian online magazine Go Jump this month). In case readers still aren’t convinced that OTTBs can jump like giant bunnies, check out this video of astonishing Sweet and Low, who in 1983 jumped 7’1″ at the Washington International Horse Show’s puissance class. Thanks to the fan who placed this great video on my Facebook page!

That’s what has been on my radar this week. What have you seen?


Filed under Jumpers, Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

Videos! Retired Racehorse Training Project

OTTB in the snow

High Level, Blizzard Pony. Photo Tiffany Catledge/Retired Racehorse Training.org

If you have copious amounts of spare time, you can spend all of it at Retired Racehorse Training watching videos of Solidify, Four X The Trouble, Brazilian Wedding, and High Level, and drooling over them and possibly making new, brilliant plans to visit your local racehorse rehoming affiliate as soon as possible. It’s simple, you’ll just have some friends over, bribe them with pizza to help you build a new paddock and add a new stall on to the end of the barn, and bingo, room for another horse. You’re welcome.

I especially enjoyed the latest videos from Solidify and Four X The Trouble’s trainers. Both are coming along nicely, but both have picked different things to be sticky about. Solidify is concerned that no one is going to hold his nose up for him. Four X The Trouble is concerned that someone is sitting on him and therefore his hind legs are paralyzed and cannot move. They’re both common problems for OTTBs, because exercise riders A) hold the horse’s nose up for them and B) don’t sit down on them at the canter (unless they are unlucky and lose their stirrup leather somewhere in the homestretch. Oh hi.).

Solidify is especially impressive in this video, taken with Tiffany Catledge’s working student in the saddle and inside a creaking, groaning indoor arena being rocked by a rather cyclone-ish sounding gale. Solidify is much more concerned by the loops in the rein than by the sounds of impending doom raining down upon the party. He is happy to move with a little spring from his hind end, but he is still questioning the student’s motives in asking him to move into the void and find the bit himself.

Four X The Trouble winnows his way back into the first place in my affections by reminding me of my heart-horse, Final Call, in this video. “Canter!” “Shan’t!” “Canter!” “Shan’t!” “Canter!” “Fine but I’m sticking my head up in the air!” (Please note, for all subtitling purposes, Four X The Trouble has a British accent sort of like David Mitchell.) He is happy enough to move forward but oh! His poor BACK! He’s being SAT UPON! This is UNPRECEDENTED BEHAVIOR.

Come here and let me kiss you on your foolish nose, Tempyst.

As for Brazilian Wedding, I haven’t paid much attention to her, I realize. It’s not because she isn’t lovely, it’s because Erik Dierk has actually put together 35-minute training videos. I think this is simply amazing, and I applaud him, and I encourage everyone to watch them. I just haven’t had time.

I did watch the first five minutes of this one, and was interested by how completely different Dierk’s training strategies were from mine. Well, his strategies for mounting up, which was as far as the first five minutes got. I always preferred to get on in the stall and ride out (ceiling level providing). I thought that was a remarkably good time-saver, thank you racetrack for teaching that to me! Dierk likes to take the horse for a walk and girth them up slowly. He also doesn’t recommend changing stirrup lengths while in the saddle. Clearly he has never experienced the singular joy of fixing your stirrup lengths while you’re standing up your horse at the wire before a mile and a half gallop.

Then again, maybe he has.


Filed under Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

Trainers And Judges Announced For Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge | The Chronicle of the Horse

As mentioned last month here on Retired Racehorse, the Retired Racehorse Training Project, put together by eventing trainer Steuart Pittman, is going to do something very cool this year: the Retired Racehorse Training Challenge.

I think this is the most brilliant idea EVER, equally if not more brilliant than my idea for the Retired Racehorse Movie. Trainers will be given an OTTB, thirty days, and a pat on the back (I assume.)

Pittman tells The Chronicle of The Horse:

 “I think it’s amazing that no one has ever done an ex-racehorse challenge before,” said Steuart Pittman, president of the Retired Racehorse Training Project. “It’s a way to show people what it’s like to train these horses.”

I want to be one of the trainers. But I’m not. The Chronicle has the listing here.. they are slightly more heavy-hitting than I am!

LINK: Trainers And Judges Announced For Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge | The Chronicle of the Horse.


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Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites