Tag Archives: Rolex

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

Thoroughbreds On Sale at Suffolk!

Summer is over and gone (at least in the Northeast) and if you’re a Thoroughbred at Suffolk Downs in Boston, you’re getting ready for a change of scenery. The 2011 meet ends on November 5th, and while a lot of trainers head south to Florida for the winter season, they aren’t usually keen on taking all of their horses.

It’s a long, expensive trip, and Florida’s three-track winter racing circuit is tougher than Suffolk’s.

CANTER New England gets busy every fall at Suffolk, connecting with trainers to find out which horses they think are ready for new careers, and providing them with listings on the organization’s website.

Trainer-listed horses are not adoptions — purchasers are buying directly from the trainer — which means they’re not bound by an adoption contract. Sporthorse trainers looking for project horses, take note!

There are more than one hundred horses currently listed, in all ages, sizes, colors, and breedings.

I’ll feature a few in their own posts, but here’s a tantalizing preview of what they have to offer…

Cajun Quickstep, 16.3 4 yo gelding

Cajun Quickstep, 16.3 4 yo gelding

Like size on your horse? Got long legs? Cajun Quickstep is 16.3 hands high and has he ever got a gorgeous body! Excuse me while I drool over that croup for a while. Oh wait, I have to admire his shoulder… Now I’m picturing myself jogging him at Rolex for the horse inspection…

Okay, I’m back.

Cajun Quickstep is listed at $750.

Someone buy this horse before I do something stupid.


LINK: NE Trainer Listings – Page 1 of 3.





Filed under Outside Sites, Retirement Options, Selling Horses, Sport Horses, Uncategorized

A Favorite Horse Novel – Riding Lessons

Messing about on BN.com, I just found this review I wrote (originally at the now-defunct Union Square Stables blog) of Sara Gruen’s Riding Lessons.

YOU GUYS. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I don’t have it anymore, and I’m going to have to go see if I can find it. A used-bookstore excursion may be in my future. I know it’s in beautiful new editions now, with the success of her other little book, Water for Elephants. (You may have heard of it. I didn’t get very far into it, myself.)

Sara Gruen's Riding Lessons is one of my favorite horse novels!

Take a look at the review and then check out this great little horsey novel!


I recently lost two afternoons of potential farm work due to a fabulous gut-wrencher of a horsey novel: Riding Lessons, by Sara Gruen.

Sara is much more famous for Water for Elephants, her New York Times bestseller. I never got around to reading it and all six of the local copies were checked out, so I suppose it’s still quite popular.

But this book – oh, it is unapologetic in its horsiness. She could have dumbed it down and made it a bestseller, perhaps, and I love her so much for keeping it technical. You’ll just have to know the difference between French and German dressage, won’t you, if you want to understand why the new trainer has such an impact on the main character, and if you can’t decipher why she would have preferred the bit wasn’t a slow twist, well you’ll just have to wonder forever. Or take the effort to google it.

Annemarie, the fallen Olympian, the Girl Wonder who took a bad fall right before Rolex, lost her horse, and never went near another one, is a protaganist easy to relate to, for those of us that gave up riding and are slowly rediscovering it. Perhaps we don’t all have falls as tragic or as life-changing as hers, but they still remain in your mind, years later, making you a bit windy when you think of getting back on a horse. Or, in Annemarie’s case, even going near a horse.

But when things fall apart, horses are always there, even when you think you’ve abandoned them for good.

The horse of this book is unexpected, as much for his coloring (“brindled chestnut”) as for his breed. I cannot quite figure out why Sara Gruen would make a four-star event horse a Hanoverian instead of a Thoroughbred – especially when Annemarie’s original horse would have been competing in the mid-80s, while Thoroughbreds still ruled eventing.

I also don’t understand why she shattered his pastern (don’t worry, it’s in the first six pages) during a stadium course.. it would have been much more probable for him to have had a heart attack. Perhaps she was shying away from making it too close to the death of Sailor in “Riders”, since there are a few phrases that make me think she’s read Jilly Cooper’s amazingly trashy and fabulous show-jumping novel.

But Sara makes up for these tiny confusions with a completely immersive writing style. Not to say the entire book, but in a few of the riding scenes, like…

“I tighten my fingers, No, no, no Harry, not yet, I’ll let you, but not yet, and his ears prick forward, together this time, and he says, All right, and gives me a collected canter that feels like a rocking horse, so high on the up and so low on the down.”

It goes on.

Don’t you just love it? The cadence of the sentence, the way it pauses slightly for each comma and then just carries on, pause, carry on, pause, carry on – it’s a canter stride, and then the next sentence, a breathless rush – that’s the fence .

There is a simply beautiful paragraph about a horse’s death, imagined, that is, that I cannot share out of context, it would just be wrong. But do read it.

Plotline, oh yes, there’s a plotline, an insurance scheme, a good-looking vet that clearly reads Fugly Horse of the Day first thing every morning, a seductive French dressage trainer, a rebellious teenager, a boring non-horsey husband, autocratic parents in crisis. Everything, in short, that you need.


Filed under Outside Sites, writing

New Names vs Jockey Club Names

A horse on cross-country, showing the "ev...

Image via Wikipedia

So first, Liz (@nythoroughbred) shares this great link at Chronicle of the Horse: “Celebrating Former Racehorses at Rolex,” and I get very excited reading it. Obviously it comes to no surprise to any of us that OTTBs are the best eventers (and everything else) but it is fun to see them get press for being so awesome.

Then I read this line, which blew my mind as much as it must have done the writer’s (Allie Conrad of CANTER) when she suggested an OTTB award at Rolex to the organizers:

“I think it’s a great idea, but I think you’ll be disappointed about finding someone to award it to—Rolex horses have all been purpose-bred for the sport of eventing,” I was told.

Duh what?

So Conrad had to inform the organizers (of Rolex? My heart is broken.) of the reality of Where Event Horses Come From, and she had some fun doing so, naming the 17 of 33 Rolex entries at the 2011 event.

In her blog post she lists the horse as well as the horse’s Jockey Club name and sire and dam.

Now, here is my question. Retired racehorse. Show name or Jockey Club name?

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’m on team Jockey Club name. Bon Appeal, Final Call, and all my broodmares – they’ve always been referred to by their Jockey Club names. I think we should all be on Team Jockey Club name, and this is why: I think it would be easier to track great sport-horse bloodlines and successful OTTBs if their names didn’t change.

And here is my proof:

Shiraz: ridden and owned by Colleen Rutledge. His Jockey Club name is “Bold and Burley,” by Gallapiat out of Bold Blossom. He raced 14 times with 2 wins and just over $14,000 in earnings.

Gallapiat isn’t the most familiar of names. But this horse produced my amazing mare, Gallapiatsprincess, who was the toughest tank of a horse you’d ever run across – with an amazing trot, to boot. She had two foals for us, Princess For A Day and Sunset Park, both of whom were built just like her – wonderfully sound, compact bodies, the picture of toughness, with worrisome levels of intelligence and arrogance. In short, awesome sport horse prospects.

Would I seek out another Gallapiat for eventing, knowing this? Hell yes I would! Would you? Probably not, because you didn’t know one personally, and you didn’t know Shiraz was one!

That’s my argument. Give me yours.

Sunset Park

A beastly grandson of Gallapiat


Filed under eventing, Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Sport Horses