The TCA Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium this past weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park proved to be everything organizers wanted it to be and then some. People came in droves to show, learn about and celebrate what a retired racehorse can do with just a few months of retraining.
The horse who took top prize as America's Most Wanted Thoroughbred and the winner's share of the $100,000 in prize money turned out not to be a jumper or eventer or even an American, but a Canadian-bred mare who competed in the competitive trail and freestyle divisions of the competition ridden by Ontario-based trainer Lindsey Partridge.
Soar, a 2007 mare by Trajectory out of the Mt. Livermore mare Pyrenee, was bred in Ontario by Gardiner Farms Limited and sold as a yearling at the Canadian Horse Society 2008 Canadian-bred Yearling Sale for $32,795US to Ralph Murray.
She went on to race for Murray Stable and notched her first win as a three-year-old for a claiming tag of $11,500 at Woodbine. She would go on to find her niche at the $4,000-$5,000 claiming level, finding her way to the winner's circle 8 more times while racing for various owners at Woodbine Racetrack, Tampa Bay Downs and Fort Erie Race Track.
Partridge, who has built much of her professional training career out of finding retired racehorses, training them in the discipline she feels suits them best, and selling them to riders looking for dependable show or recreational mounts, found Soar the way she finds many of her training prospects – via a picture on Facebook.
“I heard about the Thoroughbred Makeover and wanted to find a horse to compete in it with because I thought it sounded like a really fun way to promote the Thoroughbred breed. I found Soar the same way I find a lot of my project horses – by seeing a picture on Facebook. I liked the look of her, so I contacted the seller and bought her,” said Partridge. “I'm actually a jumper rider at heart, but I wanted to show off my horses' best attributes, so I went cowgirl in the Makeover for them. Being a Canadian on a Canadian horse and winning the title of America's Most Wanted Thoroughbred is pretty cool, eh?”
Partridge competed on both Soar and her other entry in the Thoroughbred Makeover, Lionofwallstreet (Consolidator – Cold Chick, by Unbridled) in the Competitive Trail Class (a six mile ride on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park with one obstacle per mile) and the Freestyle Class (which gave competitors free rein to present their horses in any manner that did not fit into one of the other 9 competitive disciplines offered in order to show off their trainability and talent).
Both of Partridge's horses made it into the finals of the Competitive Trail Class and Soar earned her way into the finals of the Freestyle as well, with a routine that showed off her speed, bravery, ride-ability, jumping skills, movement and more.
“I love the Thoroughbred breed because they have so much try and so much heart, and they've really been exposed to so many things already as racehorses,” said Partridge. “When they find that person that they can connect with and learn that you just want to have a conversation with them and build a partnership with them, they become so “in your pocket” and they want to try so hard for you.”
While the winners of each of the ten disciplines each took home a $5,000 check, it was the Thoroughbreds who were the real winners. The event brought together members of the racing, breeding, aftercare, and equestrian communities and fostered networking and collaboration amongst them all.
“Everyone came together and the different disciplines united to truly show of the versatility of these horses,” said Fawn Armstrong, who, along with her husband, owns Armur Ranch a Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeding farm and also raises cattle in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Fawn competed on Colonel Mozey (War Front – Travel Plans, by Notebook), making it to the finals in the Working Ranch Horse division. She has previously competed in the Mustang Makeover, finishing in the Top 10.
“I never pictured myself using an OTTB as a ranch horse, but he's turned out to be one of the best I've ever had. This competition was a blast! I want to do it again…I will do it again,” said Armstrong.
The weekend was also rife with educational opportunities, with seminars on a variety of Thoroughbred-related topics throughout the weekend from some of the most notable names in the fields of veterinary medicine, sport horse training, equine aftercare and more. Some of the most widely attended lecture topics included health care and management of the off-track Thoroughbred, pre-purchase exams for the recently retired racehorse and the highly-anticipated “Picking Prospects,” which featured equestrian celebrities David Hopper, Bernie Traurig, Denny Emerson and Tiffany Teeter.
More than a few Thoroughbreds changed hands this weekend as well, thanks to the Thoroughbred Marketplace. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, horses were paraded in front of prospective buyers, ridden in small groups for the audience as their pedigree, skills and selling attributes were discussed by the announcer.
Godolphin Stable embraced the theme of the weekend whole-heartedly, bringing a contingent of 20 Thoroughbred aftercare and welfare professionals from Australia, England, France, Ireland, Japan, and America to Lexington this weekend to take part in the Thoroughbred Makeover and network with each other and with American based aftercare organizations, including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and New Vocations Racehorse Adoption.
“What a huge showing of Thoroughbreds performing in so many different disciplines this weekend, from the tight turns of the polo, barrel and ranch horses, the scope of the show and field hunters, jumpers and eventers, the gracefulness of the dressage horses, bravery of trail horses and just the trainability of the freestyle competitors,” said Retired Racehorse Project president Steuart Pittman. “This weekend was a coming together of people from so many segments of the horse business with interests in the Thoroughbred. It was a celebration of the breed, but it also did a lot to create synergy between the racing and sport horse communities, which is the goal of the Retired Racehorse Project.”
For a full rundown of this weekend's results, go to http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/2015-scores
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