This post originally appeared on Horse Nation.
The Retired Racehorse Project’s annual banner event is getting a new home. For 2015, the Thoroughbred Makeover is moving to the world-class Kentucky Horse Park facilities in 2015, hinting that this OTTB thing is kind of a big deal.
Steuart Pittman knew all along that the Thoroughbred was a superior sport horse, as did a lot of competing professionals. But as the eventing world towards importing warmbloods, Pittman stuck to his Thoroughbred guns, refusing to fall for the then-trending belief that the breed was hotheaded and untrainable.
He even began breeding his own Thoroughbreds just for competition as sport horses–and then came to the realization that the animals coming off the track were far superior to the ones he was breeding on his own.
Cue the lightbulb moment–Pittman realized that the sport horse world needed Thoroughbreds just as all of these retiring racehorses coming off the track desperately needed new homes and careers. His first event took place in 2009, a symposium on re-training the retired racehorse that drew about 350 attendees from 10 states.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Mustang Heritage Foundation was finding great success with its Extreme Mustang Makeover program. Pittman borrowed the idea, made a few modifications, and created his own national multi-disciplinary event in 2013 called the Thoroughbred Makeover, hosted at the Pimlico Racecourse in Maryland.
The $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred contest crowned former stakes winner Icabad Crane, whose last appearance at Pimlico was when he finished third in the Preakness.
Check out Icabad Crane with his rider/trainer Phillip Dutton as they demonstrate the horse’s amazing adjustability:
Now, as the Thoroughbred Makeover gains national attention and more enthusiasm than ever, the multi-day expo and contest is moving up in the world to the superior competition facilities at the Kentucky Horse Park in the heart of American Thoroughbred country in Lexington.
With its huge grounds and multiple venues, the Kentucky Horse Park will allow the Thoroughbred Makeover to welcome more participants in more disciplines than ever–though the Thoroughbred is most commonly found in English disciplines such as eventing, jumping and hunters, Pittman envisions a huge array of classes, including hunter hack, hunter over fences, field hunter trials, show jumping, dressage, eventing, judged trail riding, polo, and even western events like working ranch horse and barrel racing.
The Thoroughbred as a breed shows aptitude in all of these events–all that’s needed is the proper education for both horse and rider, which is what Pittman hopes to demonstrate at this event.
With this showcase moving to the center of the American Thoroughbred world, the eye of the industry will be upon the Retired Racehorse project and hopefully draw support to the project’s cause.
Pittman hopes that this new focus will help the worlds of racing and sport horse competition work together for mutual benefit. Just a few weeks after the Thoroughbred Makeover, Keeneland track (also in Lexington) will host the Breeders Cup championships–what better timing?
To learn more about the Retired Racehorse Project, check out the program’s website.