RRP’s 2020 Master Class Series Kicks Off Friday at Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field

Buck Davidson and the late Archie Rocks in the 2018 Fair Hill CCI4*-L, where they finished 3rd. Bred in Michigan by Sharon Smith, the OTTB won $32,176 in 30 starts, racing under the Jockey Club name Smittys Messiah (Le Monde x Unbridled Diva, by Unbridled Jet).Photo by Shelby Allen.

Spectators at the LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in Aiken, SC will enjoy a real treat on Friday when five-star eventers Buck Davidson and Phillip Dutton headline a Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) Master Class. The RRP’s innovative demonstration allows spectators the opportunity to observe how experienced horsemen and horsewomen analyze off-track Thoroughbred prospects and demonstrate their approach to the first rides in a second career.

Davidson and Dutton will share their insight on selecting and restarting the off-track Thoroughbred in a unique format for the Master Class: Dutton will demonstrate his process himself, while Davidson will coach two riders — RRP Thoroughbred Makeover veterans Brit Vegas Gengenbach and Jordan Pruiksma — from the ground. Horses will be provided by Equine Rescue of Aiken, and after the participating trainers analyze their conformation and movement, they’ll be randomly paired with a horse and put their methods into action. Eventing coach Richard Lamb will provide additional commentary.

2014 $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest winners Icabad Crane and Phillip Dutton. Graham and Anita Motion’s former star racehorse (Jump Start  x Adorahy by Rahy) went on to compete at the two-star level, winning the Plantation Field CCI2*-S in 2015, and Phillip has continued championing the breed for eventing. Photo by Megan Stapley Photography, courtesy of the Retired Racehorse Project.

The RRP Master Class will take place at the conclusion of dressage on Friday, Feb. 28 in Jumper Ring 1 at approximately 2 p.m. ET. The demonstration should last about an hour and a half, and is free to attend within the LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field.

The original Master Class, which debuted at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, was the brainchild of the RRP’s managing director Kirsten Green, who was inspired by the RRP’s founder Stuart Pittman recalling a colt-starting competition he had observed at the Colorado Horse Expo. Green applied the concept to off-track Thoroughbreds, but removed the competitive aspect, creating the Master Class and showcasing that in restarting the OTTB, there are many roads to get to the same goal.

Elisa Wallace was a featured trainer in the 2019 Master Class at the Thoroughbred Makeover, demonstrating her unique brand of horsemanship with a challenging horse. She worked alongside racing and restarting trainer Douglas Nunn and Grand Prix dressage trainer Emily Brollier Curtis to demonstrate three vastly different approaches that all worked toward the same goal: a relaxed horse that had taken his first successful step into a second career.

While the RRP is perhaps best-known for the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium — the world’s largest and most lucrative annual retraining competition that draws hundreds of professional, amateur, junior and team competitors from across North America with recently-restarted OTTBs — an important component of the organization’s mission to increase demand for Thoroughbreds in second careers is providing education to the equestrian industry. That’s why in 2020, the RRP Master Class is hitting the road, with at least three more demonstrations on the schedule.

“The RRP was created with a focus on expanding the market for Thoroughbreds after racing as sport horses and we’ve seen the Makeover serve that mission in a tremendous way,” said RRP executive director Jen Roytz. “The Master Class is a different spin on that. Attendees get to see several top professionals simultaneously take and explain their first rides on recently-retired racehorses, and what the subsequent months of training would look like if the horse were in their program. No two clinics have ever been the same – everyone has their own approach and offer tips, tricks and techniques that work for them — but they’ve always been extremely interesting and educational.”

Spectators can find the RRP Master Class — which will feature a different set of experienced trainers and new horses provided by an aftercare organization — at US Pony Club Championships on July 18 at the Kentucky Horse Park; at the Thoroughbred Makeover on Oct. 9; and at the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event, Nov. 12-15 (specific date to be determined). Additional dates may be announced at other events throughout the year.

For more information about Friday’s RRP Master Class and the Retired Racehorse Project, please visit the organization’s website.