RRTP: The Multi-Talented Thoroughbred

The RRTP Makeover and Symposium took place at Pimlico by the finish line. Photo by Gary Bortner

Being a thoroughbred lover for most of my life, I have always found it easy to love and admire the great breed.  I have often had people asking me about the breed’s sanity, and it surprises me a bit every time.  There are always cases in every breed where there is a horse here or there that has a screw loose.  Yes, thoroughbreds tend to come off the track on a “high,” but for most, that is not their true nature, and they change very quickly with some letdown time.

Popular Makeover trainer, Elissa Ogburn, and the beautiful Governor Jack Photo by Gary Bortner

I hope that the horses this weekend put an end to that thought process for many.  In between riding and taking care of my two, I got to watch quite a bit of the symposium, and the thoroughbreds never ceased to delight.  Of course, the normal English show disciplines were well-represented with eventers, hunter/jumpers, fox hunters, and dressage riders.  Our disciplines have been using thoroughbreds for years, though many have dropped off in the recent years in favor of the warmblood breeds.  Though I own some non-OTTBs, the OTTB will always be my go to breed, and I am hoping that others will go back to them as well.

Patti Fieldler and Hapaheart showed that an OTTB can be a police horse Photo by Gary Bortner

What I loved most about the whole weekend was the addition of disciplines that may not immediately be associated with OTTBs.  My favorite to watch was Dale Simanton with Duck.  Dale is a cowboy from out west that uses OTTBs for cattle and ranch work.  When asked to speak about Duck, Dale got choked up.  His love for his horses was very evident, and I was so impressed with him for using OTTBs in a world where the Quarter Horse rules.

The US Polo Association did a very cool demo. Photo by Gary Bortner

The weekend seemed to be a huge success.  The semiars were packed, and I believe that everyone took at least one new piece of knowledge home with them.  Unfortunately, Pimlico has quite a bit of seating, so though the grandstand looked sparse, there was a good crowd there to watch the horses go.

Hotty and I at the Opening Ceremony Photo by Gary Bortner

As far as my own horses, I was THRILLED with how well Hotty handled the situation.  The Opening Ceremony worked her up the most, as we led them out without tack but in a bridle.  I think they were all looking for the paddock.  However, when I rode her out to the track, and she saw the jumps, she immediately took a deep breath and relaxed.  She handled everything beatuifully and went really well in her presentation.  She got quite a few compliments.

Hotty jumping a XC fence in her part of the Makeover. Photo by Gary Bortner

Bug’s weekend was also pretty awesome.  I took him out Saturday morning to gallop on the track.  It was early and things hadn’t really started rolling yet.  It was surreal galloping where so many of the greats had run.  Bugs footprints were settled in those of the greats.   Bug doesn’t get too excited about much other than jumping, but he definitely knew he was on the track.  He ate it up and loved every minute of it.

Bug showing off in the USEA Demo. I love that you can see him up close and on the jumbotron. Photo by Niamh O'Connell

For the USEA Demo, Erin Sylvester on Paddy the Caddy and I showed a bit of flatwork then jumped show jumps and cross country fences.  Paddy is one of Erin’s Prelim horses, and is quite a nice looking boy.  He handled everything great and jumped well.  In typical Bug fashion, he ate up the crowd and jumped extra high for everyone, finishing his turn with a brush chevron that seemed to please the crowd.

Chatting up Chris McCarron in the warmup. Photo by Gary Bortner

I must say, as well, that I was pretty awed to get to chat up famous jockey, Chris McCarron, in the warmup area.  He was very interested in how the OTTBs are being used in eventing and said that he goes to Rolex every year to watch.  He seems truly invested in the breed and helping them to find homes after.  Saturday evening, he sorted cattle for the first time in his life on a horse that had raced his last race only a month before.

Steuart Pittman and the rest of the Retired Racehorse Training Project should be applauded for this awesome event.  They showcased this breed in a way that showed the thoroughbred’s ability to do anything.  I think I can speak for all of the 26 trainers by sending them a HUGE thank you for allowing us to be a part of this event.  I loved every minute of it, and I am excited to see what is in store for the future.

I would also like to send out a huge thanks to my sponsors: Snider’s Elevator, Stubben North America, ThinLine, ADM Nutrition, Pad Perfect, Ultimate Side Reins, Omega Alpha Supplements, Wilson College and From the Blind Side Jewelry for all of their support.  They fuel my passion and help things like this to be a success.  It doesn’t matter how good you are as a trainer, if you don’t have the right nutrition, tack, etc, you can’t be 100% successful.  Many of my personal sponsors were also sponsors of the RRTP Makeover, which shows their dedication to this great breed.


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