“This will be my fifth - and likely final at least for a while - TB Makeover. I wasn’t going to do it again after 2021. But while I was on my way home from the Mega-Makeover, my uncle passed away after a very long, grueling battle with cancer. Through my father’s closeness to his brother, my uncle had always been one of my closest extended family members. While he actually knew (or cared) very little for horses, he actively listened as I would describe my latest horse adventures. He saved every program from every horse show I entered as a child. He tried, in his own way, to be so supportive of something that made me so happy.
He also taught me to never settle and to trust my heart.
My 2021 horse, I had hoped, would be my second forever horse. However, things continued to not go as planned between him and I. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get him to settle into the barn I boarded at. So, I decided to try to find another long term partner.
I volunteer for Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds, Inc., a nonprofit that lists horses available at the Finger Lakes Racetrack for second careers. I found a gorgeous, dark bay, 16h 3 year old with a trusted tack connection that my trainer wholeheartedly approved of. He had a few more races, but I agreed to wait. He was exactly what my brain told me I needed. The perfect number 2.
However, at the end of a very long day, I met a cute gangly chestnut (gasp! I’m firmly a bay girl!) with a face that told my heart that my brain had clearly been mistaken. I showed him to my trainer. She vetoed him immediately. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about him. We listed him, and while other horses were flying off the market faster than we could write them up, he still remained. So, against advice and better judgment, I texted his owner and purchased him that day.
Perry is the town my uncle grew up in and much later returned to for his final days.
Currently, we are following the Dressage pyramid for his training. Slow. Methodical. Correct. Straightness and relaxation seem to be his biggest goals at the moment.
We are working through the typical track feet issues.
He loves carrots and peppermints. He couldn’t really care about anything else. He’s learned from watching his brother that the amount of treats is directly correlated to how many kisses he gives, so he frequently offers me his nose.
Maybe a lesser known fact - I’m actually a para rider (I’m missing my right arm). Perry is dealing with my asymmetry, my bridged reins, and life as a para horse phenomenally well. This smart boy learns so fast and takes EVERYTHING in stride. He’s such a special, special boy!”
“My biggest advice for any Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover trainer is to find a great home team; farrier, vets, friends, and a trainer to help you and your horse reach all of your goals! Find a farrier that knows how important it is to keep your horse sound and works well with your vet. Find a team of vets that have your horse’s best interest in mind. Find friends or as I like to call it, a barn family, that is supportive in helping you reach your goals and willing to have fun while working towards said goals. Lastly, find an amazing trainer to work with, one that will take you and your horse to the next level and want to see you succeed.
I was lucky enough to have the late Jessica Halliday as my trainer. She inspires me every day to do what’s best for my horse and to help as many people and horses as I can! Jess was a huge part of my success at the Makeover; she took Hunter and I to Aiken, shows, XC schoolings, and other off-property outings. Please consider donating to her nonprofit, Buck Off Cancer to help other equestrians diagnosed with cancer.
Below are some of my favorite things that Jess said during our journey to the Makeover”.
“It’s simple, not easy”.
“Enjoy the journey”.
“Trust the process”.
“Be who you needed when you were younger”
“We found Foxy when we were down in Florida at the OBS - Ocala Breeders' Sales. Initially, we were in Florida looking at other Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover prospects to be my partner. We called retired jockey Jackie Acksel of OTTB Foundation and she said she didn’t have anything currently not restarted; however, she had one she thought was worth our time, a grey. She was still in training to race!
I have a soft spot for greys and my mom knew this, so she said we could go see it. We had looked at about 6 or 7 horses before meeting Jackie and I had already picked my favorite, but when we got there and saw Foxy, I just knew she was the one. I knew of course that we could saddle her up and she could be completely different from the mellow sweet mare she was in her stall.
We decided we wanted to see Foxy move under saddle, as she had not been ridden for a while at that time. We took her to a field, saddled her up, Jackie hopped on and she was perfect. Beautiful mover even though she was still a racehorse. I was nervous but Mom said if I got on, went around, and felt good this could be it. That gave me the confidence to get on this huge beautiful horse.
I jumped on and it was perfect. She was so sweet and took everything in stride despite never seeing this ring before in her life. It was then and there that we decided it was a perfect match!”
“Kee was purchased via the OTTB Exchange Facebook site straight from the track in October 2021. She didn't race until she was 4 years old due to her breeder unfortunately passing away. She raced in Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. She won one race.
The day after her race trainer dropped her off, I was in a car accident and broke my arm so she got to enjoy more than 3 months of let down. We started light training in February 2022. She's a very sweet, curious mare overall, though she gets anxious when alone in the barn, so we are focusing on relaxation, connection, and building a shared language as we begin our journey.
She didn't know anything about treats when I got her so she's slowly learning the perks of being in a pleasure/sport horse barn! Our best moment so far was when she was napping in her pasture and she let me sit on her as she rested. We're looking forward to more moments like this and all the fun that will come with training for the competition”.
“I knew Kid's race trainer through a mutual friend and first rode him when he was still in race training. I loved him immediately! He popped over a few small jumps and even went on a trail ride. I got to watch him race a few times (not very successfully) before he retired and I bought him via his trainer and co-owner, Suzanne Stettinius.
We got a few rides in but then he got injured, I got injured (seriously, by a different horse, but now I'm okay), he got injured, he was diagnosed with gastric ulcers (probably from all the stress and meds from his injuries), and then he got a nasty abscess. So I've had him since October but here we are in April and I feel like I am restarting him all over again!
We've moved him into a smaller field with only one friend so hopefully he won't get injured as much. He is the equine version of the annoying little brother who is always instigating roughhousing, which is adorable, but expensive when it comes to vet bills!
Between all of our injuries we have trail ridden, crossed streams, jumped a couple cross rails, and worked on his tricky left lead. We've done lots of desensitization with crutches, extra blankets, or whatever is lying around the barn. Kid will basically walk through fire for a treat. Any treat. He loves food and will try to convince you he's starving even though he gets alfalfa 24/7, plenty of grain, and a fat supplement.
I started to teach him how to bow but had to stop because now he thinks if he bows every time I touch a front leg he'll get a treat, and sometimes I just need to pick his hoof! We've also been working on standing still — both ground tying and in the cross ties, which makes it easier to get a cute photo”.
“The Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover advice (from all of us at Pacific Farms Incorporated) will always be to keep the big picture in mind. The Makeover is a fun show, but it is not a big deal in terms of physical competitiveness. This is not to diminish the experience, but to keep perspective. It takes YEARS to develop a horse. We would say it is 36 months before they are really ready to begin training. This doesn’t mean to ride, or even compete, but to begin having any sort of expectation (actually, never have those — they’re horses) or ambition. We need to develop their skill sets and musculature and feet and all of the foundations. Some are easier than others, but they still need that foundation, and the time frame does not matter.
Racehorses are fabulous because they have such a fantastic background and have so much to bring to the table, but for our purposes, they are green. An advanced Event horse is still green in their first few years at that level. That measure is a factor of time and experience and systematic training, and the time it takes them to assimilate the aids and information we give them. Add a rider who is still learning themselves and this takes even longer. None of this is bad unless you have a notion that it doesn’t take the time that it takes!
We have had several California bred horses from Tommy Town TB through a connection there, and all have been wonderful. Buff Dude had a mild tendon injury when he came to us. With proper rest and rehab, it has never been an issue. Fun fact — all our horses are resales, as we are a business. No one would buy this horse. He was too small, too quiet, not enough personality, etc. People didn’t like his front end over fences (but missed his incredible hind end!). And so…we just kinda kept him and here we are.
We also now have another fabulous horse by the same sire from the same farm, and he went to the Makeover as a 3 year old last year. It’s been fun to have the brothers from other mothers, with loads of talent and perfect brains!
Dude is a very talented horse, but very careful and stoic and sensitive all at once. He’s also not very big at 15.3h. We had several interesting setbacks after the Makeover due to all the things that can happen to horses, but all has worked out exactly as it should and as God has designed. He moved up to the Preliminary level at the end of last year and will reboot for this season. He is a fabulous little Dude with a very famous hiney!!”
“I have had a love for horses my entire life. I started riding lessons when I was just 4 years old and that passion only continued to grow throughout my childhood and into my adult years. My mom and I have a small family farm where we have cared for horses, mainly Thoroughbreds, for the last 25 years. Before that, we kept my ponies at my Grandmother's in Aldie, Virginia. Although I'm not a professional, I enjoy competing as an Adult Amateur in three-day Eventing. By day I'm a registered nurse, but have been a full time student for the last 2 years while I completed my Master's of Nursing from the University of Virginia.
Over the years, I have developed a lovely relationship with Jessica Redman at Benchmark Sport Horses. In 2020, I purchased a young chestnut from her named Tito Tonight. He's turned into a wonderful Event horse over the last 2 years and I'm beyond grateful for him as he healed a deep wound in my heart. I decided to add another horse to my competition string after a couple of my horses passed away/retired shortly after acquiring Tito in 2020. Naturally, I wanted to get another Thoroughbred from Jessica because of the relationship we had developed.
Jessica posted an ad for Patriot in September 2021 and I knew instantly that he was the one I wanted. I reached out to Jessica and she agreed to let me buy him (which I'm forever grateful for). Jessica knows me well enough to trust my ability to bring horses along (even as an amateur) and she also knows that I have plenty of resources to help me out if needed!
We went and picked Patriot up on September 15, 2021. When we got him home we immediately started him on treatment for ulcers (Jessica advised me that she thought he had them and they started him on meds just before we picked him up). Patriot was a bit grumpy on the ground to say the least! I also knew that I wanted to apply for the Makeover, so I gave him proper let down time once he was home with us.
Patriot last raced on August 24, 2021 and after 56 starts at various tracks along the east coast throughout his racing career, he needed some time to learn how to be a horse and about true herd life. I also took that time to work with him on the ground. He learned about lunging, worked on the ground under tack, learned about traveling in the trailer alone, tying to the trailer, and crossing water (we have a creek at the farm so it was a great introduction to going through water).
My first ride on Patriot was the day after Christmas. He felt like a bomb under me waiting to explode. Luckily for me, he contained himself enough that we had a nice walk around the ring. Our real training began in January of 2022 with lots of trips to the indoor. In the middle of January we were fortunate to be able to take a month long trip to Aiken, South Carolina. The Aiken trip was not only fantastic for Patriot's training but also had a significantly positive impact on our relationship as partners! We had plenty of firsts in Aiken like our first cross country jumps, hacking in the field, showjumping course, dressage tests, and our first unrecognized show! While we were in Aiken, my best friend from high school came from Idaho to train which made the trip even more significant. We haven't been able to ride and compete together in 20 years or more, and Patriot's first show included competing side by side with my best friend. Patriot and I came home at the end of February and continued with our training. So far we've met several goals including competing at the Maryland Starter Horse Trials in March (where he placed 3rd), participated in jumper rounds at Loch Moy Farm, competed at Beginner Novice at Twilight Eventing, and competed in the Mini Jumper Division (.80m) at the Morven Park Summer Jumper Series. We will continue to work towards more goals that include going to our first lesson with Stephen Bradley, participating in a hunt trail ride, and competing in Patriot’s first recognized horse trials.
So far I've learned that he loves my other competition horse Tito, loves to eat carrots, always has to pee in the cross ties, loves making music with his loose ring snaffle, loves rolling in the water gully with his blanket on, and has a stubborn streak a mile wide! He was loved by his track connections who still keep in touch and love getting updates on him regularly. I've also come to realize once you earn his trust he will go to the edge of the earth for you and I'll admit that he is the bravest horse I've probably ever sat on! I'm so excited to be on this journey to the Makeover with him and look forward to making many memories with my friends that are also attending!”
“My biggest piece of advice for Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover trainers: Take it slow. Don’t rush the process with the horses. Each horse learns at their own pace and there is no point to rush along.
Since competing at the Makeover in 2018, Buzz has been brought along in the Eventing world. He recently finished his first CCI2** Long in April 2022”.
“I purchased Come On Dover off the backside of Fairmount Park Race Track near St. Louis just before Thanksgiving 2021. He had last raced on November 6th at Hawthorne Race Course near Chicago. I began working with him on the ground in December but with no indoor arena readily available here in northern Illinois, I knew his restart wouldn’t begin in earnest until the spring. He got most of December - March off to relax, learn how to live out in the pasture, and let his body recover from racetrack life.
I have learned that Neo’s biggest challenge is remaining relaxed in new environments. My current training strategy is focused on helping him feel safe and relaxed here at home, while taking him out to experience as many new situations as possible.
For the last several years, I have competed with my previous OTTB in Working Equitation, an emerging sport in this country. Working Equitation incorporates obstacles in competition, so I’m bringing Neo along with the goal of competing in the Competitive Trail class at the 2022 Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover. Not only will this assist in our Working Equitation training goals, but it’s my hope that learning to navigate obstacles will help build his confidence when confronted with unfamiliar situations in and out of the show ring.
While I enjoy competing in Working Equitation, I also enjoy trail riding and my primary objective is to bring along a well-rounded horse that’s willing to try anything. I grew up riding Hunters and Jumpers, and I dabble in Eventing, so eventually I will introduce him to jumping as well. I want Neo to eventually be willing to tackle trails both here in the Midwest as well as in the mountains out West, and I also want him to be comfortable participating in hunter paces, scavenger hunts, and whatever hair-brained riding activities my inner 12-year old dreams up. The TB Makeover is our primary competition goal for this year, but it is just a stepping stone in building a partnership that I hope will take us on a lifetime’s worth of adventures!"
“Social Misfit aka ‘Fitz’ is Louisiana bred. He had 102 starts and earned $674,112. He won the Louisiana Legends Classic Stakes and ran well in several other stakes races. He came to us through Jade Farve who helps rehome OTTBs in Louisiana and Texas.
His second to last trainer Brent Thomas actually bought him back from the last trainer to own him because they were going to ship him out to Colorado to keep running him. He bought him 2 days before he was going to ship out. He ran him one last time and he got beat by a nose on December 4, 2021 and then he retired him and asked Jade to place him.
Things have been pretty quiet lately on Fitz's page, Social Misfit - Go Pony to Show Pony. He is doing well, hanging out and shedding his 50 Shades of Bay. He is being treated for some pretty stubborn gastric ulcers, been scoped twice, and is closely followed by our fabulous vets.
Fitz continues to adjust well to his new climate, feed program, and friends. He is such a sweet guy. Liz and I had hoped to get him to the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover this October, however, we have decided to save him until 2023, as he is eligible for next year. We are in no hurry and want to give him the time he needs to feel his absolute best, and be ready to transition to a second career. He has been seen by our saddle fitter, gets his feet done every 6 weeks, and our vet will be out soon for spring shots.
Liz and I co-organize the Thoroughbred Breed Demo at Equine Affaire in which we are sponsored by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Fitz will make his debut in November this year at Equine Affaire (Massachusetts) in our Demo.
We will put a few rides on him in the Fall. There is a max number of rides prior to Dec 1, 2022 that we need to stay below in order to maintain eligibility for 2023.
For now, he is enjoying some down time and working on his paddock bod!”
“My mare Orena Starshine came off the track on September 12, 2021. She had nine starts and placed once in second place, with total career earnings of a mere $3,392. Orena Starshine may not have been the best race horse but she is showing lots of potential in the Hunter/Jumper ring.
Orena Starshine has been a very sweet, willing partner who is smart and likes to please. One thing that is very unique to her is that she has a noticeable indent between her nose and eye on her left side. We were told she might have run into a fence or possibly was kicked as a filly. The indent luckily did not obstruct her breathing and she went onto race. I was concerned at first that the indent might obstruct her performance as well as the cosmetic impact it might have in the show ring. While she may not appear perfect to others, she is proven to be a perfect partner in our journey.
I am the rider and trainer with the guidance and knowledge of my coach Jill Mills with Two Mills Farm out of Aiken, SC. Jill has been so knowledgeable and understands young horses and OTTBs, as she has owned several for years. I have taken lessons with Jill for many years and we make a good team. I started out with a Dressage trainer working on simple goals such as headset, relaxing, bending and cantering off the leg without running into a canter. Then Jill and I moved onto ground poles, grid work and gymnastics. We reached a hurdle recently with my mare growing and feeling out. The saddle we have been using is no longer fitting her and we are now on the search for a proper fitting saddle.
We are now entering into the fun part of our journey where we can start going to small low level shows to gain exposure and prepare Orena for the big event in October. While we will be competing in Show Jumping at the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover, she is developing into a Hunter Jumper which is a positive. Orena is very relaxed and takes her time to jump.
I’ve signed up for the New Vocations All Thoroughbreds Charity Show June 3-5, 2022 in Aiken, SC at Highfields. I will be showing in the Very Green Hunters”.
“I never in a million years would’ve ever put myself as a 3 horse type of girl, but here we are. My lovely chestnut — who is wonderful in every way — doesn’t seem to be headed toward upper level Dressage (which is fine, he can be whatever else he wants to be) so I started toying with the idea of finding myself a true upper level project to bring up behind my 2019 Makeover horse.
Makeover friends really are the best of friends. This isn’t just a hashtag. I’ve followed Brit Vegas forever. I’ve always admired her courage, her commitment, and her ability. She seems to always understand horse and rider capability and compatibility. So when she posted a LOVELY chestnut that just screamed everything I was looking for, I had to inquire. Unfortunately, he was already spoken for, but Brit was determined to find me the perfect dance partner.
I told her it *had* to meet all of the following criteria:
1. The BEST brain.
2. A 10 walk and a 10 canter.
4. The BEST brain.
Luckily, she knows my riding style, my strengths and my limitations. None of her current sales horses fit the bill, but she knew she could find something. And then a spark that ignited into a flame.
What about her personal horse, Mom Said Yes? He checked every single box. But he wasn’t for sale. Brit made the unimaginably kind decision to sell him to me because she knew he was exactly what I was looking for and that I would spoil him rotten.
I’d followed this horse since his race connection (and all around amazing horsewoman) Jade Favre had posted about him as her favorite racehorse.
He and I together is pure magic! He’s the best parts of all of my favorite horses! I’d love to say I’m “training him” but truth be told, you just have to show him the way to do something, and he does it. Every time. Happily. You can tell this horse has been cherished his entire life, and will continue to be so forever.
I’m looking forward to our future in the sandbox together. I have high hopes for upper level Para Dressage and I think Charlie is exactly the partner to take me there.
Fun fact — with a Jockey Club name of ‘Mom Said Yes’ it’s only fair his barn name is after the greatest man that ever lived, my father, Charlie”.
“My advice for any Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover trainer would be to stay focused on your plan and how your horse is coming along. It’s easy to get distracted and put pressure on yourself to hurry things along when you see others that appear to be further ahead, but trust the process and ENJOY it.
Lucky has completed a few horse trials since the Makeover last year and has been simultaneously competing successfully in the Hunter ring as well — quite the crossover, I know! He is very versatile and has been a pleasure to have in the barn for owner/breeder, Merrylegs Farm.
Lucky came off the track with a surgically repaired condylar fracture and you’d never know it — don’t discount an OTTB with some hardware!”
“After losing my heart horse, (and the first horse I ever owned when my parents bought him for me as a freshman in high school) in his 30s in October 2021, I began to tentatively search for another horse. I knew I wanted an OTTB (I actually have a retired 18 year old OTTB as well), but having been out of the saddle consistently for the past 5 years, my number one requirement was a great brain.
I looked at a handful of other horses and inquired about a dozen more. When a friend reached out to me about a cute and seemingly sane OTTB that she’d just gotten in to resale, I was pretty much over the whole horse searching process and about to hang it up for the winter, but since her farm was literally just down the road from my house, I agreed to go see him after work one day. I pretty much knew from the moment I first met Odin that he needed to come home with me. So that night we worked out a deal for me to buy him and I showed up the next day with a trailer to get him.
I didn’t even plan on doing the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover initially but when I saw Odin was eligible, I thought it would be a good goal and maybe my only chance to participate in such a great event! Odin has been lovely to work with and ride so far despite some normal post-track things that we’re working through in his body with the help of a great chiropractor, vet, and farrier team and we’ve been taking it really slow so far in order to give his body the time it needs.
We’ve recently started stepping up the training a bit and I've started riding with a trainer to help my very rusty self try to remember how to ride and train. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse to get me back into the saddle and he’s really helped to heal my heart after the loss of my old man and has also been a great buddy to my other horse who was grieving after losing his friend.
Odin’s favorite treat, actually the ONLY treat he will eat, are peppermints so naturally I went and bought a 500 count bag since I use them as part of his daily stretches too. He’s just such a cool dude to be around and truly puts a smile on my face every day”.
“My training goal for Angel is to simply make her love and enjoy her new career. Ideally, I’d like her to be able to go in any direction in different disciplines in whatever the future holds for her. I don’t own Angel, she is owned by good friends of mine who have entrusted me with her training after racing. Her main owner died last year, and it’s very special for the family that their dad's last racehorse will go on to be successful in her new life after the track.
I also rode Angel in races, I never won on her but we got second place. She’s always been special. I was there when they bought Angel out of the New Mexico yearling sale here in Ruidoso, so I've known her since she was a baby. It makes it more special for the both of us.
That’s Angel’s buddy Rusty in the below picture with her. At 32 inches tall and 34 years old, this blind-in-one eye Shetland pony may come with us to Kentucky this year, as he did not make the trip back in 2019”.
“I purchased Annie in November 2016 specifically looking for a horse to take to the TB Makeover then progress to be my next FEI horse. Turn Around Tony (another OTTB) was showing at I2/GP and I wanted a young one to train when he was ready to step down. I found Annie online from a private seller. I looked at over 100 videos before seeing Annie. She had the hind end I was looking for as well as the general temperament. She was a 3 year old and had not been restarted at all.
I spent the first several months just doing groundwork – halter rope, lunging, and long lining. By the time I got on her in January 2017, she was very easy to walk, trot, and canter. After the Makeover, she got some time off then continued on her path up the levels in Dressage. She is currently showing I1 with her first time out getting a 70%! Annie is schooling piaffe, passage and 1 tempi's.
I am planning on breeding her and doing an embryo transfer. She has such a wonderful temperament and nice movement that I hope to produce my next Dressage partner. We would typically be showing by now but we found that she had an entrapped epiglottis on a routine scoping. She has been having surgeries to release the epiglottis and heal the surrounding tissue since early March. I am hoping we are near the end so she can get back to work. Right now she can walk under saddle so we are enjoying strolls around the farm. Looking forward to continuing her training and getting back into the show ring this summer! Her absolute favorite treat is the German Muffin.”
“My best advice for Makeover trainers is to do as much as you can with your horses. Take them places and do different things with them. Explore what they might really enjoy doing. Additionally, the Retired Racehorse Project’s TB Makeover Trainers Facebook group is full of others doing what you are doing, so share and seek advice.
The most important thing is to stay in your lane. There will always be horses that progress faster than yours and slower than yours. Do the best that you can by your horse and encourage the others. All of us and all of our horses have different needs and past experiences and will progress at different speeds.
Fun fact about Talk Show Man: his breeder is our equine veterinarian. He was owned by him for his entire racing career and is still active in his post racing career. He's one of our biggest supporters. Talk Show Man is one of a handful of horses to win more than one Maryland Million race. He won the Maryland Million Turf in 2014 and 2018”.
“Mojo was purchased directly off of Charles Town Race Track from his owner/trainer and brought to Kentucky in November 2021. As part of a sponsorship with my workplace, the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center, Mojo was given a spot to stay at the Center and will represent the KYEAC at the Makeover. Mojo is extremely smart and oftentimes quite stubborn which has made his training frustrating at times but also makes it very rewarding when things finally click into place.
So far his retraining journey has been focused on the basics and getting his trailer miles to various shows around Kentucky. He has improved at every show we have gone to and recently went to his first major recognized Dressage show at the Kentucky Horse Park in July with my other 2022 RRP horse, Marie Joelle. He settled in great with the busier atmosphere and ended up winning his Training Level 1 class. He had just come back from an injury so I was extremely thrilled with his efforts!
We are planning to go to a few more shows leading up to the Makeover, with another major Dressage show in September, and will most likely bump him up to First Level. I’ve always found the smart, stubborn Thoroughbreds to be some of the most rewarding and athletic horses and Mojo is certainly living up to that. My trainer and I both think he should easily be able to progress up to Third Level and from there - who knows! The future is bright for Mojo and I’m just thrilled to be on this journey with him!”
Advice for Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover Trainers: “Stay in your own lane and let your horse tell you how to progress. Of course the 2020 horses had an extra year, but many of mine have switched disciplines I planned for them.
For instance, Page went from Barrel Racing to Eventing and eventually landed in Field Hunters, and that was definitely the right choice. Have a plan, but let that plan be flexible. If you try to stick rigidly to your plan, you may miss out on the best opportunities”.
“In the beginning of 2021, my main competition horse became injured which ended his higher level Dressage career. This put me on the path for a second horse to train and show. I watched for months, but with the market being the way it is, most of these horses sold within hours/days of being posted. At the end of September, I saw Charlie posted on CANTER Chicago’s Facebook page and KNEW that I had to go look at this guy. He was a 3 year old stud, only having raced 9 times. He was everything I was looking for. I called immediately and scheduled a time to go look at him.
I headed down to Arlington Park in Illinois. Many thoughts ran through my mind. Was I ready for this? Did I have the ability to start a horse straight off the track? I had started and worked with many horses prior but this felt different. I decided to take the chance and go for it. Boy, am I glad I did.
Since Charlie was still very young, we took it pretty slow. We just got to know each other the first few months. He had very little ground manners and NO body awareness, and with his size (17hh), it was necessary to teach him ground manners to avoid getting squished. He was gelded and weight was put on. His feet were trimmed and reshod. He accepted everything with grace.
The second ride I had on him, we decided to take him to the beach down the road. We had no expectations for this ride, but let me tell you he blew me away. He walked down the road, semi trucks and dump trucks passing right down to the beach. He saw the water and basically jumped in. He has been a water bug ever since.
My journey with Charlie has had its challenges. Putting 8 staples in his forehead was one of those times after smacking his head...He isn't always the most graceful...babies am I right?!?!
Overall, it has been the most fun I have ever had. I never thought that after retiring my long time competition horse Abe, I would ever have a bond like I did with him. Charlie has brought hope to that. He has ignited my passion to ride and compete again and I am so glad that this big OTTB took a chance on me. He's everything I could have hoped he would be and more”.
“Timber Jenny only raced three times and never won. She'd be one of the first out of the gate, but gradually fell behind. While my long term goal with her is to Event, I'm currently just trying to give her a strong Dressage foundation. However, we've been doing a whole lot of groundwork since I got her last June, and she's showing a knack for liberty work and obstacles. One of my other professions is circus/sideshow, so maybe that will be in our future!
We've had a few setbacks in training here and there due to thrown shoes, abscesses, and are currently in some hoof rehab with an equine podiatrist to see if we can improve her hoof angles and general health of her hooves. Hopefully we'll get the okay to get back in gear and hit some schooling shows soon.
I got her straight from the track at Emerald Downs through the Facebook group Retiring Racehorses - Pacific NW. She's super food motivated and loves apples. She has learned quite a few tricks so far. Her favorite is to give kisses, but she also helps me read Tarot to our friends”.
“Storm is a Pennsylvania bred Thoroughbred by The Factor. He retired from racing in October 2021 after 20 starts mostly on the turf, and earnings of a little over $123,000. He was trained by Kathleen DeMasi of Pewter Stables.
Storm is a very willing and easy going guy which has made transitioning him into his new career an absolute pleasure. We have focused our training on building a flatwork foundation and getting him strong and balanced. He loves hacking around the farm and trails as well. His confident and willing demeanor inspired me to start training Competitive Trail obstacles. It’s been fun mixing things up in our training and exposing him to new things. Most recently, we have been getting Storm out on different off-property schooling adventures to lessons, horse shows, and trail rides. He recently attended his first Dressage show and had a great outing!
Storm lives at home on a farm I own with my husband where he has become a member of the family. Being responsible for his daily care has given me the opportunity to get to know him very well and build a close relationship with him, which I believe has helped us in our training.
Storm takes his “Grey Horse Duty” to never pass up an opportunity to roll in mud very seriously, and we go through lots of purple shampoo. Fortunately, he is also one of the few Thoroughbreds I’ve met who enjoys being curried and groomed. He also very much enjoys his MagnaWave, massage, and chiro/acupuncture sessions. His treat of choice is bananas, with carrots being a close second.
My main goal is to develop Storm into a confident and happy horse in his second career. Long term, I hope to make him into an “all around horse” who can do a little bit of everything. Leading up to the Makeover, we plan to attend more horse shows and also plan to get out on some trail rides and to school trail obstacles.
My advice to future Makeover participants is to enjoy the process. I also echo the advice of others to focus on staying in your lane as there will always be people who appear ahead of you. While the timeline can be pressure inducing, I think it’s important to honor your horse’s individual timeline and not rush the training process”.
“My best advice for Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Trainers is to give your OTTB as much exposure as possible. This includes taking them to different types of discipline shows, trail riding, in-hand clinics, and obstacle courses. Don't always assume that your training techniques with previous horses will work for your new OTTB. Really get to know your OTTB and work with them as a team. Even if you're a Hunter rider, keep your options open and your OTTB will tell you what they will excel at. In 2019, I switched to Dressage which I had never ridden a course before! We ended up placing in the top quarter.
After competing in Kentucky, we tried a whole new sport - Endurance! In this sport, you RARELY see any OTTBs that can compete with the Arabians. Up The Power and I conditioned and rode over 500 trail miles in one year!! We have successfully completed Limited Distance Endurance Rides at 25 miles. During these rides, we were the ambassadors of OTTBs and proved they can do anything!
We have been featured in our local newspaper several times, and we have been brand ambassadors for Two Horse Tack and Horse hoodies.
**Note — Up The Power passed away on May 7, 2022 at age 10 due to a freak accident. He is missed dearly and I wish he was still here with me. He was an OTTB that could literally do it all - from fancy prance Dressage tests to Endurance trail rides to beginner lessons”.
“I had been looking for an OTTB to resale with no intention to attend the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover or add another horse to my collection. I had received a message from a friend looking to rehome a two-year-old gelding who was not interested in being a racehorse. He was small, but very willing to please. I brought him home and let him be a horse for a few weeks and then I started his retraining process.
Once I restarted him, I noticed that his personality and work ethic was something that was hard to come by and was going to be hard to resell him just because of the way he tries so hard to please! Once I put a few weeks of training on him, I decided that it was going to be his time to shine and decided to enter him in the Thoroughbred Makeover.
We have done a little bit of everything from attending jackpot barrel races where he is currently winning our fifth division to attending a rodeo in front of hundreds of people. Our next challenge is to attend a trail competition and see how he handles all of the obstacles.
Most days, Mouse spends hanging out with my boyfriend‘s mare and the cats that roam the farm. He enjoys peppermint treats and his revitavet laser therapy sessions!”
“We purchased Fullback after the 2015 Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover. I trained him for his third career as a Foxhunter.
The only way to get somewhere fast with a horse is to go slow. Foxhunting is exciting and fast paced and it's hard to get their brains to slow down once you speed it up. We spent two seasons in third field before moving up to second and then to first. I still use the other fields on a regular basis so that he doesn't think it's always exciting. It's only exciting when I want it to be.
Fun fact about Fullback: he is bred to be racing royalty. He was bred by Darley and is by Preakness winner Bernardini. Bernardini won over $3 million on the track. He's out of multiple grade one winner Stellar Jayne, who won over $1.5 million on the track”.
“When Blueberry and I were accepted to the Makeover, I decided it would be a goal, but not a must-do. It seemed like a lot to go from the first ride to a Training level test in such a short time, because Blueberry and I didn't begin under saddle work together until April. I didn't want to rush his development. In the end, I spent the year constantly impressed at how quickly he grasped new concepts and how easily he added fitness, both of which are I think hallmarks of the Thoroughbred. It seems daunting in Spring and even Summer, but I think many people end up being surprised at what their horses are able to do.
I will say though that I think the best thing you can do for your Makeover horse (or any horse, really) is to go to as many shows or events as you can before shipping to the Kentucky Horse Park. Go schooling at neighboring farms, do trail rides, whatever you can to create the routine of “we may be in a new place, but we're still doing familiar things”. The Park is a big environment, and while I think it probably reminds OTTBs of the racetrack in many ways with the hustle and bustle, it is a contrast when compared to home. Blueberry and I are fortunate because we were able to school at the KHP at a non-compete entry at a spring show and had lots of schooling show opportunities nearby us in Central Kentucky. In the end, he didn't think twice about stabling there or working in an unfamiliar arena, but it may have been a different story if he'd spent his whole Spring and Summer on our quiet little farm. I'm also a believer in dabbling in different disciplines, which kind of creates different opportunities for a young horse. With my first horse, we didn't go above the baby levels of any one sport, but she got to experience the bustle of the Park at recognized events, the challenge of technical courses at a Hunter/Jumper show, and the scenery of trail rides and Hunter Paces, and I think all of that set up for her to be very well-rounded and reliable. (She's a therapy horse now, and I think all of that helped set her up for her new job).
Post-Makeover, Blueberry and I have been busy! We're trying to get to as many Dressage shows as we can to prepare for our season-end goal, which is competing in the TIP Central Region Dressage Championships. He has also begun working with our coach, Stephanie Calendrillo, to learn how to jump. I'm not sure if I want to return to Eventing or not, but I think it's good for him to have those skills and wanted him to learn with a more confident and competent teacher. We went on our first trail ride this spring and hope to add more of those into the mix.
Fun Fact: Blueberry's greatest enemies are flies and water droplets that hit his legs after a bath and feel like flies. He is also the pickiest horse I've encountered when it comes to treats -- he likes mints and certain types of cookies. Carrots are sometimes a great treat and other times we have no idea what they're for and we hate them. Apples, bananas, french fries and crackers are all a no-go. He is Bay but has quite a few red hairs in his coat and tail, which we think are courtesy of his mother.
When we saw him at the track well into his 2-year-old season, he was still wearing his yearling sales halter because it still fit his head. Although he was well-sized and well-proportioned when he sold as a yearling in August 2018, we're not sure he did a ton of growing after that. My husband is our bloodstock editor and says he's the smallest Uncle Mo colt he's ever seen. He's 15.3 with shoes, and is the perfect size for me. My husband adores him but does not ride, so we're hoping they may make their show debut together at one of the halter classes at TIP championships this year. He's not really 'my' horse so much as 'ours' and it's great fun”.
With the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover just under 2 weeks away, #TBMakeoverThursday is soon coming to an end. Over the past 7 months, I’ve enjoyed sharing the stories of Makeover OTTBs past and present from a variety of disciplines. And I hope you all have enjoyed reading them each week.
Many of the previously featured trainers have recently withdrawn their horses from the impending competition for a variety of reasons including but not limited to; abscess, laminitis, ulcers, and simply just not being 100% ready in such a short amount of time.
While it may be a “competition”, the true spirit of the Thoroughbred Makeover is all about advocating for increased Thoroughbred Aftercare resources post-racetrack, and proving that OTTBs are more than just a pretty face with four fast legs.
So to those who have recognized their horses’ immediate needs and made the difficult decision to scratch them from an event that would ultimately not be in their best interest to attend, this goes out to you. 𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫, 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐣𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐲, 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧!
“We have lots of training goals but time will tell what we will accomplish. Mac is only three so I am being super careful to produce a healthy, young prospect who will eventually event.
Mac’s favorite treat is carrots and his Jolly ball. He was purchased directly from trainer Marya Montoya at Parx Track in Pennsylvania. He is learning some cool tricks like Spanish walk, bowing and laying down. My program includes lots of ground work and a diverse cross training schedule”.
“My story with Spot started last Fall, although I have had OTTBs for several years now. I actually own and manage Francis Creek Fjord Farm in Two Rivers, WI. I have bred, raised, trained, shown, and sold Fjords for around 25 years, and I still sell Fjords on consignment but I ride OTTBs as I love their energy, their athletic ability and their willingness. I love working with horses and since I am getting older, I’m not wanting to climb up on any young horse and start from the beginning anymore. I have trained well over 100 horses, so being green and young is not something new to me, but…hopefully in my older years I’m getting wiser! HA! So…the OTTBs appeal to me because I know they have been “backed”.
In Fall 2021, I wasn’t totally in the market for another OTTB to work with, as I had two. A 3 year old gelding that I picked up off the track late summer and my 8 year old mare that I also picked up off the track at age 3. But, my friend messaged me and told me she was going to the Secretariat Center in Kentucky to look at an OTTB. She raved about the center, how honest and forthright they are about the horses that they have. How good the horses that they get in are too. She just went on and on. It interested me. After she went there and looked at the horses we talked again. She told me all about this horse, Opie, that she was gonna buy. AND, this is where it all started – she told me about a couple horses that I might like. She mostly talked about this mare, because she knows I do like mares. I thought I’m gonna inquire and talk to the Secretariat Center myself, see what I think.
They are wonderful to deal with, honest, quick to respond, super helpful. We talked in length about this mare but also they told me about a 3 year old gelding that was born in Ireland. He was bought as a weanling by the Chinese to race in the United States. He sold at auction for $211K as a yearling, imported to the US, trained and had only 3 races. He bowed his tendon on his 3rd race in May 2021, but…luckily it was a small bow and WinStar Farm, a big Kentucky horse farm that was in co-ownership did the initial rehab, and they decided to donate him to the Secretariat Center in October 2021. The center continued with his rehab, he was now allowed turn out and he was cleared to start back in training. However, the center didn’t do any of his retraining. They did do the last leg of his rehab and he was fully vetted and given a clean bill of health with no limitations.
He came to my farm end of November. I had to do a month of walking under saddle, a month of walk/trot, ultrasound again to make sure it’s still okay and if so then I could start the canter work. I wasn’t allowed to lunge him, circle work is not great for bringing a horse back into work. I wondered everyday how Spot would be with someone climbing back on him, in WINTER in WISCONSIN!!! With no lunging to get the winter sillies out.
Well, I didn’t have anything to worry about. He was cool, calm and super happy to just walk and be chill. Not once did he ever try anything, nor did he when we started at the trot, and the canter has been good just because he thinks he is supposed to go fast at the canter still. He’s been pure joy to work with!
My goal is simple this year: get him soft, supple and exposed to things. I will hopefully be able to take him to several shows this year and end with the TB Makeover in October.
Next year, I would like to start Jumping, as my passion is low level Eventing. I love Dressage for the training aspect but, I need more excitement in my life! Hopefully Spot will enjoy Jumping when the time comes for him to learn that. I am mostly focused on Dressage for the moment, as he is young, I’m still mindful of that old injury. I do not wish to push him too hard too soon, so all in good time I hope he will be an awesome Eventer!”
Going into the #TBMakeover, I felt a bit like a fish out of water, as this was not only my very first vendor event, but also my very first horse show. Everything I’d heard about this event was positive, but I was still skeptical. It all seemed too good to be true.
Well folks, I’m happy to report that it IS true.
Thoroughbreds are arguably the most versatile horse breed. This week, I watched in awe as hundreds of them competed in Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Dressage, Western Dressage, Western Pleasure, Western Halter, Eventing, Field Hunter, Polo, Ranch Work, Show Hunter, Show Jumper, and Freestyle. After only 10 months (or in many cases, less) of retraining post-track! From Breeder’s Cup horses to Stallions and even a 14.1hh OTTB pony, there was no shortage of versatility present.
THANK YOU to all of the fellow vendors, competitors, spectators, Retired Racehorse Project staff, volunteers, and adoption centers who took time to listen to my pitch on why racehorses make the best therapy horses.
This event is SO much more than JUST a “horse show”; it’s an opportunity for OTTB fans to swap stories and network with other like-minded individuals. We may all be traveling from different corners of the continent, but we’re all working towards the same goal: increased resources in the Thoroughbred Aftercare industry. Whether that be as a competitive or therapy horse…
Until next year, KHP!
“Bailey and I participated in the 2022 Thoroughbred Makeover competition hosted by the Retired Racehorse Project. We competed in Eventing and Dressage. We won Eventing and placed 2nd in Dressage in the Finale, as well as won overall Champion.
Bailey is a bold mare but she also does have her “chestnut mare” moments. My 2023 goal is to compete at the Novice level and qualify plus compete at the American Eventing Championships. My all-time goal is to compete in the upper levels of Eventing and eventually upper level Dressage with Bailey.
As a rider who lacks self-confidence, my words of wisdom to future competitors is to not doubt yourself, your horse, or your horse's training. The process isn’t easy but hard-work does pay off”.
“I helped list Archie for his race trainer with the nonprofit group I volunteer for, Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds, Inc. I already had 3 horses, so I definitely did NOT need another, but I had to be talked out of texting his race connections three times that first day I met him. I figured being the horse that checks ALL the boxes, he’d get scooped up quick. I recommended him to every shopper that contacted our group. After all, he’s what most are looking for: tall, dark, handsome, kind, ammy friendly, and a barn favorite.
Fast forward to the end of season. My dear friend Jenn was looking for her next Makeover mount and I knew he was exactly what she was looking for. So I took her, along with Elizabeth Love, my teammate, and another of my closest friends to see him. The moment he came out, my friends all exclaimed, “he is such a Sarah horse”! Needless to say, with the support of several of my closest friends, I pulled the trigger.
Archie has, not surprisingly, been everything his racing connections said he would be. He is kind, smart, level headed, and an extremely nice mover. Elizabeth and I are excited to take him as a team and hope to compete in Dressage and Freestyle. We had already planned a Freestyle for last year that we did not get to use, so we are excited that Archie gets to show it off!
This will be my fifth Makeover and Elizabeth’s first. The best advice I can offer is truly to stay in your own lane. Every horse has its own journey and that journey doesn’t have a time frame. Just enjoy the process and let come what may! I’m so excited to be a part of one more Makeover with yet another incredible horse and to be teaming with one of my closest friends!”
“I am a 16 year old Junior who purchased my mare directly off the track in August 2022. I have always stated that I would like a horse from the Tapit bloodline if I ever found one for sale. In August, that dream became a reality when a beautiful Tapit mare named Cybertap was to retire from racing. I went to my parents and stated my case that I needed this mare so badly. I told them that I would purchase the mare with my own money and explained that I wanted another shot at going to the Makeover, as I was accepted into the 2022 Makeover, but had to scratch due to a soundness issue. Unfortunately, my 2022 Makeover prospect is still not sound, which makes me very disappointed, but I haven’t given up on my goal of competing at the Makeover.
I purchased Cybertap a few days after the sales ad had been published. Cybertap had raced just seven times, coming in third twice, winning $2,344 total. The gentleman at the track said, “I like this mare, she has never made a wrong step but she just wasn't fast enough”. Cybertap has lived up to my expectations and has been such a sweet girl with excellent ground manners.
Finally, December 1st came and it was now time to saddle her up to see what we are working with. To my surprise, she was pretty rough under-saddle. I had expected her to be easy under-saddle since she had been perfect on the ground up to this point, but she will be a big project.
I ride Cybertap a couple times a week, and each time she improves. I will do all the riding/training with the guidance of my coach, Jill Mills with Two Mills Farm in Aiken, SC. Jill has really been my rock and helps me bring along young horses. Jill has a lifetime of experience and a vast knowledge of many disciplines. My advice to anyone considering entering the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover is to listen to your horse and let your horse tell you what speed to progress. I am a big fan of putting the time into your groundwork”.
“Lundi came from New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program at the Covington, LA location! I went with a good friend to pick up her horse with no intention of bringing a Makeover prospect home for myself. After about 30 minutes of playing with Lundi, I smiled at my friend and she said, “There’s room on the trailer!”. My goal is to keep him relaxed/confident as I build his foundation as a sport horse. Then we’ll see what he excels at over the next few months and specialize from there! He’s very athletic and has a balanced build, so I’m crossing my fingers that being a good jumper is one of the things he’ll excel in.
Lundi is a very thoughtful horse. Which is one thing I really love about him. He takes in his surroundings well and learns new skills quickly! He’s also sensitive, but not reactive. I’ve put our first few rides on him with a halter and he’s been responsive and calm. He doesn’t like treats yet, but I don't think that will take long to change. My overall goal is to place him with the perfect person after the Makeover is complete. But with his sweet personality and unique coloring, I know he’ll be placed quickly.
For future competitors, the best advice I got last year was 1) “Get your horse out and about” and 2) “RIDE THEM CONSISTENTLY”. They travel a lot racing but some are still quite overwhelmed in the big situations. The easier your horse transitions into big environments and stays relaxed, the more fun and successful the Makeover will be! It’s also easy to procrastinate since there is 10 months of prep, and I was guilty of this last year, but my goal is to put a minimum of two rides a week on Lundi so we have a lot of consistency outside of groundwork!”
“It took like 2 months to decide on Yoda’s barn name! I’m not sure why he was tricky to get to know, but once you form a relationship with him, I do know it’s unbreakable. He is one of the most connected horses I’ve ever worked with.
Yoda came through Beyond the Wire and MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. Bev Strauss said we needed him and that she felt he had upper level potential. We listen to Bev. But he was a sweet, sweet weirdo. He rode like a recently backed horse though he raced plenty (nothing naughty, just very green). We decided to do as much on the ground as possible, with the goal of him being ready to canter around a small course by the time of his first under saddle ride. And that is pretty much what happened!
I sat on him for the first time on August 31, 2022 (but again, with extensive groundwork so he was mentally and physically capable). September 14, 2022 he traveled to Fair Hill, MD to the The Real Rider Cup, which was an electric first horse show he couldn’t have been better at.
Less than a month after that, he placed 3rd in the preliminary round of the Thoroughbred Makeover in Show Jumping, 4th in the finale. He was astounding in every way!
Yoda has a phenomenal brain and is actively for sale (because we, Pacific Farms Incorporated, are a business), but we will happily wait for the correct situation for his athleticism and potential. If he remains with us, he will begin competing in Eventing next year. He is a lovely mover and incredibly brave and careful to fences and out on XC. He is silly and smart and definitely a horse to watch.”
“In 2021, I went to the Thoroughbred Makeover for the first time on my first OTTB from New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, Moose (JC: Hard D S C). I had intended to do the Makeover just once, as a bucket list event, but soon after I got back I kept finding myself thinking about going back and doing it again, and even though I didn’t have a horse, I submitted my application in January 2022.In March 2022, I adopted Cheddar from New Vocations. Soon after I brought him home, we moved from Connecticut to New Jersey. My new farm didn’t have any sort of riding arena and was often too muddy to ride, so our ridden training nearly came to a halt, but I was able to put in a lot of groundwork with Cheddar and start training some obstacles and tricks from the ground.
As the weather warmed up, the ground dried out and we were able to start riding more frequently and Cheddar showed some really lovely natural movement and he was proving to have the most sensible mind, so I decided to enter him in Dressage and Freestyle.
Cheddar and I had a very successful week, placing 4th Amateur/11th overall in Dressage and 1st Amateur/2nd overall in Freestyle, but the highlight of my week was the friendships I made with my fellow competitors.
My best advice to anyone who wants to attend the Makeover is to worry about training your horse from December through the first week of October, but once you get to Kentucky, try to have fun and take it all in! They call it the happiest horse show on Earth for a reason - so make sure you really get to experience it!”
“Egalite means equality, it refers to the French Revolution! Which is in theme of her Sire’s name, Constitution. I decided to call her by her registered name simply because nothing else fit her. To this day, everyone trips up on the name.
I first came across Egalite on Facebook and knew she was my horse when I saw her sweet, kind face. Her first ride was in a halter going through pool noodles. She’s been easy to retrain. She does get spunky and has some quirks, but she gives her all in the arena.
Egalite came to me not knowing what treats were. She is now a Cookie Monster, loving Purina Nicker Makers the most! I’ve also discovered she prefers a hackamore much more than a bit. She’s super quick on her feet and naturally loves to turn and burn! She has a quick walk, making trail riding rough, but she’ll go to anything you point her towards. She’s so much fun to ride and very loving.
My advice for future Makeover competitors is to just take your time. Don’t rush the process, give your horse a good foundation before starting in a direction. There will always be issues that pop up at some point in time, so be correct and slow going into Kentucky. You’ll have plenty of time to season afterwards.
Also, check your stalls! I learned the hard way, but it was a blessing to me. My mare got caught on something and tore her lip where the bit would sit. We ended up running in a hackamore and she smoked her run.
Go into the competition with your big goals silent. Have small goals as your main goal and soak up this experience! Go tour some farms, check out the racetrack. Ease your mind and have fun in between competing”.
“It was a personal goal of mine to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover. Once I moved to the East Coast, I jumped on the opportunity right away. Excitement, nerves and anxiety all followed once I applied then got accepted.
So now I was looking for a RRP eligible horse. The OTTB Market App had just launched and I joined right away. After a month of searching, I found the right horse, American Star, who was still at the racetrack. With all the cards lined up just in time, I was ready! Luckily at the time, I was at a barn where the trainer had been to the Makeover the previous year. She told me that the show was extremely well run and very organized.
A couple of things we learned on our own is to definitely reserve a round pen. Round pens are very convenient and worth it. Order bedding and shavings WELL ahead of time. Everyone orders at once and getting all of your reservations in WELL ahead of time, makes life A LOT easier for you and everyone else.
Hotels too! They also sell out and/or cost higher the closer to the event time. With braiding, get pictures before you hire a braider. Jumper braids are nice for the class (but not necessary) this is the top of the top of OTTB competitions. Judges like to have clean looking braided horses, if you can do it, braid. Go to the expo! So many amazing clinicians, shops, info, go! You do get your judges card at the end of competition. Get it! It's a rare occasion for Hunters/Jumpers to see the judges comments. All judges cards/ribbons are in the main indoor arena where the shopping is. The Kentucky Horse Park is BIG, if you can get a golf cart or bring your own do it, even a bike would be helpful. Cars are not allowed all over the Park so bring your own Park transportation. Overall, we had a blast and will definitely plan to go again soon!
Final price of advice: join the RRP Facebook groups. Ask questions and have fun. Good luck to all of the 2023 candidates and hopefuls!”
“Being a two-time Keeneland grad and a $340K yearling, Ribbon Falls was projected to have a long, competitive racing career. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and after just 2 starts, he was retired.
Within a month, Ribbon Falls was gelded and shipped from Kentucky to Delaware, where he entered the sales program at Benchmark Sport Horses. 10 days later, I purchased him and shipped him to Indiana. He was extremely foot sore after going barefoot for a while, and I spent a lot of our early time together just getting him comfortable and trusting his new life.
Several years ago, I lost all desire to compete and eventually to even ride after riding for over 30 years. Recently, I started riding and just knew the time was right to become an owner again. Goose has turned out to be just what I didn’t want. I was looking for a little older and I tend to go for Bay horses. But, Goose was only 3 years old, 17 hands high and a Chestnut. Perfect!
Recently, I was sitting at home and happened to turn on the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Show Jumper Finale and it sparked an excitement within me that I haven’t felt in a very long time, I just knew this was something we could strive for! So, I submitted an application and I’m excited to compete in my very first Thoroughbred Makeover in October!”
“McClassic is a New Mexico bred Spicy Big Red Guy. I gave him the barn name Clásico after the chili seasoning powder because of his spicy, delightful personality. He’s always making me smile and laugh.
Post-track, I gave him several months off. He was a hard knocking claimer. His last race was particularly special to me because I got to ride him in it and it was a winning one. I had ridden him before a few times, but I had also galloped him when he was 2 and 3 years old and always loved him.
His training is coming along even with a slight setback, in which he had pulled some hide off his flank in December 2022. But, it’s more superficial than anything. Thank God. He loves the baked horse cookie treats. He’s a big pocket pony.
For newbies to the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover, I would say be patient with your pony and make it as fun for your horse and you. Always remember this is supposed to be fun!”
“I competed in the Thoroughbred Makeover in 2019 with my heart horse, Bellastar. It wasn’t until I started working for a very prominent rehoming/rehabbing and now non-profit facility, Ballyclare Farm Off Track Thoroughbreds, that my true love of Thoroughbreds came about despite my long history with horses. It’s also where I met my boyfriend of five years who works at Charles Town Racetrack.
I decided overnight this was something I wanted to do, and there was no stopping me. My boyfriend immediately started searching for horses. Bella had been listed for sale for maybe 2 months with not much attention. She was barely trotting in her jog video, had a little pressure in her ankles, the absolute worst feet, and was just a young, racing fit bay filly that we all know isn’t the first to sell, let alone at all. I knew I wanted her immediately, there was just something about her eye that stuck with me.
I took it slow with her, but she was always game and absolutely loved to work. She has never ever stopped at a jump or pole with me and is the bravest horse I’ve ever ridden. We are now doing the meter Jumpers together and it has been the best journey. We placed okay at the Makeover, nothing special and nothing terrible, but Bella consistently wins at more shows than not in the Jumpers and has competed all over the East Coast.
The Makeover is just the start of anyone’s journey. It's the most amazing community to connect with others going through similar things at the same time. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience for those of us that don’t run huge facilities and the memories last forever, but it’s one show and despite how you place, it’s an absolutely unforgettable experience”.
“Rookie’s journey to the Makeover was not easy. Like many others, we were faced with many obstacles along the way. We dealt with the typical feet issues, body soreness, and behavioral issues as our beloved OTTBs adjust to life post track. With Rookie being a war horse (59 starts, $167.4 LTE) he was set in many of his ways. We took it one day at a time and only made it off the farm to compete once before the Makeover. He blew us away by how well he handled himself at the Makeover. He placed 3rd overall in the Horsemanship pattern, 7th in the Pros and 9th overall in Barrels.
My words of wisdom to future competitors are to enjoy the process and have fun with your horse. If you’re struggling, chances are many others are having the same issues and setbacks as you. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a good horse isn’t created in a few months. This is just the beginning of their career. Create a strong foundation for these horses to prosper in the future”.
“Cowboy’s Hero came to us in May 2021 when I got a call from a friend at Gulfstream Park, saying they had a horse looking for a home. Cowboy is a war horse and has over $130,000 in earnings. He was supposed to be shipped to Puerto Rico to race but after some persuasion, the trainer decided to retire him with us.
We instantly fell in love with him. He is sassy and opinionated but is truly all work. He loves having a job and a purpose. We’ve definitely had our challenges but he has taught me so much as a horse woman and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
The Makeover was such an incredible experience for us. To any future competitors, have so much fun and don’t be afraid to try new things. Take every schooling opportunity and don’t forget to take a step back every so often and admire how far you’ve come”.
“I fell in love with a very stocky little gray mare on Facebook and knew she needed to be mine. I have always loved the concept of the Thoroughbred Makeover and very much wanted to participate. I first heard about the Makeover 5 years ago and knew it was something I wanted to do. At the time, I was studying and working full time and just didn’t have the time to dedicate to this type of project. Now that I have graduated, it is the perfect time for me to take on a new horse.
I have had the most fantastic experience so far and I am so excited for the journey ahead! My Makeover horse is very special. I did the very risky thing of buying a horse off the internet, with limited information but it worked out extremely well. I purchased Juniper from an accredited Thoroughbred aftercare facility in the United States in November 2022, known as North Country Thoroughbreds. Everything Heather told me has been true, this mare is an absolute gem!
I have done all the off-track rides and I am very proud of myself for that. We have been working closely with the vet and blacksmith to help her transition comfortably. Juniper has some lack of muscling on her croup that has been challenging; however, we are working very hard and definitely seeing positive results. Juniper's favorite treats are Stud Muffins (original flavor), as well as apples and carrots! It took her a good 3 weeks to understand how to eat a carrot, she is not a big fan of crunchy treats. I can’t wait to meet everyone at the Makeover!”
“Lonesome Phil is a true war horse with sixty starts. We were planning on competing together at the 2022 TIP Championships, but five days before we were set to leave, my OTTB had Colic surgery.
I love the breed so much and my friend encouraged me to try the Makeover. Fedden came to me from Ohio just a couple of days before my Grandma passed away, so it felt only fitting for his barn name to be her maiden name. Our preferred disciplines are Dressage, Jumping, and Competitive Trail”.
“Competing in the Thoroughbred Makeover for the past two years has been an absolutely amazing experience! Both years, I adopted my horse from ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption in New York. Both have turned out to be absolutely perfect and they are both my top show horses.
Preparation is key leading up to the competition. Bringing your horse off property as much as possible and getting to some shows, especially overnight shows is what I found most helpful. Learning your horse and their needs off property is important because not all horses have the same routine while away at competitions.
This photo is from the Take 2 Jumpers in WEC Ohio where Tenderfoot won Champion earlier this year!”
“I saw Hot Gurl Summer’s picture on Changing Saddles - Off Track Thoroughbreds page during a 14 hour road trip and before we even made it back home, she was mine. She was in Cincinnati and would be coming down to Virginia. Being an avid Jimmy Buffett fan, I had to call her Fin (listen to the first line).
It had been many years since I had a mare, and I was worried about how we would get along. It’s safe to say now, we’re thick as thieves. Fin has taken to everything new I’ve presented her with like she’s been doing it for years. My advice to future Makeover competitors is to get your horse out and about as much as possible!
Fin is my third personal OTTB restart, but I had never competed in the Makeover before. We did Dressage, and our long term goal is to continue down that path.
Fin loves any and all treats and has learned to “smile” for them! Her goofy personality and great brain make her so much fun to work with. She is the horse of a lifetime for me and I’m so excited to see what other adventures we will find together”.
Photo Credit: Stacy Beamer
“Owin fell right into my lap, right when I wasn't even looking (even though every horse person is subconsciously always looking and we all know that). He was intended to become a student's horse, advertised quietly outside of mainstream media, and I was asked to go look at him. When it became apparent that he wasn't destined for my student, I knew I had to have him. He was tall, dark and handsome like the fairy tales say, with a terrific personality, great jumping lines, and big bones. I had a thought of an upper-level prospect in the back of my mind, and my vet told me off-record that I'd be crazy not to buy him. Sold.
Owin enjoys making funny faces and smelling things. He was turned out with cows at his previous farm and met my potbelly pig on December 1st, 2022 for the first time with the attitude of, ‘Eh -- it's just another one of those funny looking ponies’.
I am hoping to make a return to the Makeover in 2023 after having competed in 2018 (Team Show Jumper and Individual Field Hunter and Show Hunter). I finished 7th and 11th in Field Hunter and Show Hunter, respectively, in 2019. I didn't plan on returning, at least not so soon, because, well, I'd need a new horse.
My advice to first timers is to have a plan, but be flexible! Listen to the horse. The Makeover is a big atmosphere, and your horse may think so too, but this is a beautiful opportunity to give yourself a little push and accomplish things you didn't know were possible. The Makeover is far from The End".
“I watched Hero Dragon on the track for a while after my mare died. I was looking for a relative of my mare and found Dragon! Sharp Humor babies are hard to find. He’s a goofy horse who loves his pasture mate (2019 RRP grad, Lucky at Night). I have a lot of plans for this amazing young horse. Dragon is so brave and I believe he’s going to make a fantastic Eventer. He really represents the OTTBs!”
“Hoistthemainsail, also known as Sailor, is a 2018 gray OTTB gelding. We competed at the 2022 Thoroughbred Makeover. Sailor retired from the track in June 2022, with two months of downtime due to poor feet. We found ourselves questioning whether we should make the trip to Kentucky or not due to how green he was.
We made the trip, and I could never be more thankful that we did! Sailor was originally a resell, with his natural athletic abilities and his forgiving mindset. However, he now has a permanent home at Full Gallop Farm!
The Retired Racehorse Project is more than just another horse show, it’s everyone coming together to share the love of one breed and give them a positive second career. The environment at the Kentucky Horse Park in October is more than beautiful during fall. Everyone is so kind to one another, it is truly a magical experience, one like any other. The support, friends you make, positive attitudes, and inviting courses are something you don’t experience often in the horse world. The Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover is truly a once in a yearlong experience that everyone should get the chance to experience”.
“Lad came to me in September 2022, and to be honest, I didn't “need” him. I saw his post by Jade Favre SportHorses and inquired about him, but then was sure he'd get snagged up so I let it be as once again I didn't NEED him. Days went by and even a week or so, and I saw him reposted so I chatted with Jade some more and had a friend with a trailer coming this way so I made an offer.
They accepted the offer, and we found him a trailer ride to Georgia, as the other trailer had filled. I wasn't sure what he was going to be but first, he just needed to decompress and see where he was.
Two weeks after Lad’s arrival, I lost my show mare from a colic on a Saturday at a horse show. We got her to the University of Georgia for a 360 twist and had surgery done for her to shatter her hind leg in recovery. All of a sudden, plans changed.
Lad was going be a resell, but then the RRP was something I could look forward to. So, I kept his rides under the minimum and sent my application in.
Lad competed at his first show on February 4th and came home with a 2nd in the Amoeba 3-Phase. His Dressage still needs work, but thanks to the wonderful rainy winter weather that Georgia has been blessed with, the cross country track was a little wet and many had stops and refusals. Somehow the green bean 11 year old Thoroughbred came home with no refusals and it bumped him up to 2nd.
I'm excited to see where we go from here!”
Photo Credit: Custom Taylord Photography