Abbott's family history and love of the Thoroughbred
The November print issue focuses on the Versatility of the Thoroughbred and nine Mid-south riders who competed in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover National Symposium and Expo, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America. This focus issue was important for us to publish to help highlight how Thoroughbreds are more than racehorses who are only suited for English riding sports in their second careers.
RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover has 10 divisions that eligible, retired racehorses can compete in. Those divisions are Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Freestyle, Polo, Dressage, Eventing, Show Hunters, Show Jumping, Working Ranch and Field Hunters. It is one of the largest national shows incorporating an array of English and Western disciplines. Our Mid-south riders competed across English and Western divisions and helped show how versatile the Thoroughbred can be with retraining and restarting post track life.
Those who know me personally know that I love my Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds run in our family and I feel a deep commitment and connection with the breed. My mother’s family grew up in Lexington, Ky. In racing’s off-season my maternal grandmother would travel, by ship, to Oriental Park Racetrack in Cuba. My grandmother worked as a track groom and handler, which was not the typical job for a 16-year-old girl in the early 1900s. My mom said she was always a woman before her time. I think if our grandmother could see my sisters and me now she would be proud we are Thoroughbred owners and try to push us towards every show in the south. She loved competition! The Thoroughbred has become my family’s legacy and the connection I have with the breed is unique and special.
When I grew up, Thoroughbreds dominated the Hunter and Jumper rings. I have seen that change over time. Even though many do not feel Thoroughbreds can be competitive in upper shows, there seems to be an unestablished “club” for Thoroughbred owners like myself. We love them and we wouldn’t dare own any other breed than the Thoroughbred, in fear of betraying them and ourselves.
My new horse, King Kevin, Jockey Club named Fire Makers Star, last raced in August, 2020. He had 18 starts, two firsts, three seconds and earned $41,625. I first met him in September, 2020. He was way too tall for me at 17.2 hands. And he was foot sore. My initial thoughts were, “this horse is huge, and he’s lame, and right off the track.” My top requirements for my new horse were: one not taller than 16.3 hands, retired sound from the track, and had been restarted. Well, he didn’t meet any of my criteria so I walked away.
December rolled around and he had a couple months of downtime. His shoes had been pulled and he was no longer lame. I thought, “ok, I’ll look at him again.” By January I had him vetted, and the following week I had his Jockey Club papers to officially retire him as a racehorse. He needed a lot of groceries and time to settle into his new life. King Kevin has been living the life, because I still haven’t ridden him. Shortly after I purchased him I became pregnant and paused his training completely.
He has now been restarted with trainer Robyn Miller and for three months she has been taking it slow to discover all his buttons and gears. Thankfully, he has come to peace with traps, and flags, and I am grateful I was not the one to desensitize him to those things. Thank you Robyn! Hopefully in the next few months I will be riding my too big, too lanky, six-year-old Thoroughbred and I will remember why I chose him: his sweet face, brain, athleticism and curiosity.
My hope for this issue is to share why Thoroughbreds are so special, and why they are amazing and versatile sport horses. They take time and patience, but they can take a rider into any discipline or show ring he or she desires. Don’t discredit the Thoroughbred. They are amazing sport horses that have a will and a heart like no other.