Versatility of the Thoroughbred


Thoroughbreds dominate America’s racing industry. When people envision the Thoroughbred they think of famous racehorses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Zenyatta, and who can forget Rich Strike’s historic and infamous Kentucky Derby win this past May.

Barrel Racing Not Gonna Happen
Not Gonna Happen, ridden by Brooke Frederick placed 1st in Barrels. Photo by CanterClix

Thoroughbreds are bred to be high endurance athletes who perform at top speeds and power. However, racing careers for the majority of Thoroughbred racehorses end at the age of four. For other equine performance industries it is when most horses start their competitive careers.

In the past, off the track Thoroughbreds were seen for the most part in the hunter and jumper show rings. As times evolved and the popularity of the Warmblood grew, the hunter/ jumper industry saw fewer Thoroughbreds entering the rings. Thoroughbreds developed a reputation of being hard keepers: not keeping weight as easy as other breeds, prone to lameness issues with poor hoof health and refined bone structure. They also developed a reputation of being high strung and not as consistent as other breeds, making them harder to ride and train.

Dressage Buckeye Warrior
Buckeye Warrior, ridden by Holly Zecchin placed 1st in Dressage. Photo by CanterClix

However, with the help of non-profit organizations there has been a surge in Thoroughbreds resurfacing in multiple disciplines. The negative reputation these horses developed is now being reversed through better education of overall management and training for off the track Thoroughbreds. OTTBs are highly re-trainable and can be competitive in any discipline. They are exposed to more surroundings on the track compared to other breeds. They have also been handled daily since they were weanlings, and their willingness to please and learn surpasses other breeds. 

The Retired Racehorse Project was formed in 2010 and by 2015 the organization hosted the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, in Lexington, Kentucky. Hundreds of participants came to compete, watch and support the first national symposium and expo.

Freestyle Supreme Irene
Supreme Irene, ridden by Monique Cameron placed first in Freestyle Division. Photo by CanterClix 

According to The Retired Racehorse Project’s website,, its mission is “to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers, and organizations that transition them.”  

The impact of RRP’s educational programs and Thoroughbred Makeover has been substantial. According to RRP’s website since its inception “RRP’s educational programming along with its signature event, the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, have made a significant impact on the Thoroughbred aftercare industry by jump-starting demand for retiring racehorses and serving as a complement to other aftercare organizations and initiatives.”

Ranch Work Dont Ask Kinmon
Dont Ask Kinmon, ridden by Alice Beckman placed first in Ranchwork. Photo by CanterClix

Since 2013, 4,048 entries have been accepted from 46 American states and four Canadian provinces. And while not every horse registered will compete in Lexington, Ky, 3,641 horses have been impacted by the Makeover process.

Kristen Kovatch Bentley, Communication Manager for RRP said, “While the Makeover is not for every horse retiring from racing, the educational structure of the competition process ensures that participating horses transition smoothly to their next chapter after the track.”

Eventing She's A Bold One
She’s a Bold One ridden by Jenna Denver, a Junior rider, places 1st in Eventing. Photo by CanterClix

RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America took place October 12- 15. RRP hosted 281 horses in 426 individual performances across ten riding sports: Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Dressage, Eventing, Field Hunters, Freestyle, Polo, Ranch Work, Show Hunters and Show Jumpers. 

The Mid-south had over 10 riders and horses compete in Lexington at the Makeover. We take a closer look at the  mid-south competitors and their retired racehorses; why they choose an OTTB, as well as their biggest challenges throughout the retraining process and their goals for their Thoroughbreds’ second careers. 

Show Hunter Racing Ace
Racing Ace, ridden by Amanda Gomez placed 1st in Show Hunters.
Show Jumper Prince of New York
Prince of New York, ridden by Chris Bennings place 1st in Show Jumpers. Photo b CanterClix
Polo Anna One Anna Two
Anna One Anna Two by Bushwood Polo (Team) placed 1st in Polo. Photo by CanterClix
Field Hunter Mike Mike (and field)
Mike Mike, ridden by Cameron Sadler placed 1st in Field Hunters. Photo by CanterClix
Competitive Trail Hieronymus
Hieronymus, ridden by Isabel Wells, a Junior rider, placed 1st in Competitive Trail. Photo by CanterClix

Lauren Abbott

Lauren is a lifelong equestrian. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. Lauren has worked in Journalism for over 20 years and has served as a staff writer, designer, photographer, audience and business development consultant, & advertising senior executive. She is the Owner & Publisher of MSHR, and CEO of Ford Abbott Media, LLC, the parent company of the Horse Review and Hunt & Field Magazine.

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