Saturday, January 21, 2012

My New Addiction – The Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

So my latest and greatest horse addiction comes by the name of the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge.   This Challenge is the first ever of its kind, and is part of the Retired Racehorse Training Project (RRTP), a non-profit organization developed to increase the demand for recently retired racehorses.  (Basically – let’s turn these puppies into sport horses and give them the second careers they deserve)!

Of course, this is something that is near and dear to my heart since my own mare, Misty (the Sassy Grey), is an OTTB (off-the-track Thoroughbred).   I’ve owned Misty for 3 years now, and I can honestly say that they have been the most challenging, brilliant, turbulent, and utterly fulfilling years in my riding career thus far. 

Until Misty, I had never owned a Thoroughbred – never even ridden one!  But many years of riding my mom’s hot-headed Arabian led me to believe that I had what it took to take a racehorse off the track and make her my own.  And I did.

Though Misty and I have had our moments, (I call them her nightMARE moments), she’s my baby doll.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with her and look forward to us continuing to learn and grow together. 
So would I do this again?  Would I take another horse straight off the track and start from scratch?  Absolutely.

That brings me to my addiction – this Trainers Challenge through the RRTP.  Steuart Pittman, owner of Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland, was the mastermind behind this organization.  He has done a tremendous job in building this Project and is doing a great service to OTTBs everywhere.  We in the horse community can’t thank him enough.

The Trainers Challenge is quite simple.  In an effort to show the general horse public how trainable OTTBs really are, Steuart began his search for four Thoroughbreds recently off the track.  After he found them, he chose three professional trainers who would, at the Maryland Horse Expo, pick their favorite horse, (with one serving as an alternate).  Each trainer would get to take their chosen horse home to their farm for five weeks of training.  After the five weeks, each trainer will bring their horse to the Pennsylvania Horse Expo in February and show the audience their stuff!

So yesterday the trainers picked their horses: Eric Dierks chose my favorite, Brazilian Wedding (why is she my favorite, you ask?  Oh just something about her grey mare-ness); Tiffany Catledge chose High Level (although he was lame this morning, so she had to ride the alternate); Kerry Blackmer chose Four X The Trouble; and Solidify (my second fave) was the alternate.

The horses and trainers of the first ever Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge.  (Picture courtesy of the RRTP site).

Today was awesome!  Today the trainers rode their chosen horses for the first time in front of a very large, excited MD Horse Expo audience.  The three horses, Brazilian Wedding, Solidify, and Four X The Trouble were exceptional.  I honestly expected some fireworks, but was pleasantly surprised!  Each trainer walked, trotted, and cantered around the ring as if they had been on their chosen mount for years.  It was most impressive!

So what happens next?  Each trainer will take their horse home and work with him/her for five weeks, taking their training in any direction they’d like.  The trainers will keep everyone updated through FB posts and blogs and videos – I can’t wait to see the progress!

We’ll get to see these babies again in person on February 25th at the Pennsylvania Horse Expo in Harrisburg where they’ll be evaluated by a panel of judges; a winner will be selected.  (Though we all know – they’re all winners)!

I. Can’t. Wait.

For more information about the Retired Racehorse Training Project, please visit their website here: or on Facebook here: