Image of Marshall Rooster courtesy of Old Friends
At some point in your love affair with Thoroughbred racing, you might find yourself wondering — what happens to the horses once they’re done competing on the track? The answer greatly varies. Some horses move on to the breeding farm while many of their less-decorated counterparts find themselves in second careers of a different kind, be it participating in horse shows, police work, working as an “equine therapist,” or just riding off into the sunset as a trail horse.
There are lots of different organizations that step up to take or promote retiring racehorses, and each puts its own twist on the working with off-the-track Thoroughbreds (or OTTBs as they’re known). The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has programs with eight state corrections departments that pair OTTBs with inmates for a vocational training program that has proven successful for both the horse and the inmate, time and time again. The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) provides prizes and prize money for Thoroughbred-only classes at open horse shows, and this year the Maryland Jockey Club put on the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show in the infield at historic Pimlico, home of the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (G1). The all-Thoroughbred show will be back, bigger and even better, for 2013. The Retired Racehorse Training Project has a mission of increasing the demand for Thoroughbreds off the track through promotion and demonstrations, and a slew of other organizations retrain and find new homes — and careers — for retired racehorses. The NTRA Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance provides funding to and accredits many of these retirement and retraining organizations.
Once they’ve adjusted to life off the track, Thoroughbreds are such versatile animals that they’re not just mediocre at their new jobs — they’re great! Oftentimes, even better than they were at racing. Take the OTTB Alex’s Castledream, for example.
“Alex” had a less than illustrious career on the track- running 10 times in low level races, never winning and only once finishing better than sixth. He earned a grand total of $815 as a racehorse. Then, he was purchased by Laine Ashker, who retrained him to become a four-star eventing horse with the name Anthony Patch. Together they represented the U.S. in the Olympic Test Event in Hong Kong in 2007 and subsequently made a bid for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
ANTHONY PATCH WITH LAINE ASHKER
Photo Courtesy of Equisport
Another perfect example of the Thoroughbred’s versatility is Maud Star, an OTTB who ran 33 times and earned just over $10,000 in the early 1990s. He’s since found his true calling. Aspen, as he’s now known, has spent the last several years as a therapeutic riding horse at Rainier Therapeutic Riding facility in Washington. Aspen provides therapeutic riding to wounded military personnel, both veterans and active-duty. He has helped 26 injured soldiers recover and recuperate from both mental and physical wounds, enabling them to regain the confidence they once radiated. Aspen was named the 2012 “T.I.P. Thoroughbred of the Year” in recognition of his contribution to the lives of so many.
These are just two of the many OTTB success stories. Though they’re quick, the Thoroughbred isn’t just for racing, and they move on to a variety of interesting careers once they’re off the track with the help of many caring organizations and people. If you just can’t get enough and want even more feel-good success stories, click here.
Christina Moore is a second-year graduate student at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She’s had a lifelong passion for horses, and she hasn’t looked back since catching the racing bug around age 8. After spending time working at the track and the farm, Moore is committed to both making the sport even better and sharing her love of the sport with people everywhere.