The Thoroughbred Celebration Fall Horse Show featuring Off the Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB'S) proved once again that "if you build it, they will come". The show was hosted by the Virginia Horse Center Foundation and held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia November 21-22, 2009.
This was the second time the Foundation hosted this unique venue, giving former race horses, and thoroughbreds who trained to race but never ran, an opportunity to compete in a two day hunter/jumper show. These marvelous equine athletes have gone from the starting gate to the in gate, proving to exhibitors and spectators alike that ex-racehorses are incredibly versatile, talented and retrainable.
One hundred OTTBs converged on the East Complex of the Virginia Horse Center for a great weekend of competition. Riders could choose from 25 classes consisting of many levels of competition. Depending on their placings in the over fences classes, some horses qualified to compete in Sunday's $1,000 Hunter and $1,000 Jumper Stakes classes. For many of the thoroughbreds, this was their first show; others were seasoned competitors wrapping up their 2009 horse show calendar.
The Blue Horse Charities Division featured Walk/Trot and Walk/Trot/Canter classes from which a percentage of the entry fees was donated to this organization that funds thoroughbred placement facilities across the country. A very successful silent auction and raffle were also held for Blue Horse Charities, raising nearly $1,200. There was an additional raffle for Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue, Inc., of Maryland. Author Anna Ford representing New Vocations of Ohio and her book Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racehorse to Riding Horse was present for a book signing. She was also there to answer questions regarding thoroughbred adoption.
Sponsorships for the show included racing organizations such as the CharlesTown HBPA, as well as industry owners, breeders, trainers, and veterinarians. Dr. Reynold Cowles, Blue Ridge Equine and the Haughey family of Charlottesville sponsored the exhibitors dinner. Sponsors from outside of racing included individuals and organizations dedicated to thoroughbred rescue and rehabilitation. The North American Thoroughbred Society donated two engraved silver trophies for the winners of the Hunter and Jumper Stakes classes.
There were many memorable highlights of the show. One More For The Road, a former stake horse who raced as P Day and earned more than $680,000 during his career, was Reserve Champion in the Belmont Jumper Division. After his days of racing, P Day was abandoned in a field and headed for the kill pen, before being rescued by New Vocations of Ohio. His current owner Chrissy Resch adopted him and successfully shows him as a jumper. Another success story - Silent Thunder, ridden by his owner Amy Steinmann. Before beginning his career as a hunter, he raced 86 times.
Teresa Brookins, whose family history with Thoroughbreds spans at least five generations, traveled from Aiken, South Carolina with her 17 hand gelding Goshen Pass. Not only is this horse very successful at the Preliminary level of Eventing, he was Champion of the Saratoga Jumper Division, and finished fourth in the $1,000 Jumper Stake class at the show. Brookins is the niece of Robert Walter of Vine Hill Ranch, Sabastobel, California, who had multiple Derby horses.
The show's chairperson Anne Russek said the purpose of these shows is to "provide a venue which offers the racing industry an opportunity to provide sponsorship and support to those equestrians who realize the extended value that these Throughbreds have when they are finished racing."
Exhibitor Krista Hodgkin, who won the $1,000 Hunter Stake aboard her mare Well Spent (who raced as All Game), said "the Thoroughbred Celebration Shows are incredibly special. These shows have perked my interest in racing and researching my horse's background. Everyone in attendance instantly becomes connected to the racing world as each one of these horses enters ring and their bio is announced while they are on course. It is truly magical."
The Thoroughbred Celebration will offer three shows in 2010, a "triple crown" if you will, March 20-21, June 12-13, and November 20-21. All three shows will take place in the East Complex of the Virginia Horse Center.
For more information, please contact Show Chairperson Anne Russek at email@example.com or call (540) 817-9263.
(Photos: Top, Goshen Pass with owner/rider Teresa Brookins of Aiken, SC in action over the jumper course; 2) 1) Diana Baker and her daughter Emma, Anna Ford, and Diana McClure. Photos courtesy of Brant Gamma.)