The Retired Racehorse Project started half a decade ago. When you say it that way, it seems like a long time. But in reality, it has been only a handful of years since the Pittmans spearheaded the newest, most energetic, and now I dare say most successful effort to revitalize the industry and show the inherent value of Thoroughbreds. Coming off the overwhelming success of the Retired Racehorse Training Symposium at their home farm in 2009, the organization had a slow but very steady start with demos and seminars at the Maryland and Pennsylvania Horse World Expos (always a highlight of my year while I was living in MD, particularly Erin’s nutrition talks and Steuart’s demos). At the end of 2011 the website launched, and the first competition, the 100-day trainer challenge, was announced. It was a wild success. I’d rarely seen so many spectators packed in the stands, short of international clinicians. Within a year I saw the price of Thoroughbreds double, even triple throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The entire economy was enjoying a brief uptick, but Thoroughbreds had gone from the very bottom of the market- I bought several nice, already retrained Thoroughbreds for between $1 and $500 in the years directly prior- to competing in the market with Quarter Horses, Paints, and even once again with warmbloods. The “rebranding” of Thoroughbreds had been successful, and a network of education was being built.
And it didn’t stop there! Rather than compete with other organizations, the the RRP has become a bridge not only between trainers and owners, but also between the multitude of Thoroughbred organizations. I think it is this co-operative, symbiotic system that is the RRP’s greatest contribution, and the key to their success. This year’s “Most Wanted Thoroughbred” makeover contest (also sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America) secured the Kentucky Horse Park and attracted close to 200 entries- almost double what was expected, and a far cry from the three horse demos that started the movement. It was, for the first time, international. And truly, astoundingly diverse in disciplines. I have watched friends videos with great envy, and also with great hope for the future of the breed and the industry as a whole.