Racehorses-Turned Hunter/Jumpers Show Off Their Skills

I know I just featured New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program a couple weeks ago, but I wanted to bring to attention the fact that the organization hosted its final Thoroughbred event last weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park, and it was, once again, a success.

Nearly 40 Thoroughbreds gathered July 11 at the Lexington-based facility to compete in two Thoroughbred restricted Hunter/Jumper classes.

New Vocations Racehorse partnered with the Robert Murphy Horse Show and put on the event, where Thoroughbreds from many of the Midwest and East Coast states traveled to participate.

“If you build it they will come right?” said New Vocations Program director Anna Ford in a release. “If we create venues where horses leaving the track can show and compete against other Thoroughbreds, the classes are sure to be full.”

This was definitely true for the New Vocations Thoroughbred Hunter Classic sponsored by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, as well as the New Vocations Mini Prix, sponsored by Castleton Lyons, when 38 Thoroughbreds competed for a total of $5,000 in prize money.

The event drew many spectators as the announcer read a brief history on each horse as it entered the arena to be judged over a course of fences. Their histories ranged from graded stakes winners with earnings more than $100,000 to horses that only raced a couple times earning next to nothing.

Sarah Reilly with her 5-year-old gelding Paris Review won the $2,500 New Vocations Hunter Classic sponsored by the National HBPA and NTRA. Paris Review, a son of Commendable, was bred with the intentions to be sold at one of Keeneland’s sales by Mill Ridge Farm and Joe Dodgen.

When it became clear that he would not be very marketable at auction, however, Reilly and her husband, Sean, privately purchased the colt and developed him into a show horse.

Sarah Reilly and Paris Review

“We loved the colt so much that we actually went back and purchased his dam Chosen Ticket,” said Reilly in a statement. “I think many people have forgotten how good a Thoroughbred can be in the show ring. I personally prefer a Thoroughbred over any other breed and I would love to see more opportunities for them to compete.”

Allison Davidson with 16-year-old Sweet William (show name) won the $2,500 New Vocations Mini Prix sponsored by Castleton Lyons. Although the gelding’s tattoo is now unreadable and race record unknown, he clearly did race in his younger years.

Allison Davidson and Sweet William

What is known of Sweet William's history is that following his racing career he became a very successful eventer. Now owned and trained by Elaine Schott from River Mountain Farm and shown by Davidson, he has excelled as a jumper.

“The Thoroughbreds have great heart, and they always try so hard to please their rider,” explained Schott in a release. “I think these types of classes help showcase the versatility of this breed.”

“It’s truly touching to see so many Thoroughbreds who spent the first part of their life going around a racetrack now enjoying the second half going around a show arena,” said Ford in a statement at the conclusion of the event. “This is just the beginning to something that I know will grow into a much larger and hopefully, trend setting event.”

Here’s a short Q&A that I conducted with Anna Ford following the event:

EM: What do you love most about the work that you do?

AF: That is a hard question. I love so much of what I do. Every week we have trailers pull in and it's like Christmas for all of us here. We can't wait to see who is coming in next. It is very rewarding to see how in just a couple weeks each horse starts to adjust and learn more about their new life and career. All and all the highlight of everyday is when one of our horses gets adopted and is put back on the trailer to go on to their new home. It's like a revolving door around here. Each day is a new day with new horses, new challenges, but new joys too.

EM: Why do you think it's important for Thoroughbred racehorses to have a second career if they can?

AF: Most of these horses love having a job. Many have been at the racetrack for a couple years or more. Every day they have a job to do and they do it. When you take that away from some of them and just turn them out, they really don't know what to do.

It's like taking a business man who works 70 hours a week and dropping him off in the wilderness. The lack of structure alone would be unbearable for him. So here at New Vocations we keep their daily life very structured. We slowly adjust them to turn out, socializing with other horses, and being ridden in an arena. Everything is very new to them so we just take it slow and adjust at the pace they feel comfortable with. Most of them excel with the structure and love having something to do. Even if it is just trail riding or arena work for 15 minutes, they love having a job.

EM: What can we do to try and promote more of these shows?

AF: I would like to see the United States Equestrian or the United States Hunter Jumper Association create some Thoroughbred divisions. If we are able to make changes at the top, then both the rated and unrated shows will add the divisions to their current prize list. To me it seems very simple. We need to get rid of the non-Thoroughbred division and change it to the Thoroughbred Division.


Leave a Comment:


This is terrific!  Finding a job for the right horses in retirement - congratulations to everyone.

Decades ago when I was learning to ride there was an aged Thoroughbred gelding at the school named Extra Points who used to be a hurdler/steeplechaser.  He was never a pussycat under saddle, but he was honest and patient and jumped straight and true and convinced a lot of young riders that they, too, could have confidence over jumps.

There are a lot of "hot" racehorses who might not be suited for shows and fewer who are calm enough to be school horses, but it's tremendous how many people are making the time to find second lives for these wonderful spirits!

15 Jul 2010 2:52 PM

All I have are thoroughbreds!  They are athletic and quick to learn.

15 Jul 2010 4:20 PM
Blue Blue Sea

As a lover of the OTTB, I am so happy you are writing these articles. They are amazing and gifted individuals and they should be thought of more for such disciplines when their racing days are throgh.

15 Jul 2010 4:21 PM

I was at the show and was SO impressed by how many people turned out to watch the show. There were hardly any spectators all afternoon, but as the New Vocations classes were starting, crowds began forming at both the Hunter and Jumper rings.

Congrats to New Vocations on another successful event and to all of the riders who took the plunge to compete!

15 Jul 2010 4:39 PM

This is just wonderful to hear about successful re-training.  We need to get the word out about just how wonderful Thoroughbreds are.  Before I worked with them on a breeding farm for 9 years I didn't realize how responsive,adaptable and eager to learn these gorgeous animals are. They deserve love and need respect and respond accordingly.  They are just remarkable.

15 Jul 2010 5:39 PM
Chris Glover

We have an OTTB we acquired from New Vocations.  It was our intent to make it to this show with Hay Mazel but our daughter is chasing her dream of being a horse trainer by working with Tommy Garland.  hay Mazel continues to be worked and trained by our trainer who just loves him...Maybe next year she will ride him in this show!

15 Jul 2010 7:17 PM

I'm still waiting for the day it's not a "second" career, but their beauty and athletecism is valued as a first career...that's the one thing the Quarter Horse people have right...

Isn't With Anticipation being used in Cross Country, I thought I read that somewhere...I'm happy if he is...loved that horse.

15 Jul 2010 7:17 PM

I'm so happy to see these good people and their horses getting the attention they deserve.  Well done!

16 Jul 2010 7:25 AM

What a wonderful idea...classes specifically for Thoroughbreds.  I, personally, have 6 TB off the race trace...losers I might add.  They have learned a new job with me and I am so honored to ride them everyday.  They truly have HUGE hearts with the intellect to excel in my particular sport.  I have my "old man" who I bought off the racetrack 16 years ago.  He raced 50 races until the age of 6 and now at the age of 22, is still going strong.  My love of TB's will never cease.  Congratulations again to such a wonderful organization.

16 Jul 2010 8:53 AM

I have a Pleasant Tap gelding I rescued last year, and after only 45 rides he is heading into his first dressage show.  He is so willing and loves his new career.  i have Qh"s who have worse attitudes.  MY trainer has a newfound respect for TBS since she has met Rio AKA Circuit Tap.

16 Jul 2010 10:21 AM
Mel G

I think it is great that we can spotlight such a great organization that is helping to give thoroughbreds second careers.  I purchased Anna Ford's book on retraining OTTBs as a reference for my own thoroughbred project, Amber.  Maybe bloodhorse.com could have a permanent section to spotlight organizations and individuals involved in retraining and rehoming these magnificent animals.

16 Jul 2010 3:28 PM
Mr. Krush

The only real horse. The Thoroughbred!!

16 Jul 2010 9:34 PM
After the Finish Line

The Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Shows held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA also promotes off the track Thoroughbreds as Hunters and Jumpers.

The TCH Shows has partnered with After the Finish Line, www.afterthefinishline.org. After the Finish Line is a funding non-profit that awards funds to qualified Thoroughbred rescue organizations that save, care for and rehabilitate these talented horses so they can transition and excel in a second career. Follow our Facebook pages to learn more, www.facebook.com/.../edit!/pages/After-the-Finish-Line/113665201978354 and www.facebook.com/.../267650300862!/pages/Thoroughbred-Celebration-Horse-Shows/267650300862?v=info&ref=ts

25 Aug 2010 1:24 AM
anne russek

Hats off to Anna Ford but the Throughbred Celebration Horse Shows held three times a year at the Virginia Horse Center in lexington Virginia are one of a kind as the exclusively feature OTTB's. For two days these former racing stars strut their stuff as hunters and jumpers while competing for cash prizes and awards. next show is Nov 20 &21, Contact the Virginia Horse Center or the Thoroughbred Celebration Facebook page for some neat pictures and stories of previous shows and updates on the upcoming November show!

04 Oct 2010 3:41 PM

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