Jessica Bortner Harris with Win the War at the Retired Racehorse Training Project.

Jessica Bortner Harris with Win the War at the Retired Racehorse Training Project.

Courtesy of RTTP/Niamh O'Connell

Symposium Showcased Ex-Racehorse Talent

Event at Pimlico Race Course expands visibility, markets for retired racehorses.

The inaugural two-day Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium drew 800 participants to Pimlico Race Course Oct. 5-6.

The stars of the show took over the track's home stretch: 26 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses and their trainers. From jumping, pole bending, dressage, vaulting, polo, to team sorting with cows and barrel racing, the event showcased the breed's versatility.

"The horses spoke for themselves," said Steuart Pittman, founder and president of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, which created the event. "They truly are the smartest, most elegant, most trainable, and most loyal breed of any horse."

The trainers came from 15 states and Canada and 10 equestrian disciplines. The trainers showed off new skills developed by the former racehorses in 15-minute presentations. Some of the horses went home with new owners, as many of the makeover horses were offered for sale.

"What these animals learned to do in just a few months was extraordinary," Pittman said. "My hat is off to the trainers, horses, amazing team of volunteers, and the Maryland Jockey Club for welcoming us to Pimlico with open arms and very large hearts."

The symposium also offered seminars featuring horse health, the business of running a re-homing facility, and how to market and sell retired racehorses. A full report, photos, and videos will appear on the RRTP website.

During the event, Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas welcomed the crowd to Pimlico and made an offer to host the symposium again in 2014. Secretariat's owner, Penny Chennery, made an appearance on the Jumbotron via Skype, and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron tried cow penning on a retired, re-trained racehorse.

Following the symposium, Pittman reported that the event would return to Pimlico in 2014.