2022 Thoroughbred Makeover & National Symposium Showcases Thoroughbreds in Second Careers

October 21, 2022

281 horses competed across ten disciplines during the Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo by CanterClix

Taking place on October 12-15 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the 2022 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) marked another year of the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) leading the market-based approach to aftercare. Showcasing the trainability and athleticism of the recently-retired racehorse, the Makeover hosted 281 horses in 426 individual performances across ten riding sports; competition took place over two days of preliminary performances, plus a Finale championship event which was presented to thousands of livestream viewers globally as well as an in-person audience.

“The Thoroughbred Makeover class of 2022 was truly a world-class representation of the breed’s capabilities in the hands of good horsemen,” said RRP executive director Kirsten Green. “Each year the RRP staff has worked to refine the application process and deliver on support and resources for participants, and we’re seeing that effort pay off. Our officials this year had nothing but rave reviews on the quality of training and horsemanship that was evident in how well-prepared and conditions the horses were.”

The Thoroughbred Makeover celebrates the versatility of the ex-racehorse. Photo by CanterClix

Before competition began on October 12, all horses underwent an Arrival Exam, sponsored by Keeneland with additional support from After the Finish Line and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. The Arrival Exam set a benchmark for the basic health of the equine competitors at the Makeover, requiring competitors to show necessary health paperwork including vaccination records and measuring temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate as well as body condition score and a general visual exam for blemishes. All horses underwent a basic walking soundness exam to ensure that they could move around the Horse Park comfortably. This year’s Arrival Exam was led by the RRP’s consulting veterinarian Dr. Shannon Reed with support from vets from Hagyard, Boehringer Ingelheim, and additional private practices. The Arrival Exam has also become a mentorship experience for vet students, facilitated by Dr. Reed with additional support via the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Thirty vet students were selected from over 300 applicants to participate in the exams along with a packed schedule of tours and educational experiences.

Horses and their trainers could compete in one or two of ten riding disciplines offered at the Makeover, including barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunter, polo, ranch work, show hunter, show jumper, and freestyle (a free-form discipline in which trainers can demonstrate skills of their choosing). Preliminary competition took place over two days at various venues around the Horse Park, including the iconic Rolex Arena. Preliminary rankings were announced at Friday night’s Awards Party, with the top ten in each discipline as well as each discipline’s top ten amateurs, juniors and team entries receiving ribbons. Special awards, sponsored by individuals and organizations to recognize their own causes and initiatives, were also awarded based on preliminary results.

L-R: Kirsten Green, RRP executive director; Cathy Shircliff, Churchill Downs director of community relations; Jenna Denver and She’s A Bold One; Erin Halliwell, TCA executive director. Photo by CanterClix

The top five in each discipline qualified for the Finale championship event: horses first presented on Friday afternoon for a Finale Jog, with a panel of three veterinarians ensuring that horses were sound to compete. The Finale itself took place on Saturday, October 15 with all ten disciplines competing in the TCA Covered Arena for an in-person audience as well as over 6,000 livestream viewers tuning in from around the world. The judges from all ten disciplines ranked each discipline’s Finale champion to determine the top prize of Thoroughbred Makeover Champion, sponsored by Churchill Downs, and that honor went to She’s A Bold One (Midshipman – Bold Contender, by Strong Contender), trained by junior Jenna Denver to victory in Eventing as well as second place in Dressage. In total, over $100,000 in prize money was awarded across the ten disciplines plus special awards. The Finale recording will be available to watch on-demand in coming weeks.

New for 2022, the RRP partnered with the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) to host Western and Central Region Dressage Championships at the Thoroughbred Makeover, offering an additional avenue of competition for Makeover participants as well as welcoming in championship-only competitors. T.I.P. Championship competition took place on Friday and Saturday in western, ranch, halter, dressage, and competitive trail; the barrel racing championship ran midweek concurrently with Makeover Barrel Racing competition.

Successful sales were celebrated thanks to the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace. Photo courtesy of Ashley Francese

The ASPCA Makeover Marketplace welcomed horse shoppers and adopters to the Makeover all week long; the RRP marketed the event as a horse shopping opportunity for buyers or adopters to watch horses perform, take trial rides on the property, and easily vet horses with veterinarians from Hagyard on call for pre-purchase exams. Thanks to continued support from ASPCA, the Makeover added the ASPCA Right Horse Adoption Barn to this year’s efforts, welcoming Right Horse partner organizations with adoptable Thoroughbreds at all life stages to bring horses to a designated barn to connect with potential adopters. These combined efforts continue to make the Makeover a horse shopping/adoption destination for individuals seeking Thoroughbreds as their next partners for riding and sport.

Educational opportunities continued to be a key draw to the Makeover as well: the Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit took place on Tuesday, October 11 prior to the start of competition and welcomed in-person and virtual participants to a hands-on scenario preparedness session designed to help both non-profit and for-profit aftercare organizations and individuals identify strengths and weaknesses in their own programs. The 2022 Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit was produced in partnership by the RRP, TCA, T.I.P. and Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Watch the recording of the Summit on-demand here.

Finalists completed the Finale Jog before a panel of veterinarians. Photo by CanterClix

The Makeover Master Class returned in a new format, sponsored by Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation. Clinician Jorge Vasquez, USPA Midstates Circuit Governor, co-founder of the Commonwealth Polo Club, and the Gainesway Farm Polo Manager, guided participants through flatwork exercises intended to prepare horses for the sport of polo but with application to a variety of disciplines. The Master Class was livestreamed as well as free for in-person attendees, and will be available to watch on-demand in coming weeks.

Sponsored by TheHorse.com, the Makeover Seminar Series was again presented as a hybrid event with in-person attendees as well as webinar viewers tuning in from home. Geared towards off-track Thoroughbred owners and enthusiasts as well as any horse person looking to expand their knowledge, the following sessions were presented:

Formal event dates for 2023 as well as the release of the 2023 rule book will be announced later this fall at TheRRP.org.

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