Best of the West

Rider Ash Babbage and Thoroughbred Chacco Fly compete in the USHJA National Hunter Derby at Cascade Horse Shows’ 2022 Alpine Preview at the Washington State Horse Park. Courtesy Gary Voth Photography

For many of us with off-track Thoroughbreds on the West Coast, traveling across the country to compete at OTTB-only competitions such as the Thoroughbred Makeover can be logistically challenging and financially impossible. Fortunately, a variety of show organizers in California, Washington and Oregon have dedicated themselves to promoting second careers for these incredible horses. Some of the larger rated shows offer incentives, such as free class entries, to OTTB owners, and other organizers have created events that cater specifically to the breed. In this article we’ll share information about some of these events and what makes them unique.

Cascade Horse Shows at Washington State Horse Park, in Cle Elum, Washington
Officially licensed and rated by the USEF and sanctioned by the USHJA

With a prize list that includes everything from a Grand Prix and a USHJA National Hunter Derby to leadline classes, Cascade Horse Shows’ hunter/jumper show series has something for everyone — including one free Hunter or Jumper section per show for OTTBs.

“Since the program’s inception, we have paid out over $20,000 worth of free classes for qualifying horses,” says Jessica Vania, who drives marketing, partnerships and community relations for the series. “We want to encourage second careers for OTTBs, and we work hard to provide a show environment that sets them (and their riders) up for success.”

Attracting competitors from all over the Pacific Northwest, it’s not unusual to see riders from different stables cheering each other on in the show ring. “Our shows are known for their positive, family-friendly vibe,” explains Vania. “We strive to make everyone attending our shows feel welcome regardless of their breed, skill or experience level.”

With its arenas nestled among the trees and miles of forested trails, the Washington State Horse Park is a multidiscipline facility that hosts events ranging from eventing horse trials to trail competitions. It’s an ideal venue for Cascade Horse Shows’ community- and horse-centric events. “Horse is in our name,” says Vania. “One of the reasons we do what we do is to show off these incredible animals and give them opportunities to grow and to shine. They do so much for us, we owe it to them and to ourselves to take good care of them.”

To learn more visit

Ride for the Roses at Donida Farm Equestrian Center, in Auburn, Washington
Proud partner of the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.)

The Ride for the Roses event in Washington offers classes in everything from halter and trail to dressage and jumpers. Courtesy Jey Parrett

Thirty minutes from Seattle, Washington, Donida Farm is a world-class facility that hosts a variety of competitions, from local and regional shows to national-level events throughout the year. Every fall the organizers bring that level of attention to the Thoroughbred-only horse show they’ve been hosting since 2013. Originally, local racetrack Emerald Downs and The Prodigious Fund, a charity that provides support for the Thoroughbred aftercare community, put on the show. But in 2015 responsibility shifted to Donida Farm.

“Horse shows can be tricky, and they realized they could no longer host this show,” explains Jet Parrett, show secretary. “Since the shows were already being held at Donida, and we hold dozens of shows each year, we decided to take on producing a new version of the Thoroughbred show and rebranded it Ride for the Roses in honor of the Kentucky Derby.”

Over the past decade the show has formed a following. “It has developed into a homecoming for the OTTB community up here and is highly anticipated by those who show,” says Parrett. “This tells me that there are a large number of people out there who see a benefit to keeping a focus on Thoroughbred aftercare and who enjoy seeing these horses go on to great lives after the track.”

The 2023 edition of the show will take place Sept. 30 through Oct. 1, and the prize list includes dressage, jumpers, eventing (a combined test), English and Western pleasure, halter, showmanship and trail. Nine division championship titles as well as several High Point Awards go to the 50-65 horses that participate each year. All entered horses must also be T.I.P.-registered so they can qualify for the T.I.P. awards.

To learn more visit

Thoroughbred Exhibitors Association in the Greater Portland, Oregon, Area
Proud partner of T.I.P.

The Thoroughbred Exhibitors Association (TBEA) is a 501(c)(3) organization that has been hosting Thoroughbred-friendly events since 1977. At one point the TBEA was hosting shows every month, largely because of the influx of Thoroughbreds being purchased off the Portland Meadows racetrack, which closed at the end of 2019.

“We wanted to make sure that we encouraged new homes for these great athletes,” explains Jenny Ferro, TBEA board president. “Having Thoroughbred-only classes was important because it continues to provide opportunities for OTTBs.”

The TBEA has five shows on its 2023 calendar, scheduled spring through winter. “In the last five years we have shifted mainly to sport horse events: dressage, jumpers, cross-country and combined tests,” says Ferro. “Our shows are open to all breeds, but we have Thoroughbred and half-Thoroughbred-only classes and awards.”

In addition to the sport horse events, the TBEA’s annual Spring Fling show offers everything from English and Western equitation and pleasure to halter and showmanship classes.

Many of the shows take place at the historic Lake Oswego Hunt Club. “We try to partner with facilities that have traditionally been Thoroughbred-friendly,” says Ferro. “The hunt club is a multiuse facility with stabling, an indoor arena, two outdoor arenas and a cross-country derby field. We are able to host well-attended events with their partnership.”

Volunteers and members power these shows, which have become a staple in the Pacific Northwest — the dressage shows and cross-country derby, in particular, often fill quickly. “We have amazing ribbons and awards, and we have friendly judges who offer incredible feedback,” says Ferro.

For more information follow the TBEA on Facebook or visit

The Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show in Southern California
Proud partner of T.I.P.

“The Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show (TCHS) was born from a desire to provide off-track Thoroughbreds and their owners a unique opportunity to gain show experience in a manner that is both cost-effective and supportive,” says Lucinda Lovitt, executive director of CARMA (California Retirement Management Account), a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing funding for the rehabilitation, retraining and/or retirement of California-raced Thoroughbreds.

“When we started hosting shows in 2013, there were no other events like ours on the West Coast,” she explains. “And while the number of Thoroughbred-only shows is increasing across the country, there is not a unified network of support for OTTBs in the show world. Our hope was that TCHS events would lead to other Thoroughbred-only shows in the area.”

One thing that makes TCHS events stand out from other shows is they take place at “A” rated facilities. “These environments provide competitors the opportunity to ride at world-class venues without having to compete against hundreds of horses,” says Lovitt. In addition to the big show atmosphere, TCHS shows regularly offer more than $4,000 in prize money.

With hunters, jumpers and equitation to showmanship and Western classes and everything between, TCHS events are well-attended, typically hosting an average of 85-95 horses during two-day shows. “In particular, our signature Holiday Classic show, which is held every December, gets a lot of support from the community,” says Lovitt.

To learn more about CARMA visit

NorCal Thoroughbred Events in Northern California
Proud partner of T.I.P.

NorCal Thoroughbred Event participants show off their OTTBs and their ribbons. Courtesy Lisa Torres

When she started NorCal Thoroughbred Events, show organizer Suzy Kelemen was inspired by The Thoroughbred Makeover as well as Southern California’s Thoroughbred Classic Show. “I would love to attend (the Makeover) but haven’t been able to make the trip,” she says. “Finally I decided that instead of just sitting around and missing out, I’d just make something happen close to home — even if it means I’m too busy managing things to compete!”

The organization’s major event is the Thoroughbred Schooling Show, an all-Thoroughbred, multidiscipline schooling show committed to showcasing the breed’s athleticism and versatility. “This year we’ve added a Versatility Challenge, which is a trophy buckle that will be awarded to a participant who competes in a hunter over fences class, a jumper class and a Western class at the show,” says Kelemen. The show also hosts in-hand classes and offers prize money in a mini-prix, two hunter derbies and the gymkhana event pole-bending. This year’s event saw more than 50 Thoroughbreds entered, with combined total starts of nearly 600 and almost $2 million in earnings.

This year marks NorCal Thoroughbred Events’ third year organizing shows, including a new offering added to the calendar: the Thoroughbred Sporthorse Challenge, a year-end high-point program where participants accumulate points at several show venues that offer T.I.P. classes. There is no cost to participate in the challenge; by being a T.I.P. member, you are automatically eligible for awards. Kelemen has been overjoyed at the response to the shows she’s hosted so far: “I am continuously humbled and grateful for the support we have received from our generous sponsors, wonderful volunteers and enthusiastic competitors.”

Learn more about the TCS at

Nilforushan Equisport Events, in Temecula, California
Officially licensed and rated by the USEF and sanctioned by the USHJA

Ali and Francie Nilforushan, founders of Nilforushan Equisport Events, are avid proponents of promoting Thoroughbreds in sport. As a result, they’ve made the commitment to give every ex-racehorse five free entries at many of the shows they organize — even if one of those entries is in the Grand Prix — including at three of their summer Temecula Valley shows, all six of their Seaside Equestrian Tour and two of the Temecula Valley shows they host in the fall.

This hunter/jumper show series at the beautiful 240-plus-acre Galway Downs caters to competitors of all levels, from those stepping into the ring for the first time to individuals competing in the Grand Prix. They have prize money classes, a themed welcome party and charitable opportunities throughout.

For more information on upcoming events, visit

Take-Home Message

Each of these events offers camaraderie, community and unique ways to showcase and promote OTTBs in their second careers. So, what does the future hold for West Coast OTTB owners? Our sources say they hope it’s more opportunities to compete. Parrett says she would love to see a West Coast T.I.P. Championship. “Or, perhaps, a series that could include the Ride for the Roses in addition to shows at other locales along the West Coast. The ideas are endless!”