Horsemen on the backsides of the sixty-four racetracks where our Thoroughbred Makeover contestants last ran have noticed. Demand for their retiring horses is up and they now have options. Sound horses are being purchased for higher prices, and more people are willing to take a chance on a horse that needs time for rehabilitation from injuries.
We aren’t naïve enough to think that our work has suddenly created a future of sunshine and clover for every retiring racehorse, but we do understand that we’ve just scratched the surface of what can happen when the Thoroughbred racehorse is presented to America’s two million horse owners as an intelligent, trainable, kind animal that can fulfill your equestrian dreams rather than a neglected by-product of a game lost.
Here is what got us where we are this year.
- We began at large horse expos with education about training the Thoroughbred in second careers.
- We created a directory to promote the trainers, farms, and organizations that retrain and rehome, whether for business, hobby, or charitable support.
- We launched the annual $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, providing an incubator for individuals, businesses and programs to be rewarded for good training.
- We created Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine to expand the education, the marketing, and the communication among America’s 150,000 owners of off-track Thoroughbreds.
The Thoroughbred Makeover engaged 478 trainers this year, many of whom are accomplished professionals shifting their training businesses to serve these horses. Others are amateurs and juniors whose passion for Thoroughbreds was fueled by the process of sharing the journey with their peers. Every one of them worked hard to improve training skills that will benefit every horse they will work with for the rest of their lives.
The 2016 Makeover also impacted the people who observed it. The event was attended by 2,500, watched via livestream by 10,400, and read about by millions from press accounts in mainstream and equine media. RRP’s 156,000 Facebook followers and 132,000 web site visitors heard the message and gained knowledge that will serve their horses far into the future.
The Thoroughbred Makeover cost $400,000 to produce. The total RRP budget, including the cost of launching Off Track Thoroughbred Magazine, was $650,000. When we ran our mid-year financial reports, prospects to raise that much money were bleak. Grant revenue was below projections and plans for a major membership drive had been postponed. We questioned whether a 2017 Makeover was feasible and whether the magazine was a viable venture.
RRP is a charitable organization, but not an aftercare facility. It is ineligible for funding from programs dedicated to aftercare, so we must go directly to Thoroughbred lovers inside and outside horse racing who value the impact of our work. The leaders of Thoroughbred Charities of America have been instrumental in this effort.
RRP vice president Carolyn Karlson kicked off the second half of 2016 with a matching commitment during the Saratoga race meet. She hosted a gathering at her home and told her fellow racing owners how essential it is for RRP to continue its programs. It worked. People like the McMahon family of McMahon Thoroughbreds Of Saratoga turned social gatherings into fundraisers, and by fall RRP was once again projecting a balanced budget.
Our board of directors now believes that we can continue the Makeover, keep publishing the magazine, educate and inspire even more of the horse industry, and take the stories of these horses and their trainers to a larger audience. The 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is scheduled for October 5-8 at the Kentucky Horse Park.
We need to do what we did in 2016, but we need to make it bigger. The stories of what these trainers and horses do are too good to keep to ourselves. Here are some growth areas that your money will fund.
- Telling the story of the 2017 Makeover horses and trainers to a larger audience by going pro with more video production, press outreach, and media partnerships
- Expanding educational support to Makeover trainers and engaging those trainers in educational programming to a larger audience
- Serving not only the farms that transition Thoroughbreds but also the track-based programs that connect potential buyers to horsemen
- Professionalizing the business side of Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine to put it on a path to financial self-sufficiency within two years
- Turning the Thoroughbred Makeover into a destination event with a new standard of entertainment that nobody can afford to miss. Think big LED screen, music, and a party atmosphere.
Your support can be as a sponsor, a magazine advertiser, or a donor. And while you are at it take care of some holiday shopping with gift memberships for your friends.
For sponsorship packages contact jmagruder Magruder at 704-309-8055 or jmagruder@RetiredRacehorseProject.org. To discuss the potential impact of a larger donation contact me at 410-507-3351 or Steuart@RetiredRacehorseProject.org.
We hope you will also visit our web site at RetiredRacehorseProject.org, our Facebook page, and our Thoroughbred Makeover next fall.
Happy holidays to you and your horses.
President, Retired Racehorse Project
PS. If you are a founding member of RRP (joined in 2015) your membership will expire at the end of this year. We hope you will send in the $45 dues to renew.
Retired Racehorse Project is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your contribution is deductible to the extent provided by law. A copy of our current financial statement is available by writing to the address listed below or by calling (410) 798-5140. Documents and information submitted under the Maryland Solicitations Act are also available, for the cost of postage and copies, from the Maryland Secretary of State, State House, Annapolis MD 21401, (410) 974-5534.