Retired racehorses find their second career

At Thornmar Farm, Foolish Kisses, left, grazes with her filly by Big Brown at her side as Argentesque's colt by Artie Shiller stands by his mom in 2011.
(Jed Kirschbaum / The Baltimore Sun)

A retired racehorse has to learn new tricks.

Some thoroughbreds are used for breeding when their track days are done. Others find careers in hunting, polo or even police work. But in the worst situations, former racehorses are left with negligent owners or sent to the slaughterhouse.


It's that final scenario that Steuart Pittman hopes to avoid.

"That's what everyone wants to prevent – euthanasia of any kind," said Pittman, president of the Retired Racehorse Training Project. "The goal is to make these horses wanted and the key to that is training them."

The nonprofit project is hosting the Thoroughbred Makeover & National Symposium at Pimlico Racecourse on Saturday and Sunday. It will showcase the efforts of 26 trainers who have trained their racehorses for a second career over the last three months. Pittman expects the event will draw about a thousand horse-lovers from across the country.

The symposium will also include educational seminars, meetings and demonstrations from highly-regarded members of the horse racing community, highlighted by a "Ride Like a Jockey" session from retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

"Somebody like Chris McCarron owes his career to these animals and loves them," Pittman said. "That's true about any jockey and anyone who has made it in the sport of horse racing, and they are always looking for a way to honor the horses."

Pittman added: "This man can get on any horse and make it look like it is dancing."

The Mid-Atlantic chapter of The Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses, a West Virginia-based organization that seeks homes for retiring racehorses, will participate this weekend. CANTER Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Allie Conrad said in a statement that the organization "has worked diligently to have ex-racehorses recognized as the great sport horses they become after their racing days have ended."

"We are finally seeing an acceptance of these athletic horses as they excel in careers beyond the race track," Conrad said. "This event showcases that ability and provides horse enthusiasts an opportunity to see the successful results of retraining."

The seminars start Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and pastries provided by The Equiery, a monthly publication that covers the Maryland equestrian community. It continues with The Opening Ceremony starts at 12:30 p.m. and will include 15-minute displays from the retired horses and their trainers.

More than a dozen horses and trainers will perform Saturday and at 1:30 p.m., Mount Equinox Grand Prix winner Arkansas and Hillary Simpson will enter the track. On Sunday, the rest of the retired horses and trainers will present.


If you go

Thoroughbred Makeover & National Symposium


Time: Sessions run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Vendors and concessions will also be open from 9 to 5.

Where: Pimlico Racecourse, 5201 Park Heights Ave Baltimore, MD 21215

Tickets: Adults $18-$60, Children $9-$25

For more ticketing and schedule information, visit retiredracehorsetraining.org

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