If you attend this year’s Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) Thoroughbred Makeover from Oct. 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park, odds are you saw a graduate of Amy Paulus’ Paulus Racing and Performance Thoroughbreds program.
“For the past five years, I have had at least 20 horses a year competing at [the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover],” she said. “For the past few years, I have had the highest number of rehome entries; and this year I’m excited to announce the ‘Paulus Pony Award,’ which will go to a competitor that bought their makeover horse from me for 2018. Hopefully, we see it again in years to come!”
Born to a racing family, horses were a part of Paulus’ life from the time she was born. Her father and grandfather both were trainers and made sure she was introduced to horses early. She met her first horse at only a few days old and was sitting on one unassisted when she was a 2-year-old. By the time she was a teenager, Paulus her passion was retraining horses off the track.
“When I was 12 or 13, I was consistently taking horses no one wanted off the track and finding them homes,” she said. “Growing up, my parents didn’t buy me made show horses to compete with, instead I took horses off the track and retrained them because that’s all I wanted to do. Whether it was running bareback through the fields, playing around the barrel pattern, 4-h, drill team, or the hunter-jumper circuit, all I ever wanted to do was be on the back of one of my OTTBs.”
Ironically, one of the OTTBs she initially ignored when he came to the farm turned into her favorite horse and one all others now have to live up to.
“My favorite OTTB and forever heart horse is Cure the Jynx, ‘CJ.’ He was my partner through my teens and taught me more about riding, life, love, and partnership than I ever knew possible,” Paulus said. “He actually came to the farm as a retired war horse. At the time, I had no interest in him because I had a horse I was putting all my time into. But my riding horse ending up getting hurt and needed a few weeks off, so I started riding CJ in my lessons so I didn’t have to take time off. It only took me few short rides to realize he was my horse of a lifetime. I believe I will always search for a horse just like him.”
Since her first show as a child, Paulus has had a successful show career in a variety of different events, including a state title in Drill Team and year-end high point awards in the jumper ring. Many of those awards came on OTTBs she retrained and continues to retrain to this day.
Due to success in the ring and her reputation, Paulus is one of the first people many recommend when someone asks for suggestions about buying an OTTB. That comes as a double-edge sword however. While she gets to find horses the perfect second careers, she also finds herself having to educate buyers on the racing industry so they can understand the horses they are buying.
“A lot of people do not understand the intensity of racing, the tedious schedules, rules, regulations, and everything else that comes with it,” she explained. “They don’t understand certain racehorse behavior, which can at times categorize a good horse into a ‘not appealing’ horse because they don’t understand the general transition in making a racehorse an OTTB. I try to spread knowledge and education of the backside and make sure that anyone interested in purchasing an OTTB, whether it be from me or someone else, understands the good, bad, and ugly that may come with it.”
A type of horse that has a lot of stereotypes associated with it due to its breed and previous discipline, OTTBs often get an unwarranted bad reputation from people who don’t understand them. One such stereotype Paulus would love to see go to the wayside is the belief they are crazy.
She points out that the experiences they get at the track – from seeing thousands of people to having to learn automatic lead changes – make them ideal mounts. She believes that many of the problems come from people who don’t understand racehorses and don’t get help when retraining them.
“I feel like a lot of people buy horses on impulse of how they look, knowing that their personalities are never going to match, that the horse may be too high strung for them, or in some cases may need more maintenance than some can afford,” she said. “Do not sell yourself short on your search and remember there are thousands of racehorses coming off the track every year, and the right one will come along for you.
“Make you and your new partner’s experience a positive one from the beginning. The best way to do that is working with someone reputable and not being afraid to ask the right people for help when it’s needed. If you’re working with someone that truly rehomes these horses because of their love for it, they will always be willing to reach out and give you a helping hand.”
As the calendar approaches this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover, Paulus is getting excited to see what the horses from her program will achieve.
Two years ago, one of her graduates won the Pro Hunter Division and made it into the overall final and Paulus is hoping for a repeat this year. But even if that doesn’t happen, Paulus says she’ll still enjoy watching them progress. One of her favorite things to do is to watch her riders and horses reach their own personal goals, whether that be in the show ring or on the trails.
“Everyone has a different level of success they strive for with their horses and that doesn’t always mean you need to be placing at the biggest shows,” she said. “I’m just happy to watch and see everyone’s personal success stories and victories.”
To learn more about Paulus Racing and Performance Thoroughbreds, visit the Facebook page here.