When thinking of Thoroughbreds many people automatically picture racehorses. When they think of Thoroughbreds' off-track careers, the first thing that pops into their mind is usually disciplines such as eventing.
That view was turned on its head last weekend for those who visited the Kentucky Horse Park and saw Thoroughbreds at the New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Show and The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive (TIP) Championships doing a bit of everything from pulling a cart to jumping over colorful rails. While there were no current racehorses among those at the show, most of them had spent time at the track.
Throughout the weekend, the versatility of the breed was on full display throughout the seven rings running classes around the Horse Park for more than 450 Thoroughbreds.
“The growth of this horse show, in both competition size and sponsorships obtained, has been incredible,” said New Vocations’ Sarah Coleman. “We had 37 New Vocations grads show here this year. To see these horses come full circle reminds us why we work so hard to rehab, retrain, and rehome retiring racehorses. Those of us involved with Thoroughbreds know just how much these horses have left to give once they retire from the track — it’s been a true gift to be able to show the world just how great they are, too.”
The successful retraining in multiple disciplines of horses whose lives started with racing as their goal was hard to miss even if spectators never ventured past the first ring at the show.
That first ring held everything from western classes to trail with a driving Thoroughbred also taking part in a class on Sunday. The other rings showed that versatility as well with both English and Western dressage horses warming up next to jumpers and western horses making their way to the Rolex arena for Sunday morning classes.
Over the three-day show, it wasn’t rare to see Thoroughbreds competing in a variety of tack with some horses even wearing both saddles during the weekend.
One such horse was Chocolate Delight, who competed in nearly every discipline offered from western to halter ro jumping with his owner Reba Merritt. A perfect example of the versatility of Thoroughbreds, Chocolate Delight placed in all but three of the 24 classes he competed in, including four victories. His placings in the various disciplines earned him the TIP Championship in the Hopeful Jumpers Division and a Reserve Championship in the Western Walk/Jog Senior Division.
While he stayed in English tack all weekend, another gelding who showed his versatility over the weekend was Fullback, a son of Grade 1 winner Stellar Jayne. The 2015 Dressage runner-up at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred had been featured in multiple aftercare stories during his run to the Makeover and was making his highly anticipated return to the Horse Park.
Finishing second in his dressage class on Friday with former owner Jordan Pruiksma, Fullback had three different handlers throughout the weekend. The gelding placed fifth in an In-Hand Geldings class before changing tack and heading to the Hunter ring with Katie Fitzpatrick and current owner Lindy Gutman, where he placed in most of his classes. Those placings included a fourth-place finish in the big Saturday night hunter class, the Chizzy B Hunter Classic, with Gutman to headline his weekend.
While many divisions had multiple participants, it was a division with only one Thoroughbred that caught the eye mid-morning on Sunday. Face Of Glory, who had also placed second in the 2015 Makeover in the Freestyle division, came to this show solely to compete in the Pleasure Driving class with owner Amy Lent.
Face Of Glory impressed with his skills and obedience as Lent put him through his paces, walking and trotting during the judged portion of the class then cantering during his victory lap. While many people stopped to watch his class, he had two extra-interested pairs of eyes on him with his breeders Michael and Judy Dunn coming to the show to watch when they found out he was competing.
At the end of the weekend, multiple champions were crowned by both New Vocations and TIP with both organizations thrilled by the participation of Thoroughbred owners around North America with competitors traveling from as far as Washington State to compete.
While Thoroughbreds will always be thought of as racehorses first, this year’s New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Show and The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Championships continued to help the breed make massive strides in showing that there are many opportunities for them once they leave the track to find another career.