A horse show… just for… Thoroughbreds? At the Kentucky Horse Park? Two weeks before Rolex? Okay, I am listening. Are you?
As a life long Thoroughbred owner, I’ve heard it all. I had a trainer tell my mom when I was 8 that my 17.3h h mare would surely kill me one day. I’ve had trainers tell me that maybe I should just, you know… get another breed and turn my back on thoroughbreds.
I’ve had other people that I’m riding with, ask me “gosh, how old is your horse?”, and I can’t answer “3”. Instead, I have to answer “10, BUT she raced!!” Sometimes, I feel like I’m speaking a different language. Making excuses because these horses are special. And by special, I mean near human in their perception, their sensitivity, their competitive edge.
When I heard of The Thoroughbred Horse Show Association, I needed to know more. This association, first created by the mind of Jan Roehl, is an opportunity for Thoroughbred owners to give off the track TB’s a new purpose, and is described on their web page as “…a membership-driven community designed to connect Thoroughbred owners to a large group of like-minded people who care about the future of these horses”.
Jan is a TB owner herself. And not in the sense you’re thinking. Yes, she owns horses that she races. And yes, she owns others that she has retired off the track. I loved this about her. For me, she painted a new picture of owners that race Thoroughbreds, stating, “you know, some people that own Thoroughbred’s are just normal people. They just race these horses and really don’t know what to do with them once their racing career is over”. She cited a man that called her for help in re-homing his OTTB. When asked questions about the gelding, the man wasn’t a horse person and all he could tell her was the races his gelding had won and that he was a “good boy”. He just owned race horses and never thought about what would happen if they were unsuccessful on the track… leaving him with board on horses that he had no idea what to do with.
And that’s where groups like CANTER, New Vocations, (and I’m sure countless others, these are just the ones I’m most familiar with) and The Thoroughbred Horse Show Association step in. The first horse show is being held at the Kentucky Horse Park on April 14-15th, 2012, with another show on October 6-7th. Jan’s vision for the horse show is to first, give exposure to thoroughbreds that may be for sale, and second, let owners show off their OTTBs in their new careers. The show is also speckled with socialization and informational clinics throughout the weekend, making the weekend not only fun but educational.
My two favorite things about this horse show after talking with Jan? First, Jan’s view of the in-hand classes. She is really an advocate of these because as she said, “these horses know how to stand!” Um, duh! Of course they do! They’re not only taught how to, but they’re just naturally proud. I remember doing in-hand classes with my Appaloosa pony when I first started riding, and oh how I dreaded her droopy neck and her inability to get all four feet perfectly square. And Jan is right. ALL of my thoroughbreds stand square when asked to halt (I experimented). Her perspective on in-hand classes for TB’s was a light bulb in my head that had never, ever been turned on. It’s such a big part of the Quarter Horse and Western world. Why shouldn’t it be as big of a part in the TB world? Especially for the ones that can’t do anything but light walk/trot. No thoroughbred is ever going to lose their pride, and an in-hand class would be the perfect way to let them know that hey, you’re still good looking and mom (or dad) still wants to show you off.
And the second reason I am so excited for this organization and this horse show.. get ready.. a group trail ride around Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday morning. Only better than any trail ride because it’s filled with gorgeous thoroughbreds with like-minded owners who will laugh off any spooks or high heads. (I know. I see you staring at my TB on the trail. I get it. She’s prancing, unlike your trusty Appy/Quarter Horse/Paint mix. I’m sorry this is not relaxing for you. It’s not relaxing for me, either because I know I am offending you. And I am really, truly, sorry).
Big thanks to Jan for spending her morning talking to me. It’s because of people like her that Thoroughbred’s will be given a second chance at a new fulfilling career. And as a TB owner, I can’t thank her and people like her enough for that!