On a Sunday afternoon in October, Steuart Pittman stood on the track at Pimlico, surrounded by jumps and horses. A microphone in his hand, he spoke to hundreds of people sitting in the stands as Thoroughbreds trotted, cantered, and jumped around him. The track was his pulpit, the audience his congregation, and the message of his sermon was clear: retired Thoroughbreds are valuable, talented commodities, not charity cases.
Over the course of the two-day Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, more than two dozen horses had performed in exhibitions to show off their skills as polo ponies; as police horses; as cross-country prospects; as jumpers. It’s possible that Pittman was preaching to the converted, to those who already believed that horses that come off the track can have successful second careers, but he wasn’t taking any chances, extolling the virtues and adaptability of the horses, urging his listeners, many from the sport horse world, to consider buying—not adopting—a Thoroughbred to ride.
The paradigm for Thoroughbred “aftercare”—defined by Merriam-Webster as “the care, treatment, help, or supervision given to persons discharged from an institution (as a hospital)”—has been that of rescue: rescue horses from life at the racetrack, rescue horses from auction lots, rescue horses from slaughter. With the Retired Racehorse Training Project, Pittman suggests that associating Thoroughbreds off the track with rehabilitation misses a tremendous opportunity.
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