The fledgling Retired Racehorse Project is moving its signature event—the Thoroughbred Makeover—from Baltimore, Maryland, to Lexington, Kentucky, in 2015. The timing of the move could significantly transform the scope of the organization and its mission.
Founded by Steuart Pittman, the Retired Racehorse Project has a simple goal: for the Thoroughbred to recapture its once-sterling reputation in the show horse arena as a premier, all-around athlete and build up the secondary market for ex-racehorses. When Pittman was growing up in the world of three-day eventing, Thoroughbreds were the breed of choice. Over the years, however, professional trainers shifted to European warmbloods, and the Thoroughbred had its reputation tarnished as being overly hot-blooded and untrainable. Records from the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) show the percentage of USEF-registered Thoroughbreds at recognized competitions fell from 40% in 1982 to just over 10% by 2010.
“As my career in eventing evolved, I got a Thoroughbred stallion and started to breed some horses on my own,” Pittman recalled during a recent meeting in Lexington to discuss the Makeover’s relocation from Maryland. “I got to the point where I realized the horses I was breeding were not as good as the ones coming off the track.”
Pittman saw both a need and an opportunity. In 2009 he created a small symposium on the re-training of ex-racehorses for show disciplines. With minimal promotion the event attracted more than 350 people from 10 states who sat for hours watching training exhibitions. From these early experiments on the exposition circuit and inspiration from the