Thoroughbred ex-racehorses will be strutting their stuff at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington October 23-25, 2015 as part of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, and for the first time since the competition’s inception, foxhunters will partake in the competition alongside equines from the disciplines of dressage, show jumping, show hunter, eventing, competitive trail riding, barrel racing, polo, ranch work and freestyle.
Founded in 2010 by advanced level event rider and trainer Steuart Pittman of Davidson, Maryland, the Retired Racehorse Project’s (RRP) mission is to facilitate the placement of retired Thoroughbred racehorses in second careers by educating the public about the history, distinctive characteristics, versatility of use, and appropriate care and training of the iconic American Thoroughbred. Penny Denegre, MFH Middleburg Hunt and past Chariman of the MFHA Centennial Committee, is the organizing force behind the foxhunter division.
“The Masters of Foxhounds Association supports the RRP program in total,” said MFHA Executive Director Dennis Foster. “The Retired Racehorse Project is an example of what can be done when horsemen, regardless of your preference for riding, band together and make a difference.”
He continued, “Thoroughbreds have always been an excellent choice for mounted hunting. Their versatility, intelligence and athletic ability puts them at the top of horse breeds for our sport and a good one is usually a great one.”
“We want to turn people on to Thoroughbreds,” Pittman encouraged. “Especially those who may not necessarily think of themselves as ‘Thoroughbred people’. We also want to turn Thoroughbred fans on to different riding disciplines and show everyone there are many, many things you can do with an off the track Thoroughbred.”
The Thoroughbred breed’s long history with the sport of foxhunting is a natural fit for the weekend’s festivities and will be included in the 2015 competition after the hunting demonstration at the 2013 RRP Makeover at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD was met with rousing success.
“Everyone loved the hunt demo,” laughed Pittman. “To have the Goshen hounds tearing around the track in full cry was amazing. The staff and field members were all mounted on Thoroughbreds and it was an excellent show of a classic Thoroughbred job. It really gets people thinking about the possibility taking their Thoroughbred hunting, which is not only good for the breed, but for the sport.”
The morning of Sunday, October 25, foxhunters entered in the competition will participate in a mock hunt on the Horse Park’s exquisite steeplechase turf with the Iroquois Hunt, which has been based in Lexington since 1880. Pittman emphasized that since there is a chance that not every horse will have had the opportunity to hunt properly, the competition will be judged on each entry’s quality of training and potential to excel in hunting. Judges will choose a winner for that afternoon’s Finale, where the top horses from each discipline will return to perform an exhibition of their individual skills, complete with explanations from the judges on why they gave each horse the top call in their class. The Foxhunting Finale will be similar to a field hunter championship: an under saddle portion, where the chosen competitor will show their horse’s way of going at walk, trot, canter and gallop, after which they move onto ride a handy hunter type course, requiring horse and rider to open and close a gate, drop a rail, gallop and hold hard.
Pittman expects a solid amount of foxhunting entries, two of which include Aiken Hounds Huntsman Katherine Gunter and her five year old Alluring Devil (Alluvial x Lady Lileah, Dusty Screen) and Pennsylvania-based professional rider and trainer Emily Daignault’s six year old Gin Joint (Macho Uno x Phil’s Pill, Cozzene), horses that have thus far exceeded all expectations in their training.