All they need is a chance, a renewed spirit for life, a different job, and the time to adjust to their new surroundings. Off the track Thoroughbreds are tranistioning into new jobs, competing in other disciplines, and finding a home outside of the racetrack.
Horsemen are embracing The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program, and horses from off the track are excelling in the sport of eventing. However, the success of the Thoroughbred as an equine athlete in a variety of disciplines isn’t a novel idea, and for years they’ve competed at the top level in equestrian sport, but the preponderance of the their involvement in certain disciplines has dropped significantly in recent years, but now seems to be staging a comeback.
Thoroughbreds have enjoyed a great deal of success in the sport of eventing, and one Aiken-based venue is doing their part to promote the breed, serving as the perfect place to reintroduce off the track Thoroughbreds into the world of competitive sport, by taking advantage of The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program, by giving out money and prizes to recognize those horses.
But, this isn’t something new for Full Gallop Farm’s Lara Anderson. The owner/organizer has always had a great belief in the breed, and had recognized Thoroughbreds at her horse trials prior to the establishment of the program.
“You’d be surprised at what some of these Thoroughbreds can actually give you,” said Anderson. “I’m the only one in this area that does the TIP program. In 2013, in every division, every off the track Thoroughbred will win money and prizes at our horse trials. There will be an overall award. People come to our horse shows specifically for that.”
The off the track Thoroughbreds have the benefit of having gone to the races, and therefore have been exposed to a number of things, said Sarah Davis, Full Gallop Farm’s trainer. The professional athlete recognizes the equine athletes potential, and has enjoyed her greatest competitive success while riding Thoroughbreds.
“Most of the Thoroughbred trainers have the horses broken to load on and off the trailers, to stand in cross ties, to get clipped, have them used to hearing all kinds of noises and being in a rushed atmosphere,” said Davis. “And, when we get them, they end up being great, but there is a certain way you have to handle them. They’re different from other breeds. The great thing about this is that it gives the Thoroughbreds a job past the racetrack, and anything we can do, to do that, is a really good thing. Thoroughbreds are quick on their feet, and that’s been one of the breed’s best attributes.”
Full Gallop Farm is a 160-acre facility. Anderson is a realtor, and has several other businesses, that allow her to pursue her passion.
“This is something that I do because I love it and enjoy it,” said Anderson. “I want to support people like Sarah and the working students at the farm. We can take a chance on a horse because that’s not my main business. So, we can sit out here and play with them, and see what they can do. I’ve done really well with the ones we’ve seen the potential in, that other people would never see.”
Full Gallop’s Ourland or Hoppy as he’s known around the barn, is one of those success stories, but the off the track Thoroughbred’s tale is nothing short of miraculous.
The horse that had raced at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, was retired sound and brought to Aiken, and it was only when he was finally turned out that he was kicked in the shoulder by another horse. Euthansisa was an option, but through the collective efforts of Anderson, Southern Equine Service’s Dr. Caleb Harms and the Full Gallop Farm staff, Hoppy was given enough time to heal, and has overcome tremendous odds, not only to live, but to return to being a competitive sport horse.
“There’s never been a horse competing who’s had a broken shoulder, and we have one,” said Anderson. “We have one with a blown out knee that nobody would look at in a million years. He’s sound, and he’s been going for over a year.”
The Thoroughbreds at Full Gallop that have come off the racetrack are very kind, said Anderson. There’s a certain stigma that many of the off the track Thoroughbreds are refractory when they leave their previous vocation.
The horses once they come to the farm receive a lot of natural horsemanship basics as part of their training, said Anderson.
The response has been positive, and Full Gallop Farm is hoping to host a Thoroughbred only show later this year.
“The Thoroughbred Incentive Program people at The Jockey Club were pleased with our entries,” said Anderson. “They told us that the information we submitted to them was fantastic. They got a lot of the tatoo reasearch that they needed. We’re really trying to push that. I’d do it anyway even if there wasn’t a Thoroughbred Incentive Program. I’ve been giving out a top Thoroughbred award since the day I first started my shows. I’m hoping more people wil do it. The Thoroughbreds are the greatest horses on the planet.”