Mission Statement

The Retired Racehorse Project is an effort to increase demand for retired Thoroughbred race horses as pleasure and sport horses through public events, clinics, training publications, videos and internet tools. Our 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.

Eric Dierks Wins Trainer Challenge

Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge Draws Crowd of 3,000

Eric Dierks Wins Best Trainer Title

February 26, 2012

The Equine Arena at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo was filled way beyond capacity yesterday for the Retired Racehorse Training Project's first Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge. Sixteen hundred sixty were lucky enough to find seats, and almost that many stood six deep above them on three sides of the huge arena.

eric 5 steuart 2
Photo courtesy Holly Covey

Eric Dierks of Tryon, North Carolina was awarded the Best Trainer title based on his five weeks of work with Brazilian Wedding, a 6 year old mare by Milwaukee Brew, who won her last race in December at Charles Town for trainer Kevin Patterson. She is owned by Pat Dale of Conowingo, Maryland.

"I am so grateful to everybody who organized this event," said Dierks at the press conference after the Challenge. "Thoroughbred horses made me what I am as a trainer, and being part of an effort to showcase the trainability of these horses is an honor for me."

Three trainers worked with horses who had no training other than racing for five weeks. They selected and rode their horses for the first time before a packed house at the Maryland Horse World Expo in January. Their online videos of the process were viewed 50,000 times. Followers voted in the final three days for the trainer who impressed them most, and three judges were given 100 votes each to award after their final presentation. The judges were Olympian James Wofford, CANTER Mid-Atlantic founder Allie Conrad, and Alex Brown, author of Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy.

In addition to Dierks, the Challenge included Kerry Blackmer of Admastown, Maryland with Robin Coblyn's Four X The Trouble, and Tiffany Catledge of Middleburg, Virginia with Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue's Solidify and James Falk's High Level.

"All three of these trainers set a very high bar for the rest of us to aspire to in our work with horses off the track," said RRTP founder Steuart Pittman of Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland. "They shared their methods and proved their skills. The horses themselves, however, were the stars of the show. They proved beyond any doubt that Thoroughbreds are well prepared for second careers when they come off the track, and that there are no limits to what they can do and learn. All four horses did flat work that would score well in training level dressage competition and jumped small fences easily. Each horse showed the balance, suppleness and rhythm that we strive for with riding horses but do not normally expect from a horse that raced recently. It was an extraordinary demonstration."

The Retired Racehorse Training Project will soon announce details about a second Trainer Challenge that will be open to both amateurs and professionals and take place over a three month period, as well as a public event in Kentucky on the afternoon and evening after cross country at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****.

For more information, go to retiredracehorsetraining.org. The web site includes a national Trainer Directory, a Sources For Horses directory, a Free Classifieds for all ex-racehorses with video links, and a Bloodline Brag where owners of Thoroughbreds list their horse's second career highlights and characteristics so that others can research by pedigree.

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