The Board of Directors of the Retired Racehorse Training Project announced today its selection of the 26 horse trainers who will participate in the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover.
Each trainer will chronicle online the training of a Thoroughbred that has raced but had no training for a second career. All will appear at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland on the first weekend of October to show what the horses have learned. The event is called the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium and will include seminars, demonstrations, entertainment, and vendors.
RRTP, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing demand for Thoroughbreds off the track, received 142 applications from 29 states and Canada. The applicants were professionals, amateurs, and juniors and specialized in ten different equestrian disciplines.
“We were overwhelmed not only by the number of applicants, but also by the high quality, the diversity, and the passion of these trainers,” said RRTP President Steuart Pittman. “These are the people who work hard every single day educating these magnificent animals to ensure that their futures are secure.”
In alphabetical order the twenty-six participating trainers are:
Marissa Bianchi (32) and Carlos Gonzalez of Potomac, MD. This is a joint training team that will demonstrate how racehorses become polo ponies. Carlos is a professional polo player and Marissa was on Cornell’s 4 time champion women’s polo team. Most of their polo ponies come from the racetrack. They train out of their own farm and the Capitol Polo Club facilities.
Patricia Hechter-Bosley (52) of St. Michaels, MD. Patricia is an amateur rider who grew up in the hunter/jumper world under the watch of her mother Sylvia Hechter, a well known trainer who regularly sold horses to the likes of Rodney Jenkins, Joe Fargis, and George Morris when Thoroughbreds dominated the show ring. As a young adult she rode young racehorses for Mikey Smithwick and showed at all the big venues. Today she owns Bosley Brangier Apparel. She recently acquired horses from Graham Motion’s Herringswell Stables and plans to work with his staff to select a horse for the Makeover.
Rebecca Bowman (40) of Woodstock, GA. Rebecca is most famous for her work in the Extreme Mustang Makeover with four different mustangs, but she grew up in a racing family, worked for ten years training Thoroughbreds for second careers in Kentucky, and held a jockey’s license. She has also evented through the intermediate level both in the US and Australia, and is the head trainer at Rose Equestrian.
Heather Carlson (45) of Milford, CT. Heather has been actively buying, training, and selling Thoroughbreds off the track since she was fifteen years old, putting them into careers as foxhunters, eventers, pleasure horses, and show horses. She rides for Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue and will select one of their many ex-racehorses for the Makeover.
Daniel Clasing (26) of White Hall, MD. Daniel is an up and coming star on the eventing scene who recently scorched around the Rolex CCI**** cross country course clean and inside the time on the same weekend that he served as a demo rider for RRTP and New Vocations at Thoroughbreds For All Kentucky. Daniel trains horses out of his Yardley Hill Farm, starts dozens of horses for racing every year, and works as an exercise rider at Laurel Park. He has galloped for both Michael Matz and Tom Voss and trains in eventing with Phillip Dutton.
Katie Cooper (32) of Owings Mills, MD. Katie is the head trainer and manager at Howie Wolfe’s Caves Farm, a premiere hunter/jumper barn that travels the A-circuit and also hosts shows. Katie grew up showing nothing but Thoroughbreds but has also galloped for steeplechase trainers. She won the huge Thoroughbred Classic at the Maryland Horse and Pony Show and is committed to bringing Thoroughbreds back into fashion on the show circuit.
Billie Rae Croll (33) of Lexington, VA. Billie Rae is the granddaughter of Hall of Fame trainer Jimmie Croll. She grew up with racehorses and branched out into the hunter/jumper world. Her BRC Stables keeps an average of ten Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in training for clients and many are showing at both Thoroughbred and open shows. Her mother, Anne Russek, is one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Shows at the Virginia Horse Center.
Nikki Egyed (22) of Paso Robles, CA. Nikki is young, but her list of accomplishments on her own Thoroughbreds off the track in barrel racing and gymkhana is long. She is a tireless advocate for Thoroughbreds in a part of the country and a sport where their reputation is poor. She runs her own Silver Shadow Training business.
Patti Fiedler (47) of Pinellas Park, FL. Pattie coaches and teaches in the hunter/jumper world and was Florida state barrel champion seven times (five on ex-racehorses). Her passion, however, is training Thoroughbreds off the track to become police mounts. In her words, “After the hustle and bustle of track life, they fit right into police work.” She trains out of Amber Glen Equestrian Center.
Robin Hannah (27) of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Robin trains out of Sherwood Farm, home of Thoroughly Thoroughbred Horse Shows. She was Adult Amateur Hunter Champion of HITS Thermal Desert Circuit in 2007, has shown jumpers on the A-circuit, and has moved 15 Thoroughbreds from racing to the show ring in recent years. She also groomed and galloped racehorses for trainer Bill Pearce. The racetrack closures in Ontario have inspired Robin to focus her work on transitioning racehorses herself and helping others to do so.
Jessica Bortner-Harris (32) of Thurmond, NC. Jessica is not only an advanced level three day event rider but also a popular writer for Eventing Nation. As a rider who owes her career to Thoroughbreds off the track, many of her articles focus on the dominant role played by Thoroughbreds in the sport of eventing. She operates Rocky Start Stables.
Dan James (30) of Lexington, KY. In Australia, Dan used to start 300 Thoroughbreds for racing per year. In 2012 he won the prestigious American Road To The Horse colt starting competition. Dan’s business is Double Dan Horsemanship, a collaboration with his partner Dan Steers that offers clinics and demonstrations for large audiences. We have no idea what Dan will train his Thoroughbred to do, but the photo on his web site of him standing on two horses with no bridles and not even a rope on their necks as they gallop down the homestretch of a racetrack suggests that we might be in for some surprises. Dan will be starting 40 Thoroughbreds for Winstar Farm in the fall and has also been doing work for Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.
Lara Borson Knight (35) of Whites Creek, TN. Lara was the head trainer for Makers Mark Secretariat Center in 2011 and 2012 where she oversaw the re-training of all of their new arrivals from racing. She shows through the advanced level in eventing on Thoroughbreds, but has also competed successfully in vaulting. To prove the versatility of the breed she trained one of her Thoroughbred ex-racehorses to carry for vaulting, a job normally done by the wide and heavy draught breeds. Her training business is based at Canterway Farm.
Alexandra Knowles (26) Paris, KY. Allie was the top placed American after the dressage phase of the Rolex CCI**** in 2013 and is hard at work on a plan to represent the United States in the next Olympics. As a Kentucky girl she has worked starting Thoroughbreds for racing and getting them fit to go to the track. Her training business includes clinics, lessons, and training and can be found online at akeventing.com.
Emily Kocubinski (33) of Philadelphia, PA. Emily was a child prodigy in the sport of eventing working her way up to a successful run around the Rolex cross country course at the age of 19 on a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. She gave all that up for the city life as a graphic and web designer until 2010 when some Thoroughbreds off the track beckoned her to return to horses. She now runs a small business devoted exclusively to training and selling ex-racehorses called Big City Eventing.
David Loman (49) of Crofton, MD. David is a prominent fixture in the MidAtlantic hunter/jumper circuit but has shown throughout the east coast. He encourages his students, even the amateurs and juniors, to consider Thoroughbreds off the track and is passionate about returning them to prominence in the show ring. David is the hunter/jumper consultant to Thoroughbred Placement Resources and designed courses for their Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show. His business name is Cornerstone Show Stable.
Amber Lynn Longreen (12) of Hummelstown, PA. At the tender age of twelve, Amber has ridden and shown more Thoroughbreds off the track than she can count. Her mother, Cheryl Keller, is the head trainer at Bowcrest Farms, which is not only a large boarding and lesson barn but also a New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program facility. Amber and her mom ride the recent New Vocations arrivals from Penn National Racetrack all day every day, as do many of the local Pony Club members. Amber notes her age in her application, but promises that she is “responsible and works hard to achieve her goals.”
Jessica Morthole (31) of Camden, DE. Jessica is the trainer for CANTER Mid-Atlantic’s training facility in Delaware. She specializes in preparing horses that come in from local tracks for marketing as riding horses in 30-90 days. Jessica works a full time job off the farm while training both her CANTER horses, her own Thoroughbreds, and horses for clients. She also writes a popular blog that can be read here. Her business name is JLM Sport Horses.
Elissa Ogburn (14) of Crownsville, MD. Elissa is outgrowing her pony and starting to think about getting a horse. She had been lucky enough to ride some Thoroughbreds at the farm where she boards and was asked at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo to ride one of Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue’s horses in a clinic titled “Kids and Their Ex-Racehorses.” MAHR’s Bev Strauss was so impressed with Elissa’s riding and her passion that she offered to find her a horse for the Makeover, and Steuart Pittman has agreed to be her coach. Elissa is not ready to give up riding her pony but is over the moon with excitement about getting to train a new horse.
Mark Powers (55) of East Palestine, OH. Mark has worked as both a trainer and a farrier at Mountaineer Race Track for 35 years. He has also been a professional polo player for 20 years. He estimates that 80% of his polo ponies come from racing and that he has trained and sold over 100 racehorses into polo. Mark is one of two trainers in the Makeover that will show us how a racehorse becomes a polo pony.
Nuno Santos (43) of Reisterstown, MD. Nuno knows how it feels to retire from racing and start a career in dressage and eventing. He has done it himself. Nuno was assistant trainer to Robert Frankel for eight years and galloped Fusaichi Pegasus, Azeri, Ghostzapper, and Ginger Punch. Two years ago he left racing and now trains Thoroughbreds for dressage, eventing, and showing and teaches riders how to get along with their ex-racehorses.
Jennifer Selvig (32) of Savage, MN. Jennifer is an amateur trainer but a professional equine veterinarian whose practice includes racehorses and chiropractic. She has competed in eventing, dressage, polocrosse, and show jumping, and has worked grooming and galloping steeplechase horses. Her passion for Thoroughbred racehorses led her to found the Minnesota Retired Racehorse Project.
Dale Simanton (57) of Newell, SD. Dale operates Horse Creek Thoroughbreds, a 400-acre ranch that breeds, trains, and does sale preps. He also has a background in rodeo and works cattle. The farm’s Gate to Great program trains Thoroughbred ex-racehorses to do ranch work, and Dale says that they are good at it. He requested that we bring a herd of cattle to Pimlico for him to work. We’ll see about that.
Erin Sylvester (27) of Unionville, PA. Erin placed 13th at the Rolex CCI**** in 2012, making her a near miss for US Olympic Team Selectors. She completed the Burghley CCI**** last fall and Rolex again this year. She trains with Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, and David O’Connor and runs her own business under the name Lily Bridge Eventing. Most of her upper level horses are Thoroughbreds and she galloped racehorses for Jonathan Sheppard during college.
Suzanne Wepplo (31) of Minneapolis, MN. Suzanne won the USEF Rood and Riddle award for Ex-Racehorses in Dressage after her horse Puppylove was the USDF All Breeds Thoroughbred Champion at 3rd Level. Suzanne has trained extensively with Leslie Morse, Steffan Peters, and many other top dressage trainers, and is committed to finding and producing top dressage horses from America’s racetracks. Suzanne operates Sisu Sporthorse Training out of the Pegasus Riding School in Medina, MN.
Cathy Wieschoff (54) of Lexington, KY. Cathy might have more experience training Thoroughbreds for eventing than the other trainers in the Makeover combined. She worked in the 70s starting yearlings and galloping at the track and more recently she has been the hometown girl that draws her local fans to Rolex every year. She has also competed at Burghley and other top British events as part of her long-time quest to represent the United States at the Olympics. Cathy’s training methods fascinated the crowds at the RRTP/New Vocations Thoroughbreds For All Kentucky, particularly her integration of natural horsemanship methods from the ground to give jumping confidence to her horses. She trains out of Carriage Station Farm.