When the Retired Racehorse Training Project announced that 26 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses would appear at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland to demonstrate their talent for second careers, nobody envisioned a western invasion of Maryland hunt country.
The majority of the demonstrations at the October 5 and 6 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium will feature the traditional English sports that Thoroughbreds have excelled in for centuries, but today RRTP announced that the western disciplines will move in on Pimlico in a big way.
"When one of our trainers, Dale Simanton, requested some cattle for his demonstration at Pimlico, we all thought he was kidding," said RRTP president Steuart Pittman. "We didn't think our friends at Maryland Jockey Club would let cattle anywhere near their racetrack, but we were wrong. So we had a conference call with Dale and his crew and decided he should not bring just one ranch horse, he should bring as many as he could fit in his trailer so we could host a full ranch rodeo demonstration."
Dale's South Dakota ranch is home to Gate to Great, a program that retrains Thoroughbreds off the track to do the ranch work typical of western cattle operations. The ranch is also home to what may be the only all-Thoroughbred ranch rodeo team in the nation, a team that will now be making an appearance at the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium. In addition to his Makeover horse, Drake's Dancer (aka Duck), Dale will bring four off-track Thoroughbred geldings that are fully trained in ranch work and rodeo competition to wow the crowds at Pimlico.
Dale won't be alone in bringing a Makeover horse that knows how to work cattle. To top off the western flavor of the weekend, Saturday will also feature an off-track Thoroughbred barrel competition that includes Thoroughbred Makeover contestant Nikki and Symphonic Cat. Like Dale, Nikki also hails from the west, she is a native of Paso Robles, California. And while she is training Symphonic Cat for barrel racing and gymkhana, she has also done a cattle drive and a team penning competition with him. "It's what we do with our horses out here," said the twenty-two year old Nikki, "and Thoroughbreds off the track are my horse of choice."
The barrel race will also feature the winner and four runners-up from this summer's Extreme Retired Racehorse Makeover Barrel Race held in Ohio. "These girls have more fun with their Thoroughbreds than should be legal," said Jackie Harris, the founder of the Dreaming of Three Foundation and barrel racing promoter who organized the event. "We plan to light up the race track and show the East Coast what their Thoroughbreds can do."
The western invasion will take place on Saturday afternoon and evening during the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Racecourse. More information and tickets are available online at www.retiredracehorsetraining.org.