Thoroughbred Makeover postponed for 2020; expanded event planned for 2021

By: Retired Racehorse Project

Posted: July 7, 2020

After extensive information gathering, research and consideration, the Retired Racehorse Project has made the difficult but unanimous decision to postpone the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, until 2021. The RRP plans to host an expanded Thoroughbred Makeover Oct. 12-17, 2021 that will offer separate classes in all 10 disciplines for both 2020 and 2021 entries.

Put on each year by the RRP, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Thoroughbred Makeover typically draws hundreds of competitors from 40-plus states and multiple Canadian provinces, each of whom has taken on the challenge of bringing along a Thoroughbred in his or her first year of retraining post-racing. In a normal year, the event also includes the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace, a vendor fair with more than 70 on-site retailers and other equine businesses, seminars, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit, and various social and networking events.

To comply with COVID-19 pandemic event guidelines as recommended by US Equestrian and the Kentucky Horse Park, many of these aspects that monetize a significant portion of the event would have to be eliminated or heavily modified.

“This was a decision that was not entered into lightly,” RRP Executive Director Jen Roytz said. “We went to great lengths to look at the feasibility of putting on the event from various perspectives, including preparedness of our competitors, current sponsorship commitments, the cost and steps necessary to implement COVID-19 risk-management protocols for an event like ours, and what changes we would need to make to the event to comply with state and venue regulations. We also explored various ‘what if’ scenarios with our legal counsel, insurance company, and board, and what their impacts could be on not only the event, but our organization as a whole.”

With the Thoroughbred Makeover being a competition for horses in their first year of training after racing, the organization sent out two surveys to its competitors, one in April and one in June, to better understand how the pandemic was affecting its competitors’ ability to prepare their horses. Questions in the survey also aimed to gauge how their competitors would feel about the changes to the event that would have to be made in 2020 in order to put it on. Trainers expressed concern through these surveys about having their horses adequately prepared for the show environment, as well as financial concerns due to lost income during shutdowns. In some cases, horses could not receive necessary maintenance care or undergo elective veterinary or therapy procedures. Furthermore, every state’s pandemic guidelines were different which had, and continues to have, an impact on competitors.

“We worked hard to identify what the best course of action would be, not only for our constituents and horses, but for the long-term viability and stability of our organization,” Roytz said. “Our competitor survey responses showed us not only that a significant percentage of our competitors were behind on their training due to a variety of factors, but also that if we were to implement the changes that the pandemic would force us to make, it would not only put our organization in a precarious position financially but would negatively impact our competitors’ enjoyment of the event.”

A critical aspect of the Thoroughbred Makeover on the part of participating trainers is having recently retired racehorses, all of which are relatively green in terms of their show career, adequately prepared for a big show environment at the Kentucky Horse Park. Typically, this is achieved by trainers exposing their horses to various competitive environments in the ten-month training period prior to the Makeover.

“The Thoroughbred Makeover at its core is designed to serve the mission of the RRP as a showcase of the versatility and trainability of the breed,” said Managing Director and Event Organizer Kirsten Green. “Much of the feedback we’ve received, as well as the results of our surveys, tell us that the majority of our competitors are not feeling as confident as they typically would about their ability to showcase their horses as well as they otherwise would have. Furthermore, the Makeover typically draws entries from more than 40 states, as well as a significant Canadian contingent, and we’re still contending with a continually changing landscape over the coming months.”

Several aspects of the 2020 TCA Thoroughbred Makeover will be run virtually this year in October, including a virtual vendor fair, webinars in place of seminars, and the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace. The Marketplace will transition into an expanded online showcase of transitioned Thoroughbreds who were intended to compete in October and be offered for sale or adoption at the Makeover.

Trainers who entered this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover will have the opportunity to retain their registered 2020 horses to compete in a special 2020 division at the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover. They also have the option to withdraw their 2020 horses and roll their entry fee to the 2021 competition with a new 2021-eligible horse. In some cases, some 2020-entered horses will be able to retain their eligibility for the 2021 division as long as they do not exceed the maximum of 15 retraining rides before Dec. 1, 2020.

For more information and updates about the Thoroughbred Makeover, visit tbmakeover.org. More announcements about virtual activities and events will be released throughout the summer and early fall. Sign up to receive the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace catalog at tbmakeover.org/catalogsignup.

(Photo courtesy of Retired Racehorse Project)