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Contact: Kristen Kovatch Bentley


In keeping with the organization’s goal to better serve the Thoroughbred and continue to educate the owners, trainers and farms who seek to help transition these horses to second careers, the Retired Racehorse Project’s new arrival exam at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, emphasizes soundness, body condition, and microchipping.

“The aim of the arrival exam is to not only verify each horse’s identity and ensure he or she is healthy and sound for competition, but to also set the standard of horsemanship associated with off-track Thoroughbreds,” said RRP executive director Jen Roytz. “In addition to the actual exam, which is reminiscent of what competitors might experience at higher levels of competition with horse inspections, we also hosted webinars with Q and As and published educational materials focused on topics such as nutrition, hoof care, the Henneke Body Condition scoring system, vaccination protocols, and injury rehabilitation and prevention.”

Components of the arrival exam

Every horse that competes at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover will undergo an arrival exam performed by veterinarians from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Arrival exams will include an assessment of body condition score and vital signs, examination for lameness at the walk, and a scan for a microchip.

Microchipping is rapidly becoming the equine industry standard as a means of permanent identification, and every horse participating in the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover is required to have a microchip registered with The Jockey Club.

Horses are required to have a Henneke body condition score (BCS) of 4 or higher in order to be cleared to compete at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover. This requirement has been set to ensure that horses have enough fat and muscle reserve to be able to perform at the Makeover in a comfortable manner, as well as to set an example within the equestrian industry for horses successfully transitioned off the track.

“BCS of 4 is a widespread standard with equine welfare and health professionals indicating that a horse is in acceptable condition,” describes Dr. Shannon Reed, the RRP’s consulting veterinarian. “It is the baseline standard used by welfare organizations and veterinarians that appropriate nutrition for individual animal needs is being provided. The Henneke System has been adopted as the measuring system that allows veterinarians and equine health professionals to effectively communicate the status of a horse muscle and fat reserve.”

Veterinarians will also measure each horse’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse and respiration as indicators of good health, and will also examine each horse for any extensive blemishes or areas of swelling.

All horses will be examined at the walk on a straight line and in turns on firm ground for soundness. Barefoot horses may present in boots. While Makeover horses will not be jogged for the soundness exam, judges, stewards and show officials may remove any horse from competition that appears unsound for the discipline.

Year-long education

To help trainers be successful in preparing their horses to arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park ready to compete, the Retired Racehorse Project provided plenty of educational resources. These resources included webinars with equine nutritionists and podiatrists, information about the Henneke body condition score and how a score is achieved, and encouragement of trainers to be proactive in addressing body condition concerns with their veterinarian and support team.

New for 2019, every trainer submitted a letter of reference from their veterinarian with their application to compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover that stated that the veterinarian had confidence that the trainer could successfully transition a horse to a second career with regard to overall health, wellness and care.

Best Conditioned Award

To recognize trainers who produced their horse for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover in peak condition, a Best Conditioned Award will be given in each of the Makeover’s ten disciplines. The award consists of a trophy halter by Clever With Leather and was generously sponsored by Nina Bonnie.

“Bringing a horse to the Thoroughbred Makeover is a huge commitment of time, effort and dollars. I sponsored the Best Conditioned Award to be given to the trainer who, realizing the importance of conditioning not only through physical exercise, but feeding and grooming, presents a horse that stands out above the rest in each division,” said Nina Bonnie. “The Makeover has been tremendously effective in engaging more equestrians in the retraining and conditioning of Thoroughbreds after racing, and this award is aimed at rewarding those who take a comprehensive approach to preparing their horse for not only this competition, but for their future as sport horses.”

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, is the largest and most lucrative retraining competition for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in the world. The competition is intended to inspire trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers, and the National Symposium serves to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners. For more information about the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, which takes place October 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, please visit .

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Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue was founded in 2008 when we took in our first donkey. Since then they have taken in over 450 horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys.

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