The Kentucky Derby is touted as the “most exciting two minutes in sports” and annually on the first Saturday in May it seems everyone in America is a horse fan. The bad news is quicker than you can say, “Secretariat” the winner has been crowned, the mint juleps downed and the elegant hats put away until next year. The good news is that the other 364 days of the year you can enjoy the spirit of horse racing’s headline event. Here are five suggestions to celebrate Thoroughbreds all year long and keep the Kentucky Derby feeling alive.
1.Get up close and personal with a Thoroughbred. If you’ve always thought it would be fun to learn how to ride, chances are there is a venue near you where you can take riding lessons (be careful–these are addicting) or go out on a scenic trail ride. Your odds of getting to meet a Thoroughbred through a visit to a local riding establishment are probably better than selecting the actual Kentucky Derby winner. If you are not sure where to start, visit the Time to Ride website which connects horse enthusiasts with local equine businesses and events.
2.Become a fan of racehorses in their second careers. Did you know that after their racing days are over Thoroughbreds excel in numerous activities ranging from jumping to ranch work, trail riding to rehabilitating inmates in correctional facilities? For example, the weekend prior to the Derby, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event happened in Lexington, just 80 miles east of Churchill Downs. Fifteen retired racehorses showcased their show jumping, cross country jumping and dressage skills in front of around 30,000 fans of this sport which is just one of the Olympic equestrian competitions.
Besides cheering on Thoroughbreds at Rolex every April, you can follow the Retired Racehorse Project’s annual $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover competition which happens in the fall. This year it will be October 27-30 at Kentucky Horse Park. Additionally, in some states (like Kentucky and California) there are all-Thoroughbred horse shows.
3.Volunteer your time and skills to a Thoroughbred rescue. Just as there are myriad dog and cat adoption organizations, there are horse adoption organizations. Many of them cater to launching former racehorses into a second career and finding an appropriate new home. CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred ex-Racehorses) is just one seeking volunteering skills from transporting horses to writing, to using ebay.
4.Follow retired Thoroughbreds and Thoroughbred rehoming organizations on social media.
Have you heard of Metro the retired racehorse? He’s somewhat of a celebrity painter with over 55,000 Facebook fans. Yes, he enjoys holding paintbrush in his mouth and stroking vibrant hues onto canvas. He even wrote a book.
There’s also Glorious Alliance, a very snarky mare. She’s active on Twitter.
I hope everyone enjoys their Kentucky Derby Day! See you soon!
— Glorious Alliance (@GloriousAllianc) May 7, 2016
Aside from horses active on social media, there are a number of every-day horse folk who own Thoroughbreds and blog about their experiences with their equine partners. My blog Saddle Seeks Horse is one of them, as are Fly On Over, She Moved to Texas, Dressage Fundamentals. (If you have a blog about Thoroughbreds and I didn’t mention, please put a link in the comments section). By reading the stories of horses and their humans who love them you gain insight into the character and personality of ex-racehorses.
5. Adopt a retired Thoroughbred racehorse. This is not a feasible for every horse lover out there as horses are time-consuming and expensive, yet this gets my vote for most rewarding experience. There is a myth that ex-racehorses are wild and crazy. Definitely some are skittish and sensitive and best left for horse people with years of experience, however many are quite lazy (which is why they didn’t become rock star racers) and mellow. And as a breed their work ethic and heart are unparalleled. Whether you’re a seasoned horse person or a budding horse lover, put owning/loving a Thoroughbred on your bucket list. You won’t regret it. And not only will you make a new best friend, but keep the spirit of the Kentucky Derby alive 24/7 the other 364 days of the year.
Your Turn to Comment: Have you ever met, loved, or owned a retired racehorse? How would you describe the experience to a newbie?