by CL Cimino
Carolyn Karlsen started the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover eight years ago with internationally famous event rider Steuart Pittman and a team of dedicated people. In our exclusive interview, Equine Info Exchange catches up with Carolyn prior to the Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America.
”This is good for horse racing because at the heart and core of horse racing is race horses. The Thoroughbred Makeover was started with Steuart Pittman because horse racing has to think about, and does think about what happens to the horses when they are done racing. Not all race horses were meant to win the Kentucky Derby and these horses can live to 20, 25 or 30 years old so they need to find something to do. They need to find a second career. They need a job – like we need a job – and we want to make it happen in a way which is feasible, practical, plausible and realistic for the horses. The Thoroughbred Makeover is a way to make them a star in a second career.
”The program started eight years ago with 26 horses with prizes of $26,000 and has grown tremendously. A record 794 trainers were accepted and 500 are expected to compete for prizes over $125,000. Although it is thrilling to win a race as an owner, this is probably the most rewarding accomplishment of my life.
”Something which we do which brings tears to my eyes – in a good way – is to integrate the barns of participants with different disciplines. We have a ‘pot luck’ barn contest where riders who ordinarily probably wouldn’t get to know each other due to their variously disciplines all come together for the love of the Thoroughbred. It’s wonderful to see Dressage riders speak with Barrel Racers and Eventers get to know Polo players.
”In the Thoroughbred Makeover, riders are able to sell their horses if they choose through the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace. The horses for sale are featured in our Sale Horse Catalog, indicated when riders wear a green bridle tag and can be inspected, test-ridden and have pre-purchase exams done all on-site. We don’t take a fee for the sales and support the marketing of their horse by including them on the website and program. However, owners can still show their horses without offering them for sale.
”For each class, we find expert judges in that particular discipline. For example, judges for the Dressage class are world class Dressage judges, same for the other disciplines. At the end of the classes, the winner of each discipline is judged by a team of judges across all disciplines and selects a winner. Last year it was the filly Old Tavern, a polo pony.
”I am very excited about our new team competition this year. My company, Starting Gate College Consulting, helps students and their families through all aspects of the college transition process and wanted to include Colleges and University teams into the Thoroughbred Makeover. We have 17 teams participating. I’m thrilled to do this because I’ve worked in higher education for 25 years, but have also loved all things Thoroughbred for as long as I can remember. Sponsoring the team competition at the Thoroughbred Makeover combines both passions in one special day.
”It wasn't just Steuart and myself launching the first Makeover- we had so much help! This never would have gotten off the ground without Georeganne Hale of Pimlico saying yes when we asked if we could "borrow" Pimlico for the weekend. Theresa Wiseman pulled off a media miracle to get us coverage all of Maryland. The original board worked tirelessly to pull this off, including current director of operation Kirsten Green, web and graphic designer Julie Magruder, and current Board members Cristy Clagert and Laury Paramore. Yes I did put up the initial prize money and I continue to do so as a sponsor and board member, a role I'm most proud of -- it amazes me how we've grown through the tremendous efforts of so many - just don't want to exclude anyone.“
To purchase tickets, find the schedule of events, or shop for a horse, please go to https://tbmakeover.org.
To learn more about the makeover and rules see About the Makeover.
To learn more about the new team competition see: About the New Team Competition.
Read our article about last year’s winner America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred, Old Tavern, a Brave Polo Pony with Nerves of Steel .
See our huge directory of Charities and Rehoming organizations, including Thoroughbred Charities of America.
All images courtesy of the Retired Racehorse Project and used by permission.