As part of their Equine Welfare Strategic Plan, Racing Victoria (RV) created the Off The Track program to drive demand for thoroughbreds into secondary roles following their racing careers. Since its inception, the program has sponsored over 700 events in which more than 15,000 retired racehorses have competed.
Earlier this week, RV announced the introduction of a new annual award to recognise and reward the achievements of the equine experts who prepare these retired racehorses for their next careers.
*RV's new award recognises the work of retrainers (photo: Racing Victoria)
Three finalists have been announced for the inaugural Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year Award - Jessica Schneider, Nikki Cook and Amanda Porter. The winner will be presented this Saturday, 20 July at the Equestrian Victoria Awards, sponsored by Off The Track.
The panel of five judges tasked with narrowing down a competitive field of entries consisted of Olympian Amanda Ross; media personality and talented polo player, Hamish McLachlan; Peter Horobin Saddlery Creative Director and Marketing Communications at the Australian Jumps Racing Association, Marlee Horobin; racehorse trainer Bec Waymouth; and RV’s Executive General Manager – Integrity Services, Jamie Stier.
Jessica Schneider has been an RV Acknowledged Retrainer for the past six years, having purchased a farm for the purpose of re-educating and campaigning retired racehorses. The farm regularly has more than 20 horses in work, the majority of which are Off The Track.
Nikki Cook is the owner and operator of Shory Park horses, one of Australia’s leading retraining operations. She won the Godolphin Stud and Staff Stable Award for Thoroughbred Care and Welfare in 2016, and her team retrains almost 100 Off The Track thoroughbreds each year.
Amanda Porter runs the successful Forest View Thoroughbreds, which employs a small but dedicated team of experienced staff, including volunteers wanting to learn more about Off The Track thoroughbreds. Porter prides herself on producing quality mounts suitable for a variety of disciplines.
RV’s Equine Welfare Manager, Jennifer Hughes, said the award is aimed at rewarding RV Acknowledged Retrainers for their continuing commitment to the industry.
“The RV Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year Award provides us with an opportunity to recognise the hard work and dedication that our diverse and highly skilled network of retrainers carry out with retired racehorses.
“Our retrainers play a significant role as they are tasked with re-educating retired racehorses for secondary careers as performance and pleasure horses, as well as championing them as the ideal equestrian athletes.
“They are an integral part of our Off The Track program, and their dedication and loyalty to partnering with Off The Track thoroughbreds deserves recognition, which is exactly why Racing Victoria created this award," said Hughes.
Retired racehorses are suitable for a wide range of post-racing careers including Equestrian, Polocrosse and Western disciplines, pleasure riding, companion and therapy animals (including Riding for the Disabled) and working horse roles such as Clerks of the Course, stock work and law enforcement.
Long-established arrangements with Equestrian Victoria (EV), Pony Club Association of Victoria (PCAV), the Horse Riding Clubs Association of Victoria (HRCAV) and others, has allowed Racing Victoria to ensure suitable incentives exist for re-educating and riding Off The Track horses. RV Acknowledged Retrainers can also assist racing trainers and owners with the placement of their racehorses once they have finished their racing careers.
Last year, Racing Victoria was a Major Partner of Channel 7’s JUMP OFF series. A world-first concept, the show bought together some of the biggest names in horse racing and show jumping. Five teams of racehorse trainers and show jumping riders selected retired racehorses, professionally retrained them and took them to local competitions in preparation for the Grand Final.
Series Two will see a new format, where the competition has evolved into a national competition, open to all riders, with a total prize pool of $100,000. The qualifiers will commence in October, with the Final to be held at Borneo Park on Melbourne Cup Eve.
Visit jumpoff.com.au for all the details or to watch Series 1 on 7plus, click HERE.
Series 1 was very exciting, as well as extremely educational to the retraining process, and I can’t wait for the new Series!
For more information on the OTT program or to contact a retrainer near you, please click HERE.
*story excerpts from Racing Victoria
*An OTT success story (photo: Victorian Agricultural Shows)