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The Thoroughbred Makeover & National Symposium

The 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, will be an historic event with competition years running for both 2020-eligible and 2021-eligible horses, due to the postponement of the 2020 event. Competition years will compete separately across three days of preliminary competition, vying for a total of over $100,000 in prize money, with each competition year crowning its own Thoroughbred Makeover Champion.

  • What: The largest Thoroughbred retraining competition in the world for recently-retired ex-racehorses
  • When: October 12-17, 2021
  • Where: Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington
  • Who can participate: The 2020 competition year includes accepted trainers (professionals, amateurs, juniors and teams) who applied between December 1, 2019 - January 15, 2020 for the 2020 competition, with Jockey Club-registered Thoroughbreds who marked a workout or race after July 1, 2018 and did not have more than 15 retraining rides prior to December 1, 2019. The 2021 competition year will include trainers who apply between December 1, 2021 - January 15, 2021, with Jockey Club-registered Thoroughbred who marked a workout or race after July 1, 2019 and have not had more than 15 retraining rides prior to December 1, 2020
  • How horses are acquired for competition: Trainers are responsible for acquiring their own eligible horses, whether through an aftercare organization, directly from track connections or through a reselling agent. Trainers may opt to list their horse for sale via the Makeover Marketplace, but there is no requirement to sell the horse after competition

Want to apply? Learn more here!

What is the Thoroughbred Makeover?

The Retired Racehorse Project, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds. The competition is intended to inspire good 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.

This is the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing. 


Who can participate?

The Makeover isn’t an ordinary horse show; it’s a training competition. Trainers interested in participating must submit an application to the RRP Makeover Selection Committee for approval, to ensure that all participants are capable of effectively restarting an off-track Thoroughbred and demonstrating its talent and trainability. Participants do not need to be professional trainers, however — juniors, amateurs, and teams are welcome.

When evaluating applicants, the selection committee took into consideration the need for adequate representation within each discipline; the need for representation by professionals, amateurs, and juniors; geographic diversity; affiliation with institutions that are committed to the RRP’s mission; and evidence that the trainer is committed to the RRP’s mission.

Trainers may compete up to two horses apiece and participate on a team, but do not need to have obtained the horse they intend to compete at the time of application.

The team option is designed for groups of riders such as intercollegiate programs or show barns to collaborate in the process of preparing a horse for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Teams will compete alongside individual entries. For scheduling purposes, teams may only enter one horse; a trainer can participate on one team in addition to two individual entries.

If you're interested in taking part in the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover, applications will open later this fall. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to be kept up-to-date.


What horses are eligible to compete?

Because the Makeover is a training competition designed to evaluate a horse’s progress in a prescribed period of time, we set eligibility requirements to ensure that all horses are of similar experience at the starting point. Horses must meet these requirements to be eligible for the 2021 competition:

  • Registered with The Jockey Club and have a lip tattoo or microchip.
  • Raced or had a published work on or after July 1, 2019.
  • Not have started in training for a second career before December 1, 2020 (other than a maximum of 15 allowable rides).
  • Tack walking as part of a veterinarian-prescribed injury rehab plan is considered exempt from the 15-ride rule. Further exemptions and details can be found in the rule book.

The RRP has a strictly enforced Horse Welfare Policy in effect at the competition, which covers horse protection, abuse and neglect, soundness, and body condition. Trainers agree to adhere to the United States Equestrian Federation’s Guidelines for Drugs and Medication, and random testing will take place.

How is the competition structured?

Ten competitive disciplines are offered at the Makeover: Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Dressage, Eventing, Field Hunter, Polo, Ranch Work, Show Hunter, Show Jumper, and Freestyle (a free-form division to demonstrate skills of the trainer’s choice). A horse may be entered in up to two disciplines.

Preliminary rounds take place on Wednesday and Thursday. (To see the specific tests required in each discipline, click here.) Each competitor receives a preliminary round score, and the top five in each discipline advance to the Finale, which takes place on Saturday in the Covered Arena and is broadcast via livestream.

Each discipline competes separately in Finale, and each has their own final test to determine the Makeover Champion in that discipline. Judges from all disciplines then rank the ten Makeover Champions, and the Thoroughbred Makeover Champion is named (and earns a $10,000 check!)


What does the National Symposium include?

We offer several educational seminars and panel discussions dedicated to the care, training, and marketing of off-track Thoroughbreds. All are open to the public and free to audit. The Makeover Master Class is a traditional part of the event, presenting a comprehensive look at evaluating prospects and approaching initial training sessions off the track. The Master Class features veteran Makeover trainers working with prospects eligible for 2021, available through some of North America's leading aftercare organizations.

An extensive vendor fair also runs concurrent with the competition. Take a look at the 2020 Virtual Vendor Fair participant list to see who's been here in the past!

Many aspects of the National Symposium will be offered virtually this year, including the TERF Makeover Master Class, educational seminars and panel discussions, the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace, the Vendor Fair, and more.

What is the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace?

Many Makeover trainers take on off-track Thoroughbreds as resale projects, and the Makeover provides a unique opportunity for horse-shoppers to see dozens of OTTBs successfully competing in a second career, and all in one location.

RRP has endeavored to help market and facilitate the private sale of these horses by highlighting them at the competition — they wear special bridle numbers, are advertised on our website, and a printed sale catalogue is available to spectators. Designated areas are available for shoppers to try sale horses, and local veterinarians are on stand-by and available to perform pre-purchase exams on site. Click here to learn more about the Makeover Marketplace.

All sale contracts are private but are required to include no-slaughter and notification of resale restrictions.


Fast facts about the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover:

  • 673 trainers were accepted to compete during the initial application process, comprising the second-largest class of trainers in the Makeover's current format and location. The accepted trainers represented 44 states, plus four Canadian provinces
  • 482 horses were entered by the Aug. 1 registration deadline. Taking into account last-minute scratches, 359 horses completed.
  • The most-raced horse entered in the competition had 150 starts. The highest money-earner had career winnings of $1,050,400.
  • Total number of horses entered in each discipline, as of the Makeover: Barrels, 28; Competitive Trail, 73; Dressage, 143; Eventing, 82; Field Hunters, 24; Freestyle, 39; Polo, 14; Ranch Work, 27; Show Hunters, 154; Show Jumpers, 121
  • Approximately 100 horses were entered in the ASPCA Makeover Marketplace.
  • More than 115 volunteers helped staff the competition.
  • 50+ companies were Makeover sponsors.
  • 60+ vendors took part in the Sponsor Fair.

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Building Bridges to Second Careers...Increasing Demand for Thoroughbreds
(410) 798-5140

Mailing Address:
3357 Hazelwood Road, Edgewater, MD 21037

 Retired Racehorse Project is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.


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