Suzanne Carreker-Voigt got to see just how far a Thoroughbred could take her in disciplines outside of racing starting from the cornfields of Iowa of all places. Now she and fellow upstate New York horsewoman Donna Vild hope to show others the value of Thoroughbreds in second careers during a dark-day event next month near Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Thoroughbreds For All Saratoga, an event designed to showcase the versatility of Thoroughbreds and celebrate their second careers, will be held the morning and afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Mike Traylor's Traylor Farm in Ballston Spa with a training forum scheduled for that evening at The Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs.
The inaugural event is the culmination of a couple years of planning by the two horsewomen, who see the program backed by the Retired Racehorse Project initiative led by Steuart Pittman as the perfect place to show the usefulness of off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs).
"I went to the first Retired Racehorse Project event at Pimlico a few years ago and was just enthralled with the whole thing," said Carreker-Voigt, who owns an 11-acre farm in Charlton in the southwest corner of Saratoga County. "I was so impressed. It's a weekend down there, so it's a little bit different than what we're doing up here.
"I got to be friendly with Steuart. I used to live in the Mid-Atlantic, evented and we have a lot of similar friends, mutual friends. We've been talking over the years and he thought Saratoga was a good place to have one of his events. So we started talking about it and it took a couple years to get the framework. How should we do it, when should we do it, that kind of thing. A lot of his events are associated with a horse show and a clinic. He didn't really want to do that, but he definitely wanted to have a clinic."
A one-day clinic, at Dayspring Farm in Ballston Spa, will be conducted Wednesday, Aug. 5. About 20 horses and riders are expected for the clinic.
The entire event starts Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Traylor Farm with a presentation of local ex-racehorses for sale or adoption and a preview of Thoroughbred Makeover, a $100,000 competition set for the weekend before the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 30-31 in Lexington.
Following an included lunch, Thoroughbred demonstrations highlight the final portion. The demonstrations will include commentary from Pittman, retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer and Olympic silver medal-winning equestrian Michael Matz, leading owner and equine advocate Maggi Moss, Nuno Santos of the Maryland-based Santos Sport Horses and others.
The commentary will include training Thoroughbreds for second careers, selecting discipline and market for retired racehorses, soundness standards and a jockey's perspective.
"We really felt, Donna and I, that giving an educational forum would be the most valuable thing for our community," Carreker-Voigt said. "To help some of the rescues that we have that are struggling, to give them a little bit of a boost, and to bring in people for them and for the general public to show the phenomenal things you can do with Thoroughbreds. They can be extremely competitive in so many disciplines."
Some of Carreker-Voigt's experience in that goes back to her days in Iowa shortly after she got married. She started a combined dressage and training club with a group of people in Iowa and would bring in people for lessons.
Around that same time she also wound up with a grandson of legendary sire, Hall of Famer and 1957 Preakness Stakes winner Bold Ruler.
"He was born out there, in the middle of a Iowa cornfield," she said of the horse named Starflight. "He was bottle fed because they didn't know enough out there, and wanted the mare for other things, so I ended up bottle feeding him. He grew to 16.3, massive structured horse, very much personality of Bold Ruler from everything I've read.
"I had no idea what I was getting and he took me all the way to the top. That horse was one of a lifetime. He could do anything and everything. I lived all my childhood dreams thanks to that horse. He was with me for 28 years. I started in dressage and he took me to dressage at Devon, winning classes there, then on to working with Phillip Dutton in eventing, that kind of thing. It was just a wonderful ride. I lent him to a junior rider to take to the Devon Horse Show. He saw it all."
Tickets for Thoroughbreds For All Saratoga, which includes a box lunch, are $25 each. Tickets for the Thoroughbred Training Forum at The Parting Glass are $10 each.