New Vocations Pony Club Challenge Gives Off-The-Track Thoroughbreds And Pony Clubbers A Chance

Nov 16, 2017 - 9:52 PM

The Thoroughbred adoption organization New Vocations has launched a program to re-home horses with Pony Clubbers for no adoption fee.

The Lexington, Ky.-based organization will adopt out 50 of its off-the-track Thoroughbred horses to approved C-1 or higher rated Pony Clubbers, and each Pony Clubber will also receive an $1,800 stipend paid out over the course of 12 to 18 months to go toward expenses associated with the horse, such as veterinary fees, training, competition and transportation.

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Kate McGown adopted For Love For Not through the New Vocations Pony Club Challenge program. Photo courtesy of Kate McGown

New Vocations is a 501c3 non-profit racehorse adoption program seeking to rehabilitate and place retired racehorses. They work with Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, but only Thoroughbreds are included in the Pony Club Challenge program. New Vocations has Thoroughbred locations in Lexington, Marysville, Ohio, Hummelstown, Pa., and Ballston Spa, N.Y.

The project is the brainchild of Anna Ford, New Vocation’s Thoroughbred program director. “She has had a Post-It Note on her wall that says ‘Pony Club’ for as long as I have known her!” said Sarah Coleman, New Vocations’ director of education and development. The goal is to not only showcase the versatility of an off-the-track Thoroughbred, but also to help provide Pony Clubbers with an education in training one.

The 50 horses New Vocations has selected for the challenge are all sound but have a variety of ailments or issues that makes them particularly difficult to adopt out.

“[Ford] knew that there was a way to tie in an educated, young population with some of our horses that take a little longer to place, whether that is because of smaller stature, limitations or stable vices like cribbing,” Coleman said.

For example, C-1 Pony Clubber Kristen Forti of Fort Wayne, Ind., adopted Citywide Contest, a 4-year-old mare (City Zip—Cool Contest, One Cool Cat) with a crooked pastern. Forti plans to compete in events with “Tessa.”

“Most people would see that and go, ‘Oh that’s really bad. I don’t want this horse,’ ” Forti, 16, said. “But she moves wonderfully, and I haven’t had any issues, and my vet says there should be no issues.”

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Kristen Forti took advantage of the New Vocations Pony Club Challenge to adopt Citywide Contest and hopes to event the mare. Photo by Jana Guise

The $1,800 stipend is provided to the Pony Clubbers by the WaterShed Animal Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers support to other organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of companion animals.

Pony Clubbers can apply for horses through Jan. 31 of 2018, and there will be special events and awards for the horses at the 2018 U.S. Pony Club Championships at Tryon, N.C. New Vocations will also give each Pony Clubber $200 toward entry fees at the USPC Championships. The Challenge horses don’t have to qualify for the Championships, and they’ll compete in their own divisions. After the Pony Clubbers compete at championships in 2018, they can either resell their horses or keep them and continue competing them.

“We take the horses with a couple of minor issues and were able to show people what they’re capable of doing and that you don’t need a perfect horse with perfect conformation to work up the levels,” Forti said.

“I have to say I’m really excited to compete in the challenge,” said Kate McGown, a 15-year-old C-2 Pony Clubber from Minnetrista, Minn. She rides with the Lead Hound Pony Club and adopted For Love For Not (Great Notion—Love For Not, Not For Love) to compete in eventing. “It’s a really cool program because I’ve always wanted to train a horse, especially a young horse, and this is a great opportunity I don’t know that I would have had.”

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Madisyn Decant and her Southside Sis, a mare that came to her through the New Vocations Pony Club Challenge. Photo courtesy of Madisyn Decant

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for Pony Club [riders] to look at these Thoroughbreds and see what they can do other than just being on the track,” said Madisyn Decant, a 19-year-old C-2 Pony Clubber from Currituck, N.C. Decant adopted the 7-year-old mare Southside Sis (Half Ours—Souris, Defrere), and she has already done polocrosse and jumping with the mare.

“She’s the sweetest little mare ever; I fell in love with her the moment I got her out of the field,” Decant said. “These horses are amazing athletes, and they’re so versatile.”

New Vocations plans to adopt out 50 horses through the Pony Club Challenge this year, and there are still horses available for eligible Pony Clubbers. Click here for more information on adopting a horse.

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