Anne Russek didn’t run the inaugural Thoroughbred Celebration  in June just like any other horse show. She made sure the focus was on the horses and their successful transition to their new lives.
As each horse entered the ring, the announcer read a short biography for the spectators—the name of the horse, his or her bloodlines and what was significant about that heritage. The owners of the horses added stories about how they acquired the OTTBs.
“The riders faded to the background as each horse’s biography was read over the loudspeaker,” said competitor Krista Hodgkin. “This helped connect the spectators to each animal that was performing in front of them. This group of horses had some amazing stories to share, some being fresh off the track, some having been rescued from the kill pens, and some never having made it to the track due to injury or a lack of desire to run, and thankfully [they] had owners that could utilize this secondary market to rehome them.”
Russek had planned a “parade of sales/adoptable horses” for the Saturday night of the June show during the exhibitors’ dinner.
“I had nine horses signed up to do the parade, but I got down to two sales horses—and they were both mine—because the other seven people were so happy with the way their horses had performed on Saturday that they decided to keep them!” Russek said.
For the upcoming show, Nov. 21-22, Russek has several special events planned. Four riders will perform during the exhibitors’ dinner on their OTTBs—two will perform a pas de deux, and the other two will do individual freestyles to music.
On Sunday, Rodney Jenkins will be the special guest judge for the $1000 hunter and jumper classics.
Anna Ford, the program director of the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program and co-author of Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racecourse to Riding Horse will fly in and do a book signing and answer questions.
“The silent auction is bigger and better,” said Russek. “There are several raffles. We’ve added two more jumping classes with fences up to 3’6” and a handy hunter class. And there are lots of prizes. The top three will get prizes including saddle pads, salt blocks, shoe removal kits, hats and gift certificates. You really do walk out of there with tons of booty!”