A Second Chance for Thoroughbreds

Tess Fortune and MVP, Hunter champion at the 2022 TAKE2 Finals at the Kentucky National Horse Show. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program is on a mission to bring the Thoroughbred back to the hunter and jumper rings.

BY April Bilodeau

When most people think of the old-school hunters, they think of Thoroughbreds. While the breed’s reputation in the racing world is incomparable, their presence in other rings across disciplines is more common than one might think.

Thoroughbreds are known to be smart, brave, and enthusiastic about their jobs. While the hunter ring may be a sea of Warmbloods now, TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program has set out to bring the Thoroughbred back.

“The Thoroughbred is growing in popularity,” Andy Belfiore, Executive Director of TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program, tells The Plaid Horse. “They can be a little hot blooded and more challenging than the warmbloods, but I also hear they’re the most fun to ride. People think of them as racehorses but they really can do it all.”

TAKE2 is a 501c3 with the mission of finding homes for retired racehorses. The organization acts as a liaison between the racetrack and people searching for a new horse. TAKE2 specifically works with The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which has accredited organizations that they work with to adopt out horses for their post-track careers.

TAKE2 also encompasses the TAKE THE LEAD program, which was created by The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA). The TAKE THE LEAD program is a retirement program for Thoroughbreds that retire from the New York Racing Association (NYRA) racetracks.

In their ten years of working together, TAKE2 and TAKE THE LEAD have helped over 1,000 horses find their new homes.

Providing Opportunities

The program was founded by Rick Violette, Jr., a successful Thoroughbred trainer who got his start in the hunter/jumper ring showing on the East Coast. Violette and Belfiore met working on the track when Belfiore joined Violette’s racing stable as an assistant trainer.

“He was at the forefront of finding second careers for these horses,” says Belfiore. “He looked at it as if we’re going to help retire them, we need to provide opportunities for them.”

Violette passed away in 2018, but the organization has stayed committed to carrying out his legacy helping retired Thoroughbreds.

In 2012, TAKE2 launched the TAKE2 hunter and jumper classes at horse shows around the country. The division is for Thoroughbreds only. The hunter division consists of 3’ jumps while the jumpers are 1.0 m to 1.05 m.

When the division started, there were eight weeks of horse shows that carried the division spread across three states. Now, the divisions are at horse shows in 23 states and offered at more than 500 weeks of horse shows.

Cyanea Robine and Riley, Jumper champions of the 2022 TAKE2 Finals at the Kentucky National Horse Show. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

A New Final

The popularity of the TAKE2 program has grown into the creation of the TAKE2 League, a membership program where horses can compete to earn points toward the $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter-Jumper Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.

Members pay a $50 fee to enroll in the TAKE2 season, which runs from the end of August to the following year’s end of August. In addition to the $20,000 in prize money for the finals, there is an additional $10,000 designated for year-end high point award winners.

The organization also has the TAKE2 Junior Rider Program presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, a free program for young riders, as well as the TAKE2 Scholarship drawing, which is open to anyone enrolled in the program attending college or any other
educational program.

This year the finals will be taking place at the Kentucky National Horse Show, Sept. 20-24.

Tess Fortune and MVP, Hunter champion at the 2022 TAKE2 Finals at the Kentucky National Horse Show. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

Giving Back to Racehorses

While TAKE2 is a horse show initiative, its mission is to promote second careers and secure futures for retired racehorses.

“People who are not on the inside may not realize how dedicated the racing industry is to these horses,” says Belfiore. “Our focus from the beginning has been to provide for our racehorses even after they leave the track.”

Organizations such as NYTHA have been large supporters of the organization, but Belfiore is hoping to garner more awareness and support from the show horse side.

“One of the most misunderstood elements to our organization is that we are a charity with a purpose; it’s not just for fun,” says Belfiore.

The organization hopes to continue growing throughout the country by being present at more horse shows, as well as continuing their commitment to helping place Thoroughbreds in new homes so they can go on to have long, successful careers.

To learn more about TAKE2 or to get involved, visit TAKE2tbreds.com.