2018 Thoroughbred Makeover Rules & Information


The Thoroughbred Makeover is a $100,000 competition in which hundreds of trainers acquire a recently retired racehorse and prepare it over a period not to exceed ten months for competition in one or two of ten riding sports. Formats for competition are designed to test the quality and progress of each horse’s training.

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park October 4-7, 2018. It includes seminars, sponsor fair, horse sale, and the Thoroughbred Makeover itself.

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to facilitating placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers.

Mission and Goals

RRP created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds, and to inspire trainers to secure the futures of these animals through training. In addition to benefiting the horses, the Makeover is intended to help trainers establish themselves professionally or as amateurs in their respective disciplines. Without good trainers, Thoroughbred racehorses cannot become great riding horses.

The Makeover also serves as the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing. The event will evolve over time to meet the needs of these groups.

Trainer Eligibility and Application

Trainer Eligibility

Any member in good standing of Retired Racehorse Project can submit an application to be a Thoroughbred Makeover trainer. Non-members should join online before submitting the Makeover Trainer Application. RRP membership costs $45 per year and includes a one-year subscription to Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine, a copy of Retired Racehorse Resource Directory, free ticket to the Thoroughbred Makeover, discounts from sponsors, and other benefits.

Entry Fee

Each trainer will pay a $200 per horse (two horses per trainer maximum) entry fee online with the application. If not accepted the fee will be returned minus a $25 processing fee. If the trainer is accepted the fee is non-refundable. See Fees and Other Costs below.1

Open and Closing Date

Trainer applications may be submitted to RRP online from December 1, 2017 through January 15, 2018. Applications will be accepted after January 15 only if the closing date is extended. Mail-in applications are not accepted2

Trainer Application Form

The Thoroughbred Makeover Trainer Application is available here. In addition to basic contact information it requests the information described below. Please have the information ready when you log in to apply online. Note that RRP may use the information you provide in promotional materials.

Status as Professional, Amateur, or Junior - Juniors are 18 years or younger as of December 1, 2018. Amateur and Professional status are as defined by United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) General Rules 13, with the following exception. Money and sponsorship services raised to cover the expenses of participating in the Thoroughbred Makeover do not impact amateur status for the purposes of this event. It is possible, however, that those sponsorships could impact amateur status for other competitions. Note that all trainers compete against each other in the same divisions, but that special $500 awards are given to the top amateur and top junior in each of the ten disciplines.3

Primary and Secondary Discipline - It is important for RRP management to know in which discipline(s) the trainer has experience, but this designation does not restrict the trainer’s choice of discipline(s) for the Makeover. RRP expects trainers to choose their discipline(s) six weeks before the Makeover event based on a combination of their own skills and the talents demonstrated during the training process by the horse(s) they train.4

Competition highlights in primary discipline (600 characters maximum) - This information is important as a means of evaluating trainer experience and talent. Lack of competition experience does not disqualify a trainer from consideration if other evidence exists that the trainer has the skills to succeed.5

Narrative describing skills and experience (600 characters maximum) - This is an opportunity for trainers to share information other than competition experience that might assist RRP in its evaluation.

Affiliations – Trainers are asked to describe their relationship to farms and organizations that share RRP’s commitment to Thoroughbreds.

References - Trainers must provide the names of two people who are familiar with the trainer’s work with horses, along with contact information, relationship to the trainer, and credentials of the references. RRP may or may not contact these individuals.

Video links - Trainers are encouraged to provide videos as evidence of riding skills, particularly if competition highlights fail to adequately demonstrate competence.6

Web Site and Facebook links - If trainers have business web sites or Facebook pages, RRP requests that they be provided both for assessment purposes and to share publicly.7

Second Horse - Trainers who intend to bring two horses to the Makeover do not need to fill out two trainer applications. You, however, will pay two entry fees with your application. No trainer may enter more than two horses.

Selection Criteria

An RRP Makeover Selection Committee will review applications and approve or disapprove based on the following factors.8

    • Evidence from the application, from past Makeover results, and other evidence that the trainer will effectively introduce an off-track Thoroughbred with no experience outside racing to one or more of the ten Thoroughbred Makeover disciplines, demonstrating that horse’s talent and trainability
    • Need for adequate representation within each discipline
    • Need for representation by professionals, amateurs, and juniors
    • Need for geographic diversity
    • Affiliation with institutions that are committed to the mission of Retired Racehorse Project
    • Evidence that the trainer is committed to the mission of Retired Racehorse Project, and has responsibly cared for and effectively trained horses in the past.


RRP will notify applicant trainers of the status of their application on February 1, 2018.

Trainer Withdrawal

Once a trainer is accepted into the Makeover he or she may withdraw at any time by notifying the RRP office via phone or email.

Trainer Replacement

In situations where an approved trainer has a horse registered in the Makeover, and that trainer becomes unable to participate due to extraordinary personal circumstances outside their control, the trainer can seek permission from RRP to nominate a replacement trainer. The nominated replacement trainer must be a member of RRP and submit a Makeover Trainer Application. The application fee will be waived. The RRP Makeover Selection Committee will review the application and notify both original and replacement trainer of its decision within 48 hours.

Trainer replacements are not accepted after August 1, 2018, and catch rides at the Makeover are not permitted.

Horse Eligibility and Registration

Horse Eligibility

To be eligible for the 2018 Makeover horses must meet the following three requirements.

    1. Must be registered with The Jockey Club and have a lip tattoo or Jockey Club microchip. Thoroughbreds from foreign countries must have equivalent registration and identification. Note that horses who meet the other requirements of eligibility but were never tattooed can be microchipped with Jockey Club approval or tattooed in advance of the Makeover if they have registration papers and proper identification.  
    2. Must have raced or had a published work after July 1, 2016. The definition of a race or published work for the purposes of this rule is one that takes place during a period of time when the horse was in race training and was recorded in Equibase or Equineline for North American racing or equivalent foreign recording systems in other countries, including both flat and steeplechase. Works clocked and published for horses not in race training as a means of establishing Makeover eligibility do not make the horse eligible. 9
    3. Must not have started in training for a second career before December 1, 2017 other than a maximum of fifteen allowable rides or training sessions that introduce skills specific to non-racing careers. See conditions below.10
        1. Horses that cross-trained in other disciplines during their active racing careers are eligible as long as they did not show or compete in those other disciplines.
        2. Non-discipline-specific ground work such as longeing, long lining, and round pen work from the ground do not count as training for a second career.
        3. Horses that competed in sports other than racing before December 1, 2017 are ineligible. Showing in-hand is not considered a sport under this section and does not affect eligibility.
        4. RRP will accept the trainer’s pledge that a horse is eligible unless it is made aware of evidence to the contrary. Third parties are welcome to present evidence of ineligibility directly to RRP by email or phone at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 410-798-5140. RRP will investigate such allegations and report its findings to the person making the allegation. The identity of the person making the allegation must be made known to RRP but will not be shared outside of the RRP board and staff without permission.
        5. RRP will remove horses from the competition that it deems ineligible regardless of whether the determination is made before, during, or after the Makeover event.

Horse Acquisition

Trainers may acquire eligible horses at any time through any source. Note that while acquiring a horse and starting training early would appear to be an advantage, many of the top-placed horses in previous Makeovers began training in late spring or summer.

The online and printed Retired Racehorse Resource Directory are excellent places to start. They include 300 farms, organizations, and racetracks, as well as lists of Facebook groups and searchable web sites. The RRP online Horse Listings can be sorted for horses whose owners believe they are Makeover Eligible.

Horse Ownership or Contract

Trainers may own their Makeover horse or ride under contract for the horse’s owner. Trainers are encouraged to have written training agreements that include a commitment by the owner to allow the horse to participate in the Thoroughbred Makeover. Note that checks for prize money are written to the trainer.

Horse/Trainer Relationship

For a horse to be eligible to compete, the trainer must have been the primary rider of the horse after July 30, 2018, and the trainer must ride, drive, or otherwise direct the horse in the Makeover competition.11

Horse Registration Form

Trainers should register their Makeover horses as soon as they acquire them. All trainers must register an eligible horse using the online Makeover Horse Registration Form no later than August 1, 2018. That form will include the following:

    • Jockey Club name,
    • date of last race or published work,
    • name of previous owner,
    • name and contact information of current owner,
    • narrative describing how you or owner acquired horse,
    • narrative describing any training done between retirement from racing and December 1, 2017,
    • identification of horse’s racing connections who are aware of Makeover entry,
    • identification of any aftercare organization that assisted in transitioning the horse from racing,
    • additional notes about horse’s history,
    • photo of horse with you,
    • conformation photo, and
    • horse head photo.

Trainers grant RRP permission to publish all information in their horse registration form except for their email, address, and phone number.

Horse Withdrawal and Replacement

Trainers may withdraw a horse from the Makeover at any time using the online Makeover Entry Management Page.

Trainers may replace a scratched horse with any eligible horse as late as August 1, 2018.

Replacement horses must be registered with the online Makeover Horse Registration Form.12

Required Paperwork

Trainer Application December 1, 2017 - January 15, 2018 Approves a trainer to participate in the Makeover.
Horse Registration Form February 1 - August 1, 2018 Enters an eligible horse into the Makeover with an approved trainer. Horse registrations should be completed as soon as trainers have acquired their horse(s). Trainers may manage their entries throughout the year online. 
Final Entry Form  August 1-17, 2018 Finalizes the entry for Kentucky including discipline choices, jump heights, horse sale status, and stabling needs. Relevant fees are billed at this time.  

Late paperwork submissions are not accepted. RRP reserves the right to charge a $50 change fee for changes requested after Final Entry close.

Entry Fees and Other Costs

Entry Fee

The entry fee per horse is $200 to be paid online at the time of application. The fee will be credited back to the trainer’s credit card or PayPal account minus a $25 processing fee if the entry is not accepted. If the trainer is accepted, the fee is non-refundable.

Second Discipline Fee

Trainers who choose to enter their horse in a second discipline will pay an additional $50 fee when they confirm disciplines by August 17, 2018. Discipline choices will be part of a final entry form that opens August 1 and closes August 17 Horses may not enter more than two disciplines.

Makeover Horse Sale Fee

Trainers who choose to market their horse for sale in the Makeover Horse Sale will pay a $50 fee when they list their horses by August 17, 2018 in their final entry form.  See additional information in Makeover Horse Sale section.


A $100 stabling fee will be due with a final entry form by August 17, 2018 to cover the Horse Park’s stabling fees from Wednesday through Sunday. Additional nights before or after the event will be assessed at the Horse Park’s layover rate of $50 per day. Trainers who choose to leave Monday can avoid the $50 layover fee if they vacate their stalls before 8 AM Monday morning.

Stabling fees do not include bedding. Trainers may order stabling supplies (bedding, mats, hay, and grain) directly from Dever, Inc. Dever is based at the Horse Park and will deliver stabling supplies to stalls prior to the trainer’s arrival. Please note that the floors of the stalls are concrete and therefore require liberal bedding. Trainers are not required to strip stalls prior to departure.

Tack stalls may be available at the same rate as stalls for horses.

Ship-ins that are not stabling on the grounds will be charged the Horse Park’s $40 per horse ship-in fee for the event duration in lieu of stabling.

Horse Park User Fee

Kentucky Horse Park assesses a fee of $10 per horse per show to establish a facility maintenance fund. This fee will be assessed with your final entry and be passed on to Kentucky Horse Park.


Kentucky Hose Park charges a vehicle parking fee of $10 per day or $15 for an event.

Additional Expenses to Consider

The costs of acquiring a horse, training and care for up to ten months, hauling to Kentucky, and participating in a major national competition are considerable. There is no guarantee that the investment will be repaid from the sale of the horse, sponsorship revenue, or from prize money. Trainers who are not prepared to assume full financial responsibility regardless of outcome should not apply.

Discipline Selection

Trainers enter the Makeover with a primary and secondary discipline listed for themselves, but may decide that the horse they are training is more suited to other disciplines.

All trainers will identify either one or two disciplines in which they will compete by August 17, 2018. RRP may collect information on unconfirmed discipline choices before that date.

Note that entry includes one discipline and that an additional fee of $50 will be paid to enter a second discipline.

Trainer Code of Conduct

The Thoroughbred Makeover and Retired Racehorse Project exist to promote off-track Thoroughbreds and to serve the individuals and organizations that transition them to second careers. Trainers participating in the Makeover agree to support the mission of RRP and to practice high standards of horsemanship and sportsmanship.

The RRP board and staff welcome direct input, including criticism and suggestions. Evidence of ineligibility, horse abuse, or other serious concerns about any trainer in the Makeover is also welcome when presented directly to RRP. Use by trainers of social media and other public forums to make allegations against their peers or against RRP will be cause for review by RRP and could lead to removal from the competition.

Barrel Racing

All horses will complete two separate runs of the standard barrels pattern. Competition Rules of the National Barrel Horse Association will be used unless stated otherwise in these rules. A laser timer with stopwatch backup will be used. Five seconds will be added to times for a knocked barrel.

The Finale

The five horses with the lowest combined time from their two runs will run in the Finale.


The top five placings will be based on the combined times from finale runs plus their previous two runs. Placings below those will be based on combined times from their two runs. Times will be recorded to the third decimal place and in the event of a tie the time of the second run will be used as the tie breaker.

Equipment and Attire

National Barrel Horse Association rules for equipment and attire will be adhered to.

Competitive Trails


The competitive trails division will be run using the rules, judging, and scoring guidelines of the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association.

Obstacles may involve opening of gates, backing, sidepassing, bridges, water, dismounting, mounting, and any other test deemed appropriate by the course designer and steward.

The course will be on the grounds of the horse park in an area that can be viewed by two mobile judges. Horses will compete in small groups selected randomly by event management.

Horses are not allowed to be within 100 feet of any obstacle in advance of their ride. A competitor briefing at which obstacles will be described takes place on the morning of the ride.


The top five scoring horses from the trail ride will compete in an arena obstacle trail class during the finale in the covered arena. The class will include six or more obstacles typical of trail classes with time limits to be announced at the start of the class.


Scores from each obstacle will be added to determine final placings before the finale. The top five placed horses will have their trail ride scores added to their finale trail class scores to determine top five placings. Three obstacles will be identified and ranked as being tie breaking obstacles.

Attire and Equipment

Junior riders must wear ASTM approved helmets. All riders must wear boots and either long pants or britches. Equipment and attire may be either English or Western. Martingales, draw reins, and tie-downs are prohibited.



All horses will perform the US Equestrian Federation Training Level Test 2 in a standard arena (20 meters x 60 meters) before a single judge. Click here to view the test. 

All horses will perform a four-minute demonstration ride before a separate judge in a standard arena to include walk, trot, and canter in both directions. Riders should perform whatever movements best demonstrate the level and quality of their training within the United States Dressage Federation (USDA) Training Pyramid. Note that judges will penalize efforts to perform movements beyond a horse’s level of training and development.13


The top five scorers will perform a four-minute demonstration ride as described above to music during the Finale. If riders do not select music the announcer will do so.


Training Level Test 2 is scored on a percentage scale of 0 to 100 using USEF score sheets .

The demonstration ride will be judged with scores in the following six categories on a scale of 0 to 10: rhythm (10 points), relaxation (10 points), connection (10 points), impulsion (10 points), straightness (10 points), and level of development (10 points). The maximum achievable score will be 60.

The finale will be scored by two judges in the same manner as the demonstration ride, with a maximum achievable score of 60.

Final placings for the top five finishers will be the sum of their three scores. Placings below fifth will be determined by the sum of their two scores.

Ties will be broken with the collective remarks score from the test and then by the score of the demonstration ride.

Attire and Equipment

USEF rules for dress and equipment will be in effect. Double bridles will not be permitted. See Dressage Attire and Equipment here.


Format for Dressage

All horses will perform USEF 2018 Beginner Novice Eventing Test A in a small arena (20m x 40m).

Format for Show Jumping

All horses will be judged over a course set at dimensions for United States Eventing Association (USEA) Beginner Novice (2’7” maximum), Novice (2’11” maximum), or Training (3’3” maximum). Trainers will select their level with their final entry form in August.

Format for Cross Country

All horses will be judged over a cross country course of approximately twelve obstacles. Each obstacle will have at least two options, one at Beginner Novice dimensions (2’7”) and the other at Novice (2’11”). Optional fences may be offered for riders to demonstrate a higher level of training as well. Riders should jump the obstacle choice that best demonstrates the quality and level of their horse’s training. They need not jump all fences at the same level. Note that horses will complete their Cross Country test prior to their Show Jumping test. Show Jumping in Cross Country attire and equipment is acceptable.


The top five scoring horses will compete for additional points in the finale, demonstrating basic work on the flat and jumping a course that includes show jumps and cross country portables in the covered arena.


Judges will use USEF score sheets for dressage, but scores will be left as positive percentages rather than being translated to penalty scores. Horses can earn a maximum of 100 points in this phase.

In the show jumping phase each horse will receive an overall score on a scale of zero to 100. Judging will reward balance, consistent pace appropriate to the level, and correct jumping in harmony with rider. Unsafe takeoff spots, dropped rails, disobediences, inconsistent pace, and resistance to the rider’s aids will be penalized. Ability to perform well over a higher level course is evidence of a higher level of training and will therefore be rewarded with two bonus points added for horses jumping Novice and four bonus points added for horses jumping at Training.

In the cross country phase each horse will receive an overall score on a scale of zero to 100. Judging will reward balance, consistent pace appropriate to the level, and correct, safe jumping in harmony with rider. Unsafe takeoff spots, disobediences, and resistance to the rider’s aids will be penalized. Ability to perform well over a higher level course is evidence of a higher level of training and will therefore be rewarded with two bonus points added for horses jumping all Novice options and an additional bonus point added for horses that jump bonus fences. Scores from previous Makeovers suggest that horses jumping Beginner Novice fences may still achieve higher scores than horses that receive bonus points.

Overall scores will be the sum of the scores from each of the three phases. Ties will be broken by the cross country score, then show jumping, then dressage.

Final placing for the top five finishers will be based on the sum of their three scores plus a fourth score awarded during the finale. Placings below those will be based on the sum of their scores in the three phases of competition.14

Attire and Equipment

Attire and equipment for each phase will be as described in USEF Rules for Eventing.

Field Hunter


All horses will gather as a group for a briefing at the start of the competition. Riders will be identified by numbers in eventing-style competition pinney holders available from most tack stores and online catalogues.

    1. First, all entries will perform Under Saddle in an open area at the walk, trot, canter, gallop, halt, back and stand as directed by the judges. This may be divided into groups.
    2. Next, all entries will proceed to a Mock Hunt, following a field master over fair hunting country with obstacles and typical hunting situations, including checks, ware staff, queueing up in front of a fence, and natural jumps not to exceed 2’6” in height. The Mock hunt may be divided into groups.
    3. At the conclusion of the Mock Hunt each horse will perform an Individual Test that may include several fences approximately 2’6” in height, a trot fence, a gate to be opened and closed, a rail to be dropped, water crossing, or any foxhunting situation the judges deem appropriate.


The top five horses will perform in the Covered Arena demonstrating the skills required of a field hunter. Horses will hack, jump individually, and may be asked to perform other tasks specific to the work of a field hunter.


Judges will score horses in all three phases based on their performance, manners, and way of going as field hunters. Maximum points awarded will be as follows: Under Saddle (10 points), Mock Hunt (60 points), and Individual Test (30 points), for a total possible score of 100. Ties will be broken with the Mock Hunt score, then the Individual test, then the Under Saddle.

Performance in the finale will be judged on a scale of 0 to 10. That score will be added to previous scores to determine final placings.

Judges will work as a team and may engage the help of scouts during the mock hunt phase in an effort to maximize observation of all horses. 15

Attire and Equipment

Though not judged on appointments, riders should be dressed in formal hunting attire. Safety headgear is required. Horses should be properly tacked for foxhunting in traditional hunting tack. Braiding is optional. See Masters of Foxhounds Association web site and MFHA Guidebook and Rules.



This category of competition allows trainers to present horses in disciplines other than the nine offered, or to perform in any manner that demonstrates the trainability and talent of the horse.

    1. The freestyle competition will take place in the 130’ x 300’ Covered Arena.
    2. Music will be played if provided in advance on thumb drive (Mp3) or CD. Microphone for trainer to narrate performance will not be provided or allowed.
    3. Each horse will be given a maximum of five minutes to perform. An additional three minutes will be provided for set-up and take-down of props if requested in advance of the scheduling of ride times (one week before competition). In cases where props take more than three minutes to set up and remove performances must be shortened to ensure that the next horse can start on time. No contestant will be allowed more than a total of eight minutes for performance plus set-up and take-down.
    4. Contestants will describe in advance any props that will be used and provide their own crew for setup and removal. Plans to use fire, firearms, pyrotechnics, or any props that might be disruptive to horses must be pre-approved by RRP. Judges may end the performance at any time and disqualify the entry if they determine that the horse or rider are at risk, or the horse is suffering from abuse.


The top five scoring horses will perform again during the finale. They may perform the same routine or a different one. Format and rules will be the same as for the qualifying performance.


Judges will award scores up to 100 points with maximum points in each of the following categories as follows: harmony and connection between horse and rider (50 points), difficulty of performance (30 points), entertainment value (20 points). Ties will be broken with the harmony score, then difficulty, then entertainment

The top five placed horses may earn an additional 100 points during their finale performances. The final placings for the top five horses will be a sum of their two scores. Placings below those will be based on their single performance score.

All scores are the average of points awarded by each of two judges.

Attire and Equipment

Riders should choose attire and equipment that is safe. Non-traditional or potentially controversial equipment may be pre-approved by RRP in advance of the competition. Email inquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Presented by the US Polo Association

Polo Agility

Riders will complete a two-and-a-half minute agility pattern to include the following:

    • Figure-eight with lead changes at the canter both directions
    • two roll-backs (left and right)
    • two turns (left and right - tightness of the turn will be judged)
    • two tight circles (left and right)
    • a check and release
    • two complete stops and step-backs

Stick and Ball Work

Each player will demonstrate each of the following strokes, hitting the ball and following it.

    • near side forehand
    • off side forehand
    • near side backshot
    • off side backshot

Stick and ball work will be performed for two-and-a-half minutes.


The top five scoring horses will advance to the finale for a two-part final performance. Part one will be an individual agility work with or without stick and balling for up to two minutes. Part two, all five horses plus a sixth volunteer will compete in a seven minute chukker. The competitive nature and speed of the chukker will be determined by the competitors and judges before the start of the Finale. The scoring for the Finale will be a combination of both part one and part two.


Polo Agility will be judged with a maximum possible score of fifty points. Each of the following will be scored on a scale of 0 to 10: calmness of horse (10 points), responsiveness to rider’s aids (10 points), adjustability of pace (10 points), quality of lead changes (10 points), quality of stops (10 points).

Stick and Ball Work will be judged with a maximum possible score of fifty points. Each of the following will be scored on a scale of 0 to 10: calmness of horse (10 points), responsiveness to rider’s aids (10 points), adjustability of pace (10 points), willingness to maintain straightness and pace during strokes (10 points), speed and agility (10 points). Ties will be broken with the stick and ball score, then agility.

The top five placed horses may earn an additional 100 points during their finale performances; combining the finale agility work and performance in the group chukker. The final placings for the top five horses will be a sum of their two scores. Placings below fifth will be based on their single performance score.

All scores are the average of points awarded by each of two judges.

Attire and Equipment

Attire and equipment should be in accordance with United States Polo Association rules.

Ranch Work


Each competitor will perform a Ranch Riding pattern and a Ranch Trail course. The Ranch Riding phase of the competition will be organized according to the American Quarter Horse Association rules for Ranch Riding on page 130-131 of the 2018 AQHA Rulebook. The Ranch Trail course will be organized according to the AQHA rules for Ranch Trail on page 217-220 of the 2018 AQHA Rulebook.


The top five scorers will perform a Ranch Riding Pattern that may include some trail obstacles in the finale.


Scores from Ranch Riding and Ranch Trail will be combined to determine placings.

The final placings for the finale horses will be a sum of their scores from the finale and the qualifying classes. Placings below fifth will be based on scores in the qualifying class only.

All scores are the average of points awarded by each of two judges.

Attire and Equipment

Western saddle and attire are required with restrictions as described in the applicable division rules.

Show Hunter

Format Over Fences

Each horse will jump two straightforward show hunter courses. Riders may elect to jump the courses set at 2’, 2’6” or 3’. Height selections will be made with discipline selections six weeks before the competition. Trainers should select the height that best demonstrates the quality and progress of their training. The two primary jumping rounds must be performed at the same height and will be ridden in a rotation of trips as determined at the in-gate.

Format for Hunter Under Saddle

Hunters under saddle will show in groups of twelve or fewer at the walk, trot, and canter both ways of the ring.


The top five scoring horses will perform under saddle and over fences in the Covered Arena during the finale. The finale round will be performed at the height chosen by the trainer on the evening before the finale.


Horses will receive scores between 0 and 100 for each of the two over fences rounds and for under saddle, making possible a maximum total score of 300. Judges will evaluate performance in conformity with the USEF Hunter Division Rules. In each jumping round, horses jumping 2’6” will receive one bonus point, and horses jumping 3’ will receive two bonus points. Ties will be broken with the second over fences score, then the first over fences, then the under saddle.

The top five placed horses may earn an additional 100 points in the finale. The final placings for the top horses will be a sum of their four scores. Placings below that will be based on the sum of their three scores.

All scores are the average of points awarded by each of two judges.

Attire and Equipment

Attire and equipment should be in accordance with USEF Hunter Division Rules Subchapter HU-4.

Show Jumping


Riders will select a maximum jump height of 2’6”, 3’ or 3’3”. Height selections will be made with discipline selections six weeks before the competition.

The competition includes four parts.

    1. Flat Work – Each horse should enter the arena at a trot, halt, and salute the judges. They will then proceed to perform a flat work pattern to include the following:
        1. Walk
        2. Trot
        3. Canter both directions with simple change or flying change of lead each direction
        4. Lengthening and shortening of stride at canter
        5. Halt and rein-back.
    2. Gymnastics – Immediately at the conclusion of Flat Work, riders will trot through the following two gymnastics one time each.
        1. Three ground poles set 4’6” apart followed by a small crossrail set nine feet from the third ground pole
        2. A single ground pole followed by an crossrail nine feet beyond, followed by an ascending oxer 18’ beyond set at the maximum height of the round to be jumped.
    3. Round One – Immediately after the second gymnastic exercise riders will canter a show jump course of between eight and twelve fences. Height will be 2’6”, 3’, or 3’3” as selected by the rider in advance of the competition.
    4. Round Two – After a break of no more than 45 seconds riders will canter a second show jump course set at the same height as the first. This course may present turning or adjustability questions typical of a jump-off course and should be ridden with efficient turns and at a forward pace demonstrating competence in a timed-jump-off situation without loss of balance or adjustability.


The top five horses will demonstrate their Flat Work and do two jumping rounds in the Covered Arena before the judges. The height will be chosen by the trainer on the evening before the finale. Bonus point will be applied as described above.


    1. Flat Work – Judges will award scores on a scale of zero to 100 based on the quality and level of work that serves as the basic training of a show jumper, including balance, adjustability, and acceptance of rider’s aids.
    2. Gymnastics – Judges will award scores on a scale of zero to 100 based on rhythm, straightness, confidence, correct jumping form, and acceptance of rider’s aids.
    3. Round One – Judges will award scores on a scale of zero to 100 based on rhythm, straightness, confidence, correct jumping form, and acceptance of rider’s aids. Horses jumping 3’ will receive one bonus point and horses jumping 3’3” will receive two bonus points.
    4. Round Two - Judges will award scores on a scale of zero to 100 based on rhythm, straightness, confidence, correct jumping form, acceptance of rider’s aids, forward pace appropriate for a jump-off, and efficiency of turns. Horses jumping 3’ will receive one bonus point and horses jumping 3’3” will receive two bonus points.

Placings will be based on the total scores of all phases, but with the Flat Work and Gymnastic scores reduced in value by fifty percent. Maximum possible score before the finale will be 300 (Flat Work 50, Gymnastics 50, Round One 100, Round Two 100). Highest possible finale score will be 250 (Flat Work 50, Round One 100, Round Two 100). Ties will be broken with the second round score, then the first round, then the gymnastic, then the flat

All scores are the average of points awarded by each of two judges.16

Attire and Equipment

Attire and equipment should be in accordance with USEF Rules for Jumpers Subchapter JP-111.


The Finale

The Thoroughbred Makeover Finale is a ticketed event that includes a party at the end with entertainment and food. While the finale is a part of the Makeover competition, its purpose is also to educate and inspire an audience, both live and via video livestream. All competitors will receive two tickets to the finale per entry.


The top five scorers from the competition in each discipline will compete in the finale for additional scores that determine final placings. Horses that qualify for the finale but do not participate in it will finish the competition with the scores received in the qualifying event. See individual discipline format sections for more information.

America's Most Wanted Thoroughbred

The purpose of the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Award is for the audience (both video livestream and live) to identify from among the ten discipline winners the horse that most inspires them. Votes will be cast via text messaging. The cash prize for America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred is $10,000.17

Thoroughbred Ambassador Awards

RRP members will be invited to vote online for the Makeover trainer who most inspires in them an appreciation for the talent and trainability of the off-track Thoroughbred. The top five placed trainers in this election will receive cash prizes totaling $5,000.18

Prize Money Distribution

Distribution of $100,000 in prize money will be as follows.

America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred $10,000

RRP Ambassador Awards ($2,500 to winner, $1,000 to 2nd, $750 to 3rd, $500 to 4th, $250 to 5th) $5,000

Discipline Winners ($5,000 x 10) $50,000

2nd place in each discipline ($1,000 x 10) $10,000

3rd place in each discipline ($700 x 10) $7,000

4th place in each discipline ($500 x 10) $5,000

5th place in each discipline ($300 x 10) $3,000

Top Junior in each discipline ($500 x 10) $5,000

Top Amateur in each discipline ($500 x 10) $5,000

TOTAL $100,000

Prize money checks will be made payable to the trainer of the horse, in recognition of the fact that this is a training competition. Prize money in excess of $600 will be issued only after recipient signs an IRS Form W9, which will be available in the show office.

All trainers agree to forfeit 100% of any prize money or prizes won if drug testing on their horse comes back positive for banned substances above allowed levels (see Drug Testing below).

The Makeover Horse Sale

The Makeover Horse Sale is an optional opportunity for Makeover trainers to sell the horse that they have trained. RRP will offer a printed sale catalogue for potential buyers, online listings with photo and video links, marketing, and identification of horses for sale in the program, on bridle numbers, on stall cards, and through PA announcements when horses are competing. Neither Retired Racehorse Project nor any of its sponsors will be a party to any transactions that takes place between sellers and buyers, but sellers are encouraged to consider voluntary contributions to RRP of 5% of their sale price.

Entry Fee

Trainers will pay a fee of $50 to enter a horse in the Makeover Horse Sale.

Horse Listing

Trainers will enter their horses in the Horse Sale through an online form approximately six weeks before the Makeover. The form will create an online listing to include description, photos, video, and price. Trainers will have a password to edit their horse listing at any time after it is posted.

Pricing and Contracts

Trainers may price their horses at whatever amount they and their owners feel is fair and may raise or lower their asking price at any time. Sellers are expected to screen potential buyers and are under no obligation to sell to buyers that they deem unsuitable for their horse. Non-profit aftercare organizations are free to place their horses as adoptions with whatever approval processes, fees, and restrictions they normally require. Sellers are expected to provide their own sale contracts, but should include the language in the following section.

Anti-Slaughter and Notification of Resale

Sellers should include the following language or something similar in their contracts.

    1. Buyer or adopter agrees to make a reasonable effort to notify Seller when the horse is made available for sale in the future.
    2. Buyer or adopter will not knowingly sell the horse to a “kill buyer” or allow the horse to be sold at public auction for less than $1,000.


RRP will promote the Thoroughbred Makeover as a source for horse shoppers through advertisements and online networks serving the various riding disciplines featured in the Makeover. Links to the Makeover Horse Sale Listings will be shared extensively through social media and e-blasts.

Soundness Issues and Pre-Purchase Exams  

Buyers tend to pursue horses for whom medical history and radiographs are available even when those records identify blemishes. RRP strongly encourages Makeover trainers to make available to buyers veterinary reports and radiographs from any pre-purchase exams that are done when they acquire their Makeover horse, as well as any veterinary records from before or since they acquired the horse. You may note the existence of these radiographs and reports when listing the horse in the Makeover Horse Sale.

Buyers should be encouraged to conduct pre-purchase exams when purchasing horses. A team of veterinarians from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute will be on call to conduct these exams for buyers during and after the Makeover.

Trial Rides

Sellers may allow horse shoppers to ride horses during the Makeover at their discretion and under their supervision only if the rider has a wrist band certifying that they have signed an RRP Liability Release. Sellers are encouraged to also require riders to sign their own liability release forms.

Status Reporting

Whether Makeover horses sell in advance of the Makeover event, during it, or in the twelve months after, all trainers agree to notify RRP of the sale via an online form. Sale notification to RRP will include the name of the buyer and the purchase price or adoption fee. RRP agrees to keep this information confidential unless both buyer and seller agree for it to be made public. RRP will aggregate sale statistics for public reports.

Drug Testing

2017 USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medication will be in effect (see link to those guidelines here.) Random testing may take place and positive results will be cause for elimination.

Note that some classes of drugs are permissible below certain levels and that USEF forms are available online or at the information booth to report the use of certain drugs.

RRP invests considerable resources in drug testing to protect the welfare of the horses and to ensure a level playing field for competitors.

Horse Welfare

Horse Protection Policy

When a trainer enters a horse in the Thoroughbred Makeover he or she agrees to take responsibility for the horse’s well-being and to sell or place it in a responsible manner. If a horse is withdrawn, whether it is replaced by another horse or not, the trainer will submit an online Makeover Horse Withdrawal Form indicating the status of the horse. If any trainer is found to have knowingly sent a horse entered in the Makeover to a kill buyer or to a livestock auction to be sold for under $1,000, the trainer will be removed from the competition and be banned from participation in future RRP events.

Abuse and Neglect

Alleged instances of horse abuse or neglect during the training process or at the Makeover will be investigated by the RRP Makeover Management Committee and be grounds for elimination. Evidence of abuse or neglect during the event should be brought directly to the Event Secretary in the Show Office. Evidence of abuse or neglect affecting horses entered in the Makeover before the event should be brought to RRP directly by phone or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 410-798-5140. Allegations by trainers of abuse or neglect made in public forums will be considered a violation of the Trainer Code of Conduct.


Judges in all Makeover disciplines are authorized to eliminate horses for unsoundness. Lame horses should not compete.

Body Condition

Any horse that arrives at the Makeover with a Henneke Body Condition Score of 3.0 or less (out of 9) will not be allowed to compete. Information on Body Condition Scoring can be found at this link. Eliminations based on this rule will be made only by the Makeover Management Committee in consultation with a veterinarian.


Equipment rules vary by discipline and are consistent with the traditions and practices of those disciplines. See discipline descriptions and links.


Every horse that completes the Makeover will be awarded a medal and a diploma.

Use of RRP Logos and Images

Thoroughbred Makeover trainers may use Retired Racehorse Project logos and images on their own promotional materials without permission except in the following circumstances. RRP logos and images may not be used to promote events other than those approved by RRP or on merchandise that is for sale without written consent by RRP.

Publicity, Trainer Blogs and Online Reporting

RRP encourages trainers to promote their participation in the Makeover through local mainstream media, equestrian media, and their own networks. RRP will provide sample press releases and guidance to trainers who request assistance in this area. Trainers agree to forward to RRP links to press coverage of the Thoroughbred Makeover that is generated by their efforts.

Thoroughbred Makeover Trainers are encouraged to maintain training reports, blogs, and otherwise report on their progress with their Makeover horse. RRP will include links to web sites featuring those reports in its online contestant list so that the public can follow and learn from their work.

Use of Trainer and Horse Images, Blogs, and Video

Makeover trainers agree to allow RRP to reprint, share, and otherwise promote blogs, images, and video of their Makeover horse, as well as to use images of them and their horse taken at the Makeover for promotional purposes.


All divisions will have more than one judge. Scoresheets will be made available to competitors after the competition.

Judges may not judge competitors for whom they have served as coach, trainer, employer, or employee during the preceding thirty days. Judges will also not judge members of their immediate family.


Each of the ten discipline will have a steward observing the competition and reporting rule violations. A Chief Steward will supervise the ten stewards and serve as the final arbiter in cases of protest.

Stewards may not arbitrate issues involving competitors for whom they have served as coach, trainer, employer, or employee during the preceding thirty days. Stewards may also not arbitrate issues involving members of their immediate family.


The Thoroughbred Makeover is a project of Retired Racehorse Project, a non-profit organization overseen by its Board of Directors. The RRP Director of Operations serves as Organizer of the Thoroughbred Makeover.

Members of the RRP Board of Directors, its staff, and contractors are eligible to participate in the Thoroughbred Makeover as trainers as long as they do not serve in the capacity of judges or stewards. They may also serve as coaches, trainers, employees, or employers of participating Makeover trainers.

Members of the RRP Board of Directors, its staff, and contractors are not eligible, however, for the Ambassador Award.


Any competitor may file a written protest at the Show Office alleging violation of rules or unfair treatment. Protests will be reviewed by the responsible parties and submitted to the Chief Steward with input from relevant parties. The Chief Steward will respond as (s)he deems appropriate.


Thoroughbred Makeover trainers release and hold harmless Retired Racehorse Project, its board of directors, its staff, and its sponsors from liability for damages resulting from their participation in the Thoroughbred Makeover before, during, and after the event. Trainers acknowledge that they participate at their own risk and will sign liability waivers upon arrival at the Makeover.

Coggins and Health Certificate

Competitors should be prepared to show proof of negative Coggins and Interstate Health Certificates (if shipping from out of state) to the staff at the mobile agricultural station upon arrival or any time during the show, as well as at the RRP show office.

Rule Changes

Retired Racehorse Project may amend these rules at any time. If amendments are made all Makeover trainers will be notified of the changes within seven days.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. Q - What does the entry fee pay for?

A – Entry fees will cover approximately 25% of the total cost of the Thoroughbred Makeover. Expenses include Horse Park rental fees, prize money, promotion, equipment rentals for ten disciplines, judges (although many serve as volunteers), drug testing, and much more. The remaining 75% of costs are covered by sponsorship and ticket fees. 

2. Q – Can somebody other than the trainer fill out the entry?

A – Yes, but they must create a membership and web-site login in the trainer’s name. Otherwise the name attached to the entry will not be the trainer name.

3. Q – Why don’t amateurs, professionals, and juniors have their own divisions?

A – Juniors and amateurs can beat professionals in a competition like this, and we want them to have the opportunity to win, as they have in past Makeovers. The additional $500 awards for juniors and amateurs in each discipline are an added incentive for them to compete. Click here to read more about trainer status. 

4. Q – Do I have to list two disciplines in my application?

A – No. And even if you list only one you can choose to compete in two once your horse tells you wherein lie its talents. Click here to read more about discipline selection.

5. Q – How much detail should I include in competition highlights?

A – It’s up to you. A single result at a top level competition may speak more to your competence than a long list of results. We want to know your level of competition and whether you have been successful. Click here to read more about this requirement.

6. Q – How many videos should I put in my application and what should be on them?

A – Please don’t include more than two. The content should be you riding a horse in the discipline of your expertise either in competition or at home. The easiest way to do this is to upload a video to YouTube or another online service, and simply paste the link to that video in the application. If you are confident that your skills are adequately described in other parts of the application you may choose to pass on the video. Click here to read more about videos. 

7. Q – What web sites should I include in my application?

A – Paste in the link to any web site that you want RRP and the public to follow. It can be a farm web site, a Facebook page, or a blog. You may include more than one site.

8. Q - Why not accept trainers first-come, first-served or by lottery?

A – The mission of RRP is to increase demand for these horses. When the public sees horses performing well and increasing significantly in value with good training, more people will strive to become good trainers and choose off-track Thoroughbreds. Asking people without proven skills in their riding discipline to train a racehorse to compete at a major national event in that discipline on a timeline is unfair to the trainer and unfair to the horse. Click here to read more about selection criteria. 

9. Q – Why don’t you accept horses that were bred to race but never got as far as a published work, and why does it matter how long ago they retired from racing?

A – Good questions. We had to define what constitutes a “racehorse” because this is a re-training competition for the “ex-racehorse.” Unraced Thoroughbreds carry less of a stigma in the marketplace and horses that never trained to race do not start with the same skill set that racehorses do. The gray area is horses who trained but never ran. We chose the published work requirement because it is verifiable and demonstrates in most cases that training progressed to a level that the horse was “trained as a racehorse.” We set a date for most recent race or work at approximately 18 months before the start of the re-training because horses that have been out of racing for longer periods are more likely to have started second careers. Our goal is to encourage trainers to acquire each year’s crop of horses as they leave racing and start them on new careers. By allowing up to 18 months since retirement we provide adequate time for healing from injuries that might have caused the retirement from racing. Click here to read more about horse eligibility

10. Q – What if I am unsure of whether my horse meets the fifteen allowable training rides guideline?

A – Email as much information as you have to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will respond. Click here to read more about horse eligibility.

11. Q – Can I send my horse out for training?

A – Yes. The Makeover trainer may engage the help of another trainer, even sending the horse away for training, as long as it is back with the Makeover trainer by August 1, had the Makeover trainer as primary (majority of rides) rider since that time, and is ridden, driven, or otherwise directed (such as ground work for freestyle) at the Makeover by the Makeover trainer. We allow this flexibility to benefit the horses. Click here to read about the horse/trainer relationship.

12. Q – Can I buy a horse as a replacement that somebody else has been training?

A – Yes, if the horse meets all of the eligibility requirements of the event, you have reported the condition of your original horse in the Horse Withdrawal Form, have complied with the Horse Protection Policy, and have filled out the new Horse Registration Form. Click here to read about withdrawing or replacing your horse.

13. Q – Why do a dressage demonstration ride and not just a second USEF test?

A – Consider what happens when a buyer comes to evaluate a young dressage horse, or when a professional rides a young horse at a European sport horse sale. It is the rider’s job to demonstrate the horse’s talent and the correct training that defines its value. We want Makeover trainers to have the freedom to show these horses off as though their job was to impress a buyer, not only with the horse’s talent but also with its training and temperament. Have fun with it but stay within your horse’s comfort zone. Creating resistance will cost you dearly. Click here to read about dressage.

14. Q – Why not use the Young Event Horse (YEH) rules or run it as a regular horse trials?

A – YEH judging is based strictly on the potential of the horse as a top level eventer. The Makeover is primarily a training competition where prize money goes to trainers rather than owners. We think that by judging “performance” rather than “potential” we are striking the right chord. We decided against running as a regular horse trials because in a division of between 50 and 100 horses we would have so many penalty-free jump rounds that top placings would be based solely on dressage scores. Click here to read more about eventing.

15. Q – Does my field hunter horse really have to jump, be fit, and be comfortable with hounds?

A – Yes to the jumping. You can go around the jumps but you won’t score well. We want horses trained to hunt anywhere, and some country has panels. The 2’6” obstacles will be straightforward and natural. Your horse does not have to be very fit. It’s a short test. Your horse does need to be safe with hounds. You never know when a hound will run between your horse’s legs, and kicking one is a cardinal sin. These judges love their hounds! Click here to read more about field hunters.

16. Q –Why are jumpers being judged?

A – Imagine a traditional jumper class of 50 to 100 green Thoroughbreds jumping 2’6” or 3’ courses. At least 60% would jump clean on a bad day. Placings at the top would be based on speed. Nobody believes that jumping these horses at this stage of their careers at speed is wise. Instead we have created a multi-part test that rewards trainers who have instilled basic skills in their horses and shows the public how a show jumper is trained effectively. We believe that horses who excel in this format will have demonstrated their value and been launched in promising careers. Click here to read more about show jumping.

17. Q – Why is America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred awarded by popular vote rather than judged?

A – When comparing horses across disciplines no established judging standards exist. One person’s preference as as valid as the next, and the public’s preference is more valid than that of a small panel of judges. Our goal is to make these horses popular, so we reward the team that inspires the crowd. Click here to read more about the finale

18. Q – Why is the Ambassador Award a vote of RRP members only this year?

A – Good question. Online polling is only based on one-person, one-vote if the voters are registered in some way . People are unlikely to register multiple times if it costs them money to register. But that’s not the only reason. Retired Racehorse Project will be sustainable long-term only if the people it serves join as members. Members are the essential subscriber base for Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine as well. So an effective campaign for the $5,000 Ambassador Award is also a campaign to sign up members. The $45 annual dues gets paid back in no time with discounts and benefits (including free tickets to the Makeover). Just make sure that the people you sign up plan to vote for you!Click here to read more about the Thoroughbred Ambassador Award.


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