When the Thoroughbreds make the leap from the racetrack to the eventing world, Chloe Duffy is with them for every step of their journey.
There is an unmistakable joyous tone in her voice when the Ontario-born and raised rider speaks of the horses who have closed one chapter of their careers and began a new one in a much different arena.
“When the Thoroughbreds are done racing, it’s done, and that’s fine,” stated Duffy. “But their career isn’t over when they cross that finish life for the last time. They are so athletic and so willing to learn. If they find what they want to do, they will do it to the best of their ability.”
Duffy would certainly know.
An accomplished rider who has had success in various eventing competitions throughout North America over the past six years, Duffy has worked closely with several former racehorses in their transition to a different sporting life.
“I got into the sport of eventing in 2015,” said Duffy, who, at the time, was the only junior rider in Ontario accepted to compete in the discipline of eventing for the Retired Race Horse Project, hosted at Kentucky Horse Park.
“I went to Jessica Phoenix (a five-time Pan American medalist and Olympian) and she’s been my coach ever since. I bought my first Thoroughbred, Oro Veradero, from one of Jessica’s students, Jamie Kellock. “Oro” and I competed with the Canadian junior eventing team in 2017 and came back from the International Championship with Team Bronze and individual fifth in North America.”
Since then, she’s welcomed other former racehorses, including through LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.
Established in 1999, LongRun is the first industry-funded adoption program in Canada, earning status as one of the most respected horse retirement and adoption organizations. Over 50 retired racehorses currently reside at its sprawling 100-acre property in Hillsburgh, Ontario.
Working with LongRun has been a match made in horse heaven for Duffy.
Careless Cousin, a Long Run Graduate, was the first Thoroughbred that Duffy produced to compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover, a competition in 10 disciplines for recently retired Thoroughbreds in their first year of retraining for a career after racing.
“It was in 2016 when I adopted my first Thoroughbred from LongRun. That was Eddie, whose race name was Careless Cousin. I took him to Kentucky for the Thoroughbred Makeover that year and he evented up to Entry Level. Now he’s with one of Jessica’s students who came over from Switzerland to be a working student.
“In 2017, I adopted Moxie. Her race name was Are You Okay. She was a horse I also planned to take her to the Thoroughbred Makeover. That was my Team Canada year and I had to choose between her and Oro Veradero. I ended up taking “Oro” to Montana to compete for Canada rather than going to Kentucky with Moxie. She’s now with a new family, loving life and doing so well.”
Duffy then adopted Crusher.
“He came to me in 2018 and was supposed to go to the Thoroughbred Makeover, but Covid hit, and they were unable to cross the border to the USA to compete. He showed up to the Training Level in dressage with me and now he’s with one of my students and showing her the ropes. He’s going to show with her this year. It’s very exciting for me because he’s been with me that whole time and now I get to see this journey start.”
Two years ago, Duffy welcomed another LongRun graduate.
Although the chestnut mare didn’t notch a win on the racetrack – her best results were a trio of third-place finishes from 17 starts – the Ontario-bred daughter of Victor’s Cry is flourishing in her new calling.
“Her racing name was Vesperanza, but now she’s known as Queen,” offered Duffy. “She has trained up to training level in eventing and she has a full season planned this year. She’ll start showing in June. She was bred by Vicki Pappas (LongRun chairperson and founding member). I have a great relationship with Vicki. She’s a wonderful person and she truly cares about horses.”
Just as Duffy does.
Her connection to horses continues to grow stronger.
“My grandfather always had a horse for me. Never anything fancy, but a horse I could get on and ride all over the countryside if I wanted to.”
These days, Duffy is grateful to have the opportunity to put former racehorses on a path to success.
Helping each one reach their potential is a welcome challenge for Duffy.
“Each horse is different. Each horse has a different way of learning and I approach everyone in the way that is best for them. They all have incredible work ethics, and they all want to please their riders. They are very solid horses and I really enjoy working with them. They know when they’ve done well. You can see that they are proud of themselves.”
Duffy is unabashedly proud of them too.
Seeing them flourish after the finish line is a scene that never gets old.
“You want the horses to go somewhere where they will be happy, loved and understood. It makes my heart so warm. I love the Thoroughbreds, and I want what is best for every single one of them.”