Sunday, February 5, 2012

RRTP Breaks From The Gate

I have neglected this blog, but I have a good excuse. The Retired Racehorse Training Project (RRTP) is my good excuse. It is a very, very good excuse.

RRTP finally launched its web site in December. Within a week of the launch we announced the first Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge at the Maryland and Pennsylvania Horse World Expos. Then we launched our RRTP Facebook Page, announced the three trainers for the Challenge, and then the horses for the Challenge with their super-popular videos. At the same time we were churning out press releases, promoting the Bloodline Brag, desperately seeking to line up sponsors, ordering logo wear to sell, figuring out how to do credit card sales, and keeping up with all the databases in the web site: the Trainer Directory, the Sources for Horses, the Free Classifieds, and the Bloodline Brag.

Had my wife Erin not quit her job teaching Equine Studies courses at the University of Maryland none of this would have been possible. She has been the computer jockey extraordinaire. Had I not had the best assistant trainer in Michelle Warro, the best barn manager in Emily Siegrist, and the most helpful students and friends in the world, I could not have kept our business at Dodon Farm running while spending more than half of my time on RRTP work. Has it been worth the effort?

Consider these numbers. As of today, February 5, not even halfway through the five week Trainer Challenge, we already have had 23,695 views on our You Tube channel, have had 16,388 visits to our web site from 9,533 people who spent an average of 4 minutes 33seconds there for a total of 67,462 page views. Our Facebook Page has 1,857 followers. Most Facebook pages have a Total Weekly Reach that is close to or less than their number of followers. Our Total Weekly Reach, however,  is thirteen times greater than our number of followers at an astounding 24,302. Our followers are forwarding the material on to their networks constantly. All of the great online and print press coverage has helped as well.

A month from now we will look back at these numbers and laugh. We have yet to open the online voting for your favorite trainer. We have not yet traveled to each of our trainers' farms to interview them about their training techniques, watch them on their Trainer Challenge horses, and watch them on their own experienced horses. That will all be available to watch online for free. And then the live stream of the Trainer Challenge at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo on February 25 will attract thousands more viewers who will be invited to vote for the winner.

Trainer Challenge participants, left-right: High Level with Tiffany Catledge,
Brazilian Wedding with Trainer Eric Dierks and owner Pat Dale, Steuart
with Solidify and owner MidAtlantic Horse Rescue President Bev Strauss,
Trainer Kerry Blackmer, Four X The Trouble and owner Robin Coblyn.
Note that all of this is free. We are not selling the education. We are giving it away. The people, however, are not the primary educators. The horses are the real stars. Nothing could convince the general public that Thoroughbred ex-racehorses are magnificent, kind, trainable, ideal candidates for sport and recreation like Solidify, Brazilian Wedding, Four X The Trouble, High Level, and Bodiddle. There is no way that these horses could know that their good behavior will have the effect of increasing demand for their families and friends at the track. They may not know it, but something is making them present themselves as perfect ambassadors for their kind. Maybe it's the skills and commitment of Kerry Blackmer, Tiffany Catledge, and Eric Dierks. These trainers have a huge responsibility to make the case that is the mission of the RRTP. They are doing a great service.

Expanding the market for ex-racehorses is a task that never ends. The non-profit placement organizations, the Thoroughbred horse shows, the top riders who prefer ex-racehorses, and the thousands of people who buy, train, and sell horses off the track for profit or for fun are all a part of the picture. Our partners in horse racing understand how important the task is. The Maryland Horse Breeders Association's ex-presidents invited me to present our work to their foundation board and immediately awarded us a $5,000 grant. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association's (NTRA) Aftercare Committee has decided to focus on increasing demand for ex-racehorses in 2012 and will work to strengthen partnerships between racing and sport horse interests. I was honored to accept an invitation to serve on that committee. I grew up idolizing folks in Thoroughbred racing. To me they are still the ultimate horsemen who all of us can learn from.

Apprentice Trainer, Laury Parramore, with Bodiddle, who
didn't quite make it into the Trainer Challenge, but
who still gets a month of professional training at Dodon.
Look for announcements soon about the Apprenticeship Program, the next Trainer Challenge, and Thoroughbreds For All! What's that? You'll see.

Like most new charitable organizations we are nowhere near meeting the budget that will allow us to move forward with our plans. Everything helps. If you've not yet donated, please click here and do so. If you know of a company that recognizes the huge marketing potential that association with our work can offer, please give me some names and numbers. We'll talk to anybody who shares our vision and supports our mission. We only have one chance to get this stuff right. Our horses deserve to have their story told.

We can do more than Listen To The Horse. We can pass the message to the rest of the human race. We need to hear it.