Racing Victoria (RV) has announced the winner of the 2021 Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year Award, which recognises the achievements of equine experts preparing retired racehorses for secondary careers.
For the second year running, Fiona McIntyre has taken out the coveted RV Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year Award for her tireless work in promoting Off The Track thoroughbreds, helping to create as many pathways and opportunities as possible for ex-racehorses.
In the past 12 months, Fiona has achieved outstanding results with off-the-track horses on both a competitive and non-competitive front, including finding a suitable home for Torreggiante, affectionately known as Torre, through RV’s RESET Program, helping him to enjoy a happy and healthy second career.
Fiona’s dedication and talent for transitioning racehorses to make the most of their life after racing was also highlighted in 2021 with the transformation of the Chris Waller-trained Able Fun to a competing show horse, who has already picked up a few ribbons since the resumption of competitions in Victoria this year.
A Retrainer Capacity Grant recipient, Fiona has also been busy expanding her property to increase the number of horses she can take on and retrain for second careers after racing.
In an extremely competitive field, Jade Wills, owner and director of JW Equestrian, was awarded Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year Runner Up for her unwavering commitment to finding alternative, useful and loving homes for retired racehorses, resulting in over 130 off-the-track thoroughbreds being rehomed this year alone.
A 2021 Godolphin Stud and Stable award winner for thoroughbred care and welfare, Jade has recently expanded her operations to incorporate a riding school, providing increased opportunities to educate the equine community on the benefits of off-the-track thoroughbreds, as well as expanding the possibilities for retired racehorses to enjoy secondary careers in various disciplines including polo ponies, eventers, show jumpers and trail riders.
A panel of five esteemed judges, including Dr Andrew McLean, CEO of Equitation Science International; Catherine Murphy, sports journalist and presenter at the ABC; Fiona Selby, Director, Boneo Park; Carly Dixon, RV Executive General Manager of Corporate Affairs and Robbie Griffiths, President of the Australian Trainers Association, selected the final winners which were presented today (7 December 2021) at an intimate event co-hosted by Equestrian Victoria.
The RV Retrainer of the Year received a cheque for $5,000 to assist with the continuing development of their retraining and rehoming work, and the runner-up received $1,000 to go towards their work with off-the-track horses.
The Off The Track horse of the Year was also presented across four different categories:
- Off The Track Horse of the Year – Show Horse, joint winners – JD Kiamichi (Racing name: Tarantino) and Stage Presence (Racing name: Persistency)
- Off The Track Horse of the Year – Dressage – Coromandel Bay (Racing name: Ha Kul)
- Off The Track Horse of the Year – Eventing – Mr Pig (Racing Name: Winnie’s Horse)
- Off The Track Horse of the Year – Jumping – Secret Mojo (Racing Name: Secret Mojo)
Introduced in 2020, Racing Victoria’s ‘RESET (Racehorse, Evaluation, Support, Education and Transition) Program’ provides direct support for horses that are sound and have good prospects but have not been successful in transitioning to a second career outside of racing.
In recognition of the great work by many RV Acknowledged Retrainers to retrain and rehome a RESET horse within the past 12 months, a RESET Achievement Award was introduced.
The winner of the 2021 RESET Achievement Award is Louise Abey, who was recognised for her exceptional efforts retraining Retro Lass, Mareeza Brown and Soomayya, who she trained with calm and effective retraining methods to transform them into well-rounded performance horses.
Lou’s willingness to go over and above the RESET program requirements by providing her horses with multiple outings and exposing them to a range of different scenarios is outstanding and has set a bench mark for the program. Lou was also recognised for her commitment to promoting Off The Track and the RESET Program.
Equestrian Victoria Chair, Christie Freeman:
“Equestrian Victoria is very proud to partner with RV’s Off The Track program which provides mutual benefits and, most importantly, ensures the longevity and welfare of our beautiful thoroughbreds after their racing careers.”
RV General Manager, Equine Welfare - Jennifer Hughes:
“We are thrilled to see Fiona once again awarded the Retrainer of the Year.
“For many years Fiona has worked tirelessly in promoting Off The Track and retired racehorses at every chance she gets, and she doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down now!
“Fiona has a genuine love and passion for thoroughbreds and is a great advocate for the breed and the various Off The Track programs in everything she does, as well as continuing to educate trainers, owners, the equestrian community and the general public about life after racing opportunities for racehorses.
“Congratulations also to Jade who is a very worthy recipient of the runner up award.
“We were lucky enough to have Jade set up shop in Victoria once she realised her passion for finding new homes for retired racehorses, and since then she has grown insurmountably, so much so that she has retrained over 250 horses into loving new homes since setting her business up in Barnawartha in the north-east of Victoria, after moving across the ditch from New Zealand in 2016.
“Jade is an inspiring instructor, passionate rider and dedicated thoroughbred re-homer who ensures a better life for ex-racehorses.
“We are extremely grateful to all our Acknowledged Retrainers as they are instrumental in helping us to achieve our goal of providing the best opportunity for a successful first transition for Off The Track thoroughbreds post-racing.
“I would personally like to congratulate all the nominees and thank them for their continued hard work and dedication to the Off The Track Program.”
RV Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs - Carly Dixon
“It was an honour to be on the judging panel for this year’s RV Retrainer of the Year Award.
“I and my fellow judges had a very tough task to narrow down an eventual winner from the high-quality list of finalists.
“Congratulations to a very worthy winner in Fiona McIntyre, who was recognised for her continuous and unwavering efforts in promoting Off The Track thoroughbreds at every available opportunity.
“Fiona has certainly not rested on her laurels since taking out the award last year, rehoming more retired racehorses than ever before and ramping up her dedication and passion to the breed, which comes across in everything she does.
“Congratulations to all the finalists and also to the other award winners on the day.”
Media Contact: Verity Clough, RV Public Relations Manager, M: 0417 385 068 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT OFF THE TRACK
Racing Victoria’s (RV’s) Off The Track program was launched in 2012 and aims to facilitate the placement of retired thoroughbred racehorses into second careers.
At the heart of the Off The Track Program is a statewide network of over 50 RV Acknowledged Retrainers re-educating retired racehorses for various life after racing pursuits. This includes those horses who have struggled to transition to second careers, now getting the opportunity to realise their potential post-racing via RV’s funded retraining initiative, the RESET Program.
The Off The Track program also drives demand for the thoroughbred through an extensive event sponsorship program, this includes partnerships with Equestrian Victoria, Pony Club Association of Victoria and the Horse Riding Clubs Association of Victoria to ensure suitable incentives exist for re-educating and riding off-the-track horses.
Central to the ongoing delivery of the Off The Track Program is the Off The Community. An online portal launched in May 2021 to not only improve the visibility and better understand the movement of former Victorian racehorses but offer support and educational tools to those passionate about thoroughbreds.