Building loyalty and enthusiasm for a product through recognition of customers and rewards for their participation are some of the most effective marketing tools used by businesses around the world. The hallmarks of a good reward and recognition program are communication with the targeted audience, an understanding of the audience, and a personal and effective way to show appreciation and share the success stories with potential new customers.
The Jockey Club, through its Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.), has employed these practices to successfully build the number of people desiring to own and ride registered Thoroughbreds, many in disciplines not normally associated with the breed. They plan to take it a step further in 2019 by adding incentives for retiring a horse from racing when it is sound and able to go into a second career.
What is T.I.P.? Created to encourage the retraining of Thoroughbreds in disciplines other than racing, it is an incentive and recognition program that connects with people who are riding Thoroughbreds in English and Western competition as well as young riders and recreational riders.
T.I.P. started in 2012 with 150 horse events and is now up to more than 1,200 shows in 42 states and six Canadian provinces. The growth has been a grassroots effort as more show organizers contact The Jockey Club each year about adding the incentives to their shows. Additionally, new disciplines are added when Thoroughbred owners contact T.I.P. to say, “I am riding an off-track Thoroughbred, why not add this discipline to the program?”
Kristin Leshney, senior counsel for The Jockey Club and director of T.I.P., is happy to accommodate.
“One of the coolest things about the success of T.I.P. is learning about the broad spectrum of activities in which Thoroughbreds are newly successful, such as barrel racing and Polocrosse,” said Leshney. “We are always adding new divisions to the awards offered as well as the championship horse show, where we have added Dressage and Western Pleasure for 2018.
“We have awards at quite a few local show series where people tend to show the whole season, and hopefully there is a support system and an emphasis on horsemanship that benefit Thoroughbreds in transition.”
To be eligible for T.I.P., a Thoroughbred must be registered with The Jockey Club or a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club. Throughout the year, riders compete in T.I.P. classes and earn points. The variety of classes is so wide that virtually anyone can participate. There are divisions for barrel racing and open-jumping as well as English Pleasure Walk-Trot and Off-The-Track Thoroughbred In Hand, which is judged on conformation and “way of going” while being led at a jog. The year culminates in the Performance Awards, a year-end program for Thoroughbreds' participation at all shows.
Owners are also encouraged to sign up and log their trail riding hours manually or with the free mobile app, Kentucky Equine Research Clockit. Recognition is given for getting out to ride your Thoroughbred.
The Youth Ambassador Program, which is open to 12 junior riders who own or lease a Thoroughbred and actively participate in T.I.P.-sponsored shows, classes or awards programs, is helping to cultivate a generation of Thoroughbred lovers. This is especially important for the breed given the bias in horse shows for European Warmbloods.
Pedigrees and race records of all Thoroughbreds in T.I.P. are part of their story and are used to tie them back to their racing connections, breeders and breed associations.
“By celebrating all of a horse's accomplishments and connections on the track and after retiring, we get everyone excited about the success that Thoroughbreds are having after racing,” added Leshney. “We are laying the groundwork for owners and trainers to start participating in the positive outcomes by giving incentives to retire their horses sound and able to have an accomplished second career, even as just a great trail horse.”
This concept will be discussed in the “Thoroughbreds Excelling as Sport Horses” panel at the eighth Safety and Welfare of the Racehorse Summit on June 27 at 3:30. Click here for live streaming of the panel discussion. Kristin Leshney will be moderating the panel of Alexandra Knowles–Owner, Alexandra Knowles Eventing; Katie Ruppel–Owner, Yellow Rose Eventing; and Jen Roytz–Executive Director, Retired Racehorse Project
For more information on the T.I.P. Championship Show September 9, 2018, at the Kentucky Horse Park, click here. It follows the New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Charity Show, September 7-8, 2018. To read more about the New Vocations Show, click here.
Diana Pikulski is the former executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and currently the editor of the Thoroughbread Adoption Network. Visit www.thoroughbredadoption.com.