Lifelong Area Resident to Compete in Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Competition

Photo by Charmi Peña
Karin Hagios Belgrave, a Hopewell resident, is gearing up to ride in Kentucky for a second time. The first was at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1994, and now she is getting ready for something “just as exciting, but considerably less stressful.” 
Karin trained and competed horses in the Equestrian sport of Eventing for many years, and was long-listed for the 1994 World Equestrian Games and the 1996 Olympics with her long-time partner, Ben Nevis.
“I didn’t make either team, but it was really fun being a part of the upper-level Eventing scene at the time. It was an incredible experience,” she said.
Karin spent several years after working with young Thoroughbreds – some just off the track, some who were bred to race but never did.
“I felt like I learned more about horses and training during this time than I ever did at the upper levels,” said Karin. “Thoroughbreds are so incredibly smart, and when you take the time to figure out what makes them tick they work so hard for you, and will absolutely thrive in their new jobs.”
Karin is a full-time commercial and editorial photographer, and her husband, Dr. Rodney Belgrave, is an Internal Medicine Specialist and President/co-owner of The MId-Atlantic Equine Medical Center.
“We both love Thoroughbreds. Rodney follows the industry closely, as he has many racing clients and has always had a passion for the sport.”
Karin took some time away from horses when she was pregnant, and when their kids were little. “It was actually nice, at first, to have a break – to concentrate on our family and our businesses.”
Just as their children were entering school full-time, and Karin was ready to have a horse again: she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A routine annual mammogram revealed an invasive tumor. She was immediately consumed with surgeries, chemotherapy, and reconstruction. She tried to maintain “as much normalcy as possible” for her young children but it was an incredibly challenging year — one that strengthened her resolve to ride again. 
“Not long after my last surgery we found out about a very nice mare named “Tiyo” (Gio Ponti-Yo Ali, by Quiet American) who was retiring sound from racing, from a trainer we know and trust,” said Karin. “Many people thought I should find a safe, quiet Warmblood – but I’m so glad I stayed true to our love of Thoroughbreds. I just adore her. She’s perfect for me. And the bonus was that she was eligible for the 2018 Retired Racehorse Project Makeover.”
The Retired Racehorse Project, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, exists to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports.

The Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center supports racing in many ways, including making The Retired Racehorse Project the beneficiary of their 2017 Annual Fundraiser, Golf Outing, and Intern Farewell. Karin is proud that this MAEMC event raised $12,000 for The Retired Racehorse Project.

The 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, will take place Oct. 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. This is the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing. 
The Thoroughbred Makeover was created to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds. The competition is intended to inspire good trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers, and the National Symposium serves to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners.
The Makeover is not an ordinary horse show; it is a training competition. Trainers interested in participating must submit an application to the RRP Makeover Selection Committee for approval, to ensure that all participants are capable of effectively restarting an off-track Thoroughbred and demonstrating its talent and trainability. 
Ten competitive disciplines are offered at the Makeover: barrels, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunters, polo, ranch work, show hunters, show jumpers, and freestyle (a free-form division to demonstrate skills of the trainer’s choice). Karin is competing in the dressage competition. 
Trainers are allowed to choose a second discipline for the Makeover – but given the challenges of the last year and her very full schedule with work and family, she figured best to stick to the one discipline Tiyo seems the most suited to. “Plus, I plan to have her for a long time, so I want to make sure I restart her in a happy, methodical way.” 
“It’s just really neat to be able to participate in an event we have been following and supporting for several years, especially since it means going back to the Kentucky Horse Park. I don’t expect to win my discipline, or the $10,000 ‘America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred’ award – I just want to experience the Makeover and have some fun with my family and my wonderful mare.”
You can follow Karin’s journey to the Makeover here:
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