Part Two: Hillary Irwin, Yogi Train for Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 

Slow and steady wins the race, and for trainer Hillary Irwin, slow and steady describes the progress she has achieved with her horse, Yogi, a 4-year-old that she is training for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover as part of the Retired Racehorse Project. 

Yogi, a bay gelding with four white socks and white star, has been in full training mode with Irwin, who is preparing for the second time to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project this October. She has a passion for taking on retired and injured off the track thoroughbreds and rehabilitating them for a second life. Trainers and competitors in the Thoroughbred Makeover can start working with their “retired” horses in December prior to the October competition. 

“Yogi is adorable; he’s a good boy. He was a monster last summer, but now anything I ask him to do, he does. He went to his first little show, and I trucked him on the trailer by himself, and he was wonderful,” Irwin said of her gelding. 

Making Progress. 

Each horse is eligible to enter two events. Irwin said Yogi will compete in eventing, but she is still undecided between jumper or dressage for his second event. She has been taking him to some smaller training-type shows near her home in Ocala, Fla. Yogi and Irwin have been able to compete in a schooling jumper show, a real three-phase event, and in July he competed in a young-horse event, where he was evaluated on his quality and potential. 

“I’ve been very proud of him at every show so far,” Irwin said. 

As an experienced trainer, she knows the secret to Yogi training and performing his best is to keep him in optimum health, and that starts with his digestive system. She said he gets his daily feed that consists of fiber and energy along with his Vitalize® Equine Digest More® Plus, a daily supplement that contains Amaferm® for increased digestibility, MOS for sequestering pathogens, and biotin and zinc for coat and hoof health. Amaferm is a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to significantly increase intake, digestion and absorption improving gut health. 

“I couldn’t be happier with him. You have to set your horses up to succeed a little bit. If their stomach hurts, they aren’t going to be happy and they aren’t going to perform,” Irwin said. 

The Heat is On. 

In addition to keeping Yogi healthy, happy and performing, Irwin has taken extra care of him while training him during the heat of the summer and in Florida. She’s added electrolytes to his daily regimen now that daily temperatures reach hotter than 105 degrees, she gets her riding in before noon and pays close attention to his water intake and makes sure his is sweating adequately to release the heat.  

“Anytime he travels, has a really hard day or gets super, super hot, he gets Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel just to keep everything level. I give the gel to all my horses when they are working and performing because I have had good luck with it, keeping everything working and maintaining. I really like it,” Irwin said. 

To make sure her horses stay in top shape while traveling and at the shows, she also gives them Vitalize® Alimend®. Vitalize Alimend is natural product that supports gastric health and GI tissue in horses. Alimend is a unique blend of MHB3® Hyaluronan, H. erinaceous (Lion’s mane) extract, and AO-Biotics®. AO-Biotics is a precision prebiotic designed to boost animal resilience to challenges. It is research-proven to improve gut integrity and immune response. 

Future Plans. 

Irwin and Yogi will travel from Florida to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington for his big event, Oct. 2-5. A total of 673 trainers at all levels have entered their retired racehorses for this year’s event. And despite the fact that Irwin has grown to love Yogi and his spirit, she said it isn’t feasible to keep every horse she trains, so she will be looking for a new forever home for her horse.  

“Unfortunately, he will be for sale. He’ll be an absolute dream amateur horse or kid’s horse for the right person,” she said. 

Irwin is already making plans to train her next off the track thoroughbred. She has a 3-year-old that experienced a track injury out to pasture rehabilitating just as Yogi did a year ago.  

“The Retired Racehorse Project is a great idea, and the cause is a good one. The more exposure we can give to the horses, the better we can make this event. I don’t have a ton of time to volunteer, but I can train horses,” Irwin said. 

Make sure to come back in October to follow Irwin and Yogi through to their final competition together in our third part of this series.