Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: Thoroughbred Matchmaker by Jen Roytz|11.18.201511.18.2015|12:34pm6:20pm Jen Ruberto uses photography, video and networking to find ex-racehorses a perfect home For years, trainers on the Ohio and West Virginia racing circuits have known Jen Ruberto as their go-to if they've got horses who need to move on to new homes at the ends of their careers. Riders and trainers shopping for their new horses knew her well too, and she helped countless buyers and sellers of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses find each other, educating both on the subjects of networking and rehoming. Jen grew up horse-crazy in a non-horse household. After being given riding lessons on her eighth birthday, Jen never looked back, riding and showing throughout her childhood and into her collegiate years at Lake Erie College. Today, her days are spent working alongside her husband and his family at the racetrack in their Ruberto Racing Stable. Jen knows her way around a horse. Combine that with her experience working to find so many racehorses non-racing homes, and she's developed a unique skill set that hasn't gone unnoticed. “Trainers around here know me and have learned they can trust me, and call when they have a horse they need to move on,” said Jen via phone while at a trainer's farm to inspect, photograph and video a recently retired horse he was looking to rehome. Jen has spent years walking the backsides of racetracks in her free time, networking with trainers so they know who they can call when they have a horse that's not competitive. “Sometimes it's a horse who's run through all of his conditions and can only manage sixths and sevenths in open company and other times it's a horse with a knee or ankle that's giving him trouble,” explained Jen. “Many of the trainers on the backside, even at the lower claiming level, really do want their horses to go to good homes. A lot of times when I'm on my way to see one horse, I'll get people coming out of the woodwork asking me to take a look at horses in their barns, too.” Serving as the conduit between trainers who don't have the connections or know-how to best rehome their own horses and sport horse riders and trainers looking for an off-track Thoroughbred, Jen has built a following in both sectors of the horse world. Jen has created quite a following on Facebook. There, she posts photos, videos and information of horses looking for non-racing homes, along with the contact information for the trainer or owner selling the horse. Some are for sale, while others are free to a good home. “I post available horses on my own page, as well as group pages like OTTB Connect and others that have to do with horses from the track. I'm confident in what I'm looking at – legs, conformation, build – and through my own equestrian experiences and through working with CANTER for so many years, I've been able to develop a feel for what different people are looking for in a horse and what makes a horse better suited for one discipline over another,” said Jen. Nebraska-based rider and trainer Brit Vegas is one of the many people who have found horses through Jen, and can attest to why she trusts Jen's opinion on horses. Jen schooling one of her training projects “Jen is well-educated on track injuries and has an incredible eye. She feels these horses up and down for old injuries or blemishes, and jogs them for any visible soundness issues,” said Brit. “You know you're buying the horse exactly as described. She doesn't try to hide or cover up a thing.” With a reputation that precedes her, it's no wonder Jen often gets requests from people searching for the right horse to hire her for her services. She talks with them about their riding, what type of horse they're looking for, what they can live with in a horse and what they can't, and then searches proactively for their perfect match. “I love playing matchmaker and finding the right horse for others. I charge a small commission to cover my gas and time traveling around to farms or the backside of racetracks to inspect, photograph and video horses, as well as the time I spend on write-ups and networking them online, whether it be on Facebook, equine classified websites or elsewhere. Between that and the money I make off of my own sale horses, it's helping us to save for our kids' college funds and have a bit of fun money for our family, when we get the time to use it.” After leaving CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses) earlier this year due to time constraints with her family and their racing stable, Jen has continued to offer her time to those looking to sell or buy retired racehorses. She also has more free time to take on her own training projects and is looking forward to dabbling in the dressage world with an old friend. “John's Burger raced for us and meant a lot to us. I rehomed him to a good friend in Virginia, but she ended up not having the time she thought she would have to put into him, so she only ever rode him 8 to 10 times. She called the other day and said she needed a good home for him,” said Jen. “The announcer used to say he was the best $5,000 claimer to ever set foot on Mountaineer. He was one we had a hard time letting go of. He meant a lot to all of us. I'd recently lost my horse, and after talking with my husband, I jumped at the chance to get him back. He just got back Sunday and I can't wait to reconnect with him.” Those looking to find a new horse can contact Jen through Facebook (www.facebook.com/jen.ruberto) or email her at [email protected]. “When Jen tells you a horse is made for you, you can take that to the bank,” said Brit. Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of Thoroughbred racing, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others, and she is the go-to food source for two dogs and one off-track Thoroughbred. Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.