Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Age Just A Number To This Guy by Jen Roytz|09.24.201509.25.2015|11:28am7:57am At age 23, Final Swing was honored as the oldest competitor in the New Vocations All Thoroughbred Show On a cool and breezy Saturday just before the Keeneland September Sale got underway, Thoroughbreds with their racing days behind them gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park for the inaugural New Vocations All Thoroughbred Show. A wide range of ages and experience levels were on display, competing over jumps and on the flat, as well as for Thoroughbred Incentive Program recognition awards. One of the awards handed out was for the oldest Thoroughbred entered in the day's competition, and when the crowd saw the 23-year-old horse that stepped up to be honored, people were reminded of why they truly love the Thoroughbred. Final Swing was born premature and wasn't expected to survive. Thanks to his breeders and their around-the-clock care, he not only survived but became their personal pet. That meant racing wasn't in the cards for Final Swing, but they did send him to a trainer to put a proper foundation on him under saddle. “I found Final Swing waiting in a stall as my Christmas present from my parents when I was 16,” said Erika, who still owns and shows Final Swing. The pair had a rocky start. Erika was a self-described naïve kid who thought she could easily train a young Thoroughbred, and Final Swing was a green-broke 2-year-old with much more energy than sense. “Demon” seems particularly adept at jumping “His nickname has been Demon since the day I got him. I fell off of him every other day like clockwork for the first three months I owned him, and I nearly sold him at age three because I was afraid of him,” said Erika. “Then I put my big-girl pants on, read some books, and just kept at it.” Eventually Erika and Demon found their stride together. They started working with each other instead of against each other, and slowly they made progress. Demon has been shown in Western, hunters, jumpers, and dressage. The more he learned, the more he wanted to learn, and as he truly began working, it became apparent what a truly beautiful mover he could be. Jumping seems to be Demon's forte, and the hunter show ring is where the pair has excelled. They competed at the New Vocations show in the 2'3” hunter division and turned more than a few heads. They also took a lap around the Rolex Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park to collect their award from the Thoroughbred Incentive Program's Kristin Leshney and Sarah Coleman as the oldest horse in the one-day show. Demon still acts like a kid sometimes “I got to see Final Swing up close when we presented him with his award at the Thoroughbred Recognition Ceremony in the Rolex Stadium that was held during lunch,” said Sarah Coleman, director of education and development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. “Then I got to watch him compete in the Walnut Arena. I was so impressed with how wonderful he looked! He is a great ambassador for the Thoroughbred breed – he is a horse who not only excels in his second career, but is excelling in it well into his later years.” At 23 years of age, Demon has grown out of many of the qualities that earned him his unique nickname, but he hasn't lost his edge or his penchant for showing off. “He gets ridden three day a week to keep him in shape and still loves jumping and going to shows, but I try to keep those activities in moderation because of his age. He's still trying to convince me that age is just a number, but in this case, I think I know better than he does,” said Erika. Together, Demon and Erika have navigated the transition from youth to adulthood. He's also taken a number of riders over their first fences. “He has taught countless riders the importance of keeping their heels down and staying out of a horse's way over a jump,” said Erika. “We have been together over 20 years. We have grown up together, learned together, gone through every adult milestone together, and are now tackling our bucket list together. We've shown in the Olympic Stadium in Georgia, and now in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. Next is riding in the ocean. Thank goodness I never gave up on us.” The Deets: Name: FINAL SWING (a.k.a. Demon) Born: 1992 Color: Bay Sire: Treasury Secretary Dam: Swinging Ringy Sale History: none Race Record: 0-0-0-0 Race Earnings: $0 If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos. Jen Roytz is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.