The Horse Comes 1/ST, Presented By 1/ST Racing: Team Approach Drives Beyond The Wire’s Success – Horse Racing News

Jessica Hammond, executive director of the Beyond the Wire aftercare organization

An avid horse racing enthusiast and a passionate champion for the Thoroughbred, Jessica Hammond is a natural fit for the role of executive director of the Maryland aftercare organization Beyond the Wire. Hammond also serves as counseling administrator for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Drawing upon her breadth of experience, which encompasses more than 10 years in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry, Hammond, 45, is charged with knowing where to place horses transitioning to second careers. Hammond’s success has earned her Godolphin’s 2022 Dr. J. David Richardson Community Award, honoring those who have made major contributions to the Thoroughbred industry for the greater good of the sport.

Hammond credits her success to being able to recognize and manage the many moving parts that comprise Thoroughbred aftercare in Maryland.  “Aftercare has several different facets and involves many different personalities in the industry,” said Hammond.  “Getting those to mesh for the good of the horse can be a challenge.  Everyone has an opinion on how best to do things or what the priorities are. I decided a few years ago that as long as I always put the horse first, I’m going to be making the right decisions.”

Something she didn’t expect was how Thoroughbred aftercare would take her on many journeys, including participation in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover, a two-day equestrian competition held in Lexington, Ky. 

Beyond the Wire has been a sponsor at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover for several years. Hammond has long been an attendee and leaves each year’s edition feeling inspired. Diagnosed with a muscular disease, Hammond never thought she would be able to compete, but after watching a Competitive Trail event, she decided there was no reason she couldn’t become a competitor and then set off to find the perfect equine partner for the 2023 event. 

“I never thought I could compete in that setting at that level due to my limitations, but I figured why not try,” reflects Hammond. Deciding to compete in the 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover is no small feat. Potential participants often search long and hard for a potential equine partner and Hammond’s search was no different. 

“For me, the first requirement is sensibility. I need something that is reasonable and basically safe. I also have to feel a connection to the horse. When I’ve been looking, most of the horses I’m interested in are on the mend, so I was unable to ride them. I spent time with them hand grazing and hand walking and watched their behavior as things were happening around them,” said Hammond. “I also want them to seem interested in me because I am going to need to trust them and vice versa at some point. I also bring my husband (and trainer) Scott once I’ve narrowed it down so that he can look at conformation, soundness and behavior as well. He is the real expert and has to give the green light.”

Working with the connections of horses has given Hammond the ability to gather as much information about each potential horse as she can. “Luckily, I know the connections that retired these horses so I also interview the trainer, rider and grooms.” 

Jessica Hammond with Contented Now, the horse he hopes to bring to the 2023 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover

Finding a mount might sound like a needle in a haystack, but Hammond thinks she may have found her 2023 equine partner in Contented Now, a 4-year-old gray or roan gelding by Medaglia d’Oro. “I went to one of our partner rehabilitation farms to check on horses and asked about him. Unlike a lot of people, I am not easily swayed by grays, but there was definitely a connection. I also spoke with his trainer who confirmed his good mind,” said Hammond.

Contented Now is still in rehabilitation and Hammond and husband Scott will take him when he is nearing the end of his rehab stint and, from there, go on the road to the Thoroughbred Makeover. 

Hammond’s goal is to be accepted to the makeover and successfully finish a class. “If that happens, I’ll be on top of the world. Anything above and beyond that would just be a dream,” Hammond said with a refreshing note of girlish enthusiasm. “I also want to have fun with my friends and colleagues and bond with my horse. I think those are both big parts of participating in the Thoroughbred Makeover in any capacity.” 

In addition to competition, dedicated horsemen and women often turn business relationships into lifelong friendships. “I was lucky to gain both a trusted resource and friend in Georganne Hale (vice president of racing development for the Maryland Jockey Club), who is a board member at Beyond the Wire,” she said. “Georganne and I have become good friends and my relationship with her and her opinion on things are important to me.” 

Hale readily acknowledges Hammond’s value to the business of aftercare. 

Jessica Hammond hits the road with Maryland Jockey Club executive and Beyond the Wire board member Georganne Hale

“Nobody is as loyal to the horses as Jessica is,” said Hale. “I was ecstatic when I was asked to be on the Beyond the Wire board because I would be working with Jessica directly. What happens to horses after they finish racing is a number one priority for the Maryland Jockey Club and 1/ST Racing. I am fortunate to work for a great company that really cares about horses and aftercare. Through them, I have been able to attend events that focus on aftercare and meet great people like Jessica.”  

Hammond is quick to acknowledge the symbiotic contributions of the Maryland Jockey Club, 1/ST Racing, and Beyond the Wire.  “Everyone is working together,” she said.  “The MJC, 1/ST Racing and Beyond the Wire help in so many ways, including providing veterinarians who assist in addressing welfare concerns.  This team approach has led to more horses retiring sounder sooner and that is obviously one of our primary goals.” 

For Hammond, juggling the day-to-day duties associated with aftercare may be a challenge but it is one that has led to great friendships, grand adventures, and, most importantly, successful placement of many Thoroughbreds following their racing careers in Maryland. 

Aftercare Spotlight: Beyond the Wire

Beyond the Wire is a 501C3, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited aftercare program that started as an industry-wide initiative between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, Northview Stallion Station, 1/ST RACING, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and the Maryland jockey colony. It was created to provide a safe transition from racing for all Maryland-based Thoroughbred racehorses. To find out more about Beyond the Wire or to donate to the organization, please visit: https://www.beyondthewire.org/

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