The Greater Louisville-based aftercare organization Second Stride had a banner year in 2016, adopting out 147 horses – more than any other year since the group's inception in 2005. That number includes the typical younger geldings and fillies/mares retired from racing and sent directly to the organization for retraining and placement. It also includes colts or stallions that were castrated and even retired broodmares who turned out not to be well-suited for a breeding career, yet still had many good years left as riding horses.
Equally impressive, if not more so, is that of those 147 horses adopted out, less than 1% ended up being returned due to the horse not meeting its adopter's expectations. That's thanks in large part to a dedicated and mindful staff and a robust, yet easy to navigate application process.
With statistics like these, it is obvious Second Stride is doing something right.
Carrie Redmon, development manager for Second Stride, says the organization has many people to thank for these results.
“We have a truly dedicated staff of employees and volunteers who are not only passionate, but knowledgeable. Beyond that, we have veterinarians, farriers and other specialists who work within the industry and are dedicated to giving back to the sport by doing their part to help horses transition out of racing and into their second careers through our program,” said Redmon, who previously worked in the stable office at Churchill Downs. “Our donors – both those that donate horses and those who donate funding – play a major role in what we accomplish as well. It takes a village.”
The organization sets itself apart by routinely taking in non-traditional aftercare candidates, such as broodmares. In the past year alone, they took in several mares who, for reasons such as foaling complications or lack of impressive offspring, were not proving to be good candidates to continue producing foals. Redmon says while these horses may take a bit more time to retrain, many prove to be excellent prospects for various disciplines, from simple trail and recreational riding to jumping, dressage, Western events and more.
Redmon says one of the biggest assets the program has, both in raising money and in turning over horses more quickly into adoptive homes, are racehorse owners and trainers who donate horses with no physical limitations. For any racehorse adoption organization, receiving a horse injury-free to be adopted out allows the group to put less time and resources into rehabilitating the injury (think board, feed, staff hours, veterinary/farrier costs, materials, etc.) and to get the horse into an adoptive home faster, making room for the next horse.
“Donating sound horses that are easy to turn over makes Second Stride money. They bring in more through their adoption fee than they cost us to retrain and adopt out, plain and simple,” said Redmon.
Redmon said trainers like Buff Bradley and Tom Drury are helping that message to proliferate by educating their owners about aftercare planning and serving as ambassadors for the organization on the backside.
“Responsible retirement – retiring a horse if it is not meeting expectations rather than dropping them down in class until an injury forces their retirement – is the right thing for the individual and for the industry,” said Redmon. “People have 401Ks and think ahead in planning their retirement. Racehorse owners should be equally mindful of their horses when it comes to retirement planning. Having a plan ahead of time for what they will do when their horse is finished racing makes the scenario much easier for everyone involved – trainer, owner, aftercare professionals and especially the horse.”
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 equine, 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. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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