In the beginning, it seems like a simple enough equation. You like horses, or maybe you just like to gamble. Maybe you live for the thrill of competition, or maybe you just have money burning a hole in your pocket. Whatever the reason, you decide you're going to own a racehorse…or a few…or a heck of a lot of ‘em. You pay their bills, they get their training and conditioning. Hopefully they make it to the track – heck, maybe they even earn a few bucks and you have a couple pictures taken with them.
Then, one day your trainer tells you that, due to ______ (injury, lack of speed, age, loss of competitive spirit – you can fill in the blank), it's in the horse's best interest that he/she hang up their racing plates and venture on to a “second career.”
Where will they go? What do you do? You want to make sure they end up in a safe place, where they'll be productive and happy.
That's where Anna Ford and New Vocations Racehorse Adoption come in.
“A Thoroughbred may only race for a couple years yet a horse can live well into their 20s. That's where New Vocations steps in and helps retired racehorses transition into a second career,” said Ford. “Thoroughbreds are athletic, extremely intelligent and have a lot to offer the equestrian world. Whether its show jumping or trail riding these horses love having a job or what we call an active retirement.”
Started in 1992, New Vocations offers retiring racehorses a safe-haven, rehabilitation and continued education. Staffed by professionals experienced in transforming a horse's gift of “go” into an appreciation for “slow,” New Vocations has adopted out more than 3,000 horses since its inception, and this year they are projected to re-home roughly 400 Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds into qualified homes.
“We have a thorough vetting process that each potential adopter must go through,” said Ford. “It includes answering a 50 question application, then we contact both the veterinarian that services their facility and one or more of their personal references. We are specifically looking for individuals who have both the experience and financial means to take on a retired racehorse. Only if they meet our strict requirements are they able to adopt one of our horses.”
For the third consecutive year, trainers and owners of Breeders' Cup World Championship contenders can do their part to support retired racehorses by pledging to donate a percentage of their horse's Breeders' Cup earnings to the racehorse rehabilitation facility.
Trainers like Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito, Kiaran McLaughlin and Eddie Plesa; and owners including Mike Repole, Rick Shanley, Robert LaPenta, and Westpoint Thoroughbreds have made early commitments to support this year's fundraising efforts.
“It's our responsibility as owners to make sure these horses find good homes after their racing careers are over,” said Mike Repole, owner of potential Classic contenders Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. “New Vocations, like many other great horse rescue organizations do a great job at making sure our equine friends have a great life beyond the track and we are happy to support them at this year's World Championships.”
Starting with just a single farm in Dayton, Ohio, nearly 20 years ago, the program has grown to have six facilities, located in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and serves over 40 racetracks.
In that time, Ford has become one of the leading advocates, experts, lecturers and advisors for Thoroughbred adoption, speaking at numerous symposiums and conferences on the subject annually.
“The need for our type of program in the racing industry is huge so as we were able to raise more funding we were also able to spread our geographical outreach,” explained Ford. “We specialize in working directly with owners and trainers regardless of track location. A large number of horses we receive come from the NYRA tracks and as far south as Gulfstream in the winter. We have even had a few horses shipped all the way from California. If owners are unable to provide shipping we are happy to help them locate a program in their area.”
What sets New Vocations apart from many of the other retirement organizations across the country is a sound protocol for moving a large number of horses in a relatively short period of time, while maintaining rigorous standards for adoption application approval and post-adoption follow-up.
“We've been adopting horses from New Vocations for over five years now and remain impressed by the quality of horses they have,” said New Vocations adopter Sharon Kvistad. “Their team is able to quickly assess both the mental and physical soundness of each horse and then determine which discipline the horse will be best suited for. The adoption contract is thorough, yet not so rigid that it deters serious equestrians from investing time and money into a horse that can be sold for a profit after completion of their contractual obligations.”
If asked to pinpoint the primary key to a successful transition from racing to a second career, Ford says proactive action by owners and trainers to plan for a horse's long-term soundness and productivity. In other words, don't squeeze the lemon dry.
“Finding homes for sound quality retired Thoroughbreds is not that difficult when they are transitioned and marketed correctly,” said Ford. “If more owners would choose to retire their horses earlier rather than later, before they incur a career-ending injury, they will help ensure a better second career for their horse. What owners and trainers must understand is that many injuries these horses sustain on the track go on to cost programs thousands of dollars to rehabilitate them properly with no guarantee that the horse will ever be riding sound. An unridable, unsound horse is more likely to end up in a bad situation than a horse that can learn a new skill and excel in a second career.”
If you have a horse pointing to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships and would like to pledge a portion of their earnings to New Vocations, go to www.horseadoption.com. You can also see New Vocations current offerings and success stories on Facebook at www.facebook.com/newvocations.
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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made in support of horse rescue efforts. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
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