Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: Providing Thoroughbreds a New Vocation

by | 10.21.2011 | 6:43am

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.

  • Rachel

    These guys are wonderful.
    What the thoroughbred needs is a registry that promotes it the way Quarter Horse registry does, instead of the thoroughbred perceived as the breed that needs to be “rescued” from its industry.
    There is nothing more lovely than a Thoroughbred Hunter over fences, more elegant as a dressage horse, or faster and bolder as an event horse…
    This breed doesn’t need to be rescued…it needs to be promoted as “America’s Classical Horse” in the dressage/event/jumping/hunter world…only a committed Jockey Club, as the parent registry, can do that.

  • TBDancer

    Agreed, Rachel. I have Anna Ford’s book, I subscribe to their newsletter with adoptable TBs and SBs, have improved my “eye” when it comes to movement and conformation by comparing what the description of the horse is to its video or the stills, and admire New Vocations’ marketing. There are many fine TB rescues across the country, too. I’m glad the Breeders Cup is promoting second careers for former racehorses and New Vocations will once again receive their help.

  • Nicole

    Rachel, The Jockey Club has actually committed $100,000 toward TB only classes to help with the promotion efforts for the 2012 show season. Also, here in VA we have a wonderful organization called After the Races, which has a lovely show series at the Va Horse Center in Lexington VA limited to OTTB’s or Tb’s that were bred for the track, and both parents raced. It has a huge following and is extremely popular, with many of the divisions sponsored by Race tracks and trainers, in addition to local businesses.

    Our local show circuit also has a TB hunters division they started last year that has been extremely popular.

    I currently have 3 Tb’s, two off the track, one that never raced, in addition to many others that I’ve retrained and sold onto other careers. There’s nothing that can beat the heart of a good old fashioned TB!

  • Nicole
  • Terry

    I have had my new OTTB from New Vocations for about six weeks. He is a gem! His breeding is absolutely unbelieveable, but the most imprtant thing is his wonderful personality! Chris is calm, steady, super smart, willing, loves to work, loves to play, with the heart that can only be fund in this misunderstood breed. The “crazy” Thoroughbred is a product of his training and handling. They are not born that way. I have had other breeds, but no other can beat the elegance, intelligence, and heart of the Thoroughbred. Bless all who work to see that they are safe after they have given so much on the track.

  • On Board

    Anna Ford and others who do the same procedure to save these athletes from a tragic ending, are one in a million. More breedersa and owners need to be on board to help the welfare of their former horses. I also think the claimers out there who also try and show just as much heart in their own way need to have a second chance just as their counter parts.
    When I heard, that a jockey came back from an allowance race and told a trainer that the horese was a piece of garbage… I stood there in horror. From what I heard he is for sale or will be given away. Hopefully the sale will be to caring owners not the alternative.

  • NVOwner

    I can say that my New Vocations horse is the best I have ever had. He’s the one in the picture! Haha

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