01/10/2014 3:25PM

Retired Racehorse Training Project releases national study of Thoroughbred placement

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A report released by the Retired Racehorse Training Project revealed the results of a nationwide study of how Thoroughbred ex-racehorses are transitioned into second careers.

The report was based on a survey conducted in late 2013, in which owners of 4,200 ex-racehorses from 47 states and Canada responded to 23 questions.

Of the horses included in the survey, 34 percent were acquired directly from racing owners, comprising the biggest source of ex-racehorses. Non-racing private owners were the source of 31 percent of the horses in the survey, 13.5 percent were acquired from non-profit placement or rescue organizations, 9 percent were acquired from professional training or sales businesses, and 2.3 percent came through auctions.

The survey also showed that prices for horses increased with training, but were still far below the cost to transition racehorses to new careers.

The average adoption fee at a nonprofit placement organization was $1,001, with 22 percent of the horses in that category changing hands at no cost. Horses acquired through racing owners were purchased for an average price of $1,265, with 30 percent given away. Those purchased from private non-racing owners had an average price of $2,618, not including the 19 percent that were free, while horses sold through professional training or sales businesses averaged $4,646, not including the 4 percent given away. The average price at public auction was $839.

Once acquired, 37 percent of the ex-racehorses included in the survey were used primarily for eventing. Hunter/jumper was second at 27 percent, 13 percent primarily competed in dressage, and trail riding accounted for 9 percent.

“The public believes that racing owners dump their retiring horses into auctions and that a lucky few get rescued and adopted,” said RRTP president Steuart Pittman. “Our survey tells a different story. Most of these horses were not rescued. They were sold or donated through networks of people both inside and outside of racing who work very hard to transition these animals.”

The conductors of the study drew the following conclusions based on the data in the study:

•Racehorses are placed in second careers with long-term owners through a marketplace that lacks networks and forums through which the sellers, trainers , and buyers can find one another.

•Prices and adoption fees are depressed to a level that makes subsidies for those providing transition services essential until demand rises significantly.

•The financial incentive to retire horses sound from racing does not exist until increased demand raises prices for retiring horses.

In response to the study, the RRTP plans to move forward with an expansion of its work. The RRTP will host a second Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Race Course on October 4-5 that will include more horses, trainers, and racing stables. The organizations also plans to compile, print, and distribute a state-by-state resource directory for Thoroughbred placement.