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Retired Thoroughbreds get helping hand from Jockey Club
By Patrick Reed
The Jockey Club launched the networking platform Thoroughbred Connect in May 2011 as an added feature of its online registration service with the intent to help facilitate the placement and aftercare of retired Thoroughbreds.
A year and a half into the project, more than 1,600 people have signed onto Thoroughbred Connect, and more than 400 horses have benefited from the program, according to Kristin Leshney, legal associate with The Jockey Club, who helped develop the platform.
Procedurally, Thoroughbred Connect works in a fashion similar to popular online dating sites such as Match.com but is configured to spark relationships among horse enthusiasts. Once an interested party signs up with The Jockey Club’s interactive registration service, he can attach contact information to one of two groups: those interested in providing aftercare to a retired Thoroughbred or those who have an individual Thoroughbred in need of aftercare.
“When there’s a ‘connect,’ an e-mail gets sent to the person who has the horse, and they are responsible for contacting the person or persons who have said that they are interested in the horse,” Leshney said. “The [recipient] may not necessarily take the horse; [the service] could be providing assistance with getting it to a better place, or putting it into a retirement home, or whatever the horse needs.”
Persons offering horses on Thoroughbred Connect may list up to 10 in their possession, and those willing to provide aftercare and assistance may list up to 100 horses. While Leshney said that several of those who signed on to provide assistance specified popular horses such as Zenyatta or previous Kentucky Derby winners, the overwhelming majority of horses are average, everyday former racehorses or pensioned stallions – precisely the population most in need of assistance in an era of shorter racing careers and declining breeding activity.
Leshney said that Thoroughbred Connect may be modified in 2013 to make the interface more user-friendly but overall The Jockey Club is pleased with its development. The platform is fully integrated into The Jockey Club’s electronic records database and is part of a broader objective promoting aftercare and retirement options that includes The Jockey Club’s voluntary retirement checkoff option during foal registration, its tattoo identification service, and its Thoroughbred Incentive Program, which offers prize monies to retired Thoroughbreds in competition and non-competition categories. The latter program debuted in 2012 and has been renewed for 2013.
“One part of Thoroughbred Connect is also the list of all available horses that are on the website,” Leshney said, “so if you are just looking for a [specific] horse you can go there, and find one in need of a home and contact the owner.”
In that way, Thoroughbred Connect fulfills an important role in the transition process. If an owner is seeking to place an individual horse into aftercare, the tattoo lookup option is available, and that horse can then be added to Thoroughbred Connect’s growing roster and eventually be transferred to a good home. If a new owner is interested in retraining the retired Thoroughbred to compete in horse shows or to provide therapeutic services, the Thoroughbred Incentive Program encourages this by offering rewards.
In addition to the gradual rollout of these programs, The Jockey Club announced in the fall that it would increase fees by $25 for most registry-related transactions, with the funds going to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
A sampling of the prominent retirement programs in North America.
Thoroughbred Charities of America
A large part of this comprehensive and essential charity organization focuses on providing grants to retirement, retraining, and adoption programs for Thoroughbreds.
Address: P.O. Box 910668, Lexington, KY 40591
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
Founded in 1983, TRF is the oldest and largest equine sanctuary of its kind in the world and has helped more than 4,000 horses. TRF has pioneered several popular Thoroughbred aftercare initiatives, such as inmate equine training and rehabilitation programs.
Address: P.O. Box 834, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Adena Springs Retirement Program
Founded in 2004, the program has to date helped more than 100 horses find new homes.
Address: 14875 Baview Avenue, Aurora, Ontario L4G 3G8 Canada
The Communication Alliance to Network Ex-Racehorses is a listings board posting ex-racehorses for sale, and several chapters also created their own adoption programs. The first chapter started in Michigan in 1997.
Locations: Chapters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
California Retirement Management Account is a fundraising organization dedicated to raising money for retired California racehorses. In addition to disbursing grant money, CARMA serves as an advocacy organization for retirement and rehabilitation issues.
Address: P.O. Box 1086, Sierra Madre, CA 91025
Founded in 1996, the New York nonprofit opened 140-acre Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary in 2004.
Address: P.O. Box 354, Chatham, NY 12037-0354
The Exceller Fund
This Kentucky-based organization concentrates on providing long-term care for ex-racehorses, with an emphasis on “racing warriors” who have had lengthy careers and consequently limited adoption opportunities due to physical wear and tear.
Address: P.O. Box 4237, Lexington, KY 40544
Kentucky Equine Humane Center
The center offers shelter, treatment, and training to unwanted horses and serves as a clearinghouse for Kentucky horses in an effort to find adoptive homes for them.
Address: P.O. Box 910124, Lexington, KY 40591
LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society
The Ontario-based organization evaluates retired racehorses and offers placement services.
Address: 555 Rexdale Blvd., P.O. Box 156, Toronto, Ontario
M9W 5L2 Canada
Founded in 1992, the organization has helped place more than 4,000 Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses in qualified homes. It prioritizes adoption as opposed to retirement and encourages retraining. The Standardbred office is in Laura, Ohio; the Thoroughbred office is in Marysville, Ohio.
Address: 3293 Wright Rd, Laura, OH 45337
Founded in 2003, nationally recognized Old Friends cares for more than 120 Thoroughbreds, many of them pensioned stallions. Residents include champions Gulch and Sunshine Forever and Grade 1 winner Commentator.
Address: 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY 40324
R.A.C.E. Fund Inc.
The Retirement Assistance and Care for Equines fund supports various retirement programs as well as horse rescue initiatives.
Address: 8031 Rabbit Ln., Harrisburg, PA 17112
Founded in 1996, ReRun focuses on retraining ex-racehorses for adoption into new homes and careers and also pursues an aggressive identification program to combat horse abandonment and slaughter.
Address: P.O. Box 374, Lakehurst, NJ 08733
Founded in 1998, Tranquility Farm houses approximately 100 retired racehorses and/or pensioned stallions, and also provides adoption services.
Address: P.O. Box 210, Tehachapi, CA 93581