Making racehorse owners aware of the options available for their thoroughbreds after racing is one of the hurdles facing aftercare providers.
The importance of promotion of aftercare providers was emphasised during the third session of the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses’ (IFAR) virtual conference series last week.
Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance operations consultant Stacie Clark and Kristin Werner, senior counsel for The Jockey Club and administrator of its Thoroughbred Incentive Program, described the path from the racetrack to placement into accredited aftercare programs. They emphasized the importance of these organizations’ promoting themselves and communicating to the Thoroughbred industry that they exist so that horse owners are aware of the retirement options for their former racehorses.
“The biggest disconnect that we have is that people don’t know what’s out there,” Clark said.
Werner said that part of any aftercare program should be the permanent retirement of the horse’s racing eligibility. “This is accomplished through The Jockey Club’s Transferred as Retired from Racing process. This ensures a horse will no longer be eligible to race, while maintaining eligibility for breeding and second careers.”
The webinar, “Global Insights on Aftercare (Aftercare Providers, Equine Charities),” was moderated by Donna Brothers, who is part of the horse racing coverage team for NBC Sports in the United States. The list of speakers also included Horse Racing Ireland’s director of Equine Welfare and Bloodstock John Osborne; Lisa Coffey, founder and director, Racing Hearts (Australia), and Dr Ignacio Pavlovsky, veterinarian, owner, and breeder from Argentina.
Coffey’s Racing Hearts retrains off-the-track Thoroughbreds for use in equine-assisted therapy and other careers. It is the first charity of its kind in Australia and has a waiting list of about 50 clients. Coffey said Thoroughbreds are especially suited to therapy due to their willingness to please.
“Horses and other animals offer a genuinely non-judgmental relationship. They have no other agenda other than actually wanting to be with us,” she said.
Osborne indicated that aftercare has become a priority for the Irish Thoroughbred industry relatively recently, as perspectives have shifted from viewing horses as commodities to viewing them as individual, sentient beings. Last year, Treo Eile was founded in Ireland to assist racehorse trainers and owners who wish to rehome and retrain horses once their racetrack careers are complete.
“Ultimately, our catchphrase is that ownership comes with the responsibility to the animal, not just on the glory days but in the dog days, too, where things are not so promising, where the dreams are behind those horses, but the responsibility still remains to look after that horse properly and do what’s best for that horse at all times,” Osborne said.
In Argentina, Pavlovsky said that Thoroughbreds are in high demand due to their versatility to be retrained in disciplines such as polo, jumping, and pulling carriages. Compared to other jurisdictions, it is much easier to place racehorses in homes following their retirement from racing.
“Today, the welfare of horses is something that we have to be extremely dedicated to and think about,” Pavlovsky said. “Horses are more than our business. They are our way of living.”