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 Where Do Racehorses Go When They Retire?
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Where Do Racehorses Go When They Retire?

Have you ever wondered what happens to retired racehorses? They usually retire early, most of them by the age of around 7, which is very young for animals which usually live well into their twenties.  So what do they do for the next two decades? When they are winners, they will usually get the star treatment and be snapped up by breeders for stud purposes, so that they can breed yet more winners. But this will not happen to the vast majority of horses running on North American race-courses, who, once their racing careers are over, will face a much more uncertain and precarious future ( or often no future at all).

If they are not sold to breeders to spend the rest of their lives on stud farms, they may be given new jobs, e.g. in dressage, jumping or therapy, and this can last until they are in their teens. Apparently, thoroughbreds in particular are very versatile in this respect, i.e. adapting to other activities.  The equine placement agency, New Vocations  is one of dozens in the US which accepts retired racehorses and trains or finds new homes for them.  So far, they have fulfilled this function for around 5,000 former track animals.

Unfortunately, many horses are not lucky enough to be bought to do a new job. Many end up being sold for slaughter.  It is estimated that around 166,000 horses were sent to be slaughtered in markets in Canada and Mexico last year, according to the ASPCA.  The US now no longer produces horse-meat for human consumption (the last such facilities closed in 2007) but ten of thousands are still exported for meat in foreign markets, such as the ones aforementioned.

Even if horses go on to have second careers, these may not last more than a few years.  They may be starting to get too old for competitive events, etc, by the time they are in their late teens, and since horses can live into their late twenties, this poses a problem for how to keep them, once they are too old to work, since it usually costs thousands of dollars per year to care for them.   The organisation, the Unwanted Horse Coalition has been set up to help with this problem: it is an alliance of various organisations dedicated to eliminating the issue of abandoned and unwanted horses.  It does not have exact figures for how many of these such homeless animals there may be, but states that the slaughter figures indicate that are not enough work placement opportunities, offers of adoption or funding for all of the unwanted horses in the country. 

The Coalition gives a list of all the organisations, farms and facilities that accept and look after abandoned horses, and, if all else fails, also lists an estimated price for euthanasia: around $66 (not including disposal, e.g cremation, etc).

 

Picture courtesy of www.deviantart.com

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  1. jst4horses
    My younger son decided that he wanted to become a racehorse trainer. I was home, disabled, and volunteering in a project for single mothers........SO, I got up early the next day and we went to the nearby racetrack and he started his career.......until he found out what happens to the horses, and decided he needed a more positive career. He went on into training performance horses and re training horses for rodeo, and show..........and eventually went back to the track. He again left horse training and went on to other things, retraining horses for people and other trainers here and there as he built a new business. The Sanctuary Blue Pearl came to our notice when I got injured by drunk street racers who ran a red light one evening......and our Director had what turned out to be spinal cancer and had to have some surgeries to save her life..........luckily she had been assaulted badly by a student in the school where she was a Special Ed teacher, because the MRI turned up the cancer and it was very early and the operations removed the cancers, and other treatments remitted it. Blue Pearl runs a Sanctuary named Oak Meadow Ranch where many high risk youth, autisic and physical therapy and veteran and their family programs are run, the therapists utilizing a lot of rescued horses. It is strange to have a TWO MILLION dollar horse one week, on the news, everyone raving, donated because no one wants to pay the medical bills, or take care of the horse after it is injured and will never run races again, and will not be a performance horse. Two of these horses are often used by veterans in special veteran events with flags, and are so beautiful......showing the veterans and others that there is hope for all of God's creations, even ifi injured and not winning prizes. The stories of great race horses on their web site are the reason they started the Sanctuary. They also are often asked if they have room for abandoned and injured horses when the local animal control finds them. They have a LOT of volunteers from those who have either been through the therapy programs, or know about how helpful they are.......but always need help, horses are expensive. Thank Chestnut Mare for this article.........the unnwanted horse people network with many other horse programs to attempt to find homes for the animals that have made millions for their syndicated owners or for single owners who only want winners.....after that.....who cares. This article is one of those that needs ALL horse people to get involved. Even one dollar to programs such as horsesforheroes.inc in Las Vegas (which has 350 member private owner stables that participate in free or low cost programs helps, or wild horse conspiracy, with Craig Downer, who is buying land and starting a wild horse range program (he is a retired BLM Mustang expert, an his project will help save and educate people on real mustangs, vs just dumped out horses........both need rescue, but even $1 from a million people helps them to take care of those horses.............if you LOVE horses, get involved in horse rescue. Give a talk at your school, or community center, or a local horse show........and help raise funds for one or more of these programs. Most racetracks and Jockey Memorial Fund groups have their local rescues as well. Lets get this taken care of............some of the tracks sell books in their gift shops, or have special fund raising days to help out the rescues they support..........
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Thank you jst4horses. Great information there (I tried to reply to your comment the other day but couldn't log in, as the server was down!)
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