Suggestion box: Retirement requirements for the racing industry

ADDED: Here is the task force report, at Thoroughbred Confidential:

At the Huffington Post today, you can read Liz O’Connell’s post on the upcoming recommendations from the New York State Task Force on Retired Race Horses. This government task force has been formulating how the state should respond to the continuing crisis facing Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses in New York.

Says O’Connell, a member of the task force:

 We have the opportunity to forge a program in New York where we have both the finest horse racing, and, a secure and humane retirement program for the equine athletes that make the racing industry and its attendant wagering and gaming opportunities possible.

And wouldn’t that be amazing?

So here’s a question: what requirements would YOU make the racing industry put into place to both SECURE the future of each racehorse but also to EDUCATE the public about their potential as friends, sport horses, therapy horses, and any other job we might care to put them to?

Bold Hawk, an old soldier, goes to post at Aqueduct.



Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Racing, Retirement Options

7 responses to “Suggestion box: Retirement requirements for the racing industry

  1. Sandy McDonald

    I have read a letter in Bloodhorse that suggests a fee at the time you register a foal plus adding maybe $10 to registration fee per race for aftercare. It’s about the money you know.

  2. Fiona Greenwood

    A portion of every purse turned over to a retirement trust for the winning horse (okay, that may be a logistical nightmare). Present the option to the winning bettors- they just won money on that horse, want to give a little back? Retired racers in new careers paraded between races while the announcer talks about the many options. Information in every race program on how to find and acquire a retired racer, or donate to their care. Every attendee at a race meet should be informed about how they can help, and it needs to be easy for them to do it. Encourage the breeders to take back the horses they produce- those who agree and put a notice on the horses’ papers to that effect, should also be designated in the race programs.

    And yes, a few bucks extra on every registration fee, to be distributed to the groups that do the work day after day.

  3. What is really needed is for our sport to return to foundation training so we greatly reduce the need to rescue our thoroughbreds.
    Here are some comments that focus on my personal background and discussions with racing industry members. I have been involved with rescuing for twenty plus years and train/ride our thoroughbred babies before they go to the track. I have discussed this issue with the track workers at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Pomona. These people include ex-jocks, exercise riders, trainers, and veterinarians etc. and many of these workers have been in the business for 20+ years including an exercise rider for multiple KY Derby winners. Some of these workers have started hundreds of young thoroughbred horses for the track, exercised thousands of race horses, and have been involved with rescuing horses and rescue organizations. These workers have noted the great decline in the fundamentals of horses that come to the track over the past decades. Horsemen like these, in my opinion, are the barometer of the training our horses receive and to ignore them is to put our sport and breed in peril. Our thoroughbreds should not need to be rescued. If we return to good horsemanship that focuses on developing fundamental skills, many of our horses will need little if any transition time. They will become “Wanted Thoroughbreds”, as they were in the past, by the show community and other disciplines immediately post racing. Our sport must recognize that our current model, practiced by many in the industry, of “Volume and Chemical” training creates rescues, not race horses.

    @Highgunner – The Voice for the “Unwanted Thoroughbred”

    • Can you elaborate on what these fundamentals are? I’m not sure I follow this line of discussion.

      • Below is a short summary about foundation training and links to more information:

        Foundation training utilizes a trust and respect approach to schooling horses with a focus on the development of key communication and social skills. This training emphasizes body language and energy to teach horses their boundaries, appropriate social interaction with other horses, humans, etc and basic instructional cues. These fundamentals are best taught in the younger, more formative years of a horse. The goal is to create an “inherent skill set” that can be used to optimize racing performance, or later in life, be the foundation from which ex-racers are trained for their next career. Racehorses without these inherent skills are the classic rescue horses. The initial step in their re-schooling is to teach them their fundamental skills. Foundation training for these older horses is typically harder and more time consuming, perpetuating the image of the breed as difficult to handle and train.

        We have developed instructional material, including articles and slide shows on Facebook, for our educational program named Thoroughbred Camp. This program is designed for the general public to learn about thoroughbreds, their social nature, and athletic capabilities. See below for links to some of our information:

        Learn About Thoroughbreds & Why We Exist (
        Foundation Bonding – Learn To Be Accepted Into Their World (
        Foundation Training – Raising Babies & Rescues (
        The Guiding Principals to Raising Babies & Rescues (

        Please feel free to contact me directly at

        Ken Lian, MS, DVM
        President Thoroughbred Education Foundation, Inc. (

        Tweeting and blogging as
        @Highgunner – The Voice of the “Unwanted Thoroughbred”

      • There’s certainly a lot of information there. I guess my question is, what fundamentals do you feel like Thoroughbreds were ONCE receiving, that they are no longer receiving? I have always felt that the average Thoroughbred, by his second birthday, knows quite a lot.

      • Yes, it is true that the average Thoroughbred, by his second birthday, can know quite a lot. It is also conversely true (which is more often the case) that the average Thoroughbred, by his second birthday, can have a lot of bad habits. Good horsemen know it is not accomplishing a task/teaching a lesson that is important, but with what frame of mind a horse accomplishes the task. Fundamentals taught with the wrong mindset are bad habits. As stated by one of our volunteers, just because a horse knows how to do something doesn’t mean he wants to, and he should want to do it. From my experience and discussion with many others over the past decades, the rescues we have collectively encountered have had very few good fundamental skills. Given this fact, these horses either received minimal fundamental training or poor fundamental training. The truth is probably a combination of both factors. Add on the inadequate socialization many of these thoroughbreds receive, and we come up with the classic Thoroughbred rescue. Back to your point of our breed being precocious, this is exactly the reason why it is imperative that we emphasize developing the mind of the athlete first (as we have done in the past) before strenuous conditioning. It is from these formative years that our Thoroughbreds will view the rest of their life.

        @Highgunner – The Voice of the “Unwanted Thoroughbred”