The New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses gave us their recommendations on how to fix the sport’s unfortunate throw-away mentality, and I have to say, I think it’s a wonderful thing.
This can’t have been an easy report to put together. Over the course of three years, a group of people with wide-ranging interests, from the Chairman of the New York State Wagering Board to a director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to Thoroughbred owners and enthusiasts, had to come together and agree on not just the failings of the Thoroughbred industry, but how they were going to fix them. These meetings must have been… interesting.
At any rate, what they came up with is really spectacular. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite suggestions.
1. ALTERING TRAINING REGIMENS SO THAT HORSES CAN BE MORE READILY RETRAINED FOR OTHER USES
This includes educating owners on the value of sport, therapy, and lesson horses, including their tax benefits, and a “Track-side triage program” which not only catches horses who need saving but keeps records on trainers who “Consistently retire horses that fall into a euthanasia category or those who consistently retire horses that have good chances of successful retraining and placement.”
I am for anything that involves education and extensive record-keeping.
I also like maintaining tabs on the “starts per stall” in order discourage potential abuse of lower-level runners.
Also under this heading are suggestions for new claiming-box rules to prevent dumping a lame horse in a cheap race, including
- If a horse is claimed, it should not start in a claiming race for at least 30 days from the date of claim for less than 25 percent more than the amount for which it was claimed.
- When appropriate, horses must demonstrate a workout between races that displays fitness and soundness.
- Voidable claims: Claimed horses that do not finish a race or those that sustain a catastrophic injury during the race remain the property of the original owner at the option of the prospective new owner.
2. CREATING AN INCREASED MARKET FOR RETIRED RACEHORSES
This heading cites the Thoroughbred Incentive Program for show horses, as well as Virginia Horse Center’s Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Shows, as good jumping-off points for New York Racing. Everyone should be emulating these programs; that’s a given. Here’s a cool suggestion: “Encourage horse-related publications to include the breed and registered name when describing or listing horses (e.g. “Little Flower (Thoroughbred, registered name: Qwerty) won the Amateur Owner division”).
We can’t make people use the incredibly horrible vanity statements that owners tend to inflict upon their horses; as happy as it would make me to see every Thoroughbred in the show ring have an easily traceable registered name, no thirteen year old girl is going to show her horse as Jojo Dadogfacedboy (how is this for real? You’re a sick person.) and we shouldn’t expect her to. But this would be an acceptable compromise.
There are actually too many good ideas in this section to mention them all, but I love creating an award for the breeder or owner who has done the most for retired racehorses, allocating portions of owners’ and breeders’ awards as grants for re-training programs, and establishing a regular conference with sporthorse trainers.
3. INCREASING COMMUNICATION BETWEEN OWNERS AND POTENTIAL ADOPTERS
I mean, obviously. But the New York Report suggests that not only should the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Connect, the Kentucky Horse Council’s Save Our Horses Welfare Fund (SOHO) and the U.S. Trotting Association’s Full Circle programs be connected and run by a single North American body, participation by owners and breeders should be mandatory.
YES. After all the paperwork you’ve already done to register the foal, nominate it for breeders’ awards and state-bred status and stakes races, a little more won’t hurt you. Register that horse so that someone who loves it can find it.
This is also a cool idea: “Develop a “Buy/Adopt Retired NYS Racehorse” online placement site and encourage trainers to post horses at least 30 days before a horse can no longer stay at a track or in training. This should be facilitated through a relevant state agency or by the individual tracks.” Run in conjunction with a page that also listed qualified trainers and instructors, this could be a very interesting development.
Okay. These are just a few of the ideas I like. The thing about this report: these are suggestions. We need as much public support as possible to make these suggestions become reality. I encourage everyone who cares about retired racehorses to look at this report, blog about it, post about it, be vocal about it. If you do, email me your post and I will add the link here.
Let’s get loud about retired racehorses!