We live in a strange world. It’s a world where there are tens of thousands of racehorses who want homes every year, but hardly anyone seems to know how to get them. It’s a world where trainers and owners are absolutely desperate to get rid of perfectly nice horses, but don’t seem to know how to find homes for them.
What you may not have known is that the racing world and the sporthorse/pleasure horse world exist in two separate sections of the solar system, and are divided by an nearly impenetrable asteroid belt. Only those with years of ninja-astronaut-horse training experience can navigate this belt and shuttle horses between their two alien worlds.
Oh wait, I made that up.
It turns out that we all live on the same planet, in some cases in the same county, and either we’re all scared of one another or we just don’t like one another or something else is going on here, because the people that want horses and the people that want rid of horses are just not talking.
Instead, the nice kids who want a cool show prospect but don’t quite make enough in their baby-sitting money to afford to import an Icheinberlinerbred (they’re like donuts, but horsier) are looking at $200 bubba-breds on Craigslist with a look of dejection on their faces, and the Thoroughbreds are going to the weirdos that do have access to the racetrack. People like Kelsey Lefever.
Michelle Michelson, who was initially investigated in the Kelsey Lefever case but who has been found to be unconnected to the fraudulent racehorse-to-showhorse scheme Lefever was running, has a statement on her website that really displays the trouble with the racetrack/show barn schism. The bold-face is mine:
I was briefly associated with Kelsey Lefever and met her when she brought a very nice horse for me to sell on sale board with commission, which is a big part of my business. She seemed to have access to many OTTB’s through trainers at Penn National and other race tracks, that I did not have. At the time Kelsey seemed to care about the horses and finding them good homes. As a way of making it easier for trainers with horses for sale to contact us I had some pens and mugs made for Kelsey to give out at the track with the slogan, “Make your slow racehorse count, finding new homes for OTTB’s”.
Casting herself as an agent and go-between, Lefever was able to acquire horses from trainers and ship them to New Holland for the kill-buyer, armed with testimonials from the few horses that she did give a second chance. It was a very good business strategy.
Meanwhile kids keep scrolling through Craigslist, hoping someone will have accidentally bought a Thoroughbred they don’t know what to do with, hoping they’ll stumble on that jackpot, the free-to-inexpensive OTTB that needs a home, unable to access the literal thousands of Thoroughbreds pacing bored circles around the straw of their backside homes, in limbo between racehorse and an uncertain future.
Meanwhile, sporthorse trainers aren’t getting the OTTBs into their barns that they can train and resell, horses that used to be the cornerstone of the horse show business because there were so many trainers who could acquire sound horses, retrain them, and sell them on for a good profit.
The good news is, we have a few tools now to bridge that gap, which are especially useful to buyers who live near a racetrack. If adoptions aren’t feasible (you might be a trainer like Michelle Michelson, and wouldn’t Flip That Thoroughbred! be an amazing reality show?) then there are the trainer-listings, which many organizations such as CANTER use to list racehorses for sale.
I think we need more, though.
I think it needs to be easier to communicate between race trainers and sport trainers. I think racing trainers should have an idea of what sports their horses can go into after they’re done racing. I think sport trainers should have easy access to trainers so that they can develop a working relationship. So that they can network with one another. So that they can do the best by each and every horse. And all those poor damn kids.
I’ve gotten Thoroughbreds in a variety of ways. From a cowboy who took in a starving OTTB from a rescuer. From the RNA list at Ocala Breeders’ Sales. From Craigslist. Never directly from the racetrack, though.
How about you? How’d you get your racehorse?