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PHBA Focuses on SAFE Act, Aftercare

Edited press release

Continuing to demonstrate its commitment to the health and welfare of Thoroughbreds, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) announced its endorsement of the John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act.

The SAFE Act, named for the late South Carolina philanthropist and former director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), is legislation that would permanently end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in the United States and abroad.

It also amends Title 18 of the U.S. Code by making it illegal to “possess, ship, transport, purchase, sell, deliver, or receive…any horse with the intent that it is to be slaughtered for human consumption,” with penalties that include fines and imprisonment.

Introduced in 2019 by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the SAFE Act has also garnered the endorsement of several prominent animal welfare groups. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the United States Trotting Association (USTA), and the Maryland Horse Council (MHC) are among those supporting its passage.

“Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide,” said Sen. Menendez when the bill was introduced.

Aftercare is also a top priority of the PHBA, according to president Greg Newell.

“We are doing everything we can to help place horses who reach the end of their first or second career, whether they have finished racing or breeding,” said Newell. “Our Anti-Slaughter Committee, chaired by Kate Goldenberg, has done a wonderful job addressing what can be done to help our equine athletes.”

PHBA Board member Hank Nothhaft, also a member of the Anti-Slaughter Committee, said that endorsement of the SAFE Act was something the organization wanted to do to be a positive force toward improving the industry. The fact that many unwanted Thoroughbred broodmares are found in slaughter pens proved to be a call to action.

“There was unanimous support from the PHBA Board to mitigate the slaughter of broodmares,” said Nothhaft. “Older broodmares, especially, are not attractive candidates for equestrian activities, and thus they are not as easy to rehome as younger horses. This has really pushed us from sitting on the bench toward getting into the fray.”

“Our hope is to form a non-profit within our organization, to assist our breeders when the time comes,” said Jennifer Poorman of the PHBA. “We'll be looking to build a network of partner farms willing to assist with retirement from breeding, whether it's a second career or permanent retirement due to physical limitations.

“We're also creating a campaign to educate our breeders about responsible aftercare, along with providing a network of resources for our breeders to turn to at any point they find themselves in need of assistance,” she said.

Nothhaft said one reason why the SAFE Act hasn't gained traction toward passage since 2019 in Congress is because large agricultural interests fear that anti-slaughter legislation would bring undue attention to their industries, which involve large-scale slaughter of animals for food.

“The SAFE Act is one of three items we are working on,” said Brian Sanfratello, executive secretary of the PHBA. “The others are Pennsylvania-specific anti-slaughter legislation, similar to the SAFE Act, that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone who causes or transports a horse into the slaughter pipeline, as well as a PHBA code of ethics, with sanctions for anyone who is a member or registers horses with our organization and is found to be in violation of the Pennsylvania anti-slaughter measures.”

For additional information, contact Brian Sanfratello at 610-444-1050 or [email protected].

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Horse Welfare Board Releases Aftercare Funding Review

Britain's Horse Welfare Board, established to produce a strategy that unites the whole industry and drives continuous improvement in the realm of racehorse aftercare, on Thursday released its Aftercare Funding Review. The report's recommendations touch on funding, focus and integration, traceability and data, accreditation, community, education and communication and are designed to cover any horse bred for racing. The report makes recommendations that will reform the structure of aftercare provision and build trust in racing's equine welfare processes, including having Retraining of Racehorses take on a significant role as the face of the initiative on behalf of the industry.

Barry Johnson, chair of the Horse Welfare Board, said, “Racing has continued to put welfare at the forefront of the sport and this review's recommendations will continue to ensure we support that progress. We can see that there is much to do to ensure that British racing remains a world leader in equine welfare. From filling our data gaps to ensuring that we see and can monitor a horse prior to their racing life and during retirement will be a vital part of giving horses a good life beyond racing. I am looking forward to building on these recommendations and working with RoR and other stakeholders in the aftercare sector.”

Philip Freedman, chairman of Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), said, “The Trustees of RoR welcome the publication of the Aftercare Funding Review. In particular we are pleased that the Horse Welfare Board recognises RoR as the organisation most suited to develop an expanded and broader aftercare role on behalf of British racing. We also welcome recognition for the important work RoR has done in generating an expanding market for former racehorses across a range of equestrian disciplines. Incorporating into the charity's remit “any horse bred for racing” will not only substantially increase the number of horses benefitting from our activities, it will require changes to our Charitable Objectives, and necessitate a review of our funding, structure and responsibilities. To that end we are looking to appoint an independent consultant, with experience in the field of equine welfare, to advise the Trustees on the implications of these changes and how they should best be addressed, in order that we can take the necessary measures.

“Integral to the success of implementing the Review's recommendations will be the support and collaboration of the whole industry, notably in addressing the funding and data gaps identified in the report. To that end, we look forward to working closely with the Horse Welfare Board so that going forward we continue to build the demand for Thoroughbreds outside of racing, a strategy which has served the sport well in minimising the number of the horses that subsequently require charitable support from RoR.”

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Aftercare, Slaughter Ban Bill Passes NY Senate

A bill relating to the aftercare of retired racehorses passed the New York State Senate with bi-partisan support and is expected to pass the N.Y. State Assembly in this legislative session. The bill, Senate Bill 1442, sponsored by State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., prohibits the slaughter of race horses and breeding stock or transfer of horses intended for slaughtered or the transfer of horses where one knows or who should have known that the horse would be slaughtered. Violators will be denied Gaming Commission licenses and be barred from receiving breeding awards.

The bill mandates that all racehorses be microchipped, requires breeding organizations to have a dedicated fund set-aside for aftercare programs, and provides that monies generated by enforcement will be dedicated to the cost of aftercare.

The bill will also increase Gaming Commission insight into transfers of horses and ownership, as all microchipping information will go to the Gaming Commission as well as to The Jockey Club.

Finally, the bill establishes a tax check-off on individual and corporate franchise tax returns that will bring awareness and more funding for the ongoing care of retired race horses.

“The reason why I love this bill is that it came from the industry itself and we flushed out the details,” said Addabbo. “We worked with the breeders and the horsemen. They were all a part of the initial draft of the bill. All around the industry, we found support and those in the animal rights groups all support it as well.”

On the bill's chances in the New York State Assembly, Addabbo said he sees no roadblocks.

“I can't imagine who can be against the ban of horse slaughter and more funds to care for the retired horses,” said Addabbo. “Importantly, there is no cost to the state involved.”

The bill goes beyond other what other states have passed on the same issue.

“In doing our due diligence, we did find this was quite unique and somewhat ground-breaking which did entice the animal advocates to embrace it,” said Addabbo. “Maybe we do become the model for other states. I'm only hopeful. The aftercare of our horses is essential so maybe we do pave the way for others.”

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TAA Accredits 34 Aftercare Organizations

Officials at the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) announced Tuesday that 34 Thoroughbred aftercare organizations have been awarded accreditation, including 26 previously accredited organizations and eight that received accreditation for the first time. TAA-accredited organizations undergo a thorough application and inspection process prior to accreditation. Once accredited, they are eligible to receive financial grants to support Thoroughbreds in their care. The TAA has awarded $17.2 million in grants to accredited organizations since 2012.

“We congratulate the aftercare organizations that earned TAA accreditation this year, including the new organizations joining the TAA roster,” TAA President John Phillips said. “We are proud to have a total of 81 accredited organizations across North America representing the gold standard in Thoroughbred aftercare. As our list of organizations receiving TAA funding increases, we ask industry participants to continue to support the TAA as we in turn fund these amazing accredited aftercare organizations and their 170 facilities.”

For a full list of all 81 accredited organizations, information about the accreditation process, and TAA's Code of Standards, visit ThoroughbredAftercare.org.

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On Aftercare: For Portal, Connections Who Care Came Through

Evergreen Stables was a claiming partnership of individuals, friends, family and connections–not all of whom knew each other–with trainer Jordan Blair. On May 23, 2019, Blair claimed Portal (Arch), a late foal of 2014, at Churchill Downs for $40,000.

“Portal was a super cool horse and he was being trained by a good friend Ian Wilkes,” said Blair. “We had been watching him and he was running well. Plus, he is a beautiful, striking almost black horse and had a neat personality.”

Portal won the next two times out in allowance races at Churchill and Ellis Park and gave the owners their most exciting wins ever as an entity. In his fourth race for Evergreen, at Keeneland, Portal didn't finish and was vanned off after being pulled up on the backstretch by Miquel Mena. In his lifetime, Portal earned $161,513 in 18 starts.

“He took a bad step and they brought him back on the ambulance but he walked off fine,” said Blair. “He fractured his sesamoid with a clean break. It was a career-ending, but not life threatening injury nor was it recommended for surgery.

“We started what we knew would be a long recovery at the barn and after a few weeks brought him up to Brian and Jamie Hernandez's barn for continued rehab.”

There was never any question that Evergreen was going to pay for Portal for as long as necessary until he found a home.

“It is so important to us and for the industry that owners keep their commitment to the horse,” said Debbie Appel, a partner in Evergreen and currently co-owner of Surfside Stables that also has horses with Blair. “We didn't know most of the other people in Evergreen but everyone agreed, without question, that we would see our commitment to Portal through to the end.”

After a few months of stall rest, the Blairs began calling and emailing aftercare organizations to place Portal, but that proved difficult.

“He was turned down by every aftercare we called,” said Blair. “The injury was the main problem. No one felt confident in the vet's prognosis which was that he would be sound for flat work, dressage or trail riding.

“Finally, through Jamie Hernandez, we were introduced to Amelia Foster who buys and sells off-track Thoroughbreds.”

Foster, too, was struck by Portal's looks and drawn in by his friendly demeanor.

“He is super fancy and at first I was thinking of what a great sale prospect he could be because he was eligible for the Thoroughbred Makeover,” said Foster. “But when I learned more about the diagnosis, care and meticulous rehabilitation process to date, I decided to keep him for myself and take any pressure off of him.

“The trainer and owners had done everything right–to the letter–for this horse and if they were not confident that I was going to do the same, Portal would not have come to me.”

Today, Portal is learning dressage and also teaching novice riders the basics. The personality that had endeared himself to so many people along the way only blossomed and he is one of the easiest horses at Foster's Cannonbrook Farms to ride.

“When I first got on him, I could not believe how gentle and smart he acted,” said Foster. “I said to myself that this is a testament to how he was handled for the first six years of his life.”

Foster was not put off by Portal's injury or the vet's somewhat guarded prognosis.

“In my experience, if you follow the rules and do what the vet says, horses will heal,” said Foster. “Plus, I have no agenda for him. He is going to tell me when he is ready to do more. So far, he has never taken a lame step.”

“I am thrilled whenever Jordan sends me pictures of Portal in his new life,” said Appel. “While the partners in Evergreen were all supportive of his efforts, Portal was saved because of Jordan's commitment and dedication to him. I was at Keeneland for Portal's race and witnessed first hand how deeply Portal's injury affected Jordan. His care of and commitment to Portal, as well as to all the other horses in his barn, is unparalleled.”

“Myself, my wife, my clients, we all really care about where the horses go after racing,” said Blair. “We love the animals, and we love the game. But we got into the game because we love the animal.

“Portal was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy for a lot of people. We couldn't be any happier about where he is now.”

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TAA Official Aftercare Partner of 2020 Breeders' Cup

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), an official charity of the Breeders' Cup, has been named the official aftercare partner of the 2020 Breeders' Cup World Championships, to be held at Keeneland Nov. 6-7. The TAA is asking connections of Breeders' Cup runners to pledge a percentage of their championship day earnings to the TAA, which awards annual grants to accredited non-profit Thoroughbred aftercare organizations to retire, retrain, and rehome Thoroughbreds.

“It is our privilege to see Thoroughbreds at their finest moments in the Breeders' Cup World Championships and it is this industry's collective responsibility to see to their aftercare when the celebrations are over,” said Dora Delgado, TAA board member and executive vice president and chief racing officer at Breeders' Cup. “As a proud founding member and supporter of the TAA's mission and vision, we partner with them in their work and dedication to Thoroughbred aftercare.”

During Breeders' Cup weekend, the TAA will present the GII Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance S., which was formerly the Marathon S. The TAA also has partnered with TVG to be a part of the GI TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile presented by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Since 2012, the TAA has granted more than $17.2 million to accredited aftercare organizations. There are currently 74 aftercare organizations holding TAA accreditation.

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On Aftercare: Second Stride Proves There's No Limit to the Talents of OTTBS

Kim Smith grew up in Prospect, KY and has ridden horses her whole life. Her already wide network in the Thoroughbred industry grew considerably while she was managing the stable at the Kentucky Derby Museum and exercising the resident Thoroughbred on the track at Churchill Downs.

Smith founded Second Stride, Inc. in 2005 with the goal of helping horses and people in racing by building on those relationships. The Crestwood, KY nonprofit usually maintains 15-20 horses at a time and is located at Moserwood Farm, a full-service boarding and training facility. Smith works hard at making retirement to Second Stride easy for trainers and owners. They even have an agency form so that owners need not do the transfer paperwork themselves. There is no mandatory monetary donation if a horse is accepted and Second Stride takes horses on short notice.

“I've been there on the owning and training side,” said Smith. “So, I know that the time it takes donate a horse matters. It's not because racing people are insensitive or indifferent to the horse, it's just a factor of the business and how important stalls and timing of the meet goes.”

“Our goal is to help as many horses as possible and so we make it easy to do the right thing,” said Smith. “We don't require a donation with a horse, but most owners and trainers will offer one. My goal is to build a relationship so that if I take a horse with a tendon that will need a lot of work, I will also be offered the horse that is perfectly sound and ready-to-go.”

Smith accepts stallions and gelds them, broodmares and horses that may need time and extensive rehabilitation before they can be ridden or re-trained. Second Stride excels in getting horses placed with show horse trainers and adopters quickly and efficiently. Smith accomplishes this in no small part because of the many exercise riders and other racetrack connections who work or volunteer for Second Stride. Since 2005, over 1000 Thoroughbreds have been adopted through the program.

“Our riders are gallop riders or the people who go around and break Thoroughbreds for the farms,” said Smith. “So, we are able to get the horses retrained and ready to move on pretty quickly.”

On the adoption side, the Second Stride application is long but potential adopters are appointed an adoption coordinator who knows, and has probably ridden all of the available horses.

“Making the right match requires someone who really knows the horses and can sometimes convince people to try a horse that may not fit the original profile of what they are looking for,” said Smith. “Our return rate is extremely low and I credit the personal care we put into making the match. Many of the adopted horses that are returned, are well-trained and donated back for us to adopt out again for another fee.”

“We hit our stride in 2012 and on average, we adopt out about 100 horses per year,” said Smith. “This year, however we are already at 96 through August so, it is going to be a banner year.”

She continued, “We see time and time again the versatility of the Thoroughbred. We put Western tack on them, ride them through water, take them to cows and see how they adapt to all situations and disciplines. We have placed them in all over the country in every discipline.”

“One of my favorites is a horse named Capote Cat, by Storm Cat out of a Capote mare,” said Smith. “We tried him in every normal discipline–English and Western, but as soon as things got repetitive, he got naughty. So, we tried a mounted search and rescue in North Carolina and he thrived there. He loves that job.”

Amy Lent, of Ramblen Farm in Versailles, KY adopted Delightfully (Redding Colliery) from Second Stride. Due to an injury, the mare was never a show riding prospect. But, under Lent's expertise, she has excelled in driving and competed in the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover.

Second Stride sends an average of three to six horses a year to the Thoroughbred Makeover and always asks the previous owner to make a donation to cover the entry fee. If they cannot, Second Stride will pay the fee.

“The Thoroughbred Makeover has done an amazing job in its mission to increase the marketability of Thoroughbreds as show horses and as riding horses in general,” said Smith. “I love the sense of camaraderie and cooperation at the competition and how the year of intensive training gives the horses such a solid base.”

“So much is going in the right direction for Thoroughbred aftercare, including the advances of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, but funding and a lack of sound horses in aftercare charities are still an issue,” said Smith. “I wish that more owners and trainers would donate their horses to non-profits, rather than sell them privately. Sound horses that can be adopted for a substantial fee help organizations balance the cost of horses that need long-term care or more rehabilitation before they are rideable.”

For more information about Second Stride, Inc., go to https://secondstride.org/.

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StableDuel Contest to Raise Awareness for Aftercare Efforts

StableDuel has teamed up with Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and Retired Racehorse Project to raise money and awareness for both organizations through its app during the month of September.

Owners of off-track Thoroughbreds are invited to share a picture or video of their Thoroughbreds on social media showcasing “something cool” they do with the hashtag #PlayRaceAdopt. They will then be entered to win a prize pack from the three organizations, including a saddle pad, riding clothing and more. Two winners will be selected and announced each week.

“We are so excited to partner with StableDuel this month and to introduce their innovative approach to racing/gaming to a new audience,” said Jen Roytz, Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. “For so many equestrians who ride off-track Thoroughbreds, the love and admiration they have for the breed either stems from an interest in racing or is the catalyst for it. StableDuel's user-friendly approach provides a fun and affordable way for fans to learn and experience more about the sport.”

Through its app, StableDuel offers fans the opportunity to participate in daily contests at racetracks around the country. Its normal brand slogan is #PlayRaceWin.

In addition to the social media contest, the StableDuel app will offer a weekly contest that will raise money for both TAA and RRP. Each Sunday, players can enter the Charity Contest with a $5 entry and play the game to win the usual cash prizes. StableDuel will donate its proceeds to each charity.

“StableDuel is passionate about giving back to the industry that our business is built on and we know during tough times, organizations have had to cancel many of their normal 'money raising' events. We are excited to do our part and help bring attention and money to aftercare,” said Bri Mott, Director of Marketing at StableDuel.

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On Aftercare: With Pardo At the Helm, Aftercare Charles Town Stays on Track

Aftercare of Charles Town (ACT) was founded in 2013 under the corporate name of Equine Encore Performance at Charles Town. ACT's stated purpose is the rehoming, repurposing and retirement of Thoroughbreds that have raced and trained at Charles Town Races located in Charles Town, WV. The program was started with a fund from the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and is supplemented with a paddock fee (start fee) of $5 per start. Until last fall, the paddock fee contribution was $2 per start. In 2019, ACT assisted 43 horses. The program operates with just a small volunteer board and no employees. I caught up with Georgiana Pardo, the current volunteer president who guides the organization and maximizes its tight budget while maintaining high standards in their careful placements of the Thoroughbreds entrusted to them.

DP: Georgiana, what is your background and how did you come to this post at Aftercare Charles Town?

GP: I have a small general practice law firm in Charles Town. I've ridden most of my life and had off-track Thoroughbreds as my riding horses. In late 2016, a friend of mine was on the board and she contacted me to ask me if I was interested in serving. I said yes right away because it was something I care about. I became the president in 2018.

DP: What makes you most proud about serving on the board and as president of ACT?

GP: ACT may be a small program, but we have high standards and insist on quality programs for our horses and I think we can hold our head up, even among some of the more well-funded heavy hitters in the track-based aftercare realm.  We are down in the trenches doing the actual hard work of dealing with the needs of each individual horse and creating good outcomes. It is very satisfying to see the horses and their new owners happy and connected.

DP: Can you give us an overview of how the program operates?

GP: Horsemen file paperwork with us to accept horses that have raced or are racing at Charles Town. Because most of the funding comes from the horsemen at Charles Town, we have guidelines that allow us to serve the horses that have primarily raced here. We also require vet records to help us get a picture of the horse's soundness and what sort of second career will be most appropriate for the horse. Based on the horse and its potential, we arrange for it to go to one of our placement partners where the horse will be rehabilitated, retrained and adopted out. We provide a stipend and pay for procedures that are needed to make a horse sound for a second riding career.

DP: How do you choose your placement partners?

GP: We work with non-profit organizations who are experienced, do follow-up and provide a safety net if that horse is returned. Each horse is a unique individual with personality and potential. I am not sure that everyone understands the amount of time and effort and skill it takes to give a horse the best chance of ending up in the right place and in the best condition. We look for partners who have experience and care about identifying the issues, doing the appropriate rehab, making full disclosure to the potential adopters and then matching the adopter to that horse and what conditions the horse may have.

DP: Did the COVID19 pandemic affect your organization financially?

GP: Yes, when racing stopped our income from paddock fees stopped so that has seriously impacted our budget.

DP: When the track was forced to close, did you see an increase in requests to accept horses?

GP: Surprisingly, no. We expected that we would receive more requests to place horses, but we did not. I think that the Horses First Fund relief effort as well as generous in-kind donations from Triple Crown and Blue Seal helped horsemen to feed their horses and hold on to their stables until racing started up again.

DP: How did the relief program work?

GP: We partnered with Thoroughbred Charities of America, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, the Charles Town HBPA, Southern States, Gower's Feed and Triple Crown to aid trainers facing economic hardship due to the cancellation of racing, with horse feed and forage.

DP: What is your greatest challenge going forward in 2020 and beyond?

GP: Our greatest challenge is that our funding is limited even with the supplemental private donations that we receive. With better funding, we could place more horses. We also need to convince more horsemen that aftercare should be their first choice when a horse is ready to retire from racing.

DP: What do you see as the greatest opportunity going forward?

GP: After Care Charles Town is a great example of how a racetrack and its horsemen have stepped up to help provide reliable equine retirement options. Racing's image with respect to horse welfare is only as good as the latest story out in the public on aftercare. It doesn't matter to the public if the horse is a champion or never broke its maiden. So, every story should be a good one. Every racehorse deserves a safe and secure retirement. They don't know if they made $2 or $2 million. The horse that never managed to break his or her maiden tried just as hard as the multiple graded stakes winner, and they are equally valuable and deserving of a good life after racing. Adequately funded aftercare at every track for every horse is achievable and it is a worthy investment for all involved: the owners and trainers; the horses; and the horses' new owners/adopters. Everyone wins in this scenario.

For more information on Aftercare Charles Town and to reach Georgiana Pardo, go to tbaftercare.org or email [email protected].

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American Pharoah Halter Headlines Iowa Aftercare Auction

Ashford Stud has donated a halter won by its resident Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for an upcoming online auction to benefit Hope After Racing Thoroughbreds (HART), an Iowa-based aftercare organization.

The silent-auction fundraiser will be held exclusively online beginning at noon Friday, June 26 and will conclude Friday, July 3, at 8:30 p.m. Central time. The auction features other memorabilia, services, photos, paintings, tack and more. All the proceeds go to HART's care, rehabilitation, retraining and rehoming of retired racehorses from Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. Those wishing to donate outside of the auction may do so directly through HART's website at iahart.org.

“We're so grateful to Ashford Stud for donating this halter worn by one of the all-time greats,” said HART president Jon Moss. “This is a chance for a racing, horse or sports enthusiast to own this priceless memorabilia while helping horses that don't have a set future when they are through racing. HART finds safe, loving homes for our retired racehorses, preparing them for second careers in the show ring, eventing, trail riding or simply as pleasure or companion horses.”

To view items, create an online account or for more information, go to www.32auctions.com/hart2020.

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On Aftercare Q&A With RRP's Jen Roytz

The Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), formed in 2010 under the banner of the “Retired Racehorse Training Project,” is a non-profit organization with a mission to boost the presence of and demand for off-track Thoroughbreds in the show and recreational riding world. Its founder, Stuart Pittman, recognized the need for retraining clinics and ideas to help owners and adopters of Thoroughbreds to advance their horses. He also saw ways to showcase the attributes of the Thoroughbred in the show world. In 2009, the organization conducted the first Retired Racehorse Training Symposium and they were overwhelmed by the interest and demand for more information and a place for people to share their successes. In 2013, the RRP held its first Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico. By 2016, the annual event had moved to the Kentucky Horse Park and it continues to grow every year in terms of attendance, entries and scope.

The RRP has been recognized for its service to the Thoroughbred horse by industry organizations such as the Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA), the EQUUS Foundation and others. How the RRP has stayed connected with its followers and pivoted to deal with the effects of the global pandemic on its progress towards the 2020 Makeover is also a master class in seizing an opportunity to make progress in new ways.

I caught up with the RRP'S Executive Director Jen Roytz to hear how the organization is coping with the many unknowns in 2020 and maintaining its remarkable momentum.

DP: How have you kept up the excitement and momentum of the 2020 horse show and equestrian events season even though there are no shows or events being held?

JR: Typically, throughout the spring and summer months, the RRP has a presence at large equestrian competitions or equine expos throughout the country, offering Thoroughbred retraining clinics and demonstrations, giving seminars on a variety of topics related to the transitioning of Thoroughbreds from racing to new sports and setting up our merchandise booth, where people can buy everything from apparel and jewelry to drinkware and saddle pads that allow them to sport their OTTB pride with style.

Since all of our spring and summer events have been canceled due to COVID-19, we've doubled down on how we connect with our audiences through print and digital media. We have been hosting more webinars on our social media platforms on Thoroughbred-specific topics such as nutrition, soundness, training and more. We also started a “Five Minute Clinic” series, which has been exceedingly popular, in which professional trainers give a five-minute virtual mini-clinic on a single concept, such as useful exercises to help a recently retired racehorse with suppleness, balance and lateral movements or how to use groundwork to re-enforce (or teach) lessons typically addressed in the saddle.

We've also partnered with other organizations to reach new audiences. For example, during what would have been the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, we partnered with U. S. Equestrian to create a series of “ride reviews,” in which internationally competitive riders like Boyd Martin, Buck Davidson, Katie Ruppel, Erin Sylvester and Lanie Ashker who have competed at Land Rover aboard Thoroughbreds talked through and critiqued their rides. This offers viewers insights on how the best equestrians in the world ride and retrain former racehorses.

We've also adjusted the summer edition of our quarterly Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine to focus much more on how equestrians retraining Thoroughbreds and those in aftercare are finding creative ways to prepare their horses during the pandemic.

DP: The Makeover is scheduled for Oct. 7-10, 2020 in Lexington with 616 entries. What is RRP currently doing differently in response to the changes brought on by the pandemic?

JR: Right now, we are planning on holding the Thoroughbred Makeover. The event is not until October, so we have some time to plan and make decisions based on the constantly changing landscape, but we are in a unique position, as this event is for horses in their first year of retraining after racing, rather than seasoned show horses. It is also much more than a competition, as it includes a large-scale trade fair, seminars, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit and other networking and social aspects that make it unique from a normal horse show. We are utilizing surveys to better understand how the pandemic is affecting their ability to prepare their horses–are they still able to ride regularly, are they able to take their horses on off-site outings, has their income been affected by the pandemic and if so, has that affected how much they are able to invest in their horses' care and retraining. Horse shows look like they are going to be starting to open up in late May and June, and many of our respondents have said they feel they can still adequately prepare their horses for an environment like the Thoroughbred Makeover if they can start exposing them to show atmospheres by June and July, so we'll likely check back in with them through a second survey around that time.

Regardless, we are committed to doing whatever is in the best interest of our competitors and their horses, and if we do have to make adjustments to our schedule or event, we will make sure we create other opportunities to support them.

DP: What concerns do you have with their ability to be ready for the event?

JR: Mostly, if there are no other shows prior to the Thoroughbred Makeover, it can be a problem. The Makeover is a big event, in one of the world's largest equestrian venues–it has a lot of atmosphere, especially when you add hundreds of young Thoroughbreds to the mix. So in order to prepare horses properly for such a challenge, they need to work up to that by going to other smaller competitions and off-site outings first.

We are also watching carefully the decision as to whether or not we can have spectators because that will affect our sponsorships–upon which we are dependent.

DP: How has the Makeover evolved and served the mission of the RRP to increase the demand for off-track Thoroughbreds?

JR: The Thoroughbred Makeover started with 26 horses and the competition was held on the home stretch of Pimlico. It out-grew Pimlico within a year or two and we now routinely welcome several hundred horses to compete each year, each of which has passed a thorough application process.

Anyone who applies to compete in the Makeover has to fill out a lengthy application (which asks for a history of their riding and accomplishments), submit letters of reference including one from their veterinarian and upload a video of their riding so we can be sure they would have the skills necessary to handle the riding and retraining of a newly retired racehorse.

We do everything possible to make the event as safe as possible, including health exams for all horses upon arrival, but we also work hard to make it the most fun competition you can imagine. We love the networking that happens at the event and the comradery that builds every year–even the people who are competing against one another for more than $135,000 in prize money are helping each other back at the barns and in the warm-up rings. They're in it for the horse more than anything.

We see the demand for off-track Thoroughbreds continuing to expand. We also hear consistently that the price to purchase a horse off the track is increasing and that the aftercare agencies are happy with the increased demand for horses. We are really proud of our metrics and have created a chart that demonstrates our impact.

DP: How has the scope of the event changed?

JR: It has become much more than a competition. The trade fair is growing. That draws a lot of people who come to shop. We have seminars, clinics and we added the Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit last year in partnership with the TCA and TAA.  The Summit covers all topics pertinent to anyone working in or adjacent to the field of aftercare. We have experts on topics from governance, grant writing, marketing and fundraising, as well as on horse care-related topics. It's been amazing how it has evolved.

DP: To what do you attribute your relatively fast and remarkable success in reaching these heights both metrically and in sheer enthusiasm for your work?

   JR: First, thank you for saying so! I think the key for us is a market-based approach, which prior to 2010 when the RRP was formed, was not happening at the level it is now. If you think of it in pure business terms, racing was the primary market for Thoroughbreds and there was work being done to expand that market, but the secondary market (what Thoroughbreds do after racing) was near-saturation and while there were great efforts afoot to get them retrained and adopted out/placed, there were not a lot of efforts specifically focused on creating more demand for them with equestrians.

A rising tide raises all ships, and we focus a significant portion of our efforts on offering equestrians reasons to choose a Thoroughbred over another breed to use in the show ring, riding lessons or other equestrian endeavors, as well as helping to give them the tools and skills necessary to retrain them successfully.

DP: In what ways can the Thoroughbred industry assist you the most at this time?

   JR: As a 501c3 nonprofit, we are able to continue to do our work thanks to the support of donors and sponsors. But, that's the answer any charity would give and there are a ton of good Thoroughbred-related charities out there (retraining, adoption, sanctuary, market-based, etc.), so I encourage anyone in the industry to identify a handful of organizations that are most meaningful to them and support them through both words and actions (it's not all about just money–even something as simple as volunteering at events, advocating  on our/their behalf in your social circles or offering to write some thank you notes to our/their donors is a great way to help!).

Beyond that, the way the Thoroughbred industry can best support us, and aftercare in general, in my humble opinion, is to be an advocate for our equine athletes–the stars of our sport that our entire industry is built around–once their racing careers are done. As we've experienced in a number of ways over the past year and a half, the general public is keenly interested in animal welfare, specifically the welfare (both short and long term) of horses that are used for sport and entertainment. It's important for anyone in the Thoroughbred industry to have a working understanding of the aftercare sector of our industry and give it the same credence and understanding that they would the breeding, racing, or sales sectors. We have many resources on our website and in our magazine focused on this and are always happy to offer additional guidance or information based on specific questions or situations.

Be knowledgeable about aftercare and have a plan for your horses BEFORE they need to retire. Retire horses sound so they can go onto athletic careers after racing AND so they will be desirable to equestrians (who have a variety of breeds to choose from and often have the financial bandwidth to pay for what they want – by and large this is a discerning group and they are as picky about their riding and show horses as others are about their sale and racehorses). If you retire a horse to an aftercare organization, make a donation to cover the horse's care, especially if injury rehabilitation will be involved. Not only will it take more funds and resources to get that horse to a point at which it can be rehomed, but it will be more difficult to rehome.

For more information about the RRP and the Thoroughbred Makeover, visit their website here.

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Florida HBPA Joins Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) has joined the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) as an industry stakeholder and has pledged its monthly financial support to aid accredited aftercare non-profits in the Sunshine State.

“We take our responsibility seriously to provide care and the opportunity for a new life to our equine athletes who have concluded their racing careers,” said Tom Cannell, treasurer of the Florida HBPA. “Partnering with TAA and their accredited reorganizations will provide us an opportunity to successfully achieve these mutually desired goals.”

Currently the TAA has 10 accredited organizations with facilities in Florida that provide sanctuary, adoption, rehabilitation, and equine-assisted programs. These organizations are: Equestrian Inc., Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation, Final Furlong, Florida TRAC, Hidden Acres

Rescue for Thoroughbreds, Peaceful Ridge Rescue, RVR Horse Rescue, South Florida SPCA, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa.

This pledge will also  strengthen the efforts of the newly established Gulfstream Park Transition Program, which works with South Florida horsemen to move retiring racehorses off the track and into TAA-accredited facilities.

“Sometimes there are gestures that break through the cluttered gloom of chaos and restore one's hope and faith. The Florida HBPA provided one such gesture during this challenging time,” TAA President John Phillips said. “We are thrilled that the TAA's relationship with the Florida HBPA was significantly reinforced with an ongoing financial pledge.”

The Florida HBPA joins a number of TAA stakeholders in the Sunshine State, including Ocala Breeders' Sales Company, Tampa Bay Downs, Tampa Bay HBPA, Gulfstream Park, and Ocala Stud among others.

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