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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

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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

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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 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

“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

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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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Hagyard Pharmacy Offers Buy-One, Donate-One Program To Support Aftercare

With the help of fifth-generation Hagyard Equine Medical Institute veterinarian Dr. Luke Fallon, Hagyard Pharmacy donated 13 half-gallons of Reflex HA to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program’s Kentucky facility. This is enough product to keep 13 retired Thoroughbred racehorses comfortable for 60 days.

In an effort to assist even more horses, Hagyard Pharmacy has launched the Buy-1, Donate-1 program, which allows anyone who purchases a bottle of Reflex HA to contribute to the health of retired racehorses. For every bottle of Reflex HA sold from now through May 31, Hagyard Pharmacy will donate one half-gallon of Reflex HA to a local equine aftercare facility in need.

“We are proud to offer the Buy-1, Donate-1 initiative to help equine aftercare programs such as New Vocations,” said Dr. Fallon. “It is our shared goal to provide these fine equine athletes the best of care and the best of joint supplements as they begin their new careers off the track.”

Added Anna Ford, New Vocations Thoroughbred Program Director: “We have seen great results from the Reflex HA product, so this donation is deeply appreciated. Many of our horses have the normal wear and tear that any equine athlete sustains while in regular training for racing or competition. Reflex HA has many benefits for these types of horses, and ultimately provides good all-around joint and health support.”

To support the Buy-1, Donate-1 initiative, click here:

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On Aftercare: Square Peg Pairs Children On Autism Spectrum With Off-Track Thoroughbreds

The Center for Disease Control reports that in 2020 approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). April is Autism Awareness Month, so it is fitting that we visit with Joell Dunlap, founder of The Square Peg Foundation, which pairs off-track Thoroughbreds with children affected by an ASD and their families.

Founded in 2004, Square Peg operates out of two facilities in the Bay Area of California with 19 horses in total. Of the 19 horses, 13 are off-track Thoroughbreds. Before life was interrupted by the COVID19 pandemic, Square Peg regularly served 50-60 families per week. There is a waiting list of 30 families who need services.

DP: Joell, tell us what an average week at Square Peg was like before the COVID-19 pandemic?

JD: We served 50-60 families a week with one or more children on the autism spectrum. Our program is geared to provide a great environment, therapeutic riding and a social aspect for our clients. When I was a kid, my best friends were my barn friends. I want to create that for the children that we serve.

DP: How does the program work?

JD: Since 2004, the program has evolved as we have learned more about how horses open up the pathways for children with autism to learn and experience real joy. We are part of the Horse Boy Method network. This is a framework for therapy with children on the autism spectrum. We focus on the environment which is void of bad stimuli, the sensory aspect of being on and all over a horse, riding for the movement and rhythm, perspective exercises, academics while in motion and self- advocacy.

DP: How did you come to start an organization like Square Peg with its specific mission to help autistic children and off-track Thoroughbreds?

JR: I rode show horses growing up and Thoroughbreds on the track as soon as I was old enough. In 1984 at age 16, I became a mom. My son was born 9 weeks early and weighed 3 1/2 pounds. My son’s time in the school system was very difficult. From the beginning, he had trouble focusing and staying still.  The teachers thought his problem was that he had a young mother who worked at the track. The more people tried to force him to sit in a classroom, the worse his frustration grew. He was bullied by other kids, teachers, and even the parents of other kids because he could not sit still. My heart broke for him. So, I started homeschooling and I learned a lot about alternative education and just how damaging it is for a child when he or she is not accepted. The first riding school that I started was at a Montessori school. I had a 17-hand Thoroughbred who had been singled out as a bad horse with behavioral issues. He could only live outside. The kids all connected with him. One day I found a teenage girl, who was always struggling in school, and she had gone into his paddock and was hanging onto his neck with this death grip of need. Instead of his usual antics, the horse was perfectly still and relaxed as held onto him in a full body hug. A lightbulb just went on in my head and I saw the parallels between these kids and the Thoroughbreds.

DP: Did you set out to work specifically with off-track Thoroughbreds?

JR: Thoroughbreds are the only horses that I truly understand. Square Peg was started for kids who needed to move in order to express themselves and to learn, and for Thoroughbreds who are also creatures of movement who need space, exercise and engagement.

DP: Since 2004, how have you seen the programs connecting horses with Autistic children grow and change?

JR: With the advent of The Horse Boy Foundation, our framework for therapy was established. The Horse Boy framework channels rhythmic movement that allows people on the spectrum to relax, open up and express themselves and learn. Generally, we are seeing more parents seeking our services and government institutions are seeking our services to help children with a variety of issues.

DP: How many Thoroughbred partners do you have currently care for and from where do you get them?

JR: All of our Thoroughbreds come through CARMA (California Retirement Management Account). Lucinda Lovitt, the executive director, has first-hand experience in knowing which horses will work for our program.

DP: What is life like at the Square Peg facilities now, during the pandemic?

JR: The horses are getting a break from services which is good for them. When they are at work carrying their riders, who are often very active and sitting off-balance and sometimes very loud and emotional, it is intense. So, they need the break. Also, our staff is young because the work we do is very physical. So, we are also taking this time to increase their understanding and connection with the horses. Third, we are advancing the training of the horses during this time and really honing their classic dressage skills. Dressage really builds a horse’s balance and strength. And, we are trail riding because that is their other job–to be good trail horses for the clients.

DP: When you look at your success today and your road in life to get here, what do you say to yourself?

JR: I am in awe of the horses and the people who have seen the value of what we do and helped us get to where we are today. Together, they got us here. It took me, a single mother at 16 with a son who couldn’t fit in and a connection to unwanted horses to create this unlikely situation of having two wonderful facilities and an amazing team of people and horses doing some of the most important work on earth. I knew how much kids who didn’t feel like they “fit in” needed a place where they were valued and accepted. I also wanted to provide a space for the

horses who didn’t “fit in”–mainly failed or retired race horses–where they could find safety. My thought was that these kids would care for the horses and both would find peace. I was right.

DP: You have been in the Thoroughbred industry since the very early days of awareness of the plight of the Thoroughbred after racing. How has the evolution in that realm of the sport helped your work and how has being accredited by the TAA helped Square Peg?

JR: Honestly, if you told me in 2004 that our most consistent and reliable source of donations was going to be coming from the racing industry, I simply wouldn’t have believed you. There were always people in racing that cared about aftercare, but I didn’t get the feeling that the sport as a whole would pull together to do something about it. And, that’s exactly what happened.  It is real leadership. It’s been amazing to see the industry get involved in aftercare and to watch it get so sophisticated and smart in just a few years. The accreditation process is difficult and smart and Square Peg is a better organization as a result of the process. We’ve looked at accreditation from other sources like SPCA and HSUS and GFAS and none of them were designed not only to take better care of the horses, but to build stronger organizations but to create a donation source and a trusted accreditation that would qualify us for grants from other organizations.

DP: Do you have any special fundraising needs at this time?

JR: Mostly, it’s funds to help see us through the Shelter in Place due to COVID- 19. Roughly 20% of our income is from fee for services for our sessions with families and we have not been able to serve families for a month now and it would seem that it will be another month until we can. That leaves us with roughly a $40,000 shortfall from our budget.

For more information on Square Peg Foundation, go to

To learn more about The Horse Boy Method, go to:

Diana Pikulski is a partner at Yepsen & Pikulski, Public Policy Specialists and the editor of the Thoroughbred Adoption Network.

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Thoroughbred Aftercare Organizations Bracing for Difficult Times

For most Thoroughbred aftercare organizations, the last few weeks have been difficult, but manageable. The coronavirus has meant a drop off in donations, canceled fundraisers and more horses needing homes, but charities like Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue have not hit the panic button. At least not yet.

“I don’t think this has hit the fan yet,” said Bev Strauss, the executive director of Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue. “I don’t think everyone is totally desperate. Everyone is sitting tight. In six weeks, are we going to see people saying these horses have got to go? It’s very possible. We’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”

Strauss is not alone. No one knows what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, and the uncertainly is weighing heavily on virtually all rescue groups. The aftercare organizations figure to take hits from a number of directions. With the economy reeling, donations have already gone down, a situation that figures to get much worse before it gets better.

With so many tracks closed, horses are not earning any money for their owners, which can make them expendable. The $5,000 claimer who is sitting idly by while racing is shut down is a prime candidate to show up on a rescue’s doorstep. With most rescues operating at full capacity, no one is quite sure how they will deal with a large influx of horses.

“We’ve seen it more in Louisiana,” Anna Ford, the Thoroughbred program director for New Vocations, said of the increase in horses aftercare groups have been asked to take in. “I do think it will be all around soon. A lot of people are waiting to see if they are going to get to race in May or not. Once that decision is made and if they are not racing in May, I think we’ll see a bigger uptick in horses coming in. Right now, trainers are trying to keep their horses in training until they know what is going to happen. We haven’t seen a huge increase, but are hearing from trainers who say they may have to move their horses, that they don’t know if they can keep their horses much longer or they are trying to prepare for what is coming.”

New Vocations and Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue have been accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), an umbrella organization that gives its seal of approval to horse rescue groups that meet its standards and awards grants to those organizations. In an effort to help the groups stave off any immediate problems, the TAA expedited the process of giving out the annual spring grants and has sent $2 million to its member groups ahead of schedule. Phillips said the TAA should have the funds available to make the next scheduled round of grants, which would be in December. But even a reasonably well-funded organization such as the TAA, which is supported by the several major racing organizations like The Jockey Club, Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup, is not going to come out of this unscathed. Phillips noted that a significant portion of its funding is derived from the sales and racing. Examples include a surcharge that goes to the TAA when a horse is claimed at the NYRA tracks and a small mandatory fee owners and sellers pay at the major sales that goes to the TAA.

“Funding is being compromised overall because we have things like per-start contributions and claiming contributions. Those funds are not coming in,” Phillips said. “Obviously, this will be an increasing problem the longer it goes on. We will have to adjust.”

Particularly for the larger rescue groups, taking care of 100 or more horses is an expensive proposition. Costs include feed, veterinary care and staffing. The grants from the TAA and other organizations help, but no rescue can get by without its own version of grassroots funding. That could include fundraising events, direct mail campaigns or reaching out to donors on a person-to-person basis. It’s not a good time to be asking others for money.

“I don’t think we know the full impact this is going to have on us,” said Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) Executive Director Pat Stickney. “We have seen a decline in our donations. It’s really been just in last few weeks. Before this really ramped up, we had sent out a direct mail appeal and that just hit mailboxes. That will be a good test for us so far as how our donors will respond. We are still in process of reaching out to everybody, particularly to our major donors. We are trying to assure them that the horses are our first priority and will continue to be our first priority.”

Groups like the TRF rely on fundraising events, many of which revolve around major racing events, like the GI Kentucky Derby or the Saratoga meet. Those are now on hold and the rescues know not to count on them as a revenue stream.

“We have to balance the human end economic crisis and our duty to feed and care for our horses,” said the TRF’s Director of development and communications Jennifer Stevens. “We have to keep asking for that money and the support to keep coming in. But it is a delicate situation.”

The impact is already being felt as The California Retirement Management Account announced last week that because it had lost funding since the cessation of racing it was no longer accepting horses.

The aftercare ecosystem needs more than just money to work. In a perfect world, horses are continually being adopted out, which opens up space for new horses to come in from the track. The coronavirus has already disrupted the normal laws of supply and demand as it has made it difficult for rescues to find homes for their horses. Considering the economy, some people don’t want to take on the added expense of owning a retired Thoroughbred and many rescues are operating under stay-at-home orders where they aren’t allowed to bring potential adopters onto their farms to inspect horses.

“On our main farm, where I have sanctuary horses, I’m not allowing people to come here right now and the ones that are with my trainer, who is retraining them and getting them ready for new homes, also can’t take in visitors,” said Gail Hirt, the executive director and founder of the Michigan-based rescue Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue and Retirement. “[The coronavirus] numbers in Michigan are high and they’re not allowing anybody to go to the boarding stables. We’re not able to show horses or let people ride horses and get them adopted out. That adds to the problems. It’s really hard.”

Rescue groups also report that some individuals who have recently adopted horses have returned them, telling the charities they can no longer afford to take care of the horses because of their financial situation.

For now, rescues can adapt to not being able to find homes for horses. The concern is that there will come a time when they are being inundated with requests from trainers and owners to take in horses. Most rescues say they do not have the space and other resources to adequately handle such a situation.

Phillips said that the TAA is preparing for the possibility that a time will come when the rescues will be overwhelmed and unable to take in new horses, and that the TAA is working with The Stronach Group to create a triage program for horses needing homes.

“Hopefully, this triage program can be instituted on an accelerated  basis,” he said. “It would be a place where we could help trainers, the ones who would be trying to give their horses away, through the process. We are accelerating efforts to set up a triage program, and The Stronach Group is helping us along. We want to have a mechanism in place for those smaller trainers who might be having trouble sustaining things. We want to have an outlet where they can take their horses.”

Marlene Murray, the Co-Founder of the R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc, a Pennsylvania rescue, said it’s imperative that racetracks, even those that are closed, continue to allow the training of horses in the mornings. If that changes, she fears that an overwhelming number of horses will need homes.

“I am hoping that all tracks currently not racing will allow horses now on the backside to stay there,” she said. “You’re talking about thousands of horses at different racetracks that would have no place to go if the tracks decide to tell them to get off the grounds. Most tracks house maybe 1,300 horses on the backside, and what are people going to do if they have nowhere to take their horses?”

The situation varies from rescue to rescue. The consensus is that the larger, more established rescues, have the resources to ride out the virus.

“We’ll be okay,” Ford said of New Vocations. “We have long-term plans as to how we we’ll handle things if donation are drastically cut. We can adjust our numbers, go from 150 horses to 120. We don’t want to do that because it would mean we’d be helping fewer horses but we don’t ever want to do a lesser job with the horses we have.”

The forecast for Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue and Retirement, which has 16 horses, isn’t as bright.

“We’re very low on funds, have too many horses and not enough money and not enough donations,” Hirt said.

“People aren’t adopting horses. It’s scary. If this keeps going too long I don’t know if I can stay in business. Financially, this situation could put us under.”

Like most of her colleagues, the TRF’s Stickney is trying to stay optimistic and says her organization will make it through these difficult times. But she can’t help but worry about what will happen to the horses under the worse-case scenarios.

“I think some of the smaller rescues might have to close and if they do I don’t know where those horses would go,” she said. “There’s something we all know but don’t want to say, and that is there is a concern that some of the rescues might have to euthanize horses. That is not on our radar. It’s not anything we at the TRF would ever consider. But I have heard the word spoken, and that is the worst-case scenario.”

Fortunately, the situation has not deteriorated yet to the point where any rescue has had to consider putting horses down. The sport is only about a month into the coronavirus, there are hopes that some additional tracks may be able to open soon and racing people have come through in the past to help the aftercare charities through hard times.

“Somehow, things always work out for these thoroughbreds. It’s an amazing thing,” said Dannielle Marturana, the president of the Arizona-based rescue After the Homestretch. “I don’t know how it happens, but every time I have thought the situation was bleak and that I had no answers, somehow things work out. These thoroughbreds, they are pretty special. Someone is always looking out for them.”

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