On a recent Saturday morning at Belmont Park, trainer Rick Schosberg sat in his office, his dozen or so horses in their stalls after morning training. Within minutes, his attention is needed again, not by his barn staff or one of his horses, but by another trainer with a horse whose racing days have come to an end.
"I got one for you," the trainer said, and Schosberg switched seamlessly from trainer of horses to administrator of Take the Lead, the backstretch equine retirement program of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, on whose board Schosberg sits and for which he serves as secretary/treasurer.
Since being elected to the board five years ago, Schosberg has been as active a presence in boardrooms and the state legislature as he has been on the backstretch. The trainer of graded stakes winners Maria's Mon (the 1995 2-year-old champion), As Indicated, Mossflower, Affirmed Success, and Giant Moon feels an obligation to serve the people and the animals that have made his success possible.
"I'm very passionate about it," he said. "I love the backstretch and I love helping people and especially the horses."
Born in New York, Schosberg moved with his family to northern Virginia when his father took as a position as chief of staff for a New York congressman. Though his mother had ridden horses before the move, they "dove in the deep end," he said, when they got to Virginia.
"The question was, do you want a bar mitzvah or do you want a pony?" he recounted. "I was never bar mitzvahed."
As a teenager, he worked at the Middleburg Training Center before going on to Cornell University. His first job on the racetrack came in 1978, working for Eddie Gaudet. After stints with Walter Kelley, Sidney Watters, and Tom Skiffington, he went out on his own, starting his own stable with his wife Dawn, who had been training in New Jersey.
"That's when we bought 'the Chopper,' " he said, referring to Three Chopt Road, who would retire after 99 starts with earnings of more than $250,000.
Three Chopt Road was retired to the Schosbergs' farm, transitioning to becoming a trail rider who participated in a few hunt trials. That path was a harbinger of things to come for Schosberg, who now spends so much of his time helping racehorses find a new career.
With a winter stable of about a dozen horses that grows to around 20 in the summer and a stable staff that has worked for him for decades—and a year-round recreational tennis schedule that might weary Novak Djokovic—Schosberg has created the time to develop and oversee Take the Lead.
"It's a great opportunity," he said. "We're filling a role, to take the pressure off trainers to find homes for horses that shouldn't be running anymore."
The program has retired more than 200 horses in the three years of its existence.
Schosberg also serves as chairman of the New York THA's backstretch committee and represents the horsemen's group in Albany, advocating for the state's support of New York's racing community.
"I'm passionate about it and I hate inequity," he said. "We have to do something to represent the people that put us here. That's owners and trainers for sure, but it's also jockeys, exercise riders, backstretch workers."
Despite obvious enjoyment of his work outside the barn, Schosberg has no immediate plans to stop training. His parents are long-time New York breeders, and his father is director emeritus of New York Thoroughbred Breeders. He has a string of steady clients, and the advent of spring brings with it the promise of 2-year-olds.
"From the start, my motto has been: Start with the health of the horse," Schosberg said. "Instead of trickle down, it's trickle up: to the hotwalkers and grooms, assistant trainers and trainers, owners. Take care of the horses—the retired racehorses don't have a voice."