A 13-member New York State Task Force on Retired Race Horses has been appointed to "investigate the feasibility of creating a larger market and alternative employment opportunities for retired race horses, as well as the costs and benefits of installing artificial turf at race courses," according to a release Feb. 25 from state agriculture commissioner Patrick Hooker and New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman Daniel Hogan.

“Horses have always played an integral part of the agricultural industry, and especially here in New York where we have such a rich tradition of horse racing,” Hooker said. “Since only 15% of all race horses are ever successful, the prospects for the remaining 85%  are uncertain. As these athletes exit their racing career, I want to ensure a desirable place for them back in the agricultural industry where we can utilize their abilities and improve the lives of New Yorkers.”

Hogan said, “New York State has more than 40,000 horses bred for racing that have enriched our lives both on the track and back at the stable. These are animals that have served the sport and our economy for years and we have a responsibility to look for second careers for these animals. This task force will explore the transition of these horses from the track to other disciplines.”

The task force will be co-chaired by Hooker and Hogan. According to the announcement, members of the task force must be "owners or breeders of racehorses, have expertise in training horses for uses other than racing, are familiar with horses for recreational or therapeutic uses, or possess business experience related to the equine industry.

Those appointed and confirmed to serve on the task force so far are:

--Grace “Jean” Brown, Standardbred farm director, Walkill (Orange County)
--Karin Bump, equine professor, Cazenvoia (Madison County)
--Fiona Farrell, equine attorney at law, Stillwater (Saratoga County)
--William Hopsicker, Thoroughbred owner, Oriskany Falls (Oneida County)
--Jackson Knowlton, Thoroughbred owner, Saratoga Springs (Saratoga County)
--Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, equine veterinarian, Bloomfield (Ontario County)
--Diana Pikulski, executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Saratoga (Saratoga County)
--Martin Scheinman, Thoroughbred owner, Sands Point (Nassau County)
--Alice Calabrese Smith, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, Webster (Monroe County)

On the agenda for the task force's first meeting on Friday, Feb. 29 at the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ office in Albany will be a "review the use of retired race horses in alternative fields such as recreational riding, competitive sports other than racing, therapeutic riding and in rehabilitation efforts at correctional and other government facilities" and disucssion of the "feasibility of retraining these horses, work to develop alternative sources of employment for retired race horses, and look into the economics surrounding the installation of artificial turf on race courses to help minimize injuries to both jockeys and horses."

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