TAA One of Main Topics at Welfare Seminar

TAA One of Main Topics at Welfare Seminar
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which recently announced a new funding plan, was a main focus during a session entitled "Totally Aftercare" that closed out the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland Oct. 17.

Michael Ziegler, who serves as executive director of the Allaince as well as the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Safety and Integrity Alliance, reported on the requirements for an aftercare facility to become a TAA member.

Some of the specifics include being financially and operationally stable, and having non-profit status, proper insurance, a board of directors, and sufficient volunteers. Accredited facilities must also provide proper care for their horses and have a policy that's consistent with the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

"Accredited organizations should also work with the industry and educate them on the importance of aftercare," said Ziegler. "They need to market what they're doing and show the industry in the right limelight."

Facilities interested in becoming accredited must complete a lengthy, in-depth application to prove they are dedicated to the TTA standards.

"Once we have the application, we'll have a site inspection," said Ziegler. "The AAEP will introduce us to veterinarians on a regional basis that will inspect the sites in order to not incur a lot of costs through travel expenses."

Ziegler said funds would be raised for all accredited facilities through institutional contributions rather than regular fundraisers. "We want every aspect of the industry to participate," he explained.

It was previously announced that 13 prominent Central Kentucky farms would contribute 25% of a season of each of their stallions' advertised stud fees for 2013 to the TAA. The Jockey Club also stated it would raise its registry-related fees by $25 and give the extra funds to TAA accredited facilities.

Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Barretts, and the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. have additionally agreed to enable buyers and consignors to automatically contribute .05% of an added fee from all transactions in the sale ring to the TAA. The sale companies will contribute an additional percentage of all gross receipts.

"We're also working with the Breeders' Cup on a fan participation program where there will be the opportunity to text to pledge funds (to the TAA) during Breeders' Cup weekend," said Ziegler.

Others involved in the funding effort include Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park.

"The success of the TAA is dependent on further development of a funding mechanism," said Ziegler. "We can't stop where we are right now...we need to talk to the stallion owners, breeders, racetracks, jockeys, owners, and trainers. We need to continue to work on a shoestring budget. There are a lot of great organizations in the industry that can help us; we need to take advantage of existing resources and reinvent the wheel."

Thoroughbred Incentive Program

In the same session, Kristin Leshney, legal associate for The Jockey Club, announced that The Jockey Club will continue its Thoroughbred Incentive Program (http://tjctip.com/) in 2013. The program rewards retired Thoroughbred racehorses that now compete in horse shows.

To date, the organization has hosted more than 100 horse shows and events across several states with TIP classes or awards. More than 1,500 eligible Thoroughbreds have competed for thousands of dollars in prize money in those events.

The TIP has other special awards, such as a Thoroughbred of the Year award, which provides a $5,000 grant to the aftercare organization associated with that horse; and a Young Rider of the Year award, which provides grants to riders in order to continue their horse involvement.

The TIP additionally offers a free online service called Thoroughbred Connect that assists with placement of Thoroughbreds in need of homes. The site also provides ways for the public to financially support a retired racehorse they admired or had a special connection to during its race career.

Other speakers during the aftercare session included Anna Ford of New Vocations and Steuart Pittman of the Retired Racehorse Training Project.

New Vocations

New Vocations, which was founded in 1992, accepts horses from 30 different tracks into its rehabilitation and re-homing program. In 2011, the program received 489 horses and adopted out 429.

"Looking back 20 years ago, the industry has taken so many steps and has really put up some money," said Ford, who processes around 500 applications annually for people interested in adopting New Vocations horses.

The cost to retrain, re-home and rehabilitate a horse can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500. Ford said owners and trainers need to do a better job of communicating when it's best to retire a racehorse to ensure it can make a smooth transition to a second career and not incur significant rehabilitation costs. 

"In some cases, if (the horse) had retired one race earlier, it would make a difference," said Ford. "I wish everyone would get together and figure out what's best for the horse. If we can retire them sounder, we'll be able to place them (in new homes) a lot quicker."

Retired Racehorse Training Project

During the Retired Racehorse Training Project presentation, Pittman expressed his desire for Thoroughbreds to once again be marketed as sport horses.

To help accomplish this goal, the RRTP hosted an event called the Trainer Challenge last winter where four ex-racehorses were selected to be trained and shown in an arena at the Maryland and Pennsylvania Horse Expos in front of an audience. "It was a huge success and got lots of press," said Pittman.

This year, RRTP also joined with New Vocations for its Thoroughbreds for All! event in Lexington, where attendees were educated about horsemanship within the industry. 

In the future, Pittman hopes to host other Thoroughbreds For All! events at other locations throughout the country; propose a retired racehorse challenge among Thoroughbred breeders; and form partnerships with racetracks, breeders, trainers, and owners.

Other RRTP goals include creating resurgence in the popularity of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses; having fewer "unwanted" Thoroughbreds; fetching higher prices for sound horses when they retire from racing to create more of an incentive to retire them sound; having better horsemanship throughout the horse world; and garnering more racing fans and owners.

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