Study Offers Look at Racehorse Transition

Survey suggests majority acquired directly from racing and non-racing owners.

A study on former racehorses transitioned to second careers indicates a large percentage of them are acquired from their owners, not auctions.

The Retired Racehorse Training Project released the results of the study Jan. 9. It stemmed from a 2013 survey of the owners of 4,200 ex-racehorses in 47 states and Canada, the RRTP said.

The study shows 34% of retired horses were acquired directly from owners in racing and 31% from non-racing private owners. Another 13.5% were acquired from non-profit placement or rescue operations, 9% from professional training or sales, and 2.3% from auctions.

"The public believes racing owners dump their retiring horses into auctions, and that a lucky few get rescued and adopted," RRTP president Steuart Pittman said in a release. "Our survey tells a different story. Most of these horses were not rescued. They were sold or donated through networks of people both inside and outside of racing who work very hard to transition these animals."

The RRTP, however, said the survey indicates racehorses are placed in second careers with longterm owners "through a marketplace that lacks networks and forums through which the sellers, trainers, and buyers can find one another."

It also suggests depressed prices and adoption fees necessitate subsidies, and that "the financial incentive to retire horses sound from racing does not exist until increased demand raises prices for retiring horses."

Of the survey participants, 15% have owned or bred Thoroughbred racehorses. Of the total, 72% have owned horses more than 10 years, 86% more than five years, and 94% more than two years.

The average age range for horses in the survey was 10-12 years, the study states.

The RRTP said in 2014 it will expand its educational and promotional work with marketing professionals and advocates of the Thoroughbred to help increase the value of retired racehorses. The organization also said it's necessary to expand online databases and publish a resource directory that can be placed in "every tack room on every backside of every racetrack in America."

The complete study is available here.