A full house greeted speakers during the first day of the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses May 17 in Washington, D.C. The afternoon agenda offered updates and information on a wide array of aftercare topics, programs, and initiatives.
Keynote speaker Michael Blowen of Old Friends noted, "this is an A-list group," and he was impressed by the interest and number of participants. The forum continues May 18, and will dove-tail into The Jockey Club and the Latin American Racing Channel's second Pan American Conference May 18-19.
Not necessarily tied to aftercare, but a key component to the post-racing life of the Thoroughbred, was a presentation made by Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. Pacelle's introductory comments focused on how today's American society sees animal treatment as an important issue. He said it needs to be addressed by the racing community.
"There are sweeping changes being made in our society with respect to the treatment of animals," he began. "The horse racing community must get in step with these broader trends. There has been too much inattentiveness in the community to these questions and it is time to really seize these issues.
"There are no people today who would say animal cruelty is acceptable. The question we are working on is, 'how do we logically apply animal-cruelty principles in a world where animals are used in so many everyday activities?'
"Racing has been a bit of an orphan issue in our movement," Pacelle acknowledged later in his presentation. "One of the first things I did when I was put in the position was to create an equine protection department because I felt there was not a national advocacy organization that was pushing for the welfare of horses."
Ending slaughter is the main issue of the HSUS today, and they remain an advocate of the Horse Racing Integrity Act.
Steuart Pittman, of the Retired Racehorse Project/Thoroughbred Makeover, spoke of the goals of building bridges and creating demand for off-track Thoroughbreds with other horse disciplines. He disclosed the results of a survey that showed of the horses placed in second careers, 37% of them went to eventing, 27% became hunter/jumpers, and 13% went on to careers in the dressage arena.
Stacie Clark of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance reaffirmed the stringent accreditation process that aftercare facilities must go through to be TAA-approved.
She also disclosed that AmTote International, which is owned by The Stronach Group, had tested some self-betting terminals that allowed people wagering to opt in to donate to aftercare. A test group showed that about 15% of people made donations.