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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Time for the Industry to Step Up

On September 1, the New York Gaming Commission held a summit on retired racehorses.  The following is a press release from  the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) which basically shows the problems standardbreds have in finding new homes.  More importantly (or should I say embarrassing), we learn how far behind the standardbred industry is when it comes to horses which are retired when compared to the thoroughbred industry.

Here is the press release:

For Immediate Release

September 3, 2015

SRF Speaks at Summit on Race Horse Retirement

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has formed the NY State Task Force on Retired Racehorses and held a Summit on the topic at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 1st. There were five panels comprised of representatives of the NY Racing Assoc.; Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; Thoroughbred Charities of America; several racetracks; several horsesmens associations; the NY State Racing and Wagering Board; horse adoption programs; and the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

 The Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF), Sunshine Horses, Jeff Gural, and the USTA spoke in the early afternoon after digesting the massive efforts the Thoroughbred industry has implemented and the hefty funding charities receive from the industry. Monies raised from percentages, and dollar amounts of mandatory and voluntary contributions from starting fees, jockey fees, purses, and contributions fund the numerous programs.

The Thoroughbred typically has a market after racing, as they are popular in the riding arena, whereas, the Standardbred does not. SRF noted that the average time a Standardbred horse will last in an adoptive home is just 3.3 years and that should trigger a warning to the charities to do follow-up. None of the charities receiving funds have an active follow-up program for Standardbreds; SRF and Sunshine horses do, however, neither receive funds from these initiatives.   "We need to make sure we are doing the right thing," said Judy Bokman, SRF's Executive Director.  "Maybe the Thoroughbred is more popular as a riding companion and there is not as great a concern for their long-term well being in a home, but for the Standardbred, I keep thinking about what a veterinarian once said to me, "I am not helping any charity that takes horses from the track to avoid a trip to slaughter only to starve in backyards."

It was belittling to follow the talk of the initiatives the Thoroughbred industry has taken when the Standardbred industry has done so little. Jeff Gural sees a solution as slots generate 180 million dollars in NYS each year,  "A small percent would solve the problem."  Funding was one of the things the Standardbred charities noted as a challenge, the lack of good homes, locations for retired horses to be boarded reasonably to live out their lives, and other locations for the adoption program to operate from were others.

Some horses will find a forever home with all these wonderful strides being made, and the efforts deserve great applause, but there are two items left unsolved.  One is helping the unadoptable ones, as it was noted that only adoptable horses receive help, and what to do in time when these horses age in their adopted homes and are no longer wanted

Make no mistake, the thoroughbred industry has far more money available to dedicate to the retirement of racehorses than the standardbred industry has.  This does not excuse the industry from doing nothing when it comes to funding re-homing and rescue groups albeit at a smaller rate.  To do nothing is not an option.  A standardbred aftercare organization is necessary.  While it may not have the funding the runners have, whatever funding will help the industry take care of retired horses.

The question is when the industry will finally step up and deal the problem.  Time is running out.    

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