Long Term Care - by Herb Moelis

On Derby Day 2008 shock waves traveled through the Thoroughbred world. A talented filly named Eight Belles finished second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) but after the finish, the filly stumbled and was euthanized on the track in front of more than 100,000 fans and millions watching on TV. We knew we had to address a problem that has been with us for quite some time. We examined our tracks, drug policies, breeding concepts, and many other things we took for granted.

When are we going to wake up to another very public problem: What happens to racehorses when they finish their racing careers.

There have been laws passed recently that have reduced the number of horses going to slaughter. Additionally, we are seeing the costs of caring for horses, including feed, transportation, hay, and straw, skyrocket. This has translated to more abandoned horses. According to the United States Department of Agriculture data, there are approximately 100,000 unwanted horses in the U.S. each year, a major problem and potential public relations nightmare. The time is now to address it.

Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) supports about 200 of the groups that care for unwanted horses. We have seen the increase in the number of horses these groups must care for and the increasing costs and the lack of funding for them. I’ve heard many stories about horses being turned loose on highways and other horror stories for lack of funding. For the Thoroughbred industry to turn a blind eye to this problem will only result in another jolt, probably much worse from an industry viewpoint, than even the Eight Belles tragedy. How do we avoid this and do the right thing before we have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others demonstrating and asserting that we are inhumane and uncaring about our horses? How do we avoid having the government step in to regulate?

The answer is we must make owners responsible for the welfare of their horses, both during their racing careers and also when those careers end. If we agree owner responsibility is needed, the question is, “How do we get owners to be responsible?” Education of new owners is a necessity. When a person decides that he would like to participate in the excitement of racing, he should be educated to the reality that after racing the horse must be provided for.

Yet education alone will still not cure the problem. We must find a way to raise a steady and reliable source of money for the care of horses after their racing careers. Having been a founder and president of TCA and having raised in excess of $16 million over 18 years, I fully understand how difficult it is to raise money voluntarily. To depend on voluntary individual donations would be futile.

There is a very logical and simple way to raise money for this purpose. When owners register their foals The Jockey Club requires a registration form to be filed with payment of $200. Why can’t we add $50 to provide for care of the foal for life? This would be similar to a Social Security program for horses.

There are approximately 40,000 Thoroughbreds registered each year. At $50 each the total amount assessed annually would be $2 million. This would go a long way to providing a decent life for all Thoroughbreds after their racing careers. A Social Security system is the most feasible way to help, and The Jockey Club is the most logical agent for this project.

When I proposed this a number of years ago to The Jockey Club, I was told that it would be a burden on owners and there would be strong resistance. The Jockey Club would not implement the assessment, because, I was told, even if they collected the money they would not have the mechanism to distribute the funds. My answer to this is simple. TCA has a comprehensive file on all rescue organizations and would help in the distribution of funds. If an owner cannot afford $50 when registering a foal, then that person has no business being an owner. For the welfare of our industry and the welfare of our horses, this assessment is necessary and reasonable.

Herb Moelis is the president of Thoroughbred Charities of America


Leave a Comment:

Dolores Marotta

People who love horses have commiserated about this problem for decades and yet these magnificent athletes are still loaded on to double decker trucks after their last race and are treated in such a inhumane manner that I've had to look away from videos shown on YouTube that were taken at slaughterhouses.  If the owners don't want to take care of them then the horses should be euthanized.  I own a Quarterhorse (or does he own me) and as his owner I could never subject him to the agony of the slaughterhouse experience.  Too bad these wealthy owners don't feel the same way.  

22 Jul 2008 12:22 PM

I am sure I will get a lot of grumples and glares from what I am about to say..but I feel like we are trying to tackle the problem from the wrong side of the fence.  We wouldn't have so many unwanted horses if we didn't breed so many.  I'm not even going to begin to suggest how we do that as I do have concerns that putting controls on breeding could ultimately push out the small farms (which would be a shame)but something has to be done.  A lot of attention has been put on what happens to the thoroughbred when he can no longer race and many folks have stepped up to the plate.  Problem is the number of unwanted horses has not gone down and won't if we keep up with this mass production.  Go ahead...I await the rocks!

22 Jul 2008 12:24 PM

I think this is a good idea. Horses need some kind of life line to keep them from a life of misery after racing. This sounds like a good plan to me.

22 Jul 2008 1:18 PM


Being a small owner/breeder I know all to well just how difficult it is to find a home for these horses.For the most part you can't give them away.In fact I own a broodmare that you bred (Rodeo/Brush With Royalty)that I retired over 2 years ago.  I have been trying to find a home for her ever since.She's a sweetheart and for some reason I have a soft spot for her.I also bought her full brother and sister at auction who were both very talented.I am open to an suggestions as I can't carry her for that much longer.

22 Jul 2008 2:41 PM

I too have brought up the issue of the Jockey Club setting aside funds when each foal is registered.  I have never heard a public response from the Jockey Club regarding this request.  WHY NOT?????  I'd love to know how all the money the Jockey CLub has ammassed over the decades has/is being spent.  I doubt I'll get a response to that request as well.  On another note, what about "non profit" organizations such as Keeneland contributing a portion of their income towards Thoroughbred retirement.  I know they give some each year, but in comparison to the amount of money Keeneland generates off the racing/breeding industry it's pitifully small.  WHEN ARE THE PEOPLE THAT WEILD REAL POWER IN THIS INDUSTRY GOING TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE??

22 Jul 2008 4:06 PM
needler in Virginia

I must agree with Ezevans; there are far too many horses bred each year. While I KNOW the breeding shed is the ultimate "proof" of worth, possibly now would be a good time to stand back and ask ourselves the question......."if I CANNOT sell this foal/weanling/yearling/two-year old, can I afford to support it for the rest of its' life?" If the answer is no, then don't breed the mare. Very simple and it calls for a bit of restraint, but the sheer numbers are overwhelming, and those who breed the foals are the ones who are responsible. NOW FOR THE ZINGER.......NOT EVERY MARE, NOR EVERY STALLION SHOULD BE BRED. Full stop. Just because you have some nifty blood lines in your barn does not mean you should breed that horse. IMPROVING the breed, not over-populating the planet, should be the aim, and not all horses will improve the breed. Sorry about that, but it is the truth. We have two geldings that will live with us until they die....we took them on because we wanted them, and knew we would have them for the rest of their lives. Yes, they are expensive, especially as they age, but they are OUR responsibility, and we are cognizant of that every day. If you can't give a permanent home to EVERY horse you produce, DON'T PRODUCE IT. Look ahead, past the auction barn and training sales....just THINK!

22 Jul 2008 5:07 PM
J from VA.

I am fairly new to thoroughbred racing as I got interested during Barbaro's fight for his life.

The more I read, the sadder it gets for the horses.  So many people seem so greedy. I have to agree that too many horses are bred.  It's like having a child. You should be responsible for the horse the rest of its life, as with any animal that you have.

I would love to have a horse, but there is no way that I could afford one.  Just only wish that there was an easy fix to this, but as long as you have people that want more, more & more and don't want to be responsible for what they already have, this problem will exist.

22 Jul 2008 9:38 PM

Thank you needler and Ezevans.  There are way too many unwanted horses in this world.  It isn't just a thoroughbred problem - it's present in all walks of horsey life.  The problem I see is this:  people have a mare.  She isn't sound or good tempered enough to ride, so they breed her.  Also, people have a colt and they don't geld him because they want to make money standing him at stud.  There are so many mediocre and poor quality stallions out there of all breeds that SHOULD NOT be reproducing.  If we focused on producing sound horses with the appropriate temperaments to do their jobs and not breeding horses that shouldn't be bred, we would have a fewer number of horses that are of higher quality.  They would be easier to find owners for because they would be horses that somebody would want.  I don't like the idea of horses being slaughtered either, but where I am there are many horses either starving to death in their own stables or being turned loose to fend for themselves and they starve or are killed on the road.  The owners can't afford to feed them and can't find anyone to take them for free.  I can go to the auction barn and buy a horse for under $50.  People need to stop breeding horses just because the horses are physically capable of producing a foal and start only breeding for quality.  The problem in the horse industry is really no different than it is for all the unwanted dogs and cats in this country.  The unwanted horses are just more difficult and expensive to either dispose of or care for.

22 Jul 2008 10:39 PM
BBBig Mare

Hey folks the tail has been wagging the dog for a long time! Unless the good Lord has blessed you with a major money earner the owner has been toating the ever increasing load of supporting racing and their horses in a world of decreasing purses.Commercial Breeders, Stallion Syndicates, Sales companies, pinhookers etc. make money on the hope of success before the animal ever reaches the track (and in many instances alot of damage has already been done).  Don't blame the little guy (small breeder)

Blame the greedy commercial operations. Remember when a full book was 40 mares? Now a days seems as if your stallion isn't covering over 100 mares  here and then shipping to the Southern Hemisphere he ain't jack!  I breed and race my own and still have and support all of my products.  Oh, and have supported  two geldings which I did not breed or race therefore never earning me a red cent but somehow managed to care for them until they were almost 30! I struggle to keep my head above water financially.  Like so many others I wonder how I am  going to  afford hay and grain. There are many people out there that do care about and for their horses....unfortunately in this day only the negative things seem to  get most of the media coverage.

22 Jul 2008 10:41 PM

Great Blog! I fought and will continue to fight for the Horse Slaughter issue(s) and know fully well that it now becomes harder for solutions to be found for their retirement care. I agree that these owners should be totally responsible for their care and welfare until the end. Either a Social Security plan or a Long-term insurance plan such as we have for our human elderly. It is possible and very likely, the only way to ensure they are taken care of. And I believe as well, that it should be a law, not voluntary. And if you can't afford it, don't get involved in the sport. With all the issues and media attention on the sport right now, this also will soon become another very public issue, mark my words. Kudos to Old Friends, The Horse Foundation, Rerun and other equine retirement facilities for doing what they do.

And Kudos to you Herb, once again, great blog!!

22 Jul 2008 11:00 PM

An additional $50. too much of a burden on owners!!??  You must be kidding!  The only burden here is the one the horses bear -- human stupidity!  Toss in greed!

23 Jul 2008 7:34 AM

I agree if you can't afford to carry them their entire life if need be, don't get into this business. But, I know that the greatest intentions don't always pan out. People lose their jobs, people get hurt or sick and cna't keep their jobs, or can't take care of them. We in this business need to help each other, and especially help the horses.

23 Jul 2008 10:33 AM
horse lover in Indiana

I totaly agree with needler and ezevans, I had two horses thoroughbreds that we had until they died at ages 27 & 28. Our thoroughbreds that we did have after they got done racing, we did find good home, one is a stable pony, the other two are hunter jumpers. I agree that we are over breeding and the wealthy are to blame, they want the money but they don't really care about the horses after they race or how much money will they get. I love the sport but if you can't afford it don't have the horse.

23 Jul 2008 11:46 AM

I ageree with all of the comments made above. Friends, who know little about racing, criticize me for donating to horse retirement, rehabilitation, and rescue organizations when they see million-dollar Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup purses and hear about 7-figure yearling auction prices. As a start, money that exists within the industry needs to be reinvested for post-retirement care. It could be a $50 set aside as a part of registration, a percentage donation requirement based on sale proceeds, a purse donation either made by or required by the track for each winning race....... Long term, reducing the number of foals born each year, is crucial. It's hard to attract new fans to the sport when a $1.9 million yearling wins the $1 million Belmont Stakes and there isn't money in the industry to support retirement programs.    

23 Jul 2008 11:48 AM

Three thoughts here: The idea of a Social Security system for horses is surely a fine idea.  Will it work? Only if better than our own SS system which does not work so well, we find. The idea should be considered, though, and if implemented, done so properly.  Secondly, there are not a lot of horses roaming loose about the countryside, Herb.  Do not trust the US Dept. of Agriculture in this matter, for they are working round the clock to keep horse slaughter legal in the U.S. Those reports are nationwide propaganda, meant to frighten us all into thinking horse slaughter is necessary. Notice that their unwanted horses figure of 100,000 equals the number of horses sent to slaughter?  These propagandist articles have been researched methodically by solid researchers.  They are false and have no basis in fact. What is not widely known is that demand for horsemeat is not directly associated with unwanted horses. Horses go to slaughter because there is a demand for horsemeat in Europe and Asia. Like any free market economy product, if there is demand, a supply will be created. So do not fall into that trap of thinking that thousands of horses roam homeless. Homeless horses have not created the slaughter market economy, as Agriculture would have you believe. Rather, the horses getting slaughtered go straight from the racetrack, stable, or riding camp to auction or to the slaughterhouse BECAUSE there is a demand for horsemeat. This is a very different scenario altogether. The Dept. of Agriculture would like us think that without slaughter, the horses would starve to death. I think not. What will instead happen is a slowdown in the entire slaughter pipeline, with a temporary glut of 'product' (please excuse this term, in referring to horses here). When supply dwindles, demand will be met elsewhere in this case.  That is to say: If Americans stop sending horses to slaughter in Canada and Mexico, those countries will find other sources; American horses will be rehomed properly and without having to pay higher prices to outbid the slaughter dealers; Horse slaughter dealers will have less spiffy trucks to drive and may have to find new jobs; Breeders will think twice before breeding so many, so easily; and perhaps we may even take better care of the horses we have, because it won't be so very easy to replace the last one we threw away.

 Lastly, the public should know that horse slaughter is terribly, terribly cruel.  It is not euthanasia by any standard.  It is a horrible and haunting way to die. Thank you.  

23 Jul 2008 12:38 PM

Something needs to be done and it needs to be done now. This is a problem that has been around for a long time and it is only getting worse and to much time is spent talking about it and not doing anything about it. I think something must be done about the number of horses being bred and also a fund set up for when they are registered. We have to protect these horses that give us their lives for our enjoyement. I have an adopted X-racehorse from the TRF. I had wanted him for Dressage but unforunately he has had soundness problems from the day I got him and he is basically unable to be ridden. I just took him out of the pasture the other day and groomed him and put a saddle on him but he is really favoring his leg. For now I can keep him, but he is becoming expensive. I am very attached to him and want him to have a long happy life but he will forever just be a pasture ornament. He just deserves to be happy and healthy. He is a War Admiral grand son.

23 Jul 2008 4:04 PM

Excellent start! EVERYONE, write the Jockey Club about this. Tell your friends to write them. Start exerting some pressure. Why can't an extra $5 be tacked onto nomination fees, and race entry fees for the same purpose? Why can't an extra $25 be tacked onto Owner's license fees? And the sales should have to give a percentage of their take - something small, like .025%, but when $400 million dollars trade hands in 10 days like it did a couple of years ago at Keeneland, that is REAL money.

Secondly, and no one will like this: it should be mandatory to be licensed to breed ANY pet. Yes, ANY pet. Cattle, sheep, goats, designated as livestock for consumption, no. But there are too many unwanted horses, dogs, cats, birds, you name it. Most idiots in the horse world (sporthorses, too!) get a mare figuring that when she cannot perform anymore (some sooner than later), she can be bred.

This is a sick and horrible mentality. Some guidelines should be established.

23 Jul 2008 4:14 PM

This is a nightmare problem for many reasons.

First, there are not enough horses to support racing programs as they are, so reducing their number bred would be illogical.

Second, this nonsense of "don't breed them if you can't support them for life" is idiotic on so many levels I will just abandon responding.

These are animals.  They are livestock.  I don't support eating them or killing them for food.  But horses live a long time, and eventually they will attain numbers that will prevent them from being supported.  But until that times comes and another secondary solution can be found, generating a trust fund for racehorses is a great idea and should be implemented at the foundation thru the Jockey Club as the author suggested.

Great idea whose time has come.

Thank you.

23 Jul 2008 6:21 PM

Bravo to Everyone!! IF, and it's a redundant word, but IF I had the kind of money it takes to race horses, you'd better believe I'd cover their expenses for their lifetime. Let's face it, insuring your car is anywhere from $500 up to $1500 and more per year. Each year, putting an amount equivalent to a years care into A Retired Horse Longterm Insurance plan would work. God knows if I had the kind of money to start a business, that would be it! It's a great idea.... "Longterm care Farms" where the insurance policy goes into effect when the horse can no longer have a career of any kind, and just needs a place to be healthy, taken care of and happy. If a horse finishes racing and is sold to a new owner for another career~stable pony, Hack, or hunt for example, the new owner would take over the insurance payments. This would ensure that his care would be provided when he can no longer "work". This would end any thoughts of another Excellor or Ferdinand meeting a horrific end, along with any other of our equines. Some call us too soft for this sport, but if looking the other way while the horror of slaughter continues, I don't really care what they call me. I can sleep at night.....

Keep the ideas coming and maybe someone in a position to act, will.

23 Jul 2008 9:29 PM

BBBigMare!! You are an exeption that's for sure, and God Bless you. I know breeders, owners and trainers are out there, that do "right" by their horses, no matter the cost to themselves. But, there are also owners that will stand in front of a horse, look him in the eye and shoot it in the head. It's true, but they too are the exceptions. Right in between there are those that decide for whatever reason that "HorseX" is done, they then sell him/her to anyone. They never know that the horse probably ended up in a kill auction. There's a story on Bloodhorse where a woman saved a horse from the Kill auction. She found a tattoo, researched the horse for quite a while. She eventually found it's bloodline. I believe it is a filly, and great-great-great Grandsire was Seabiscut. I've searched for the article but I can't find it now. The good news is the farm that Seabiscut recuperated on and trained at is a Historic Site now and reserved for all ancestors of Seabiscut! But for a few hours, this race horse would have been on it's way to slaughter, the original owners never knowing... and would they have cared?? Do they now??

23 Jul 2008 10:05 PM

Not sure now if that article was in Bloodhorse, but while looking I found this great article. It's about a racehorse, his almost demise and his rescue. It also lays out what an owner should do....very interesting viewpoint!


23 Jul 2008 10:41 PM

Great idea. And another solution: limit the number of foals produced each year! The market is over-saturated with horses.

How about this? Limit every stallion's book to 50 mares (I'd prefer 35, but don't think breeders would go for that). Limit the number of foals a mare can produce to a maximum of 10 lifetime. There is no iron-clad solution, but this might help.

Colts not good enough for breeding are gelded, but people go ahead and breed the poor-quality fillies. Maybe the lower-class mares should be spayed. End this "well she couldn't run a lick and she's not very sound, but maybe I can breed her up" mentality. Sure, you can cite many mares that were useless on the track but produced great horses. However, is it worth it to the industry when over-population of Thoroughbreds is such a problem? Why produce 100 or 200 foals from poor mares to try to get one John  Henry? Good, sound race mares produce good foals, too, and generally the odds are better using them for breeding.

Whatever the solution, something needs to be done.

24 Jul 2008 2:23 AM

I just retired a horse I used to be part of.  He was claimed some time back.  I was distraught losing him, knowing that now I no longer had control of his outcome.  I loved that horse, spent many hours with him.  A real hard knocker.  Didn't always collect a purse, but he did give me the pleasure of standing in the winners circle once.  How could I turn my back on him?  So, I followed him.  It broke my heart to see he was disqualified from his follow-up second place finish for having illegal drugs in his system.  Still I watched him.  Passed from owner to owner to owner.  Recently, his charts showed he was not running well at all.  I searched out his current owners and offered to take him.  His last race was a $4,000. claimer at Finger Lakes.  After another bad finish and dropping from the heat, I was so fortunate to get the call that I could take him.  I so appreciated that his current owners were willing to let go when the time was right.  

I feel like I just saved the world!  

I'm not sure I'm cut out for this sport.  With the bulk of races being claiming, it seems like horses just pass through to new hands, out of sight out of mind.  How do individuals do this?  

This guy just arrived home and I can't wait to see him frolic in a field, graze and understand what being a horse is like.  He's my second one off the track and that means eating left overs for dinner more often.  I can live with that, if it means I know he's safe.  

It's crazy to think we as owners can't pony up (yes, pun) another $50.00 to support a life after racing.  This will not only save their lives, it will define who we are as the human race.  

Please everyone, write the Jockey Club, NTRA, The House Subcommittee, send letters to media outlets and other sources that will put the word out in the general public - the best way to affect change in this world.  

24 Jul 2008 1:47 PM

Okay, giving every retired racehorse a place to live for the rest of it's life is a nice idea, but illogical and impossible. I don't care how much money you have to take care of them all, in short order there will be no room for them or enough people to care for them. Do the math. Let's just say 10,000 racehorses retire in a year. Reasonable, since about 35,000 foals are produced a year. So now, 10,000 horses need a home. In 5 years there's 50,000 horses hanging out at retirement facilities. You have got to see where I'm going with this. How many acres will be needed for 50,000 horses? How many volunteers (or heck, paid help) will you need? How many people willing to adopt these horses will you need every year? You will get to a saturation point. This can't possibly be done in the long term. Horses live a long time. I'm an animal lover and I've rescued many animals, but I'm also a realist. So although I admire all you bleeding hearts out there, please, take off your rose-colored glasses.

I am in favor of setting up breeding criteria for thoroughbreds in order to limit the number of foals produced. You cannot use race record because too many mediocre runners have been good producers. I say you give each horse a chance at stud. For example, if a mare hasn't produced a quality runner after 5 foals, she has her papers pulled. If a stallion's percentages fall short of what is considered successful after, say, 3 crops to race, he is gelded. Inferior animals really need to be culled. Look at any sales catalog. So many horses in there have pathetic pages and no business being bred.

We must also remember it is not just thoroughbred breeders that are contributing to the problem. The AQHA registry is larger than the Jockey Club. They are part of the problem too, and the arabian breeders, and the saddlebred breeders, and paso finos......etc.

I say we do this:1) All breeds limit the number of foals produced each year by using certain criteria.  2) Make euthanasia and disposal a free service. That removes the excuse that people can't afford to do it. 3) Bring back slaughter but regulate it so it is humane for horses. Right now they are treated like cattle, in slaughterhouses designed for cattle. From what I keep reading, that is the main complaint. I am not against slaughter as long it is done humanely, no matter what the species. Heck, I care about cows and chickens, too.

I'm a small time breeder. Just because you are small doesn't mean cheap. I bred one mare a year that was a nice stakes/allowance producer. Her foals would sell well. She is now pensioned on my farm. I feel a responsibility to pay her back. I acquired another mare to replace her, but she has developed some infirmities that deems her unsuitable for future breeding or even pleasure riding. So I have a choice to make. 1) Give her away. Not only would it be hard to find a taker, there would be no guarantee she would not be bred again. 2) Donate her to a rescue. Rescues are overflowing with sound, healthy horses that have futures. She does not. 3) Pension her. The cost of caring for horses has grown considerably. I simply cannot afford another pasture ornament. 4) Euthanize her. And yes, that is what I've decided to do come fall. I know with her problems the winter will be too hard on her. It will be difficult for me to do, but I think it will be best. I think that's being responsible. I wish more people would think about what they are doing with their horses.

I'm sure I haven't made any friends here, but this is how I see things.

24 Jul 2008 2:09 PM

I have never thought slaughter was the answer to unwanted horses.  It's now illegal in the US (yea!), but unfortunately, hauling horses intended for slaughter across state lines, and international borders is not, and there are far fewer humane laws in effect in Mexico than there were here.  If there are too many horses, perhaps one of the answers lie in the inspections most European breeds require for a horse (mare or stallion) to produce registerable offspring.  Fewer horses available for breeding (not sure how that could apply in the TB, but breeding for soundness as well as speed makes sense) would certainly ease that problem.  

Maybe a designated government-funded humane euthanasia location in each state (or county).  Ugly to kill someone because no one wants them anymore, but it beats slaughter, where every death is violent.  If someone can't afford a government-subsidized $50 or $75 to humanely destroy and dispose of their horse, they have no business owning them in the first place.

 I fail to see how anyone who advocates sending horses they no longer want to slaughter auctions can say they "love" horses.  Love to them means something very different from what it means to me!  (Glad I'm not married to one of them--slaughter may be cheaper than divorce!)

24 Jul 2008 2:16 PM

treat the animals fair...LLTK!!!

24 Jul 2008 7:09 PM

I'd like to applaud the responsible, caring people in this business.  I picked up a young nonprofitable broodmare not long ago to reschool as a show horse.  She was bred by Lucky Shamrock.  Her papers not only have a number for Rerun on them, but they also have Kim Zito's phone number on them.  It's great to see that high profile people like these really care about their horses.

24 Jul 2008 10:43 PM
Lisa Amarino


This idea of a 'social security' system for thoroughbreds is an idea that has been tossed around for years- however it's an idea that needs SERIOUS consideration and can't happen soon enough. I am a private rescue individual and dedicate my time to providing assistance to non-profit rescues focused on thoroughbreds as well as saving thoroughbreds directly out of the NY killpen. I know first hand the difficulties the non-profit rescues struggle with financially to support these thoroughbreds and that burden needs to shift and in my opinion, it needs to be a shared union to include OWNER RESPONSIBLITY.

Often times we discover horses with poultice still on their legs standing in the killpen- and once safely removed discover injuries that had the former connections been responsible humane euthanasia should be the choice instead of squeezing the last dime on the horses life only to ship to slaughter. Slaughtering of this nations horses is not the solution and it is an un-acceptable means of death (in my opinion).

There is a dire need to begin finding solutions to this multi faceted problem. Installing an additional fee at the time of registration paid by the owner to a designated 'retirement fund'- perhaps taking a portion of any fee and establishing a euthanasia fund to assist owners in making the right choice all would be a step in the right direction for both the horses and the equine welfare and retirement organizations. I will continue to await the time when the Jockey Club and the thoroughbred industry unite to embrace a win-win SOLUTION and step in the right direction for this nations thoroughbred horses.  

24 Jul 2008 11:24 PM

W! As I said, call me a bleeding heart, I can sleep at night. My heart does not bleed, but it aches. Enough said. We are saturated with human elderly in Nursing homes as well, what's your answer there? Nursing homes and Long Term Care were created to ensure the quality of the elderly, it is a booming business. The same could be done for the horses, it would create a new business and new jobs. My Mom has some  "infirmities" which will cause her to retire and therefore becoming a burden. Should I give her away, donate her, pension her or euthanize her? Never mind....

Deb, you've made my day!!! There should be more like you.

24 Jul 2008 11:33 PM

Cindy, I support ReRun and Old Friends!! Superb champions for horses!! And I've heard often that the Zito's both are heavily involved with both the slaughter issue and the retiree issues. There are many caring people in the industry, they just aren't "front page news." Unfortunately the negativity is what makes front page news. I don't care what anyone says, you should always do everything you can NOT to euthanize. That should be only the last option.

24 Jul 2008 11:40 PM

the days of running cheap claimers are over. When the public sees that these horses have the same fate as grayhounds,,the squawk to end horse racing,,will be too loud too ignor. The folks that run the industry had better get their ducks, in a row. To your registration fee,,and a small auction fee.

25 Jul 2008 6:08 AM
Bryce Be Quick

As the owner of a 30-start guy now retrained as an accomplished eventer, I warmly endorse this attention to the single biggest challenge facing the industry.

Your's a good plan, but does it address, as others here suggest, the underlying problem of overbreeding? The recently conducted Blood-Horse study "Are We Losing the Iron Horse", documents horses are now making fewer starts, but it is also the case many more horses are now making it to the starting gate. This suggests, maong other things, overbreeding to me, and there are certainly many other economic factors further suggesting we are no longer in the racing business, we are in the breeding business (look at how few in tact 3 YOs ever see a track at 4)

Bottom Line-- the breeding fee does not adequately reflect the true "life cycle" costs associated with breeding, to include what happens to the horse after the last start. These costs should be internalized into the cost of breeding-- don't wait until its time to register with the Jockey Club (although that fee appropriate as well)-- breeders should be required to collect a per cover surcharge before the mare enters the breeding shed, with failure to collect and remit the fee negating subsequent Jockey Club registration of the foal.

Sadly, just one more area where a badly fragmented industry has failed its four-legged athletes, with the advent of the modern- day  "chemical horse" being yet another.

25 Jul 2008 8:53 AM

a social security system for thoroughbreds. sounds like an awesome idea to me. we can't get the jockey club to go for this? and W, you're right too. imagine the amount of land, feed, care it would take to house thousands of horses! not to mention the time and effort it takes to re-school the sound ones for other careers. and when they are re-schooled, who do you find to want them even then? the market is saturated with ex racehorses. (just look on any website that lists horses for sale.)not that i think we should give up trying - we can never do that. we owe it to the horses. it's just not a simple solution. i own 2 ex racers currently, and it's a struggle,-i'm not a rich person - but i'm committed to them. they've become like my children and i'd be afraid of what might happen to them if i ever sold them or didn't own them anymore.

25 Jul 2008 10:18 AM

Please no more "limit breeding " comments.  Everyone is entitled to breed any horse whether they can support said animal or not, and plently of ill bred champions (John Henry comes to mind) would not have been born by any limit standards.

25 Jul 2008 12:13 PM

1.) Fifty dollars, schmifty dollars! How about $100 when registering a foal? If you can't allocate a hundred bucks than you should not be the horse industry! Hell, people spend fifty dollars on lottery tickets hoping to strike it big.

2. Overbreeding. God forbid we put a cap on breeding like Germany does.

3. "Get 'em off the payroll TODAY!" How many times have you heard that from an owner? I just took in a horse that was going to a friend of a friend of the trainer, er, meat man, because the owner wanted him gone. The horse's crime? He didn't like racing.

4. Another breeder/owner had a horse that made him $250,000 while he owned him. Now that horse is 9 years old and running in low level claimers for other people. That breeder/owner publicly expresses interest in the horse's retirement but privately isn't willing to pay anything to get him out of these lllooowwww level claimers.

BREEDERS and OWNERS need to take more responsibility in their horses well being not just when it looks like they could make the breeder/owner money.

PS: Play the lottery if you want to strike it rich without any responsibility.

25 Jul 2008 1:17 PM

Raising the registration fee for each foal is a great start, but I don't think that $50 is enough.  While two million dollars sounds like a lot of money, it won't begin to cover the expenses for all of the Thoroughbreds in need of a safe haven upon their retirement from racing.

How about a multi-faceted funding plan in which each person ever connected to the horse pays into a general retirement fund.  If, in addition to the breeders, the consignors, bloodstock agents, owners, trainers, jockeys and jock's agents all had to contribute even a minimal amount to help ensure that the horses they depend upon to make a living, the future of our horses would be much more secure.  That the industry hasn't already provided a safety net for its athletes is inexcusable and will absolutely become an even bigger issue as the  public begins to understand where many of the Thoroughbreds end up.

The entire industry should share the responsibility for the horses.  No more sticking its collective head in the sand and pretending that its okay that the horses it produces are not protected.  If you can't afford to pay up to help support the horses, then get into a different business.  

25 Jul 2008 6:06 PM

Interesting concept - Social Security for retired race horses.  Sure hope the same administration running the one we have for humans doesn't have a hand in the horse trough so to speak.

One other thing to keep in mind is the other breeds.  At least the Thoroughbred mare can only produce one foal per year where some of the other breeds, i.e. Quarter Horse, etc. can be artificially bred using multiple embryo/AI fertilization and produce up to five foals per year.  Who's going to set up their social security system???

25 Jul 2008 10:10 PM

The problem lie's with the lack of control over breeding. When Breeders can make twice as much money from selling foal's/fillies then they produce more horses that will probably not have a long career on the racetrack. Every year more and more stallion's and mare's are being sent to breeding farm's around the world in hope's of one of them producing the next PRODEGY of the racing world. With horses such as Street Sense and posiabely Big Brown being sent in to retirement their racing potential has been cut short and the focus thus become's their ability to sire more colt's/fillie's to the racing community. I do applaude all those's who have taken responsibality and do the right thing every day. But for those who still INSIST on breeding for money you should know that most of them will at some point in time wind up going across our border's in to Mexico and Canada to slaughter houses!

26 Jul 2008 5:25 AM

It's a sad state of affairs for the sport of kings when the public has to watch a race and worry about the last place finisher. The industry needs to get a system in place to safeguard thoroughbreds that are in need of help.  

A central location..perhaps within the jockey club we're tatoos can be called in and owners/breeders fined if they're charge is found on route to slaughter.  They can be saved. We need to stop allowing the industry to dispose of these animals.

I will not vist Mexico or Canada..nor will I buy products produced there. These country's are part of the problem as far as I'm concerned.

26 Jul 2008 8:32 PM

W, your response is the best one so far that I have read. Unfortunately, the breeders will never do it, and I'm sure would go to court to fight any such laws regarding regulating breeding, while not supporting any sort of retirement farms, which the very rich who can afford to breed many mares and actually race horses, can afford to do. I think, which will never happen either, if you breed or race a certain # of horses per year, you should be required to buy 50 or more acres of land, it doesn't matter where, it could be a tax write off for them anyways, and staff it with people to care for unwanted horses. it would create jobs, help horses be rehabbed, retired or euthanized if required. of course that is almost as ridiculous as establishing breeding rules, for all, not just t-breds. In the end, the people that control the thoroughbred industry, as an example, (I know there are many other problem breeders), have too much money, and also own alot of other high profile industries with high profile connections, will NEVER agree to any limit on what they can do with their INVESTMENTS. So I truely believe, in the long run, when the problem gets way past out of control, (it's already that), that what we all dont want, the Government's involvement, will be the only way to put any kind of limit on anything. Which really sucks, because,again, money talks, and the people that most contribute to this overbreeding, at least in t-breds, are the big money farms etc. so in the end, only the small breeder, owner, and the part time horse lovers who really sacrifice alot in their daily lives to keep horses in a good home, will be the only ones "regulated" in my opinion. And so on. Also, while I'm on my ridiculous what rich owners should do thread, (partially inspired by old vine zinfandel:) instead of giving to charities we never hear of, if, again, you race more and breed more than a certain amount of horses a year, in addition to the 50 acres to be purchased for the express interest of retiring and rehoming horses, you should also be required to buy 50 acres of agricultural land ONLY  for the purpose of producing hay, oats, or other feed stuff for all grazing animals. Wow that is so ridiculous I'm almost laughing, but if I win the TN lotto tonight, thats what I'm doing!!:)

26 Jul 2008 10:57 PM

sixhorsessaved: Ummm... we've had horses "dumped" into our pastures, so I'll have to disagree with you on the propaganda thing.  We used to have to control access to prevent horses from getting stolen, now we lock up to keep people from dumping more on us.  People just can't afford to keep them and there's no market to sell them.

I'd love to see the industry get to a place where a horse has to be qualified to be bred for racing in order for their progeny to race.  Yeah, it is a hardship for the small-time breeder, but I think that they'd find a new way to be a part of breeding and I think that we'd have sounder horses and fewer homeless retirees.

26 Jul 2008 11:58 PM

acewendy7777: How many retired racers do you have in your pasture?  I agree that good horses can come from "Unfashionable" breedings, but you can't justify breeding irresponsibly because it pans out from time to time.  My horses stay with me for life or are placed in second careers with the right of first refusal when the new owner is done, so I make business decisions with that in mind.  It changes how I do things and a lot of times that's really inconvenient, but it allows me to love my sport and sleep well at night.

27 Jul 2008 12:05 AM

Ezevans you are so right! Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horse and Paints account for so much overbreeding it's ridiculous, trying to get that Futurity Winner or TC winner, and then by 4 or 5 they are tossed out the window (if it even takes that long) especially if they are geldings.

Suffolk Downs in New England instituted a "no tolerance" policy for a Suffolk horse to go to slaughter...there are some tracking problems to be ironed out, but it sure is a good start and a strong statement to owners and trainers.


27 Jul 2008 11:56 AM

This is an important conversation.  Thank you for starting this Mr. Moelis.  I am not in a position to have a direct influence on the lives of the horses.  I have followed the horse slaughter issue for some time.  I am very disappointed that we closed our slaughterhouses, only to have horses being sent on longer more hellish journeys to go to even worse slaughter houses in Canada, and Mexico.  Humane euthanization should be required by law.  Period.  Every horse owner should put aside enough money to humanely euthanize, and responsibly dispose of every horse they own.  I agree with those who pointed out that there aren't enough resources to keep the number of horses produced alive.  I don't like the idea of euthanizing healthy animals.  At least a large number of the unwanted dogs and cats are humanely euthanized.  

28 Jul 2008 6:26 AM
Rhonda Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Canada

I agree fully with Mr. Moelis and would go one step further.

I think in additon to the $50.00 charged at the time of foal registration,that everytime that horse is sold whether by auction or privately, that 1 percent of the sale price should also be mandatorily remitted. In this way, those who can most afford it pay a little more and still leaves room for the less well-heeled owner.

28 Jul 2008 2:38 PM
Gina Powell

Excellent article! Excellent comments and viable solutions. This must be tackled on a multi-faceted level. $50 from the Jockey CLub MANDATORY. Further, 1% of racetrack handle MANDATORY like Woodbine racetrack in Toronto. Since they have implemented this 1% (after vigorous lobbying), many retired racehorses have been saved. Any horse purchased at sales for more than $50,000 a MANDATORY 1% donation with the purchase. If an owner can afford $50,000 than they can afford the 1%. Racetracks should donate wagering handle from at least 1 race per month to the retirement organization. These are all viable options that do not place UNDUE stress on the horse. I have a question for the jockey club - what about the undue stress on a horse on the way to the slaughterhouse.Gina Powell

28 Jul 2008 4:22 PM
Sweet Spirits Stables


I could not read all the comments. As a small breeder (we have bred two and are thinking of a third (both well conformed)) we would gladly donate fifty dollars per to know such horses would have a future. And of course the more you breed the more you pay. I like this pay-as-you-use system. (as a matter of fact such a system all around would help the smaller player --make a trainer pay a license fee for every horse he runs and not just a single yearly fee--might just keep Scott Lake from claiming the one or two of our runners a year).

I think the Thoroughbred charities of America could start this without the Jockey Club, on a voluntary basis, (publish names of breeders that do contribute) at least until the Jockey Club steps up. Or maybe hand the funds over to the control of the disability fund for jocks and they could also collect a 10% management fee.

Best Regards,


For charity, play Name That Foal

see www.sweetspirits.us

29 Jul 2008 6:35 AM
Amy A.

I applaud Mr. Moelis' recommendation that The Jockey Club assess a fee for long term care of a foal upon its registration.  Such an assessment, which I would increase to $100, appears the only viable method of assuring that the growing problem of the unwanted horse is addressed, as many breeders and owners seem unwilling to take what should be a primary responsibility.  

Thoroughbred Charities, with the assistance of  TOBA, with which it is now affiliated, it the obvious avenue for equitable distribution of these collected fees.  TCA, having been in existence for 18 years, has a comprehensive and responsible grant approval methodology in place.  I would encourage members of The Jockey Club to meet with TCA's Executive Director, Liz Harris, to observe the procedure developed and utilized by TCA's Board of Directors.  I feel sure that after observing this process, the members of The Jockey Club would feel confident in assigning the distribution process to TCA.

29 Jul 2008 7:34 AM

I think it is a wonderful idea. If an owner does not want to pay then maybe something should be done to stop that owner from breeding or owning anymore horses. There is a responsibility to breeding and owning a horse. It's not just for the glory of winning it is also providing after the racing career is over. Let's make it common practice. Go for it.

29 Jul 2008 7:41 AM
Stanley Gillman

When is there going to be some sanity inserted into this issue of horse slaughter.  If there are 100,000 horses that need to be fed and trimmed and wormed the cost assuming $100 per horse per month would be $10 million per month.  Where does Herb think this is coming from.  Are we in denial that horses die?

Maybe we could start by the Jockey Club restricting the number of TB's that are registered each year.  What is accomplished by breeding an unraced mare non-producing mare to an unraced poorly bred stallion?

Maybe if we bred few horses that could race longer we could make a dent in both the unwanted horse numbers and the problem of few starts per horse as hi-lighted in the same issue.

Two issues on opposite sides of the same coin.

Stanley Gillman

Seattle, WA.

01 Aug 2008 2:27 PM
Patricia Bewley

bravo Mr. Moelis for saying what needs to be said. Owner Responsibility ! Why are there people who " rescue" thousands of Thoroughbreds every year from the slaughter pens and the people who benefited from the horses earnings is no where to be found. This problem can be fixed, instantly if the HBPA's and racetrack mangements unite in fudning to retire racehorses and that money is in the purses. A small percentage will ensure horses will be retired instead of brutualy slaughtered. Our own 501 3 C , the R.A.C.E. Fund has a well structured business plan on how this works. The racing industry must stand up and take care of their own instead of expecting people to donate constantly to take care of someone elses horse. Our plan is working at Penn National Racetrack right now and will work at every track. www.racefund.org

03 Aug 2008 9:30 AM

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