(Originally published in the July 31, 2010 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
In all the years I have been learning about and trying to practice good horsemanship, the admonition to “always do what’s right for the horse” has been a constant from my co-workers, bosses, mentors, and those I admire and try to emulate. “Take care of the horse, and he’ll take care of you.” All decisions in the horse business made outside that guiding principle—the equivalent of a moral compass—inevitably lead to failure.
Ensuring a good life for our horses when their racing or breeding careers have ended is an issue that has come to prominence over the past several years, and the welfare of unwanted horses has become a hot-button issue. Herb and Ellen Moelis recognized this long ago when it was not something many people were talking about or thinking about. Not only did Herb and Ellen recognize the problem and talk about the problem, they resolved to do something about it. Along with a handful of others sharing the same concerns, they founded Thoroughbred Charities of America, a fundraising effort that has distributed more than $17 million to more than 200 accredited charities that work to fulfill TCA’s mission of providing a better life for Thoroughbreds both during and after their racing careers by supporting retirement, rescue, and research and by helping the people who work with them. Herb and Ellen have given enormously over the years—their time, energy, and resources. Their efforts have made a huge difference in the lives of horses and people. But just as importantly, through their efforts they also have raised the awareness of the plight of unwanted horses and raised in all our consciences our obligation to be responsible for them.
Herb stepped down as president of TCA recently, and I have picked up the mantle and will try to advance Herb’s work. An important part of this column is to recognize and honor Herb for his contributions and accomplishments and for what he has done to remind us of our moral responsibilities toward our horses.
The second important part of this column is to stress what still needs to be done. TCA holds an annual dinner and auction as our main fundraising event. I am proud to say it has grown year after year with the hard work and the support of the TCA board and also the generosity and support of most of the major farms throughout the United States, Keeneland, and Fasig-Tipton. (It is important to note that we have distributed $.96 of every $1 raised.)
We have other equally important sources of funding. The Jockey Club collects contributions from breeders through the foal registration application, then adds to these contributions through profits from its subsidiaries to provide $200,000 to TCA and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Fasig-Tipton created Blue Horse Charities, which is funded by a voluntary .25% contribution from each buyer and seller at their sales, and Fasig-Tipton matches all contributions up to .25%. Fasig-Tipton pays all administrative costs of Blue Horse Charities. Grants are awarded in consultation with TCA. And the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association provides an option for new and renewing members to make a donation when paying dues.
We have made great progress, but so much more needs to be done. Rescue, retirement, and adoption programs all over the country are at capacity and struggling.
It is morally wrong to wash our hands of horses we have bred, own, or formerly owned. All of us need to opt in with The Jockey Club and Blue Horse Charities when we register a foal, sell a horse, or buy a horse. All of us need to make a donation toward horse retirement programs when renewing our membership with TOBA.
We need retirement programs with more sale companies and racetracks. We also need to keep track of horses we have bred or formerly owned once they are sold and to assume our responsibilities toward them. We need to stop racing our horses while they are still sound so that they can have second careers instead of injecting joints and dropping them into claiming races to get one more race out of them and then let them be someone else’s problem. I’m challenging us all to think about what we are doing, or not doing, to live up to our moral obligations. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.
Dan Rosenberg is the owner of Rosenberg Thoroughbred Consulting, based in Midway, Ky.