Since launching tours in 2015, Horse Country has given the public an opportunity to see inside Kentucky's top breeding farms where Thoroughbreds are foaled and raised—but now they are adding another location to show what happens to Thoroughbreds once their racing careers are finished.
Starting March 18 through the "Meet The Neighbors" tour, the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC) will be opening its doors for visitors to see what the life of a Thoroughbred can be like once they leave the track. The MMSC is a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited facility located at the Kentucky Horse Park.
"We always knew that (aftercare) is a very important part of the story and we wanted to be able to showcase those locations in tours," said Anne Sabatino Hardy, executive director of Horse Country. "I think one of the greatest things that we can do is make sure (to show how) we care for the animals who are involved in our sport.
"For any working location, it is an adjustment to having tours, and the Meet The Neighbors opportunity was just the right time for the Secretariat Center to take the jump," she said, mentioning that Horse Country looks forward to possibly working with other local aftercare organizations in the future.
The Maker's Mark Secretariat Center's executive director Susanna Thomas said her reason for wanting to get involved with Horse Country was five-fold: To raise awareness of Thoroughbreds in second careers; to educate the public about what the industry is doing in aftercare; to promote adoptions (through MMSC or other locations); to be an asset to the Horse Park; and to show MMSC's appreciation for the Thoroughbred-rich Central Kentucky area.
"I think people need to know what happens after racing," Thomas said. "Because it doesn't stop after they head back to the barn. There's a whole exciting new chapter in these magnificent animals' lives and it seemed to me that that story needed to be told."
Tours through the MMSC will be hands-on and interactive—visitors will be able to feed the horses a treat or participate in a demonstration of the MMSC's Horse Centered ReSchooling Program, which evaluates the physical and mental well-being of every individual horse when planning their retraining.
Thomas said being a part of Horse Country allows the MMSC to act as a billboard for the both the breed and the aftercare industry.
"In order to be a billboard for the breed and the industry, we have to have horses who can be ambassadors," she said. "We have to prepare them properly and match them correctly (for second careers), and we have to take every opportunity to educate. And what a fabulous way to do that through Horse Country tours."
Photo of Secretariat outside of the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center: Erin Shea