By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
The racing industry in Minnesota has recently increased its efforts to help retiring horses with life off the track.
Thanks to legislation passed in 2015, fines collected from rulings at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Casino & Racetrack were allocated to a fund, which awarded $46,000 to three aftercare organizations this fall. The three organizations selected were Bowman Second Chance Thoroughbred Adoptions, This Old Horse, and Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program.
"The rescues we selected stood out to us due to the volume of horses taken from the racetrack and the numbers that are rehomed," said Stephanie Neises of the Minnesota Racing Commission. "We were also pleased to see rescues willing to take on horses that are otherwise unadoptable due to injury. These unrideable horses are being used in programs that require no riding and serve out their days as ambassadors for their breed and also show the quality of life after racing."
All three organizations that received donations have a similar mission of helping ex-racehorses, but differ in the services they provide. The North Dakota-based Bowman Second Chance Thoroughbred Adoptions and New York-based Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program work to help Thoroughbreds transition to life off the track and find suitable second careers and homes. The Hastings, Minn.-based This Old Horse is a sanctuary and rescue for horses of various breeds. A small committee at the MRC reviewed applications for funds before selecting these three nonprofits.
"Applications were reviewed and screened to ensure all applicants were active 501(c)(3) nonprofits in good active standing with the IRS," Neises said, adding that the committee to a close look at organizations that were requesting monetary assistance for feed, vet care, and other needs directly related to the care of horses.
"Our selection criteria gives priority to rescue organizations that actively take horses from Minnesota racetracks and also the volume of horses those rescues take and ultimately rehome."
Stephanie Neises and OTTB Purest Form. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Neises
In addition to awarding those funds, Neises said that the Minnesota Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association increased a per start fee that goes toward aftercare programs. In 2018, the fee will be $5 and will be matched by Canterbury Park. The funds are distributed to local aftercare and rehoming facilities.
"The Minnesota HBPA and Canterbury Park have been doing a spectacular job of increasing per start fees to benefit racehorse retirement and aftercare for years," she said.
Although progress has been made, there are still areas for future development—and Neises has some big ideas.
"Wishful thinking for me would be to have a small barn located on the track property where retired horses can go to start their next career," she said.
"We need more rescues willing to take on horses that aren't perfect or need time off," she added. "These athletes have given us their all for years and sometimes they need to relax before moving into their next career. We need more folks who see the diamond in the rough and the limitless potential these fantastic animals have to excel in every discipline under the sun."