By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
The Stronach family's Adena Springs is known in the Thoroughbred industry as a successful breeder and owner participating in the highest levels of the game in the United States and Canada, but the Stronachs are also advocates for responsible aftercare.
In addition to supporting outside aftercare nonprofits and initiatives, Adena Springs has its own aftercare program to help former Adena runners find second careers. Launched in 2004, the program is based out of Adena Springs North near Aurora, Ontario. I spoke with Adena Retirement Program's Maria Turner about running a successful aftercare program.
How did this start and why does Adena keep the program in house?
"The program was started back in 2004 as the Stronach family felt a responsibility and commitment to care for their horses beyond the racing years. Our goal is to match horses with loving owners who will make a lifelong commitment to their health, happiness, and well-being.
"As far as keeping it in house, it's quite manageable to have it here at the farm in Aurora. We're lucky enough to work out of Nikki Walker's (granddaughter of Frank Stronach) barn.
"Future goals for the program are to perhaps become a charity and become accredited by the TAA (Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance) so we can apply for grants and be independent financially."
What happens when it's time for an Adena runner to retire?
"When a horse is nearing retirement, our vet works closely with me on deciding what new discipline they would be suitable for, and we decide what is the best approach for their new career. Most horses need down time, turnout, and a new feed program. We also provide them with any vet treatments they may require before starting back to work. After this, we introduce them to their new training program.
"Some horses come up to the barn and I can rehome them right away. That's ideal because it's better for them to go into another working (environment). So we assess them, give them the downtime if needed, and just get them working again on the ground if they're not being ridden."
Scallywag, an Adena Springs homebred and retirement program graduate.
Photo: Ian Woodley
What's the horse-matching process for a potential adopter like?
"In the beginning we did more marketing ... but now, thankfully, we have such a good reputation and some of the horses that we've rehomed have gone on to do quite well in upper levels ... so I now have more people asking than I have horses. That's an awesome place to be. Typically what happens as soon as I have a nice sound horse come in, I can place him within a few days.
"When contacted, I interview all candidates and if I think (a horse) would be a good match, they come for a test ride. If it's a good fit, we sell the horse with a contract and retired-from-racing form. Some horses go immediately and others need more time. We don't rush the process.
"Currently, I only have one retiree. This year I've been really fortunate, I've had some nice horses and they came in and left right away. Not too many with injuries. Luckily, the Stronach family is good about retiring them while they're still capable to do other things.
"This year I've probably (rehomed) maybe 10. Last year I did quite a few, probably near 20. We're very lucky, we've got a really good group of people who are always checking in to see what I have. Word of mouth is great. I find that Facebook is really helpful, I can post a video and show a horse's progress and people get in touch with me quickly."