Neglected Ex-Racers Are a Black Eye on the Thoroughbred Industry

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By Avalyn Hunter

Life has been good for A.P. Indy.  A royally-bred horse who became a sales topper as a yearling, he went on to highly successful careers as a racehorse and stallion.  Thanks to the quality of his connections and his visibility, he will now live out the rest of his life as a well-cared-for pensioner.

For thousands of other Thoroughbreds, the picture is not nearly so rosy. The recent allegations surrounding the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, even if they prove unfounded, have served to highlight the plight of too many horses after their economic usefulness is gone: too many horses in need, and too little money to care for them all.

Thoroughbreds are more versatile than many people realize, and many horses do go on to new careers in other equine sports, in the show ring, or as pleasure mounts.  But what of the horse that is too crippled from injury for further use, or the failed stallion or broodmare that is too old to be an attractive prospect for retraining?  Pasture ornaments are not cheap to maintain, and not every breeder or owner has the means to care for horses that can do nothing to earn their keep.  Nor can the existing rescue and retirement organizations take them all; most are stretched to the limits as it is.

Breeders, owners, and trainers all bear some responsibility.  Fillies that lack racing talent and do not come from good winner-producing families should not be bred.  Colts lacking the pedigree, conformation, and athletic potential to make viable stallions should be gelded, and the sooner the better; a reasonably tractable gelding has a much better chance of finding a new home or a second career than an ill-mannered entire.  Trainers who abuse their responsibilities by racing cripples and misusing drugs should face stiff sanctions, including revocation of licenses for repeat offenders.  Owners have a moral responsibility to consider long-term plans for their horses based on more than just the bottom line, and to provide a humane ending for those that they cannot afford to pension and cannot place in a new home.

Many conscientious breeders, owners, and trainers take their responsibility to their horses very seriously, some going to great lengths to locate and rescue animals they have bred, owned, or cared for.  May their tribe increase, for bad publicity caused by starving or neglected ex-racehorses is one more black eye that the Thoroughbred industry does not need.

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