The Alliance and Aftercare = Progress

Last week, the NTRA’s Safety & Integrity Alliance launched a new microsite on devoted to aftercare. Click here or go directly to the microsite at  This site is the work of a lot of important people in racing, many of whom you probably don’t know because you rarely if ever read about them.  For years, there has been little knowledge of or understanding about the vast network (1000+ and growing) of retirement and retraining facilities for retired Thoroughbreds and other breeds of horse.  That is all changing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because more and more industry participants are becoming sensitive to the importance of aftercare.

When we formed the Safety & Integrity Alliance back in 2008, some were confused when we included as one of the central tenants of the Alliance Code of Standards a requirement that Alliance accredited tracks have a relationship with a local retirement or retraining group and assist trainers and owners who race at their tracks in placing retired Thoroughbreds off the track.  We quickly learned how little we knew about the area and so we formed an advisory Subcommittee known as the Alliance Aftercare Subcommittee. This Subcommittee is comprised of leaders in the aftercare world.  More importantly, they are some of the brightest minds and most caring individuals in racing.  The new aftercare microsite showcases their efforts on behalf of the industry. 

What exactly will you find on the pages of the aftercare microsite? A lot, including an internet-based resource designed to be a one-stop shop to educate owners, fans and other interested persons on the process of retiring racehorses.

The site is geared toward three main groups of individuals:

1.            People looking for information about how to place a retired racehorse. There you will find answers to questions about how to retire a horse and how to help fund retirement organizations;

2.            People looking for information about how to adopt a retired race horse, including a list of questions someone should ask before they adopt a retired Thoroughbred; and

3.            People who are involved with aftercare organizations and looking to improve their operations by acquiring information ranging from the calendar for upcoming gelding clinics to grant writing.

Also, there is a searchable map to find retirement and retraining organizations located near where you live and a listing of liaisons at Alliance-accredited (and even non-accredited) racetracks around the country.

The site highlights “Best Practices” from racetracks and aftercare organizations across the country.  The first featured Best Practice is the outstanding Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption program, which Alliance Executive Director Mike Ziegler termed “the best program the Alliance has ever reviewed”.

The Alliance Aftercare Subcommittee is just getting started.  With their help, the Alliance hosted a day-long seminar for aftercare organizations designed to give them advice from leading authorities in areas such as tax issues, legal matters and marketing, all free of charge.  The seminars were part of NTRA’s 2010 Professional Education program, supported by Pfizer Animal Health and Keeneland.   These 2010 aftercare seminars are posted on the site and we are already planning our 2011 agenda. We are excited to expand the offerings to include a discussion of new opportunities for retired Thoroughbreds in the show world. 

The Aftercare Subcommittee is also helping the industry solve one of its most vexing problems – aftercare funding.  All the good intentions in the world will be for naught if we can’t or won’t fund aftercare.  With the Subcommittee’s input, the Alliance is leading the way creating and sustaining a regular funding stream for equine retirement and adoption groups. Several states, including California, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania, automatically deduct either a fixed percentage or a flat fee from horsemen purse accounts to support equine retirement programs. Tracks and horsemen, along with breeders and owners through their participation in programs like The Jockey Club’s retirement check off program, are raising well into the seven-figures annually for equine retirement and retraining programs. As our strategies mature and more come on line, we will see even more funding for retirement and retraining of horses for their second careers.

Our industry is uniting around a common purpose to give our horses a secure future in a caring environment.

President Harry Truman once said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  This spirit of selflessness and devotion to the cause typifies each and every Alliance Aftercare  Subcommittee member.  It’s also true of countless others in the aftercare world.  They don’t seek the limelight.  They don’t demand recognition.  All they want is for this industry to do the right thing for our retired racehorses.  You have to respect that commitment.  Better yet, all of us in racing need to honor that commitment by doing what is best for our retired athletes, whether that be finding them a good home or helping support those who provide those good homes. 

There are great stories out there of people and organizations working tirelessly on behalf of retired racehorses.  Progress has definitely been made in aftercare on a number of fronts but much more work needs to be done.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to get involved.  Do what you can to help.  Give your time. Donate what you can afford.  Be a part of the solution. 

Tell me what you think about the site? Is there more information you think is needed?  What else can we provide to those in need of help with a retired racehorse?  Let me hear from you.


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