Working on Thoroughbred aftercare

Widely reported earlier this week was the news that the NTRA had launched a new website devoted to Thoroughbred aftercare. The site is a product of the efforts of the working group on Thoroughbred aftercare from last summer’s Safety and Welfare Summit in Lexington.

According to a press release, the site offers, among other features, contact information for aftercare liaisons at all NTRA Alliance-accredited racetracks; links to educational aftercare articles; resources available to aftercare organizations, including grants and funding, gelding clinics, legal document templates; a listing of national/regional organizations and associations; and best practices for racetracks and aftercare organizations. (Note: not all areas of the site are complete and working as of my exploration this morning.)

Said Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, in a press release, “This new site will provide solid, practical information—for both prospective and current adopters—on funding options, second-career possibilities for Thoroughbreds and many other relevant topics. The site is targeted to anyone interested in getting involved with horses after their careers on the track are over.”

Several weeks ago, I contacted Ziegler to ask about the progress of the aftercare work group; I attended last year’s Safety and Welfare Summit, and last month I was asked to sit on a panel on Thoroughbred aftercare at Albany Law School’s Institute on Racing and Gaming Law in Saratoga in early August, so I was interested in hearing what the work group had been focusing on.

At the end of the Summit, the group had identified several objectives. Ziegler focused on three in our conversation:  accreditation for retirement/rescue facilities; working with the American Association of Equine Practitioners to establish guidelines for horses coming off the racetrack; and creating aftercare liaisons at every track.

Ziegler said that the group had tried to partner with existing accreditation bodies but couldn’t find one that suited the needs of retired Thoroughbreds. The group has created a “fairly substantive” list of accreditation requirements and continues to consider whether a new accreditation body needs to be created, or whether one exists that could undertake the responsibility of accrediting aftercare facilities.  “It’s so necessary,” he said, “and we want to make sure that it’s right.”

The group’s second objective was to work with the AAEP to establish guidelines for horses that are coming off the track, to determine the sort of second career to which they would be suited.  Those guidelines, which could be used by aftercare facilities were issued earlier this year.

The third goal of the working group is to establish an aftercare liaison at every track, someone who would work with horsemen who have horses in need of a new home.  “I think it’s so important,” said Ziegler, “that horsemen know who they need to go talk to.”

He continued, “It’s absolutely critical to have liaisons. There’s so much to lose for horsemen, and often, they honestly think they’re doing the right thing when they place a horse in a retirement home. It’s critical to have the right program in place.”

I’ll be joining on the panel Peggy Hendershot, senior vice president for legislative affairs at the NTRA, and Ellen Harvey, coordinator of standardbred support programs for the U.S. Trotting Association.  I’m honored and humbled to be included, and I’m looking forward to contributing to the important conversation about how to take care of Thoroughbreds when they can no longer race.

Further reading:

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