Only Somewhat Good News Friday

One of the many horses in need (Sarah K. Andrew)

This week’s “Good News Friday” over at the Paulick Report does indeed contain some good news, at least for one horse. The post highlights that Mary Lou Whitney does in fact lead through example in the arena of aftercare. And that IS very good news, however a few things struck me as disturbing, to say the least.

A couple of years ago, Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey told the story of a gelded son of Storm Cat, Storm Legacy, that Penn National trainer Pete Tardy wound up with after the owner said he no longer wanted him. When the horse could no longer race, Tardy checked the Jockey Club foal papers and found something he’d never seen before – a note that read: “If for some reason you are unable to care for this horse please contact us.” With that note was the telephone number of Marylou Whitney’s farm office in Kentucky.

Admittedly it’s hard to draw a conclusion from a sample of one, but it’s downright demoralizing that this sort of behavior might not be the norm. Also not uplifting was this from the operator of Equine Encore Foundation, the horse rescue operation mentioned in the post:

I have been operating Equine Encore Foundation for six years and every time I accept another horse (I have 63 and more waiting in the wings), I contact the breeder, and Mrs. Whitney is the first to ever respond.

This calls to mind something else I read this week over at Blood-Horse. It’s a proposal by Gary Biszantz, an owner who is also board member of Tranquility Farms, a rescue, retraining and adoption operation. He that suggests that money from uncashed tickets and takeout be used to help fund aftercare:

Takeout on wagering handle as extracted by the tracks and uncashed pari-mutuel tickets give us numerous opportunities to take a very small percentage of these funds and place them in escrow accounts. At year’s end these funds could be distributed to accredited retirement and rehabilitation farms all over the U.S. that want to take care of the horse and desperately need funding.

The closest thing to a mention of breeder responsibility or owner responsibility was this:

The gentleman who expressed his opinion that most Thoroughbred owners can’t afford the long-term care for retired horses is correct. Certainly some can, as we have done at Tranquility.

It’s not so much that I have a problem with his suggestion. I actually really like the uncashed ticket idea but I find it disappointing that the only group asked to help are players. I do my small part by donating a percentage of my winnings on days where I cash over $200, but shouldn’t everybody involved in racing bear some responsibility for this issue, particularly breeders and owners? Why not make the Jockey Club Checkoff Program mandatory, for example?

No doubt there are a billion ideas out there that have already been blogged about, posted on forums and written about in the media on the many ways this issue could be addressed. But the lack of responsibility highlighted in this one incident if f-in’ appalling. Hats off to Mary Lou Whitney, and anyone else who steps-up to address thoroughbred aftercare, but those who don’t really ought to be publicly shamed.

Perusing the comments at Paulick elicits different experiences of the issue. One commenter with experience in rescue notes the opposite experience from Equine Encore Foundation:

My experience in rescue, on the contrary, has been with very few exceptions, breeders contacted will help. If they can’t take the horse, they will send money, and/or call around to help find a place for the horse.

Let’s hope that this experience becomes more of the norm for ALL the folks to who work tirelessly to address aftercare, not just occasionally.

06/01/2011 Update: here’s a happy “after” photo of the horse pictured above.

3 thoughts on “Only Somewhat Good News Friday

  1. Teresa

    I agree that the overall lack of responsibility is appalling, and that the industry as a whole needs to figure out how to deal with the after-care of Thoroughbreds. There’s an awful lot of bad news out there.

    The good news is that the Jockey Club has taken several pro-active steps to deal with the issue, and that the issue is on its agenda for all its big meetings; most of it is “big ideas” at this point, but it’s a start.

    I’ve talked to several breeders who don’t participate in the check-off program, and it’s interesting to hear multiple sides of the issue. Breeders register foals on behalf of the owners, and it’s up to the clients (the owner of the mare) to make the call about the donation, from what I’ve been told.

    I’ve also talked to several who don’t participate in the check-off because of the donations that they make as individuals to organizations that they support, often local ones, rather than the TCA and the TRF, which is where the check-off money goes. They have nothing against those organizations, they just prefer to donate on their own.

  2. Teresa

    Oh, yeah, one more thing: a couple of years ago, I wrote a post about fine money – for med violations or riding infractions – and suggested that instead of the money going to the General Fund (as it does in New York State), it go instead to charity, perhaps one designated by the one who incurred the fine. Though I didn’t mention Thoroughbred retirement at the time, it would be a great recipient of such money…though I don’t imagine that New York State is going to give up even the little money that these fines provide.

  3. dana

    Thanks for the extra insight! Not that I stated it specifically, but I was including owners of the mare in the category of breeders and was thinking of owners more as folks who own but did not breed the horse. Of course the lines aren’t that clear with owner/breeders, etc. I also just quickly threw the check-off program out there an example, not to say that it SHOULD happen, I just found it stunning that in a post written by owner that the only suggestion of how to find funds was to tap players/tracks.

    Also, I didn’t want this post to be about actual ideas, or I’d probably still be writing it! Plus, as you point out (and I did too), there’s been plenty of digital and actual ink spilled on ideas about how address aftercare. In fact, here’s a comment full of interesting ideas on Paulick’s post that links to this post!

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