Did you know that once their racing careers are over, many racehorses are put up for adoption in this country? Racehorse adoptions are more common than you might think, and you don’t have to be rich and own your own stable in order to take ownership of one of these magnificent animals.
It’s been estimated that over 30,000 Thoroughbred horses are born every year in the US, most of them to breeders and owners who hope to raise them to eventually become champion racehorses. But the odds are against them, and only a small handful of these horses every achieve stardom, and go on to retire to lives of comfort and luxury.
More often, these racehorses have very ordinary racing careers, and some are injured and only race a handful of times. Others are deemed “losers” and are essentially cast off by the “win or else” mandate that pervades the horse racing industry. These unfortunate animals go on to face a post-career retirement that is full of uncertainty.
Some of these animals are fortunate enough to find someone to look out for them, and the often end up in racehorse adoption programs, or a good retirement facility. These horses truly are the lucky ones, especially if they’re adopted by a caring owner who takes them in and treats them more like a member of the family than a castoff racing equine who’s seen better days.
Unfortunately, there are thousands more of these retired racehorses that aren’t so lucky, and the often meet a very grim fate. It’s been estimated by the USDA that up to 15,000 Thoroughbred horses are slaughtered every year, both in the US and beyond our borders. Some end up in so-called “kill pens,” where they’re eventually transported across the border for slaughter.
Some of these horses have injuries sustained from years of hard riding on the racehorse circuit. This is simply an occupational hazard of racing, but most of these injured animals will heal over time, as they get away from the day-to-day pounding of competitive training and racing
And it’s not just old and infirm animals that meet this fate. The average median age for retired racehorses is just 5-6 years old, and these are healthy animals that have many good years ahead of them if they can find a loving and caring home. That’s where racehorse adoptions play a vital role in saving these wonderful animals, who have outlived their value as racehorses, but still have a lot to give as thoroughbred equines.
So how do you get started working with retired racehorses?
Like many animal-related careers, one of the best ways to get an entry-level position is to volunteer your time. Check your local Yellow Pages, or on the Internet, for a equine retirement facility or racehorse adoption agency in your area. Most of these organizations are looking for volunteers to help out with horse-related duties, and this can be a great way to work with horses and at the same time network and build some valuable relationships in this industry.
These facilities offer a safe haven for retired racehorses, at a time when they’re vulnerable and at risk of being sent to a livestock auction, and eventual slaughter. Adoption agencies and retirement organizations also help in the rehabilitation of injured horses, and volunteers are needed to help in these tasks as well. So reach out and ask someone if there’s a way you can help, and offer your time to this worthwhile cause.
If you have a formal education in the animal care industry, such as veterinary medicine, then there are many avenues into this career field. Farriers, equine trainers, and equine massage therapists are also in need to work with retired racehorses, as the animals make the transition from racing to potential adoption into loving homes.
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