Aftercare Panel: Taking Care of Our Horses
Moderator: Kristin Werner, Senior Counsel, The Jockey Club
Erin Crady, Executive Director, Thoroughbred Charities of America
Brian Sanfratello, Executive Secretary, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association
Beverly Strauss, Co-founder & Executive Director, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue
Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of Equine Welfare, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

STUART S. JANNEY III: In keeping with the topic of aftercare, next we have a panel of industry experts in the field who have spent years working to help our retired horses.

The moderator for the panel is Kristin Werner, who not only is the administrator of The Jockey Clubís Thoroughbred Incentive Program, but is also senior counsel for The Jockey Club.

Kristin has worked tirelessly on behalf of retired racehorses for more than a dozen years, and she has one of her own. She and her panelists will discuss the current aftercare landscape and how far we have come, and how far we have to go.

KRISTIN WERNER: Since the launch of the Retirement Checkoff Program in 2009, The Jockey Clubís in-house aftercare initiatives and supported organizations have changed the landscape for Thoroughbreds retiring from the racetrack.

In 2021, the Thoroughbred Incentive Program celebrated 10 years of offering awards at horse shows and has enrolled nearly 32,000 Thoroughbreds to date.

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, created in 2013, has accredited 81 organizations, granting those organizations $20 million to support nearly 13,000 Thoroughbreds.

Todayís panel will focus on work that is ongoing, what still needs to be done, and horses that are slipping through the cracks. We have four panelists who are well versed in all areas of Thoroughbred aftercare and horse welfare.

Bev Strauss is the co-founder and executive director of MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. Erin Crady is the executive director of Thoroughbred Charities of America. Emily Weiss is the vice president of equine welfare at the ASPCA. And Brian Sanfratello is the executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

Weíre going to start with Erin. In 2016, the Horses First Fund was established by LNJ Foxwoods and TCA to assist Thoroughbreds in need of emergency. Can you discuss some of the situations youíve encountered with horses in cruelty and neglect situations?

ERIN CRADY: Sure. And thank you, firstly, to The Jockey Club for creating this panel and for inviting me to speak here today on this very important topic.

In 2016, we became aware of a large-scale equine neglect and abandonment case involving 43 horses, most of them Thoroughbreds. At the time, TCA had a very small emergency grant fund that we tapped into to purchase a load of hay for the abandoned horses. I recall sending our board an email and letting them know that hay had been purchased, and soon thereafter I received a phone call from TCA board member Jaime Roth. She and her family had an idea to create an emergency fund that could be used to further assist the 43 horses as well as horses in need of emergency aid in the future.

So with a generous donation from LNJ Foxwoods, the Horses First Fund was born. TCA manages the fund, and the fund really proved to be invaluable in that abandonment case as it allowed us to cover expenses such as vet work, supplies, transportation costs, re-homing costs, anything associated with caring for a herd of 43 horses.

And with the help of numerous volunteers, donors, state officials, law enforcement, we were able to place all 43 horses into private homes or with TCA grant recipient organizations.

So although the Horses First Fund may be most known for our work during natural disasters, like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico or the fires at San Luis Rey Downs, for several equine welfare cases, the Horses First Fund has really filled a gap in our industry that thankfully we donít encounter all too often, but certainly when it does happen, the Horses First Fund is ready and able to assist.

KRISTIN WERNER: Thank you for that. And kind of sticking with the farms, there have been several instances of broodmares and young horses being sent from farms to low-end auctions. Is there a need for aftercare programs to prevent breeding stock specifically from ending up in these situations?

ERIN CRADY: You know, at TCA, we get a lot of questions about Thoroughbred aftercare. But the most frequent question I get is from Thoroughbred breeders, and they say: What do I do with my retired broodmare?

And currently there really arenít a lot of options for broodmares or breeding stock, generally speaking. A 20-year-old retired broodmare that hasnít been ridden in 12 years doesnít always fit into the programs of most of our industry nonprofit aftercare organizations, largely because that broodmare would be hard to place and expensive to retrain.

There are certainly a few exceptions out there, like Our Mims is a small, exclusively broodmare sanctuary, or Old Friends accepts stallions. But these, again, are nonprofit facilities, and they generally operate at capacity. So it is quite limited.

If you donít have a back 40 acres where you can permanently retire and care for your breeding stock, it can definitely be a challenge.

KRISTIN WERNER: Bev, attendees may not be aware of the online market for horses and kill buyer pens and auction websites. Can you talk about the circumstances surrounding these horses ending up in these situations?

BEVERLY STRAUSS: Sure. About 20 years ago in Pennsylvania here, a scam rescue connected with a kill buyer, and they started advertising as horses for sale at a substantial profit. And unfortunately it really spread like wildfire.

Dealers across the country sort of jumped on this, and now everybody is a kill buyer. They post horses on social media with threats: The truck is coming! The truck is coming!

These horses are posted at highly inflated prices, and people start raising money. You get private individuals raising money, you get rescues, both legitimate and scam rescues raising money. The kill buyer themselves raises money in order to maximize their profit. Theyíre getting two to three times what they would get from a slaughter plant.

Unfortunately, Thoroughbreds, because theyíre so easily identified, are the target of this online marketplace. And so now dealers are seeking them out at low-end auctions, and people are contacting old owners and trainers, anyone who was connected with the horse, even if you havenít seen that horse for 10 or 15 years, people are being contacted to raise money to save the horse.

Some of these horses do sell to private homes. Whether theyíre suitable homes or not, we donít know. Some go to rescues that arenít legitimate, some end up back in the auction circuit, some end up at legitimate rescues. Again, thereís no accountability for these horses.

Itís really an unfortunate situation, and what I would say is if youíre contacted because one of your former horses is in a kill pen, do some research. Donít just throw money at it. Donít just send money blindly. Do research and see that the horse truly is in a bad place and then ensure its safety.

I would contact an accredited program for help. Most of us can guide you through this issue. Because it really is a problem. And as a side note, that rescue that started all of this was raided and shut down by the FBI. Unfortunately, many more have jumped in to take the place.

KRISTIN WERNER: Emily, The Right Horse Initiative is the ASPCAís program thatís focused on massively increasing adoptions in the United States. Over the past few years, you have been testing and studying programs and processes to increase adoptions. What have you learned so far?

DR. EMILY WEISS: Great question. And thank you, thank you for inviting me to this. So, first, one of the things that we have learned or many of the things that we have learned weíve gathered from the work that is happening in the Thoroughbred aftercare world.

So, for us, weíre looking at all breeds, all horses that come in and out of shelters and rescues, and the aftercare programs are some of the most professional programs around the country, and thereís much to be learned from whatís happening in that world. And we have taken that and moved it forward to some of the other breed disciplines as well.

Weíve learned that we still have work to do on changing the perception of who a horse in transition is, so who these horses are, and how folks perceive them.

We know that the horses that are coming into shelters and rescues are often just like every other horse. The population of Thoroughbreds coming off the track are a little bit different, right, just because of what their past career was, but still they are just like every other horse in having different behaviors and different potential health issues, or not, just like the horses in everybodyís boarding barn or in their backyards.

We know also that thereís a real need to help professionalize the field, right? So not only do we know that there is this need to shift who these horses are for folks and the perception of them, but getting the right professionals into the field to help them change the perception of these horses as well.

So trainers and veterinarians and just general sheltering operations. Weíve seen a lovely opportunity with trainers around the country, and it started a program where we are covering a stipend for them to be able to take horses in transition, train those horses, promote them for adoption and get them homed.

Our research has found that thereís actually 2.3 million in estimated, individuals that not only have the interest but the capacity to adopt a horse. So we know that there is some disconnect between the interest in the general public and getting these horses into their hands.

And part of that is just getting those horses where those people are, which isnít necessarily at the shelter or rescue, itís in the general population and general horse-interested population. So thatís important.

Finally, supply and demand is something that we have been looking hard at. So we donít necessarily think that there are too many horses and not enough homes; we think that in some cases the horses just arenít where the people are who want to adopt them.

And it isnít necessarily that thereís a whole lot of horses down south and a whole lot of people up north, but potentially there are five people up north who would love to have this particular type of horse, and thereís five horses down here that are of that type, and we need to just get the horses where the demand is.

Weíve seen that in our work and specifically through some of the movement of Thoroughbreds from some of our partners up to groups that donít have a whole lot of Thoroughbreds, that theyíre getting snapped up within a day or two of getting up into this new facility, where they sat for over a year. So itís pretty exciting stuff.

KRISTIN WERNER: Brian, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association recently formed an anti-slaughter committee to address what can be done to help equine athletes. Can you talk about whatís happening in Pennsylvania?

BRIAN SANFRATELLO: Our board understands that aftercare is just as important as making sure that we increase the numbers of mares bred in our organization. So what had been happening, I know Beverly had talked about what was happening with the kill pens, and one of our staff members, Jennifer Poorman, whoís very active in anti-slaughter, a few years back had come and said there are some Pennsylvania-breds in a kill pen in New Holland, which is fairly close to us, and can we do anything to help bail them out.

Well, we went back to the board, and they set aside a certain amount of money that we could use to help towards that. But as Beverly said, what happens is sometimes the people get together with the kill pens and they say give me half the money or give me a certain amount of money for placing -- or for getting this horse out of the kill pen.

So we knew that that wasnít enough. So we went back to the board, and Jennifer Poorman talked to them in reference to what was happening there and that we should try to do something else.

So we put an anti-slaughter committee together, chaired by Kate Goldenberg, whoís pretty much donated most of her life to aftercare horses.

So we put together a code of ethics which is going to be used by us for all of our members. So if youíre a member of our organization or youíre registering a horse, youíre going to have to sign off on that code of ethics, which pretty much says that if you do anything at all to move a horse or go through someone else to move a horse to slaughter, youíre going to be sanctioned by our organization.

So thereís basically three sanctions there. And depending on how many horses, et cetera, you could get to the last sanction if you do one thing.

So we feel that thatís going to help as far as our organization is concerned. But weíre limited as far as the number of people that can sign off on that and be sanctioned through that. So what we said was we have to try to get something done on a state level for anti-slaughter.

Now, we looked at New York, who just recently passed -- I think it was 1442 to help to stop the slaughter of horses. And we went to the lawyers within our organization, and they put together a mock-up of a bill that weíre going to submit to the judiciary committee thatís going to make it a misdemeanor for bringing horses -- having anything to do with getting horses to kill pens for slaughter.

KRISTIN WERNER: What other challenges are still being faced in the area of aftercare of Thoroughbreds? Erin?

ERIN CRADY: This may seem like an obvious answer, but I would certainly say funding. With more funding, we can move more horses into second careers or even third careers in the case of breeding stock. TCA operates on 100 percent voluntary donations. Many of our grantees operate on voluntary donations.

So our grant recipients, they already make such a difference in the lives of thousands of Thoroughbreds. And with more funding, that impact will only increase.

KRISTIN WERNER: Bev?

BEVERLY STRAUSS: Funding is a really important issue. Weíve got organizations like TCA and TAA, which can certainly make sure that the funds are spent responsibly. We need more aftercare organizations for sure.

And I think each member of the industry needs to look beyond the segment that theyíre involved in, the breeders, the sales consignors, the racetracks, the stallion owners. We need to look beyond our own segment and see what we can do to help support aftercare.

DR. EMILY WEISS: I will also echo funding and resources I think are certainly important. The resources piece feels powerful, right, so being able to have -- specifically I would point to trainers, that having those horses have the life skills they need can help them not only from their transitioning from their first career to their second but to their third, their forth, and their fifth. So that training piece is vital for us.

And I would say, if I can, just point out one particular area that weíve been seeing some attention might be worthwhile, and thatís the horses that are going over to Puerto Rico, theyíre being raced there, and then weíre finding some challenges in being able to provide the support or see the provided support for those horses to come back and be re-homed.

And thinking about opportunities to support those horses throughout their careers, even when they leave the mainlands, to make sure that they can come back and be re-homed.

We have found that once they get back here in the States, then weíve been able to help move some of those horses, once they land in Florida, up to some of our Right Horse partners, they are quickly adopted, so thereís opportunities for them, but getting them here is certainly something that takes a lot of resources.

KRISTIN WERNER: Brian?

BRIAN SANFRATELLO: What weíve done in Pennsylvania -- when I say "we," not necessarily our organization, but the two horsemenís organizations, what theyíve done to fund aftercare is every time a horse runs, a small amount of money, a few dollars, is taken from the purse money, and that goes to aftercare.

We have two great organizations in Pennsylvania, Turning for Home and New Start, which are receiving money from that little bit of a stipend that comes per each race.

So I would ask the organizations, horsemenís organizations across the country to maybe try something like that so they can support their aftercares.

We donate money each year to both of those agencies that I just mentioned. We also have 10 small grants for Pennsylvania aftercares that we also give out. So it doesnít take a lot of money, but to help whatever -- you know, in any way they can. Itís very important.

KRISTIN WERNER: Iíd like to leave our audience today with a take-home message. Iím going to ask each of you the same question about a different stage of a horseís lifecycle. What is one thing that Thoroughbred owners can do to ensure that their horse has a safe landing? Erin: before racing.

ERIN CRADY: My advice would be to plan, plan, and plan some more. Aftercare should not be an afterthought. If youíve prepared a business plan for your racing operation, include a section on aftercare.

Letís say youíre the sole owner of a horse, you may decide that when your horse begins dropping in class or hits a certain level of racing, thatís when youíre going to retire him.

But have that plan in place and know where your horse is going to go when he or she is ready to retire. Reach out and establish that relationship with your local aftercare organization or your on-track placement program. There are definitely options.

Letís say maybe youíre interested in joining a racing partnership. Inquire about their aftercare program. Many partnerships nowadays have fantastic aftercare programs built right into their operations. Simply ask them about it.

And then one really important piece of advice that Iíll leave you with. As youíre planning for your horseís retirement, please, please remember one thing that I feel is paramount to your horseís post-racing future, and thatís to make every effort to retire your horse while he or she is still sound.

That can be one of the most important decisions you can ever make for your horse because a sound Thoroughbred can have an unlimited future.

KRISTIN WERNER: Bev, what about horses that are at the end of the racing career?

BEVERLY STRAUSS: I think, as Erin said, retire them sound, retire them before they are compromised, but also ensure a good first exit from racing. Get your horse into an accredited program or an on-track program where the horse is then placed with a contract and is followed for its life. That first exit from racing is probably the most critical.

KRISTIN WERNER: Brian, what about broodmares?

BRIAN SANFRATELLO: The broodmares are very important to us, of course, being a breeding organization. So weíre going to do whatever we can to make sure we can place as many on that.

One of the important areas is you need to get involved today with your legislators. The only way legislators act is when their constituents continue to push them to do something that they want done. So itís important to get involved today with that.

What we do is we have a stallion auction that we -- stallion season auction that we run each year. And what we do is we take that money and we use it for our political action committee. So things that we try to get done in the course of the year, we use that money to help.

KRISTIN WERNER: And last but certainly not least, Emily, what about horses that have been adopted as a second-career horse?

DR. EMILY WEISS: So as Erin noted, with that population of horses at that time, planning. Planning can be one of the most important things. So one of the things we have found through our work with owner-relinquished horses is that many of those horses are coming in because of something that has happened to the human. It has nothing to do with the horse.

So theyíve either become -- this is most common -- too old to be able to care well for the horse. Illness, divorce. An issue related to that human that then puts that horse at risk if there isnít already a plan. And they end up coming in and needing our help.

Being able to have a plan can really help keep that horse out of risk. If youíre at the point where you donít have a plan and you need to do something, the United Horse Coalition actually has a lovely resource. They have a database that lists all available resources in your state that might be able to help you should you need to transition your horse.

KRISTIN WERNER: Great. Thank you, Emily. And Iíd like to thank each of our panelists for their time, and I wish you all a good afternoon, and enjoy the rest of the conference.

STUART S. JANNEY III: Thank you, Kristin, and to those of you on the aftercare panel. Taking care of our horses after their racing or breeding careers have ended is all of our responsibility, and aftercare is very important to The Jockey Club.

We support the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, Thoroughbred Connect, and most recently the board of stewards voted to support the SAFE Act. Iím glad to see the progress being made, and I hope we can work together to overcome the challenges.


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