Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Financial Need


Bits & Bytes Farm responds to an article in the NY Times,
” Ex-Racehorses Starve as Charity Fails in Mission to Care for Them”.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), like so many rescues, tries to help these ex-race horses. Too often greed or financial need causes things to go wrong in organizations with their heart in the right place. In the case of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation the problem was with the business plan not the people. Read the full story in the March 18th NY Times.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has strict rules for adopting their horses – with good reason. But, there is no way you can require the adopting people to return horses to the TRF if they do not want them any longer. This sets up a mindset in the adopter that they can just send the horse back to TRF for any reason. As the horses age or get injured, more and more with be returned, putting a financial burden on the organization.

"Rocky" is a Thoroughbred horse looking for a new career.

There are thousands of horses coming off-the track that need new homes each year. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has tired to help too many of these horses instead of limiting which ones they could help the most. Unfortunately, the business plan did not include a successful way of getting these most of these horses out of retirement and into new careers — some were too injured and more needed training before being sold. The lucky Thoroughbreds that did get adopted were required to be returned to the TRF and not sold. Retired and returned horses were warehoused at farms who started out with good intentions who then became dependent on the TRF’s payments, which were late. Money became tight and instead of sending horses back to TRF or reporting that they had died, many facilities used what money was available to take care of the horses or the needs of the farm. The horses suffered.

As horses age and with the downturn in the economy, more horses were being cared for by the TRF. Their resources were down due to the economy as well creating a ‘perfect storm’ for the problems to occur. Racing is down and so are the donations.

Yes, I know you are all outraged. You think the TRF should be shut down or not get donations but STOP and think. What will happen to these horses?

If you are going to complain about a problem you should be ready with a solution . . .

Bits & Bytes Farm also gets horses off-the-track and finds homes for them. We too follow them and try to be a safety net, but we understood from the beginning that our resources were limited. We are not a rescue or a non-profit corporation. We offer placement assistance to the buyers of our horses if they need to find a new home due to personal circumstances or finances. This is what the TRF needs to be doing as well not taking the horses back. They should also limit which horses they take in and expand the Secretariat Center so they can place more horses.

"Movin On Up" needs to move on to a new career.

Bits & Bytes Farm focuses on mid to top level race horses who are not successful racing or who have finished their racing careers — sound enough to have a second career. We could have been swamped by the number of horses needing to get off-the-track. It is not easy to turn away trainers and owners of injured race horses who want them to get a good home and not go to slaughter or low end racing. We let the rescue organizations take care of the horses that do not fit our business plan. These rescue organizations can only be successful if they get donations and get horses placed. They need the public to help not criticize.

I would be happy to meet with the board members of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and offer suggestions to help them get through this difficult time. When the TRF conceived the Secretariat Center I served on the steering committee. Many of my suggestions were dismissed because Bits & Bytes Farm was not a run as a non-profit organization. The TRF should listen to “for-profit” business and learn from their experiences. Too few horses are being placed and the new social marketing tools are not being used effectively. In order to succeed, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation needs to redefine their mission. It is too broad for the budget available to be successful.

Rescue organizations need to realize that not every Thoroughbred can be saved. They need to use their limited resources to save the horses that have the best chance at having a pain-free life with a special person. The horses that cannot live pain-free should be humanely euthanized – not warehoused. Where is the quality of life for an injured Thoroughbred living in a herd of horses with no special person to love and care for him? I know this is not a popular idea with many rescues but it is better than seeing horses starving in pastures because well meaning people do not have the resources to feed them or train them for new careers.

Please don’t stop donating to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation or any other rescue organization. Step up and help them and make a difference in the life of at least one Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation board members need to revisit their goals and how they will be able to be measured and met with success within the constraints of a limited budget.

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