The OTTB twins – Bob and Lurch (or vice versa)

Allison Wood adopts and retrains off the track thoroughbreds (she rides Bob and Lurch and sold Colby to HJU blogger Carrie). She sent us this article, about the situation of race horses in Ontario. Thank you Allison!

Uncertain Times for OTTBs

Recently, a friend of mine sent me an email to tell me that Big Red Mike was up for adoption.  In 2010 Big Red Mike won the Queens Plate (Canada’s version of the Kentucky Derby).  This horse more than any other Plate winner stands out for me because he won the year that I had a horse entered.

The Long Run Retirement Program is one of many organizations that makes an effort to find new homes and careers for thoroughbreds after they are finished racing in Ontario.

Unlike many in the racing industry, breeding really does not matter much to me.  I have had great success eventing OTTBs at all levels, with horses that probably got laughed at when others asked “Who’s your daddy?”.  One of the many things I love about eventing (and that is a whole other blog), is that any horse can do it and love it.  But I couldn’t resist.  I thought it would be pretty damn cool to own a big name horse like Big Red Mike, so I contacted them.  I knew it was a long shot.  He was adopted already. Also, they made it clear that a horse like that would likely come with a stipulation about the type of adoption.  Great, totally understandable, and more power to them.  I had been up front and honest about my intentions, which are to retrain and eventually resell.  Long Run specifically looks for permanent homes for their horses.

Carrie and Colby

However, they did tell me that they have relaxed their protocol slightly due to the large amount in need, but would still require a one year commitment.  In case you are clueless about the precarious state of the racing industry in Ontario, the Ontario government has put an end to the very lucrative and successful slots at racetracks program.  Fort Erie is closing for good.  The Woodbine Racetrack is still going for now, but as of yesterday, I am told next year’s racing plans are undecided.  These are the only 2 thoroughbred racetracks in Ontario. I should mention that quarter horse racing and standardbred racing is also affected but as this is not my field, I cannot say how bad their situation is.   So I don’t care what your feelings about horse racing are in general, I hope that you will understand that this means thousands of horses and people will lose their jobs.

So here I was, all ready to adopt; browsing the other sites that offer retired racehorses, I even had one picked out – well… several really, but I realistically cannot save them all.  Then my boss tells me that I need to wait a week. Whatever decision Woodbine takes about next year’s racing season is going to affect our plans for this winter and possibly even my job.  Yikes!  This just got very real for me.  But this isn’t about me.  It is about all of the wonderful horses whose situation is even worse.  So please, now more than ever, consider giving a thoroughbred (or a QH or a standardbred) a chance.

If you can’t provide a home or the breed is not right for you, you can still help by donating time or money to help the organizations that work to rehome these horses.  As well as Long Run Retirement, there a few I know of: Second Start Thoroughbreds, Phase Two Thoroughbreds and on Facebook, Horses Needing a Home.  And if you ask around, you will probably find someone you know who has an ex racehorse or knows someone who does or knows someone who works in the industry that can connect you with a horse in need.