The American Thoroughbred can trace its ancestry back to three foundation sires: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk. These horses were named after their owners: Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly, and were brought from the Mediterranean Middle East to England at around the turn of the 17th century. They were bred to the native horses of England, which were strong and sturdy, measuring an average of just 14 hands. The result of this breeding produced horses that could carry a rider but were speedy over longer distances, which added a new dimension to the flourishing sport of horse racing. Today, The Jockey Club (which received a certificate of incorporation from the State of New York in 1894) is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. It is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing.
The Jockey Club’s primary responsibility is the maintenance of The American Stud Book which ensures the integrity of the breed; The Jockey Club is a founding member of The International Stud Book Committee, coordinating policies and practices to facilitate harmony and cross-border commerce.
Throughout its history, The Jockey Club has taken a leadership role in many issues that benefit the industry — including marketing of the sport; medication and equine welfare; and aftercare.
A question on the minds of many, after watching the Belmont Stakes, may very well be “what happens to the horses that do not win?”
If a Thoroughbred is not well suited for racing or breeding but is still sounds, he or she can provide years of enjoyment in a new career. Fortunately in many cases they are adopted and have a new life providing pleasure to horse owners, both children and adults, in many different venues. Many are trained to become hunters, jumpers, three-day-eventers and even dressage horses. Due to their familiarity with humans and the amount of time spent around the racetrack, they are generally good-tempered and used to being handled and trained on a regular basis.
We adopted a Thoroughbred some years back, Mr Hilarious, who had been stabled at Belmont and raced until he was six years of age. He was retired, gelded, and came to our farm when he was seven. “Romeo”, as we called him, enjoyed a second career as a saddle horse, and we used him on trails for a number of years — teaching him to neck rein and ride Western as well as English. Today he is 16 years of age, and is still enjoying riding trails and being used as a school horse; most recently participated in a five-mile fund-raising trail ride (with some obstacles) in Delaware County, New York, on the ‘rail to trail” system, that raised $5,000 for a horse sanctuary.
ReRun, Inc. is an organization dedicated to retraining Thoroughbreds after racing to pursue second careers in other forms of equitation, and provide years of enjoyment with their new adoptive families, rather than facing auction or worse, the grim prospect of the slaughterhouse. For more information on ReRun, please contact Joanne Willcox, at email@example.com .
ReRun would greatly appreciate any donations of supplies that, if not new, are in good condition. Please visit www.rerunottb.com/home.html
Standardbred horses, used for harness racing, are also finding new careers after coming ‘off the tracks.’ These horses are also generally well mannered, being used to daily care, work and training with their human counterparts. Standardbred racehorses have the advantage of being broke to drive — and as such are commonly sent to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania or other areas such as Southern Ohio or Northwestern New York to be used as road horses. Even so, there is a bit of training to be done depending on the area where the horses are to be used — here in our area of the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, horses are accustomed to hills — pulling a cart up and down hill is very different than pulling a small, lightweight cart on a racetrack.
I spoke with my friend Mary Lewis, who was recently looking for a driving horse. She learned of one at a nearby stable — nicknamed “JJ,” a nice-mannered Standardbred gelding, 11 years of age, that had been retired from the track. He had been used as a riding horse but had never pulled a cart or any vehicle with weight, requiring britching and traces. Mary said he “hadn’t a clue as to really pulling, or what the britching was all about, and didn’t know how to hold back. The harness is a quite different racing cart — things are put together a little differently.” So, she started driving him on a slight hill around her driveway and up the road — to give him a bit of a pull, and then down for a little bit of a holdback. He adjusted, but had to learn. And importantly, “he has gotten into listening — if I say ‘easy trot’ it’s not a full out trot on, which is totally new to him. Before it was ‘go!’ His road trot is a little faster than my last horse.” JJ is still muscling up as far as pulling uphill, and she’s been driving him on a five-mile route around the dirt road near her farm. She wanted to check him out in traffic, and on a trip to the local village, found that he was “absolutely great!” Standardbreds are used to the machinery on the track, and they start behind a start car — so they have the advantage of already being road-wise.
And yet another friend who adopted a former harness racing Standardbred that was retired from the track is Fred Carlson. Fred was looking for a riding and driving horse and came across Alba, a pretty Standardbred mare that had raced at Monticello Raceway. She had never been ridden or even had a saddle on her back, but Fred, who has always had a way with horses, won her over and the two soon became fast friends. Her previous owners were amazed to learn that Fred was able to use a saddle on Alba and ride her on ‘the first try.’ But perhaps their favorite pastime is during the winter when Fred hitches Alba up to the sleigh he refurbished and they go gliding across the snowy fields. During the summer and fall, the two are often seen driving in a little cart in the evenings after work; Alba loves to ‘go’ — and usually nuzzles him in thanks when they return to the barn.
The Standardbred Retirement Foundation is a non-profit, tax exempt organization created to care for, rehabilitate, and secure lifetime adoption of non-competitive racehorses, to ensure their proper care with follow-up, and combine the needs of youth at risk with these horses in therapeutic equine programs to benefit both. Similar to the Re Run program for Thoroughbred racing horses, the SRF is celebrating 25 years of caring for retired Standardbred racehorses. For more information, please visit their website at www.adoptahorse.org/ or contact them at 353 Sweetmans Lane Ste 101, Millstone Twp., NJ 08535; Telephone 732-446-4422; Fax 732-446-4490.