Saving Horses Is Saving People, Too

Founded over two decades ago, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s mission is clear and simply stated: To save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter.

The sad truth is that a vast majority of the general public and even many racing fans are unaware of the sad fate that awaits thousands of Thoroughbreds each year. They assume each animal is assured a safe and graceful retirement once its racing days are over. Their perception of the "Sport of Kings” is one where great personal wealth and life-long benevolence to all horses are givens. Unfortunately, it is a perception that does not reflect reality.

Reality is a Thoroughbred industry made up largely of owners with only modest resources and current economics that dictate that among all owners, no matter how responsible and well-intended, only a relatively few are capable of maintaining even a single Thoroughbred once it is unable to earn its keep on the track. Reality is a world where horse meat is in demand in many foreign countries and there are several slaughterhouses in the U.S., Canada and Mexico happy to create a supply. It is a reality the TRF is determined to change.

The TRF was founded in 1982; two years later, it had its first retiree. His name was Promised Road, and he was typical of the type of horse that needs someone’s help and a caring home. He was then 9, an undistinguished campaigner whose career ended with a sixth-place finish in a $3,500 claiming race.

There have been hundreds more like him who have come under the care of the TRF. Today, the TRF is the world’s largest, best known and most respected charitable organization devoted to equine rescue.

The TRF is about more than helping horses in need. Early in the TRF’s history, Founder and Chairman of the Board Monique S. Koehler negotiated a milestone agreement with the State of New York Department of Correctional Services. In exchange for land use and labor at the state’s Walkill Correctional Facility, the TRF would design, staff and maintain a vocational training program in equine care and management for inmates.

Upon the completion of their sentences, many former inmates who have worked with the horses have gone on to become productive, solid citizens and have been quick to give credit to the TRF program. For those who have come from hard scrabble backgrounds, there’s no denying the emotional benefits and self esteem derived from caring for, trusting and, in many cases, loving another being.

This unique prison program has been replicated at TRF farms located at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Kentucky, the Marion County Correctional Facility in Florida and at the Charles H. Hickey School for youthful offenders in Maryland.

The horses at these farms and several of our other facilities often are so infirm when retired from racing that they can do little more than enjoy their days in their paddocks and fields. However, hundreds of TRF horses have successfully been trained for second careers, as show jumpers, companion horses, handicapped riding horses, even polo horses.

While the TRF can point with pride to its many accomplishments over the years, the realization of the ultimate goal — saving all Thoroughbred racehorses from needless suffering or slaughter — is not yet in sight. The TRF must continue to grow and expand. At the same time, we must firmly establish the operating resources needed to ensure long-term continuity of care for our population of retired horses.

To do so, we need your help. The TRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization entirely dependent on public contributions. Income is derived from donations from many thousands of racing fans, owners, breeders, trainers and racing officials who believe racehorses deserve better than a painful trip to the slaughterhouse when their track careers are over. Your gift will make a difference to a horse in jeopardy

Contributed By: Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation