Last week I shared an interview with the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. One of the questions I always ask is for the organization to share a story about a horse. Their story was so remarkable, I deemed it worthy of it own post. Without any more delay, here’s the story of Bella.

Tooralaurabella’s arrival

Tooralaurabella was brought to us in June 2021 with a bowed tendon that we thought had set, making her ready to start her next career.  Upon her arrival we were told that she did not load well and needed to be blindfolded and pushed on backwards. She arrived at the adoption barn facing backwards in the trailer. Bella instantly proved herself to be a sweetheart but had some trust issues. She did not like the halter to be pushed over her ears and preferred it to be unbuckled, she was spooky and unsure of new things. We found her an older mare as a buddy in turnout, which helped her learn to settle and not be so reactive. 

In October we had a case of strangles break out (the first and only since opening in 2006). Bella was the only one to have the true and full symptoms and needed medical care. We had to soak the abscess on her jaw with a warm compress twice a day as well as give her meds orally. She had to have her temp taken twice a day as well. It was through all this that Bella realized we were here to HELP her. She grew a very strong bond with us and started to relax more. After our quarantine was lifted, Bella was able to start back into her training program.

Training begins

She had her first ride here just a few weeks later. Bella began to build confidence in us and herself with obstacles. She could push the ball, walk over a tarp and even in and out of a kiddie pool. This was all in preparation to get her to load on a trailer in a relaxed and confident demeanor. In a month’s time Bella was walking quietly across the wooden bridge on her own. By January 2022 we were able to use the program director’s trailer and practice our loading. Bella loaded right on in about 15 minutes with lots of patience and trust. It was then that we knew Bella was truly ready to find her forever home. 

Bella’s first potential adopter instantly fell in love after playing with her in our indoor arena over some obstacles and bonding scratches. It was a beautiful sight, and many happy tears were shed. The adopter had a pre-purchase vetting done to ensure the bow was set and would hold up for the career she had intended for Bella. It was then that we found out that the bow was not fully set. Bella was so strong and wanted nothing more than to please us, so she hid her injury. Not once did she take a bad step here, but through an ultrasound it was clear that the bow was not fully healed, and she had kept that from us all along. So unfortunately, that adopter decided it was not a good fit due to the injury but gave us full access to the images taken that day. 

A forever home and friend

Just a week later another potential adopter coming to look at a gelding but fell in love with Bella’s big, sweet face sticking out over her stall door. After playing with her in the arena lightly, they fell in love before even knowing her name. Later on, we found out that the name Bella had a huge meaning in the adopter’s life, and it was fate that they take TooralauraBella home. After discussing Bella’s injury and what rehab would entail, they decided to adopt Bella with no rush to become competitive any time soon. 

The day Bella finally loaded on her trailer to go to her new home was bittersweet. We were all so proud of this mare who had grown so much and matured with us in less than a year’s time. Bella is enjoying life with her forever family and two other FTLAP grads that share her large grass pasture. They have started lightly riding on the trails and will continue to slowly introduce her to more as she is comfortable.  

To learn more about FLTAP, please visit their website.

Where is Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program (FLTAP) based?

FLTAP is located on the grounds of Finger Lakes Racetrack in Farmington, New York. Finger Lakes Race Track is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Rochester, NY. We are the first and only Thoroughbred adoption program located on the grounds of a racetrack in North America.

How did your program begin?

Discussion between Finger Lakes horsemen and management led to a mutual desire to take a more active approach in providing owners and trainers with trusted resources in finding homes for those Thoroughbreds that had reached the end of their racing years. Those conversations led to the founding of a jointly funded formal program between track management and the Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association in 2006. In 2007, with the help of several others we were able to take the program further with the construction of a dedicated facility to assist in the placement of retired Thoroughbreds into new homes or careers.

Delaware North Companies, the parent company of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, donated the two acres of land on which the facility is located. The construction was made possible through $60,000 in state funding secured by New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, as well a grant from the American Humane Association. A significant amount of additional funding was generously provided by Wanda Polisseni, the principal of Purple Haze Stables, which led to the building being named the Purple Haze Center in her honor.

What makes FLTAP unique?

There are several unique things about Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, Inc. We are located on the grounds of a racetrack with a 16-stall barn, indoor training arena, and six paddocks.
Our Board of Directors consists of Finger Lakes Racetrack management personnel and Finger Lakes Horsemen and Horsewomen.
After an approved adopter has a Thoroughbred placed with them, we follow the progress of the horse and new owner for a year with 3, 6, and 12 month paper work and photos.
Even after the one year follow-up, we will take the horse back should circumstances change for the adopter and they can no longer take care of the horse or it turns out not to be the right fit.
Our barn is open to the public daily from 9 am to 3pm. Having an array of different ages visiting the barn assists the horse into acclimating to being around or experiencing different situations than they are accustomed to.
We have a full time trainer, who works with the horses and evaluates their ability to go on to a second career or a pasture mate.
FLTAP has volunteers who have been with us for more than 10 years.
We offer a unique experience for college students. Finger Lakes racetrack personnel will spend 3 – 4 days with the student in various operational areas, i.e. – the racing office, the stewards, announcer, placing judges and accounting. This gives the student a well rounded look into careers in the racing industry.
Adopters have so enjoyed our service that even 10 years later we are still getting updates about the horse they adopted.

What happens when a horse is accepted into your program?

When a trainer or owner decides that their Thoroughbred is ready to retire, they will fill out a surrender form (basically turning the horse over to our program). There is a $300 placement fee. We will then give the horse two weeks to adjust to being a horse again and getting used to the barn, our workers and volunteers. New horses will be seen by our equine dentist.
After two weeks, our trainer/barn manager will start with groundwork and either Western or English riding. She will post pictures on our website or our Facebook page to alert potential adopters.

Do you work with other locations or farms in your program?

We have worked with the local humane society in the Rochester area – Lollipop Farm and have accepted transfers from other rescues over the years. Since adding a full time trainer to the program, we have a farther reach from just locally to nationwide.

Do you require new owners to do reporting?

Yes, new owners are required to submit paperwork every 3, 6, and 12 months with photos of the horse without a blanket. We stress that we are here to assist new owners as we want to make sure this adoption is the right fit for both horse and human.

How many horses have gone through your program?

We have assisted with the retirement of about 800 retired Thoroughbreds since our opening in 2006. 2021 was a record year for us with 54 adoptions.

How does FLTAP receive funding?

Our funding is unique in that the Finger Lakes Horsemen contribute $2.50 for every horse that starts at Finger Lakes Racetrack and Finger Lakes Racing Association, Inc. contributes $2.00 for every start.
We are accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and receive grant monies through that accreditation.
The Thoroughbred Charities of America grant and ASPCA grants are another funding source.
Donations from people around the state of New York and beyond are especially helpful throughout the year.

If people want to help your program, what can they do?

Donations of used tack/blankets, auction items, or monetary donations for hay, bedding, peppermints and dental/medical visits are always much appreciated. Visit our website, or send to our mailing address:

PO Box 25043
Farmington, NY 14425

To learn about other thoroughbred retirement programs, click here.