How did your program begin?
After the Races began in the fall of 2010. It was brought to my attention that there was a growing need for capable rehabilitation facilities to help with retiring racehorses in transition. At the time I was leasing a farm and doing some boarding and training, but my heart had always been with Thoroughbreds. I had worked in most facets of the industry (from starting young horses for the track, to exercising and managing a stable of racehorses including their injuries). With my professional background and medical experience, it felt like a good fit for both myself and the horses.
What makes After the Races unique?
One of the biggest things that I think sets us apart is that we’re 100% full disclosure. All of a horse’s history, including reasons for retirement, old injuries, and current limitations, are outlined clearly on our website and our ads for our horses. There’s no guesswork or surprises when you adopt from After the Races. All of our horses are vetted upon arrival, and we advertise them appropriately right from the start.
We are also never in a hurry with our horses. Each horse gets the chance to let down and rehabilitate both physically and mentally from its time at the track. Even if it arrives to us sound and uncomplicated, it still gets at least 30 days to first focus on being a horse and transitioning to farm life before being put back into work. From there we start them back under saddle slowly and responsibly.
What happens when a horse is accepted into your program?
Within the first week of arrival they are typically seen by both our veterinarian and our farrier. We have them vetted so we can set up a rehabilitation plan, if necessary, or make plans for how to advertise them in the future. We get them set up with their first farrier appointment, making the first effort to get their hooves back on track in terms of shortening the toes and improving their angles.
Once they’ve had their feet done, if they’re not going into rehabilitative care, they’re introduced to one of our turnout groups and allowed to be a horse for at least 30 days. We believe this to be incredibly important for their psyche. Typically the longer they have off here before going back to work, the more relaxed and positive the experience ends up. Of course, even when in the letdown phase all horses are handled daily.
Do you require new owners to do reporting?
We require our adopters to stay in touch with us. If we don’t see updates coming through on their own (social media is a wonderful thing), we will reach out for a report on how the horse is doing. We actually maintain a private Facebook group just for adopters. We have created a pretty unique family of people who celebrate in each other’s journey with their horses and can even sympathize or provide advice when the tough times come along as well. It’s a really cool network.
How many horses have you worked with?
We have had over 500 horses come into our program now, with over 491 adoptions at the time of this email. With my past positions working at Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky and also at the racetrack, I’ve probably personally worked with over 1,000 individual racehorses at this point.
Tell me more about the Chestnut Mare Initiative.
The Chestnut Mare Initiative was created to combat the negative stigma surrounding its namesake. Particularly in the last ten years, this myth that chestnut mares are somehow particularly more difficult than other horses has become frustratingly popular. Good trainers and riders know what studies have even begun to show. There is no difference in behavior linked to color.
The CMI is a training program designed to shatter stigmas while boosting the adoption rate of chestnut mares, as well as other stigmatized horses (we have a few bays in the program as well!). We learned a long time ago that chestnut mares often stay with us longer than the average horse. Once they’ve had some training, they begin to draw the attention of adopters. We learned, essentially, that a trained mare is an adopted mare.
To help with this, approved trainers have the adoption fee waived to take on a chestnut mare as a long-term resale project. The horse gets quality training, which in turn sets it up for better success in its eventual long-term home. We publish updates from the trainers on social media and our website so our followers can see first hand how trainable and wonderful these mares can be. When the horse ultimately sells, it still goes under our no-auction contract. ATR receives 10% of the sale price as a donation.
How does After the Races receive funding?
ATR receives its funding primarily through its racetrack partners and horse donors who donate toward the cost of the horse’s care. It is typically a one-time donation that does not cover the entire cost of the horse’s stay. Adoption fees, fundraising events, and grants ultimately balance the budget. We have a proven business plan and are thrilled to be debt-free and solvent, though it is not without the assistance of our supportive network of donors and fans.
Do you have a story about a horse?
I have lots of stories! Right now we have a very special one-eyed, warhorse mare named “Blue.” We are seeking a therapy home for her, because despite having one eye and racing 50 times and coming to After the Races in rough shape (thin, dull, lame), she’s been nothing but incredibly kind and forgiving from day one. She raced for two years with only one eye, and it in no way holds her back. She leaves an impression on everyone who meets her. We sent her to a trainer briefly, but they admitted they didn’t do much with her as she was perfect on the ground. Ultimately, she won’t hold up for riding. As gentle, kind, and sweet this mare is though, everyone who meets her believes she belongs in a therapy program. Hopefully by the time this article comes out, she’ll be on her way.
If people want to help your program, what can they do?
Donate, adopt, volunteer! Those are the big three, but we can’t emphasize them enough. We could very much use volunteers who are interested in helping with creating events or grant writing. Horses are always our first priority, and time is our biggest limitation when it comes to applying for grants.
Monetary donations go a long way and can be given broadly or toward specific needs. We also maintain a charity wish list on Amazon.
When you’re looking for a new horse, adopting helps two in one, as you provide a loving home for one horse while making room for another to come in. We adopt all over the continental US and even into Canada so distance is not a limiting factor.
To learn more about After the Races, please visit their website.