Horses granted new life
By Naomi Smoot / Journal staff writer
CHARLES TOWN - An area nonprofit is on a quest to ensure that thoroughbred racehorses are able to continue living out their lives even after their days at the track are over.
After two to 12 years of racing - depending on how successful a horse's career has been - many thoroughbreds are retired and sent to auction, said Allie Conrad, executive director of The Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses, or CANTER-Mid-Atlantic.
For some, it is the end of the line.
"Really, their fates are uncertain," Conrad said Friday. "A majority of horses will end up at auction."
If no one comes forward to bid on them, they are sent to slaughter.
"It's really pretty grim," she said. "Horse meat is a giant export out of this country. They do go to slaughter at an alarming rate."
But her agency has stepped in to make sure that doesn't happen. For nearly 10 years now, Conrad said CANTER has been helping to find homes for retired thoroughbreds. While the horses are in their care, they house them at farms in nearby Maryland, and rehabilitate them for use in jumping, trail riding and other similar events, she said.
"They come very highly trained, it's just for a different job," Conrad said of the horses.
At present, CANTER is working to retrain and rehabilitate 24 former racehorses. But now, thanks to a grant from Charles Town Races & Slots, they will have the funding to take in even more, she stated.
Recently, the Jefferson County gaming facility provided CANTER with a grant to aid in the agency's cause. Conrad said she has been asked not to divulge the sum of the grant, but noted that it is enough to take care of at least an additional 10 horses, all of which will come from Charles Town Races & Slots.
Still, the grant is more than just a financial boost for the agency, it also shows a new interest from race tracks in CANTER's rehabilitation efforts, she said.
"It's pretty important. While the money will be a big help, it's more the symbolism that the racetrack is stepping up and acknowledging the work we do ... It's a great step forward," Conrad said.
Officials with Charles Town Races & Slots were unavailable for comment Friday. In a recent news release, Dickie Moore, general manager of racing at the facility said, "we understand that CANTER-Mid Atlantic has struggled to take in ex-racehorses in need of homes, and we are pleased to support their work, and hopefully ease their burden, with a financial grant so that many more racehorses can be rehabilitated and retrained for a second career."
Conrad said that on average it takes between six months and a year to get a horse ready for a second career, though each animal, she noted, is different. In addition to retraining the horses, she said they are also given time off to recuperate from their careers as racers. Like all athletes, she said, their bodies are put through a great deal of stress while they are racing.
"We give them a minimum of three months off because we feel they deserve it ... Their bodies kind of go through a whole lot of stress at the racetrack," she said.
- Staff writer Naomi Smoot can be reached at (304) 725-6581, or firstname.lastname@example.org