Florida TRAC and other equine retirement homes give aging thoroughbreds a new lease on life.
In some ways, horses are very similar to humans. They desire socialization, care for their young, and thrive on living life to the fullest every moment. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
Just as with humans, as horses age they may enjoy a slower canter compared to the constant sprinting of life. Unfortunately, when horses, especially racing thoroughbreds, reach old age, their journey could lead them to possible abandonment, or worse, illegal farms with hidden slaughterhouses.
Thanks to the efforts of several equine organizations around the nation, horses are finding a new place of rest at “retirement homes.”
Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care in Palm City provides this type of equine relaxation for thoroughbreds retired from the racing world, as well as some that have been abandoned by their owners for unknown reasons.
“With racing horses, all they knew was to race, so what we try to do is to take the racehorse out of them, while providing them with daily care that is needed for their diet, turnout, and their medical needs,” says Celia Scarlett Fawkes, Florida TRAC’s intake director. “We put them into a sound state, and then categorize them into what program their state of life is currently in. Believe it or not, within 24 hours of turnout and taking a deep breath, the transformation to being complacent is amazing and happens quickly.”
Florida TRAC, which has been in operation since April 2009 and was started by equine protection organizations, professional jockeys, and a few racetracks, care for any racing injuries the thoroughbreds may have while acclimating them to a life that is less fast-paced.
“There is definitely a let-down period when the horse arrives to our facility. They are introduced to turnout again, as some of the older racehorses (age seven to ten) have been on the track since they were two, and they don’t remember what turnout is. They are introduced to small turnout areas; then we gradually lead them to bigger turnout in small amounts of time. They then graduate to being turned out all night or with a friend,” explains Fawkes.
Volunteers mainly run the organization, which has four separate facilities, and all have strong backgrounds in horse care and training. Fawkes has had over 20 years of experience with racehorses and is married to a horse trainer. “[Florida TRAC] is basically comprised of people who love the horses, this type of program and the satisfaction of finding these horses new ‘forever’ homes,” she proclaims.
Adoption is possible for these retired thoroughbreds, with strict guidelines, but many of the thoroughbreds remain in the solitude and comfort of TRAC.
Some thoroughbred horses at Florida TRAC, and at other retirement facilities, have even embarked on secondary careers; becoming show horses, therapy horses, and even working with underprivileged children and post-war veterans.
For those in the community that want to help, financial support is always appreciated as well as letting these equine retirement homes know of horses listed on craigslist or residing on illegal farms. Fawkes asserts that regardless of the horse’s age, and “with proper handling and understanding, thoroughbreds can be your best friend.”
story by BLAIR TOWNLEY