Celebrating its 25th anniversary, New Vocations is the nation’s oldest and largest racehorse adoption program servicing both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses. New Vocations was created to provide a safety net for horses retiring from the track, providing them with rehabilitation and retraining, and then placing them into qualified, loving homes.
Retirement vs. Adoption
New Vocations focuses solely on adoption instead of retirement, believing that each horse deserves to have an individual home and purpose. Horses that are “retired” are generally not ridden; all horses at New Vocations are able to carry a rider’s weight and are suitable for some level of riding.
The program accepts only horses that are sound or those that have a good prognosis of being sound after rehabilitation. New Vocations services over 40 racetracks and hundreds of racehorse owners, helping ensure that their horse retires from racing to a safe haven. About 70 percent of the horses that enter the program require some sort of rehabilitation, whether mental or physical. Horses that come to New Vocations could need some down time to gain weight; they may need time to heal a bowed tendon or require a chip removal surgery from a joint. Once healed, the horse will transition over to under-saddle training.
The Training Process
Once a horse enters the training program at New Vocations, he is taught multiple things in addition to how to be a riding horse. These include how to:
· Be bathed with a hose
Many racehorses have not been turned out on grass to just be horses in quite some time. Getting a racehorse acclimated to turnout, including turnout with other horses, can take awhile. Each horse at New Vocations is turned out in a small paddock on his own until he is able to stay out for multiple hours at a time. Once he is comfortable with this, he is transitioned to a larger paddock with one “buddy.” Once this is not an issue, the two horses then move into a larger field with additional horses so the retired racehorse learns how to be a part of a herd.
After the horse acclimates to turnout out and the slower pace of barn life, he is put on a lunge line and taught to lunge before our trainer ever puts a foot in the stirrup. Our trainers want to know what type of horse they are about to get on: Is he quiet? Does he get anxious when asked to canter? How does he move? Does he focus on the handler? Each of these things are important to know to give a horse the best first ride off the track.
Often this first ride is nothing exciting; the trainers will walk the horse a lap of the arena in each direction; they may do a bit of trotting and then put the horse away. The goal is for the horse’s new “job” to be uneventful and a slower way of life than the track. Once the horse is quiet for walking and trotting, the trainer will begin a bit of cater work. The horses in the New Vocations program are not ridden every day; each horse is generally worked three to four days a week.
Once a horse can stand for mounting, walk, trot, canter, stop and steer, he is ready to be listed for adoption on our website. The horses available from New Vocations are not finished show horses; they have basic retraining that will allow them to go on to new homes that will finish their retraining and offer them successful second careers.
By the Numbers
· New Vocations has about 140 horses in its care at any given time
· We have five facilities in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York
· Our funding is provided mainly through donations and grants
· On average, it costs about $3,500 to get a horse rehabilitated, retrained and rehomed
· Once in training, the average stay in our program is 60 days
· The average adoption fee is $400
· Over 6,500 horses have been placed through the program since its inception