What makes After the Races different from other OTTB “rescues?” A lot of things! There are a lot of groups out there rehoming Thoroughbred racehorses when they retire, but many people who work with or adopt through After the Races will tell you ATR stands out for many reasons. Early on director Bonnie McRae made some conscious choices on how ATR would operate. While in the beginning this often seemed to make things more difficult, it has gone on to pay off with ATR earning one of the best reputations in the business, built on honesty and quality care.
Here’s what we think makes After the Races unique: Full disclosure.
No exceptions. When horses come to ATR with injuries, old or new, disclosed or discovered when on the farm, they all get reported to the adopter. Bonnie’s policy when someone comes to look at a horse is to tell them all the things “wrong” with the horse first and then see if they’re still listening. If an adopter is not able to look past a horse’s history or lumps and bumps, they shouldn’t be looking at a recently retired racehorse.
ATR doesn’t believe you can beat an OTTB when it comes to a horse that’s trainable, has stamina and heart, or in regards to how hard they try for their owners. And many cases, it’s hard to beat their athleticism as well! But all race horses come with something. Whether it’s a minor splint, an old bucked shin, or something more involved such as a bowed tendon, an old fracture, or some arthritic changes here or there.
Some people believe adopters/buyers don’t need to know if a horse had a slab fracture if it healed, or a tendon if it’s so tight and small they wouldn’t otherwise notice, etc. And by disclosing these details, surely there are those who walk away, intimidated by a horse with a few marks on its health record. Even though these old injuries may be non-issues moving forward, the staff at ATR want you to have a full picture of the horse you’re getting. They will always recommend a pre-purchase exam as well because they want their adopters to be happy with the horse they’re taking home: the whole horse.
Let down time for all
A horse that arrives a week off of its last race is a totally different animal than the horse that’s had a month on the farm. While there are varied opinions on this, ATR believes race horses are better off and better evaluated when they’re given time to “let down,” or rest and decompress, after racing and before going back to work. That means horses are not ridden for at least 30 days post-race training if they retire at ATR. Horses come off the track incredibly fit, on high-octane diets, and with a get-on-and-go muscle memory that’s been well programmed. They also may be on medication or may have been recently injected in any one of their joints. Their backs and hind ends are likely sore if they’re not body sore all over.
To read part 2 of After the Races guest blog post, click here.