One of ReRun's graduates before he was adopted out (Photos courtesy of ReRun).
In 1996, the Kentucky Humane Society opened a new division with racing insiders Shon Wylie and Lori Neagle at the helm. Wylie and Neagle saw the need for a program that not only assisted in the retirement of racehorses but also retrained them in order to send them on to new careers.
The program was named ReRun and within two years, it outgrew the society, becoming its own 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
ReRun was one of the first programs to retire racehorses from the track and send them into new careers instead of permanent retirement, knowing the horses could live for 20 or more years after their racing days.
The program now adopts out between 30 to 50 horses a year with a small band of permanently retired older horses also in the program.
Many horses in ReRun learn riding basics such as walking, trotting, and cantering before being adopted out. But if an advanced rider inquires about a horse, ReRun will let them adopt the horse earlier than normal.
The program has also received a training grant from the ASPCA, which allowed them to start the All-Stars Program. The funding from the grant allows ReRun to put some horses in an intensive three-month retraining program that makes the horse more attractive to potential adopters.
This comes at the perfect time as ReRun’s program director, Lisa Molloy, has seen the popularity of off-the-track Thoroughbreds grow in the amateur circuits over the past few years. The stereotype that Thoroughbreds are “hot and crazy” is quickly disappearing as people learn about the breed’s versatility.
“When I first started working for Thoroughbred charities, the market was a lot more closed and mainly geared towards professional trainers and more advanced, upper-level riders,” Molloy said. “I think tremendous strides have been made to improve the visibility of Thoroughbreds on the competition circuit along with debunking the notion that they are all ‘hot and crazy,’ and we are seeing a lot more applications from lower-level riders and those that ride for pleasure.
LISA MOLLOY WITH SEA KID
“Events such as the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show circuit in [Virginia] and the Thoroughbred Horse Show Association in [Kentucky] are responsible in part for heightening the awareness of what these horses are truly capable of, and it would appear that the Quarter Horse is no longer America's most versatile [horse]!”
Anyone interested in adopting a Thoroughbred from ReRun must go through an application process that includes providing references from a veterinarian and farrier and making sure the potential adopter is the right fit for the horse.
“We require that the residence is verified and request photos showing, at a minimum: fencing, gates, pasture, a barn/shelter, and picture showing the stall to be used for the adopted horse as well as other horses owned by the applicant housed on the property. References from a vet, farrier and other equestrian professionals are also required,” Molloy said.
For anyone looking at purchasing or adopting a retired racehorse, Molloy cautions that realistic expectations are needed. While some potential horse owners may have the idea that bonding with a horse is just like the movies, Molloy says ownership is much different.
“Anyone can see and appreciate the majestic nature of a Thoroughbred, be it running in the pasture or running on the track,” she said. “However, as with any animal, the reality of owning one can be a lot different. Although in the movies, the horse forms a tremendous bond with a small child, a retired 2-year-old Thoroughbred that has just been gelded is unlikely to have watched that scene and would not be appropriate for a child.
“Boarding, feeding, shoeing, routine vet work plus any emergency vet calls all come at a price and it’s not cheap and can quickly eat into any budget.”
Molloy also says that even though racehorses are trained at an early age, or broken, to be ridden, their experiences on the track are much different than normal riding. Because of this, the horse should be considered to be green broke [just learning to be ridden] when starting a new career.
While many adoption programs put time into the horses before they place them up for adoption, riders shouldn’t expect to get a perfectly trained retired racehorse just because it went through an adoption program.
“To be successful at retraining your new horse, it will require consistency, patience, and time on a daily basis – be aware and prepared for the constraints that this will put on your time. That being said, the time you put into retraining your retired racehorse properly will pay huge dividends and is definitely worth the effort,” Molloy said.
As with any new horse, she recommends working with a trainer and a veterinarian both to select a horse from the track and to get it started on a new career path. She also recommends that anyone purchasing a retired racehorse for the first time read Anna Ford’s “Beyond the Track.” Ford’s book provides insight into a horse’s life at the track as well as physical ailments that a horse may have and a successful schedule for transitioning a racehorse to its new life.
SEA KID WITH A MESSAGE FOR POTENTIAL ADOPTERS
ReRun is helping ex-racehorses in an unconventional way by taking part in the documentary “Back On Track,” which focuses on the rehabilitation and rehoming of Thoroughbreds. The documentary features different organizations and people in the sport who are helping ex-racehorses, and it recently won its first film festival award.
ReRun is also the first program to offer an online survey for adopters to give feedback on their experience of going through the adoption process.
Molloy hopes that the survey will allow ReRun to improve its customer service and adoption process while also maintaining full accountability from their adoption crew.
For those who want to help ReRun but can’t afford to adopt one of the program’s horses, donations are always welcome. Fans can make monetary donations either through the website or by sending it to ReRun’s New Jersey address. The program is also always in need of blankets, leather halters, buckets, and other horse-care items, which can also be sent to the program’s New Jersey headquarters.
If you know of a Thoroughbred Aftercare program that you think should be covered in America’s Best Racing’s Aftercare Program Spotlight, email Melissa Bauer-Herzog (email@example.com) with the program’s name and website.