NY racehorse owners willing to spend a bit to save lives (NY)

Now look. More racehorse owners are stepping up saying they are willing to help out horses who can no longer race, or are just ready to retire.

More than 40% of New York Thoroughbred owners surveyed said they would support a mandatory half-percent purse fee to fund retired racehorse adoption programs. Another 32% said they would support a 1% fee. There’s a lot of barns around that could have retired animals, says Diana Pikulski, head of the Saratoga Springs-based Thoroughbred Retirement Fund. (AP Photo-New York Racing Association, Adam Coglianese)
More than 40% of New York Thoroughbred owners surveyed said they would support a mandatory half-percent purse fee to fund retired racehorse adoption programs. Another 32% said they would support a 1% fee. There’s a lot of barns around that could have retired animals, says Diana Pikulski, head of the Saratoga Springs-based Thoroughbred Retirement Fund. We wonder where these horses are now shown here racing at Saratoga in 2007. (AP Photo-New York Racing Association, Adam Coglianese)

There are many caring owners in the Thoroughbred world. And not just at the top end of the sport. Owners of the less expensive brand want what is best for their horses too. The Standardbred people are right there with them.

It is always good to see true demonstrations of this, because of the horses naturally. But it also gives us the rare opportunity to praise those connected with horses instead of lambasting them.

Paul Post (what a great racing name) for the Thoroughbred Times writes:

More than 40% of New York Thoroughbred owners surveyed said they would support a mandatory half-percent purse fee to fund retired racehorse adoption programs.

Another 32% said they would support a 1% fee.

Those results are found in a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service study conducted for the New York State Task Force on Retired Race Horses. The survey found that 1,845 Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses were retired last year in New York. It is estimated that about 800 were Thoroughbreds.

For the complete NASS study, click here.

Of the more than 1,100 owners surveyed, lack of soundness and lack of economic viability were the primary reasons given for retiring a horse. Seventy-three percent were from three to six years old, 49% had lifetime earnings less than $25,000, and 73% earned less than $25,000 in 2007.

The 13-member task force is charged with investigating the feasibility of creating a larger market and finding second careers for retired race horses, from physical and mental therapy to riding or show competitions.

Karin Bump, a Cazenovia College equine professor, said that horses have been shown to benefit people therapeutically, from autism patients to returning Iraqi war veterans struggling to overcome emotional and psychological issues. One significant obstacle to a more widespread use of horses is getting insurance carriers to recognize their value and viability, she said.

Illinois and Maryland charge horse owners a small fee—five cents per bag or $2 per ton of feed—to fund equine retirement programs.

“The time is right for us to begin looking at things like that,” Bump said.

Task force co-chairman Patrick Hooker said he especially is concerned about the economic downturn’s effect on the retired racehorse population.

“I worry a little about the economy and people’s willingness to step up and help,” he said.

Hooker also is commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. He said there is a great untapped potential for converting former dairy farms to horse farms. This would allow former dairymen to keep land under production by raising hay, he said.

“There’s a lot of barns around that could have retired animals,” said Diana Pikulski, head of the Saratoga Springs-based Thoroughbred Retirement Fund.

>> Thoroughbred Times

Other racing news from Thoroughbred Times: Laurel Park filly with EHV-1 euthanized, by John Scheinman

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