When you own and race horses, there is a certain responsibility you have to the animal. There is a lot of debate as to who should be looking out for our ex-racers when their careers are over. Some say the breeders while others task the owners. While there are good arguments for both – as well as others - the bottom line is that right now not enough is being done to take care of our retired racehorses.
There is a good chance that those of us in the claiming game will have horses pass through our stables for only a few races but that doesn’t absolve us of responsibility to these athletes. When we got together to claim a horse, I borrowed from Steve Zorn's Castle Village Farm a provision to set aside 1% of earnings to go to equine related charities. In the past we have donated to the Don MacBeth Disabled Jockey’s Fund but this year we decided to stay local and changed focus to the equine. This year the recipient of 1% of Tabby Lane’s earnings is the MinnesotaRetired Racehorse Project.
The 501(c)(3) charity was founded by Director Annie Ringwelski and Vice-President Dr. Jennifer Selvig, DVM, in 2009 to provide “rehabilitation, placement and promotion of retired racehorses.” Since their inception, they have placed or helped facilitate placement of over 70 ex racehorses. Horses that have gone through the MNRRP program are already excelling in cross country, barrel racing, dressage, polo and recreational riding. The program is 100% volunteer and the majority of the expenses and daily operations are born by Ringwelski while Selvig lends her expertise to evaluating and treating, if necessary, entrants into the program to keep associated costs as low as possible.
Just yesterday morning I read a Facebook exchange that was heartbreaking:
Trainer: “Annie, we have a horse for you.”
Annie: “Can't take anymore right now until a few find homes. We are full with no funding.”
The trainer is a stand-up guy who is going to try and do right by the horse, but options are limited. This isn’t a Minnesota issue, as many of your know. This is an issue that is national in scope and organizations like the Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, Neigh Savers, Illinois Equine Humane Center, New England Equine Rescues as well as MNRRP exist to fill this need. The rest of us in the game need to support these organizations in any way we can.
“A bale of hay is $5,” says Ringwelski. “No donation is too small and every bit of it goes to help the horses.”
MNRRP currently has 8 retired racehorses available for adoption or in various stages of rehabilitation. Demand for the program is so high that here is a waiting list for trainers and owners wanting their horses in the MNRRP program, which carefully screens potential adoptive homes.
"We have the room for them at our facility, we just don’t have the financial backing to support them,” said Ringwelski. “It breaks my heart to walk by an empty stall and know there is a horse in need out there."
A noble cause with no funding is just a dream. I’m hopeful that we in the industry can keep these groups living their dreams to help our ex-racers find long and useful lives beyond the racetrack. Wherever you are, please support your local rescue. Every little bit helps and it is our obligation.
As Annie said, no donation is too small. If you'd like to donate please send a check to MNRRP C/O Annie Ringwelski, 3850 182nd St E, Prior Lake ,MN 55372. The Project’s number is 612-384-6908.