From: Journal & Topics
Post Racing: Adoption Program Provides Bright Life For Thoroughbreds In Retirement
By LAUREN BARRY Journal & Topics Reporter
Have you ever wondered what happens to a racehorse after its years on the track are over? For the thoroughbreds that hoof around Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, their future is bright thanks to Galloping Out, an Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) program that sets up retired racehorses with new careers.
Working as a racing horse is similar to an elite athlete. Horses are often ready to quit by age 8, according to Chris Block, president of Galloping Out. However, injuries, slow speeds or temperament can force horses out of the game earlier.
“Our horses can be anywhere from 3 to 10 years old,” Block told the Journal & Topics. They can live as long as 20-25 years, so having a place to go after their racing days is important for these animals.
To enter the program, a horse’s owner must fill out an application with the Galloping Out. These take around 3-5 days to process, according to Program Coordinator Jan Ely.
Block explained that a veterinarian is also required to examine each horse before the group’s board of directors officially accepts them into the program.
Qualifications include a requirement that horses must have run in Illinois within the last year before entering the program. Illinois registration will even immediately put a horse into the running. However, Ely said the program cannot take horses that have serious injuries or cannot be re-trained.
Many of the eligible horses are part of the Chicago circuit, where they race at Arlington in the summer and Hawthorne in the winter. Occasionally, these horses also race in Kentucky.
At Arlington, full-time staff cares for the horses. The park recently added studio apartments to staff dorms to accommodate families who work on-site, according to Ely.
Once accepted for Galloping Out, the horses are transported from their home at Arlington to one of the six partner farms by a volunteer member of the ITHA.
“Local horseman provide that as their contribution to the program,” said Block. “We get a lot of support from them.”
One of the program’s busiest partner farms is All the Kings Horses in Caledonia, run by Monique Cameron. At Cameron’s farm and others like it, the retired horses train for at least 90 days in their new profession.
“They need some let down time to adjust to the new lifestyle,” explained Block, who comes from a family-owned horse breeding and racing business in operation for four decades.
“You don’t want to take a horse right out of the racetrack for a pleasure ride,” laughed Block, “that would not be a pleasurable ride.”
About half of the horses are adopted as “pleasure stock,” to be ridden for leisure at private or public stables after training. The healthiest horses go on to become event and show horses.
Occasionally, some of Galloping Out’s alumni get a taste of fame. According to Ely, some go on to play polo and one even appeared in a TV commercial. Ely said that former racehorses are particularly desirable for professional work because they are smart and highly trained.
She explained that there was always a community network which worked to place retired horses in new homes.
Galloping Out began in response to a Cavel Plant that planned to operate in DeKalb around 2004. Cavel is an internationally known slaughterhouse that processed horsemeat for human consumption, according to Ely.
Through grassroots efforts, local farm owners began protesting the slaughterhouse and gained support from both ITHA and racetracks. Through this partnership, Cavel was forced out of the area.
Part of that effort included development of Galloping Out to prevent any horse from ending up in slaughterhouses, which still operate in Mexico and Canada.
By 2010, the organization was formally founded. Its first president, Nate Ruffolo of the ITHA, worked with racetracks early on to provide equal funding for the program from both parties.
Unfortunately, recent years have seen the racetracks, including Arlington, rescind funding as legalized casinos eat away at the horse racing market.
“It is very disappointing,” Block told the Journal & Topics, “we all need to be responsible for what happens to these horses.”
Block hopes that a bill that would create “racinos,” or racetracks with slots and table games, in Illinois may help solve Galloping Out’s funding dilemma. He said the bill has already been passed twice, but was vetoed by former Gov. Pat Quinn.
In the meantime, Galloping Out remains funded by ITHA, $500 donations from owners who place their horses in the program, and donations from the public. For more information about donating, visit itharacing.com/galloping-out.