Greener Pastures

After the Finish Line ensures racehorses flourish after they leave the track.

The career of a racehorse is full of excitement. In this sport of kings, these majestic animals are the true celebrities that draw fans to the racetracks. But, with an average racing career lasting only two to five years, what awaits these athletes at the end of their career, when they cross the finish line that last time?

What may be presumed as a time of victory is all too often is the opposite.

Contrary to what many people may like to believe, racing is a sport for the fans and a business for the owners and trainers. And because it so strongly revolves around profit and loss, the outcome for the horses can often be very bleak.

Many of them become unwanted or useless to their owners. The reality of what happens after the finish line becomes something most horse lovers would prefer not to consider: Convenience leads approximately two out of every three Thoroughbreds that come off the rack—even those that are sound and healthy—to become euthanized, abandoned or slaughtered, exporting the meat to Europe and Japan for human consumption.

After the finish line FINE magazine

With no federal legislation that concerns itself with this fate, and an industry that has been slow to self-regulate, much of the needed concern and care as to what happens to retired racehorses has been left to charitable organizations. And many of these organizations work on shoe-string budgets to meet the everyday needs of their horses, without additional money budgeted for emergencies or to save additional horses.

This is where After the Finish Line comes in. It understands the need to provide rescue organizations a reliable funding source. Through yearly grants and emergency funds, this all-volunteer organization is involved in fundraising to provide year-round financial support to qualified Thoroughbred rescue organizations that save, rehabilitate, retrain and adopt racehorses that can no longer race or breed.

After the finish line FINE magazine

Because even after they cross the finish line, racehorses remain athletic animals that are full of life. If given the chance, it has been shown that these talented equine athletes can excel in careers as hunters, jumpers, dressage, western or pleasure, polo, trail, companion or therapeutic riding horses. As such, After the Finish Line helps support the transition of these horses into a second career and a new beginning.

The organization’s mission is threefold. First, it wants to educate the public about the health, protection, preservation and alternative career options for Thoroughbreds when their racing or breeding careers are over. It also aims to provide year-round financial support to qualified rescue and retirement organizations. Finally, it ensures a quality of life for Thoroughbreds by saving them from slaughter and neglect.  

Just last year, with the support of its donors, After the Finish Line awarded nearly $100,000 to 65 rescue organizations, helping more than 300 ex-racehorses and broodmares at all different stages of their racing and breeding careers.

And with racing season in full swing, After the Finish Line is determined to present a different perspective. Do we understand how hard the horses work for our enjoyment? Do we understand the danger and injuries they face as they race around the track at speeds upwards of 40 miles an hour?  

After the finish line FINE magazine

Instead of people deciding what’s best for the horse, we should be listening to the horse. And the unspoken language of a horse speaks loudly. If given the chance, a horse that is unsuccessful at the track may one day be a star in the competitive horse show arena. Through patience, one can give horses the opportunity to show their true potential. And at the very least, they can become someone’s companion and friend, creating an unbreakable bond between horse and rider. But these rescued horses are the lucky ones.

The financial burden placed on a rescue is massive. The organizations take on the responsibility and cost of surgery or medical expenses, as well as paying farrier, dental or vet expenses, hay and feed, and boarding and transportation expenses. Lack of funding prevents rescue organizations from being able to accept more horses into their program, because they can’t compromise the care of their current horses by accepting more.

It’s the funding and grants provided by After the Finish Line that allows for each rescue to help more Thoroughbreds—funding that becomes life and death for all too many of these animals.

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