A Second Life
Tranquility Farms offers refuge to retired and injured thoroughbreds.
Nestled in a valley between the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert sits Tranquility Farm, home to more than 100 thoroughbred racehorses that are either retired or waiting for adoption. The 40 acres of rich grasslands and oak trees serve as transitional space in which the thoroughbreds freely roam.
The farm’s beauty is only surpassed by its mission, which is to prevent widespread slaughter that used to be the norm for unwanted racehorses. Day-to-day retirement and adoption efforts are directed by president and thoroughbred advocate, Priscilla Clark, who manages the farm with only two other staff members.
There are many reasons a horse might come to Tranquility Farm, Clark explains.
“Horses come to us sometimes due to injury that prevents them from competing,” she says. “Or they might just be slow racers—or sometimes they have had a successful race career and it’s just time to retire them. Of course, because the horse population has been over-bred at times, some come to us due to a flooded market.”
Clark is passionate about Tranquility Farm’s mission. Coming from a thoroughbred background, Clark’s realization that unwanted horses were being slaughtered galvanized her into action.
“I became compelled,” Clark says. “The slaughter was epic in earlier years—four times what it is now—and I felt I had to do something.”
Gary Biszantz also felt he had to do something. He established contact with Clark in 1996, discussing how to improve and remedy the plight of unwanted and injured racehorses.
In 1998, the two found an abandoned ranch. No stranger to taking action, Biszantz offered to outright purchase the property, which would later become Tranquility Farm, telling Clark, “I’ll just buy it.”
“I was floored,” Clark recalls of the property, which Biszantz named the Harry A. Biszantz Memorial Center, after his father.
“Besides the initial purchase Biszantz, together with contributors John and Geri Amerman, has contributed thousands of dollars to developing the infrastructure, along with maintaining ongoing care, rehabilitation and retraining efforts for the horses.”
Despite these efforts, it’s becoming more and more difficult to place horses in new homes.
“It used to be we could place approximately 50 percent of the horses in new homes, but that number has declined,” Clark says. “Even though our adoption fees are modest, it’s expensive to own a horse. In the current economic climate there are just fewer people able to maintain the expenses.”
There is also a significant training gap between a thoroughbred and a pleasure horse.
“We try to retrain as many horses as we can, but some are just not able to make the bridge from racing to becoming a pleasure horse, though a good number of them can,” says Clark, who has adopted out nearly 500 horses over the years.
“Retrained thoroughbreds are still high voltage horses and they do best with younger, energetic owners,” Clark says. “You’ve got to have a lot of energy for these horses—most do very well with owners having parallel personality and energy levels.”
Approximately one quarter of Tranquility Farm’s revenue is contributed by the racing industry itself. Indeed, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club donates a percentage of their proceeds raised from their Annual Charity Day. The remaining 75 percent of the farm’s budget is raised by individual donors, who are pillars of the program, along with other fund-raising activities.
Even Biszantz’s daughter, Shannon Biszantz is equally committed, donating 5 percent of her own Real Estate Consulting business’ income to support the farm’s efforts.
“We are always eager for fundraising help,” Clark says. “While we have a wonderful donor pool, we are also hopeful that the industry will expand contributions. Still, one of the best ways for horse people to donate to Tranquility Farm is to help us raise more money to support our retired and retrained thoroughbreds.”
Biszantz puts it in even stronger terms, believing now is the time for action, for the racing industry itself to do more.
“What we established 15 years ago in Tranquility Farm was intended to be a model for a national effort. Ninety-six percent of proceeds we raise go for actual horse care, with the remaining funds going to administration,” he says. “Jockey clubs, owners, the Breeders Association and racetracks—every segment of the industry—could contribute, maybe between $10 to 20 million, distributing money to accredited retirement farms around the country.”
Clark and Biszantz share an enormous sense of purpose and passion to provide the best life for the retired thoroughbred. Extending humane conditions and a second life these beautiful creatures is what Tranquility Farm is all about.
If you are interested in adopting a horse or fund-raising on behalf of Tranquility Farm, call 661-823-0307 or visit tranquilityfarmtbs.org.