Art of Diplomacy won $165,818 and was stakes placed on the track. Now owned by Megan Allen, he is one of the many horses CANTER has found homes for after their careers on the track are over (Photo courtesy of CANTER).
When a trainer at Detroit Race Course known for finding new homes her own racehorses was approached by others looking to find new homes for theirs, she thought about starting a program connecting Thoroughbreds with second careers.
That thought turned into reality in 1996 when Detroit Race Course shut down and there suddenly was an urgent need for new homes.
Seventeen years later, CANTER has found new homes for more than 18,000 horses through classified ads on the site and 2,500 through the CANTER-owned program.
“Since we’ve started [the classified ads], we’ve placed close to 18,000 horses since 1997,” said Nancy Koch, CANTER’s executive director. “It’s a lot. It’s probably a lot more than that but that’s the numbers we can track because what frequently happens is that people will go and maybe the one they went for wasn’t the one they wanted but they start walking around the barns and they end up with two horses. So that’s where we have our largest amount of success. But in some situations, trainers need to move horses very quickly or don’t or aren’t able to wait for the horse to sell right off the site or the horse may have an injury that we can help rehab through our CANTER-owned program.”
While those that are sold through the classified ads don’t have any sort of CANTER-endorsed bill of sale, adopters who want a horse from the CANTER-owned program must fill out a two-page application found on the program’s website. The application has everything from fencing questions to a request for references, including a reference from a veterinarian.
HOPES JET WON $11,645 ON THE TRACK AND IS NOW OWNED BY VALERIE DAVIS
Photo courtesy of CANTER
People can sell horses they bought from the CANTER-owned program but CANTER will also take the horses back to find new homes for them if necessary. However, CANTER will not take horses bought from the classified ads back because they were not involved in the selling process.
Retired racehorses from both programs go on to successful second careers with eventers adopting or buying many of the Thoroughbreds on the CANTER site. However, Koch is seeing a changing of the tide with more hunter/jumper riders taking the retired racehorses off the track as well.
“It used to be harder to place them in the hunter/jumper world, and now there’s lots of TB classes and incentive programs,” she said. “I think it’s changing dramatically quickly and I have to thank … people in the hunter/jumper world that stand up for these horses and say ‘they need to be recognized, they need to be included in the classes and they need to be rewarded when they are successful.’ So they’ve done a really, really good job with that.”
Koch recognizes that there are two different types of buyer that may be looking at off-the-track Thoroughbreds, those that feel comfortable going to the track and looking at Thoroughbreds and those that may be a bit unsure of what they are looking for.
“The ones that aren’t sure, I would advise them to look into the CANTER-owned program. It’s a completely different atmosphere, the horses are on farms, they’ve had some let down time, they’re retrained. The volunteers know a lot more about those horses and what their attributes are, what they may be good at, than going to the track with a listing service and hoping that that horse ends up being what [the buyer] wants,” Koch said.
“Many of our affiliates have been doing this for years and years and years, so they have developed a good eye for what the rider’s attributes are and what the horse can do well. Going to the track and taking one home is not for everybody, so for those that would feel more comfortable riding first and having pre-purchase exams, I strongly recommend that they look at the CANTER-owned program.”
Koch also recommends that anyone who may not have experience with off-the-track horses but wants to buy one should spend time volunteering with a listing service at the track then at a retraining barn. That information lets the potential buyer know what skills the horse already possesses and which ones the horse needs to learn to be successful in its new career.
Horses in programs like the CANTER-owned program are also taught different skills than those coming right off the track as the program spends time acclimating them into a new career. Most important to CANTER is teaching a horse basic ground manners, such as walking quietly and standing when being turned out. Horses also are taught how to be ridden, and some are even started over jumps or given some natural horsemanship training during the retraining process.
The number one priority for CANTER is to make the horses they retrain safe for their new owners. They also use the time to learn the strengths of the horse so that they can pass that information on to potential owners.
CANTER GRADUATE LAIR AND HARE IS NOW OWNED BY MICHELLE CASSIDY
Photo courtesy of CANTER
For those wanting to help the CANTER program, CANTER takes volunteers with many different skills. Not all CANTER affiliates have the retraining program, but they can use volunteers for the listing service in their area or for fundraising help. For affiliates that do have the retraining program, volunteers can do anything from barn help to riding the horses. Some even have barn nights where the volunteers work at the barn before going out to dinner.
“If people want to volunteer, there’s always things like that that they can do, those programs that actually ride and retrain, there may be an opportunity for somebody to ride,” Koch said. “Certainly, we can use any help with fundraising activities, so whatever attributes you want to bring to the program, I’m sure we can find something for you to do. We are all volunteers, nobody gets paid.”
CANTER is also a 501(c)(3) organization and accepts donations for those who are unable to volunteer their time.
For those who want to learn more about CANTER, visit their website at www.canterusa.org or stop by the CANTER booth at different events for more information on the different affiliates all over the country.
If you know of a Thoroughbred Aftercare program that you think should be covered in America’s Best Racing’s Aftercare Program Spotlight, email Melissa Bauer-Herzog (email@example.com) with the program’s name and website.
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