New Vocations has found new homes for more than 5,000 horses, including some more notable ones such as Kentucky Derby competitor Sam P. (Photo courtesy of New Vocations).
By Melissa Bauer-Herzog, @mbauerherzog, America's Best Racing
When Dot Morgan discovered 21 years ago that hundreds of useful Thoroughbreds were being given away after their racing careers, she decided to help connect the racetrack with potential buyers.
Soon after, she developed New Vocations with a mission statement that read: “To stand in the gap for noncompetitive, often injured racehorses providing a peaceful environment and skilled hands to assist in their development as pleasure mounts. To place these horses in experienced, loving homes that will continue their education so each has a skill and, therefore, a future.”
New Vocations started out in Laura, Ohio and took in 25 horses during its first year of operation. Today, the program has facilities in four different states and receives horses from 40 racetracks. New Vocations has taken in more than 5,000 horses since it began in 1992, and they currently have about 400 horses go through the program each year.
Potential adopters must fill out an application before they can adopt a horse from New Vocations. Because the application can take a few weeks to process, Program Director Anna Ford recommends completing the application before looking at any horses. The application is good for two years or until an applicant moves, leaving plenty of time for the right horse to be found.
Ford recommends following a few steps when looking at horses after being approved for adoption. One of the most important steps is to include a trainer in the search, especially if they know Thoroughbreds.
“If you have a trainer, be sure to include them in your search. It’s always good to have a trainer who has experience with working with Thoroughbreds,” Ford said. “Thoroughbreds are not difficult to work with, but if you have someone who truly understands their background it really helps with the transition process.”
It also is important to be realistic with competitive plans a rider has for the horse. That information will help narrow the search while also giving the adopting owner an idea of what potential racetrack injuries to avoid.
“Don’t shy away from common track injuries,” Ford said. “The majority of the horses we get in the program can go on to lower-level competitive disciplines, however, many people get scared when they hear of an old injury. Thus, many people miss out on a perfectly sound horse that would suit their needs. Vetting the horse and letting the vet know specifically what your plans are for the horse should answer most questions about the horse's suitability.”
In most cases, the horses New Vocations put up for adoption have been through a rehabilitation process if they have had an injury and only need the routine maintenance that comes with owning horses.
New Vocations evaluates each horse when it enters the program, including records and even x-rays of horses that might be in need of rehabilitation. Many of the horses New Vocations receives need of some sort of rehabilitation time before beginning training while others can go through the restarting process right away.
The program also makes sure that horses are socialized with others and able to be turned out in a pasture with at least one other horse. Other than that one rule, the horses all have different training routines. New Vocations doesn’t believe in a “cookie-cutter” type of situation to get horses through the program.
“A good rule of thumb is once a horse is both physically and mentally sound then they will start with the retraining process,” Ford said. “Once they start the retraining process and we have a good idea of who they are and what they should be good at, then we develop a marketing plan and place them up for adoption.”
New Vocations’ training program has helped launch the second careers of many successful horses in multiple disciplines. Two such horses are Soxandthecity, a successful “A-rated” adult hunter, and Lord Kenmer, a dressage horse competing at Prix St. George who has received his United States Dressage Federation bronze medal.
SOXANDTHCITY AT A HORSE SHOW
Photo courtesy of New Vocations
New Vocations also has found owners for more famous horses, such as Sam P. who finished ninth in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.
A requirement to adopt a horse from New Vocations is providing three written updates at certain dates, with photos, in the first year of adoption. The updates often serve as success stories on New Vocations website and also are sent to the horse’s racing connections to confirm that their horse is doing well.
After a year of owning the horse, adopters may sell the horse, but New Vocations has the first right of refusal on buying the horse back. New Vocations does not restrict the discipline a horse can be used for, as long as it is suitable for the event, and adopters are permitted to breed mares they get from New Vocations.
Other than finding new homes for retired racehorses, New Vocations is involved in promoting Thoroughbred aftercare throughout the year by hosting educational events. It also provides information on its website under the “Resources” tab on both Thoroughbred and Standardbred (New Vocations also has a Standardbred adoption program) retraining, among other useful post-racing-career information.
“Our website www.newvocations.org has a wealth of information on it,” Ford said. “We have a Facebook page with over 16,000 followers, which we post on several times a day. We have several events throughout the year, such as the Thoroughbreds For All in April, New Vocations Charity Horse Show in July and the Thoroughbred Makeover Challenge in October, that fans can attend.”
NEW VOCATIONS HELD A THOROUGHBREDS FOR ALL EVENT IN APRIL
Photos courtesy of Melissa Bauer-Herzog
Ford has seen the popularity of Thoroughbreds grow in the past few years, especially with the addition of Thoroughbred classes in specific disciplines. New Vocations’ Thoroughbreds for All event drew a record number of spectators, and Thoroughbred shows have opened up a new avenue for horse owners as well.
“There has always been a market for Thoroughbreds retiring with no limitations and good minds, however, with the recent promotion of Thoroughbred classes and shows, there has been an increased market for Thoroughbreds with some limitations. Many of the shows cater to people who simply want to have fun with their horse and not necessarily compete at the highest level,” Ford said.
Even if a potential owner doesn’t adopt a horse from New Vocations, Ford recommends that buyers looking for off-the-track Thoroughbreds still involve a trainer. There are many things an experienced trainer can help with when it comes to working with a Thoroughbred.
“Thoroughbreds have great hearts and truly want to please their owners. Too often though, their owners misunderstand their behavior and get frustrated. A trainer who is experienced in working with Thoroughbreds can greatly help someone avoid many frustrations and misunderstandings. It’s good to always remember and try to understand the horse’s background,” Ford said. “Thoroughbreds have done and seen a lot during their short careers, but once they leave the track their life is literally turned upside down. They rely on us to help them transition to the next stage in their life.”
THOROUGHBRED LORD KENMER IS NOW COMPETING IN THE UPPER LEVELS OF DRESSAGE
Photo courtesy of New Vocations
New Vocations was the first Northeast aftercare program to be accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, receiving their accreditation earlier this year.
“We are very proud to be accredited by the TAA,” Ford said in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s press release. “We have new horses arriving into the program on a weekly basis, and it’s only through grants and private donations that our doors have remained open.”
For more information on how you can help support New Vocations or how you can adopt a horse from the program, visit www.horseadoption.com.