It is much harder to find a horse for this than I thought. The whole time frame aspect makes it feel like being on one of those timed cooking shows. I’m afraid that when the horse goes to be “plated” it will look like a mess because I ran out of time.
The problem is that all the qualified trainers who do not have their horses yet are scraping for those that are left—and there does not seem to be a lot left. Now that it is spring, all the race trainers want to try their luck racing their horses and it is usually only when they are broken that they want to give them away to a good home. So here I am, scrambling to find a horse before the July 1 deadline.
April 1 came and went with no Perri Whan. That’s because the most important member of Team Perri Whan has been recruited to race for Willard Thompson. I am devastated—two months of putting a partnership together, 20 hours of driving, and all the wasted chances are making me bitter.
If the Retired Racehorse Project succeeds, it could provide an incentive for owners and trainers to find a viable market to “save” a horse for instead of racing them (and potentially breaking them). Most horses run until they are six and before that point trainers can pretty much tell if they will have a successful career. Why not pull out a horse that isn’t showing as much promise and start marketing it for another career?
Actively marketing a horse for an athletic career does not mean sending it out for adoption. People want a chance to try a horse and test its capabilities for a specific discipline. It is hard to believe that equine adoption programs are capable of providing this kind of service to potential adopters. Most trainers are willing to pay for this privilege—I want to see a horse with no previous jumping experience a free-jump in a shoot, I want to ride a horse several times before I would ever buy it, and I would pay to take a horse on a short trial. How can a trainer fairly represent a horse in a sale if he/she is buying it for a customer without these services? Ever wonder why people are willing to pay so much for a horse? Because it comes with all of these assurances. The horse has a proven record. It’s not a question of whether a horse can do his sport well; it is a question of who gets to ride him. That’s where all the money comes in. We are willing to pay more for a horse if it has experience towards its discipline.
It also doesn’t mean giving the horse away. As a trainer, I am tired of people trying to give me their retired racehorses to get them out of their hair. Its not the price of the horse, its the cost to keep it, that is so expensive and a “free” horse costs the same to keep as a one-million-dollar horse. I like working with Thoroughbreds, but that doesn’t mean that I am willing to offer all of my time and money doing it.
I can repurpose a Thoroughbred; I have had a lot of success in doing so. But at the moment, I am experiencing some of the problems associated with buying one. Even if I do not wind up finding a horse for this, my money will have gone to a good cause and I think I have already learned about a lot things that could stand to be improved.