Finding a Forever Home
Writer Lynsi Freitag
Have you ever wondered what happens to race horses when they become injured or after they retire? Sadly, it’s not always a rosy retirement. Some go to auction where they are adopted out. These are the lucky ones who escape being put down. The New York Times recently reported, on average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America.
One new non-profit is hoping to decrease this number and ensure happy endings for such horses.
After the Homestretch aims to take in ex-racehorses, abandoned horses and ones that the Arizona Department of Agriculture have picked up, giving them an opportunity to learn a new career and find a loving home. It is at this rescue that the horses are rested, rehabilitated and trained in preparation for being adopted into a non-racing home.
“I learned of the great need for these services when I was working at another horse rescue,” says Dannielle Marturana, president and founder of After the Homestretch. “The track would call us looking for placements for the horses that needed to retire from racing. Sometimes the horses had a recoverable injury and just needed someplace to rest. The trainers tried very hard to find homes for the horses.”
“When I left the rescue where I was ranch manager, I thought about this need and niche,” says Dannielle. “So I took a month to regroup and think of everything that I learned and the people who believed in the same cause and had some expertise. We got together and decided we wanted to be an ex-racehorse rescue.”
They have been open since July 25, 2011 and took in their first horse in October, 2011.
“We get ex-racehorses from three different places,” says Dannielle. “We get them from the track. We have some trainers who will contact us when one of their horses isn’t going to race anymore. For example, we have a very healthy horse who is 12 years old, but at that age you just can’t keep running them. We have another 4-year-old horse off the track which has chips in his knees and the track veterinarian recommended that they call us so we picked him up. We also get horses from the Arizona Department of Agriculture and from owners who are in dire straits and can no longer take care of their horse.”
Rest and Rehabilitation
“After we get a horse, we rest it, allowing it to just be a horse for approximately three months,” say Dannielle. “These horses have been trained to run fast and go to the left. So we add basic ground manners and leg cues to walk, trot and canter. Our horses are trained to do trail riding and there are other horses which – with some training – can do anything: from the hunter-jumper to dressage.”
After the Homestretch has taken in 23 horses and adopted out 10 of them. This is particularly remarkable given that they do not have a “home” of their own yet. They are operating out of two satellite locations – one in Phoenix and one in Wittmann – with other horses in foster homes.
“A physical location is going to help tremendously,” says Dannielle. “It will help us get more trainers to come in and work with the horses so that they can be more adoptable. Also, once the horses are adoptable, having the location will allow more people to come see them. Ideally we would like to have our own property in the Scottsdale/Cave Creek/Phoenix area. Until then, we have to rely on foster families and homes.”
A Forever Home
Most racing horses end their career by age 7 and yet the average horse lives to 28 years, so they are not even middle-aged by the time they retire. At After the Homestretch, their goal is to give horses an opportunity to find their forever home. They have taken in horses ranging in age from 2 – 24 years old, all of which became adoptable with rest, care and training.
“Horses have a whole life ahead of them after their racing careers end,” says Dannielle. “The more support we get, the more horses we can help. We want to see these horses into their second career.”
After the Homestretch is a non-profit and completely volunteer-run, with all donations going directly toward the horses, be it feed, maintenance or medical care.