American Thoroughbred Racehorse Industry Sets Up Aftercare Alliance

by on March 7th, 2015
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Have you ever wondered what happens to thoroughbred racehorses after their racing careers are through? Thoroughbreds can live to be 30 years old or more and yet end their racing careers by age 4. Only a small fraction retires to the breeding barn or kept to help train young racehorses. The rest are sold to Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses; euthanized due to treatable injuries that the owner will not pay for; or sent to racehorse retirement charities.

On February 9, 2012, the wealthiest members of the American thoroughbred racing industry announced the formation of an agency called the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA.) The TAA would not rehabilitate retired racehorses into a new life as riding or show horses, but would allot funds to organizations that already do. TAA would also set up an accreditation program to help potential adopters chose an adoption facility.

An Old Problem

What to do with retired racehorses has been a problem since the early 1900s, when the car and the tractor took over the jobs that would have gone to retired racehorses. Back in the early 1900s, there were less than 10,000 foals hitting the ground every year because of the vast expense of campaigning a racehorse and two World Wars. Any retired thoroughbred was considered valuable – unlike the majority of racehorses today, which are considered cheap.

In the late 1980s, there were over 40,000 foals registered with the Jockey Club each year. Although these numbers have dropped, 27, 233 thoroughbreds were foaled in 2010 alone. That means that (assuming that all of the foals survive throughout their careers) there will be 27, 233 ex-racehorses that will eventually need a home in three or four years. Owners get tax breaks for keeping horses in training – but not for retired horses. Retired racehorses were traditionally not an owner’s problem.

Why Now?

It has taken nearly 100 years to convince racehorse owner’s to change the traditional viewpoint. Retired racehorses are an owner’s problem – and a trainer’s problem, too. Some states like New York will ban a trainer from competing in that state if one of their retired horses has been sold to a slaughterhouse. Although the United States shut down the last horse slaughterhouse in 2007, efforts are under way to re-open these slaughterhouses.

In the meantime, there is nothing preventing retired racehorses to be shipped over the border to an abattoir. But recently, the public was appalled at the actions of one Pennsylvania horse trainer who told racehorse owners that she would find new homes for their horses – and then sold them to a Canadian slaughterhouse. In order to avoid incidents like this from happening in the future, the TAA was formed. It hopes to open its doors in Lexington, Kentucky later this year.


The Gainsville Sun. “Florida sees drop in thoroughbred foals.” Carlos E. Mendina. September 24, 2010.

The Horse. “Thoroughbred Industry Forms Aftercare Alliance.” The Blood-Horse Staff.

February 9, 2012.

Seattle Times. “Rescue groups save racehorses from slaughterhouses.” Lynn Thompson. November 10, 2010.

NBCNews Philadelphia. “Chester Co. Trainer Was Selling Horses For Slaughter: Cops.” Kelly Bayliss & Karen Arazia. January 19, 2012.

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