More often than not, your horse is going to be retired from racing at some point – not to be sold for top dollar. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get a return (we’ve had several financially successful syndicates like Dream Rush, Lear’s Princess, Macho Again, and Flashy Bull to name a few), but those horses are the minority, not the majority.
West Point will retire a horse for two reasons: if they have an injury or if it doesn’t make sense to keep the horse in training any longer. The first one is self-explanatory; we will not run an injured animal. All of our runners are immediately evaluated by a vet at the slightest hint of something wrong. If it looks like the injury is non-life-threatening but something a horse can’t recover from to race again, he’ll be retired and rehabbed. We’ll also retire a horse if they wind up running in low-level claiming races uncompetitively. A horse like this isn’t close to paying its way and is in danger of falling into hands that won’t provide the level of care we would. We make every effort to follow horses that have been claimed away from us to ensure they are cared for following their racing careers.
We have a variety of ways of finding a new home for our retirees. Our first option is to give the existing ownership group the opportunity to take the horse. We love it when a Partner steps up to adopt a racehorse, it's very neat to watch their relationship with a horse develop.
We also have a database group we reach out to if a horse isn’t adopted right away. These are people who have indicated they’re interested in taking an off the track Thoroughbred. Usually they’re looking for a dressage horse or an eventer (after all, the Thoroughbred is a courageous athlete). Here’s what I know from the people who have adopted horses from us: they’re pleasantly surprised by how affectionate and well-mannered the horse is. Racehorses sometimes get a bad reputation as being high strung and difficult to handle, but it’s important to realize our horses were always intended to be well taken care of. From the moment they were born someone has been handling them, caring for them and teaching them.
The third option we use is a rescue/placement facility. If we go this direction we often will ask that a donation from the ownership group be given with the horse to help offset his costs while he’s at the facility. We take this route because such facilities have placement as their core competency.
Although these thoughts usually aren’t first on the radar in the exciting times of new racehorse ownership, what will happen to the horse at the end of its’ career is something to think about when you become an owner. I think we all have a responsibility to each and every runner we own, the fast ones and the slow ones.
And just because they’re done racing doesn’t mean your responsibility ends.