Tracking Retired Racehorses- It Isn’t Easy

Recently, I wrote about my Master Sheet for Wasabi Ventures Stables, where I keep information on every horse we have ever owned. The sheet includes data for owner, trainer, timed works, and race results. All of that information is easily acquired via Equibase. Once the horse retires, it is an entirely different issue.

Leaving the track

If WV Stables owns a horse at the time of its retirement, tracking is easy. I usually participate in the rehoming of our horses. Whether we work with an aftercare organization or rehome with a private individual, I receive information about the horse’s new home. I also receive contact information, in order to get future updates and photos.

If the horse has a different owner, as it was claimed away or sold privately, determining its location is much trickier. I won’t know that a horse has been retired until it has been out of training and/or racing for at least three months. Then I need to contact former owners or trainers for any updates.

Why the delay?

These former WVS horses are tracked on my master sheet. Every entry, result, and timed work are recorded. At least twice a month I review this spreadsheet to check on activity. Any horse that has no activity for three months is highlighted. I chose three months as the demarcation, as that is a reasonable amount of time for a horse to heal from a procedure or been given time on a farm. After three months, it is more likely that the horse is no longer running.

At four months, I search for contact information for the trainer and/or owner. I call or email to inquire about the horse’s status. Was it retired though an organization? Is it being used as a stable pony? Can they send any updates or photos for me to share with the club? Although I have contacted only a handful of people, the response rate is about 75%. Additionally, there are trainers and owners with no contact info, bringing my post-racing updates to about 50% of our horses.

Why aren’t we tracking retired racehorses?

For an industry that very much wants to show how well cared for and loved these animals are, I wonder why there isn’t more accountability. Couldn’t there be a system similar to Equibase that owners are required to update with the status of their retired horses? Think about it; there is little chance that a thoroughbred ends up in an unseemly situation if there is a requirement to share the horse’s whereabouts.

I know it’s not as simple as building a website, but it also isn’t an insurmountable problem. With tracking, there would be far fewer thoroughbreds found in slaughter auctions. On the positive side, think about how much joy it would bring to former owners and trainers when they see the new lives these horses are living.

More than a dream

I really would like to see this idea of tracking retired racehorses become more than just a thought. It seems if the right people came together, we could make this into a reality.