January 2018 Issue - page 10

Page 10
January 2018
Standardbreds Face a Tougher Road
rehoming. There are numerous
thoroughbred rescues that watch
the auctions, scan tattoos and “bail
out” any threatened horses. And
there is a concerted effort among a
growing number of show jumping
and eventing trainers to reintroduce
the breed toAmerican equestrians.
Standardbreds turn over at
the track at a similar rate to thor-
oughbreds but they do not have
the same level of interest among
the show horse and pleasure
riding community.
“Most of those in the kill
pens are from the Amish who turn
them over in their teens for fresh
ones, as they say,” said Bokman.
Ellen Harvey, a spokeswom-
an for the U.S. Trotting Asso-
ciation, said the standardbred
industry has stepped up its efforts
over the past two decades to help
retired racehorses.
Harvey explained that the
USTA has increased its advocacy
and outreach by attending equine
expos and the World Equestrian
Games to educate the riding and
driving public that standardbreds
do more than trot a mile in a
circle. “Thoroughbreds have a
history of being ridden in the
show ring,” she said. “We’re
faced with building awareness
that standardbreds are diverse in
their athletic ability.”
Harvey points to the Newark
Police Mounted Unit, which uses
off-track standardbreds almost
She said the USTA’s “Full
Circle” program, similar to the
one run by the American Quarter
Horse Association, uses a data-
base to enroll young horses. If
the horse needs help later in life,
those who signed up--breeders,
drivers, trainers, even fans--will
be notified.
The group also set up a
fund, Save Our Standardbreds,
to support agencies and 501C3
non-profit groups and shelters
caring for standardbreds seized in
cruelty cases.
Harvey said some breeders,
have their own “social securi-
ty programs” for their horses.
Hanover Shoe Farms, the largest
standardbred breeder in the coun-
try, has more than 100 retirees
on its large farm in Hanover and
provides lifetime homes for its
breeding mares.
USTA also offers breed
awards and a pleasure registry to
recognize standardbred achieve-
ment in disciplines other than
Bokman contends the indus-
try group could do far more.
“There is no concerted effort
in the industry,” she said. “It is
such a huge problem you can’t
continue to put Band Aids on it.“
Bokman would like to see
breeders and owners set up a fund
at birth to ensure safe aftercare for
their horses. She said the topic was
discussed at a meeting with USTA
officials in October, but no decision
or action plan was reached.
For now the fate of hundreds
of standardbreds is in the hands of
the highly active Save Our Stan-
dardbreds from Slaughter Face-
book page. There, on any given
day, or hour, volunteers are posting
photos and videos of at-risk horses,
while working the phones to find
anyone connected to the horse who
might be able to take the horse
back or help fund its rescue.
The group’s page is a daily
deluge of desperate pleas for
help for each forlorn horse with
an auction tag. Still the flow of
horses from auction to slaughter
is constant.
“It’s a losing game, we all
know that,” said the SOSS page’s
founder Helen Volshonok, who
lives in New York City. She had
no prior horse experience except
that she fell in love with standard-
breds and realized that, unlike
thoroughbreds, they had little in
the way of aftercare. “There is an
unlimited supply of standardbreds
going to kill buyers and auctions.”
She said there are some kind
owners and breeders who offer to
take back horses or help when they
learn their horses are hours away
from being loaded on a one-way
trip to Canada. Others, she said,
say they’d like to help but their
circumstances have changed; they
got divorced or no longer have the
income to support a horse. Still
others hang up on them.
“A lot of people say, ‘don’t
line the pockets of the kill buy-
ers,’ but what’s the alternative?”
said Volshonok. “Ship or sell, that
horse is doomed
Of those the foundation
saved in the large rescue in
November, several have been ad-
opted, others are in foster homes.
A 12-year-old emaciated Maine-
bred gelding named Cash Moving
died shortly after arrival.
Bokman said the size of this
rescue is putting a strain on the
foundation’s limited finances,
coupled with the fact they do
not have their own farm or an
“The concern is that several
in the group need full retirement
because they have an injury that
prevents them from use but are
happy in pasture,” she said. “A
few are between 19 and 21 and
still have plenty of years to give
someone under saddle, but some
people shy off.
"We are very close to saying
no when a horse is in need
because we cannot take more on
without help,” Bokman said. “We
certainly cannot afford to retire
any more for life.”
For information on adoption
and foster care or to contribute
to the Standardbred Retirement
Foundation, visit their website
Amy Worden is a career jour-
nalist who spent 15 years as a
reporter for The Philadelphia In-
quirer where she covered politics
and animal issues and founded
Philly Dawg pet blog.
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