Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
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The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) is an American organization founded in 1982, whose mission is stated to be: "To save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter."
The Foundation says that the "sad truth is that a vast majority of the general public and even many racing fans are unaware of the sad fate that awaits thousands of Thoroughbreds each year. They assume each animal is assured a safe and graceful retirement once its racing days are over. Their perception of the "Sport of Kings” is one where great personal wealth and lifelong benevolence to all horses are givens. Unfortunately, it is a perception that does not reflect reality."
In 2001, the estate of the prominent horse owner/breeder Paul Mellon created a $5 million endowment for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for use in its efforts to rescue and rehabilitate retired race horses. The slaughterhouse killings of famous horses such as the U.S. Hall of Fame horse Exceller and the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ferdinand, both occurred outside the United States but helped raise awareness of what can happen to Thoroughbreds, even champions. The TRF also reminds people that the "reality is a Thoroughbred industry made up largely of owners with only modest resources and current economics that dictate that among all owners, no matter how responsible and well-intended, only a relatively few are capable of maintaining even a single Thoroughbred once it is unable to earn its keep on the track."
In April 2002, Churchill Downs Incorporated established the Green Pastures Program in partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
Two years after its founding, the TRF had its first retiree. His name was Promised Road, and he was typical of the type of horse that needs someone's help and a caring home. He was then 9, an undistinguished campaigner whose career ended with a sixth-place finish in a $3,500 claiming race. There have been hundreds more like him who have come under the care of the TRF. Today, the TRF claims to be the world's largest, best known and most respected charitable organization devoted to equine rescue. Ron "Gibby" Gibson the trainer of Promised Road knew that the horse deserved to be taken care of in retirement as Promised Road took care of him while racing. Mr. Gibson went on to teach at the facility before retiring.
The TRF is about more than helping horses in need. Early in the TRF’s history, Founder and Chairman of the Board Monique S. Koehler negotiated a milestone agreement with the State of New York Department of Correctional Services. In exchange for land use and labor at the state's Wallkill Correctional Facility, the TRF would design, staff and maintain a vocational training program in equine care and management for inmates.
Upon the completion of their sentences, many former inmates who have worked with the horses have gone on to become productive, solid citizens and have been quick to give credit to the TRF program. The inmates cannot have committed a sexual crime or first-degree murder. This unique prison program has been replicated at TRF farms located at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Kentucky, the Marion County Correctional Facility in Florida and at the Charles H. Hickey School for youthful offenders in Maryland.
The horses at these farms and several of our other facilities often are so infirm when retired from racing that they can do little more than enjoy their days in their paddocks and fields. However, hundreds of TRF horses have successfully been trained for second careers, as show jumpers, companion horses, handicapped riding horses, even polo horses.
The TRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization entirely dependent on public contributions. Income is derived from donations from horse racing fans, owners, breeders, trainers and racing officials who believe racehorses deserve better than a trip to the slaughterhouse when their track careers are over.
On March 18, 2011 a New York Times article reported that the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation "...has been so slow or delinquent in paying for the upkeep of the more than 1,000 horses under its care that scores have wound up starved and neglected, some fatally, according to interviews and inspection reports."
- Drape, Joe (17 March 2011). "Ex-Racehorses Starve as Charity Fails in Mission to Care for Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2011.