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Retrained and Remarkable

by | Dec 2018 | Article

Case Study: Retrained & Remarkable Challenge, a WaterShed Animal Fund-sponsored Initiative

The challenge for every equine adoption organization is the same: How to move more horses into quality homes each year.

Created in 1992, New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program has become the nation’s largest racehorse adoption organization, rehoming over 6,500 retired Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses since its inception.

In the past 26 years, the program has witnessed great changes in the equine aftercare industry, many of them for the good of the horse. One change that has greatly affected New Vocations and its ability to move a large number of horses into new homes rapidly is the fairly new notion of a “perfect horse.” Many adopters contact our program wanting a horse that is tall, pretty, kind, sane, a specific color and injury-free, with unlimited potential. While New Vocations does get these horses, the vast majority (over 70 percent) of the horses that enter the program need some format of rehabilitation from the rigors or racing. In addition, not every New Vocations horse is over 16 hands or is a solid citizen under saddle (yet!).

It matters not that many of these horses will be used solely as pleasure mounts with limited jumping or working at speed such as in barrels, polo or eventing; the potential owner is emphatic that the horse have no prior injuries and be “perfect” in every way.

Because of this mindset and insistence on “perfection,” New Vocations has had to work harder to move specific horses. These include horses that

  • Are smaller in stature
  • Have a stable vice like cribbing or weaving
  • Have a limited second career because of an injury from which they have been rehabbed

On average, once a horse enters training, he or she will stay in the New Vocations program for about 45 days before being adopted. Horses like those listed above stay in our program for significantly longer periods of time—multiple months more. While there is no hard-and-fast timeline on when horses must be adopted, the longer a horse stays with us, the fewer retired racehorses we can help.

The Retrained & Remarkable Challenge

The New Vocations team is constantly trying to brainstorm ways we can adopt out more horses. With the assistance of the WaterShed Animal Fund, we launched a program dubbed the “Retrained & Remarkable Challenge,” (also called R&R) designed specifically to help these harder-to-place horses find homes.

This incentive-based program is open to all approved New Vocations adopters. The Challenge is designed to shine a spotlight on horses that may be overlooked. The program offers up to 100 Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds (that have been pre-determined to be “Challenge eligible”) a shipping credit of up to $500 ($1 loaded mile for commercial transport and $0.75 per mile for personal transport).

Additionally, the Challenge includes an invitation to compete at a New Vocations horse show against other Challenge horses for $5,000 in cash and prizes. Horses that come to the competition will receive a free stall and free entry into Challenge classes of their choice.

Keeping in mind that some of these horses are limited in their competitive careers, we have decided to offer competition in the following classes:
● Walk/Trot (Gait) English Pleasure
● Walk/Trot (Gait) Western Pleasure
● Walk/Trot/Canter (Gait) English Pleasure
● Walk/Trot/Canter (Gait) Western Pleasure
● 2’ Hunter Hack
● In-Hand
● Trail

The Details:

The Retrained & Remarkable Challenge was launched on March 1, 2018 and will remain open through Dec. 21, 2018. This will allow adopters a minimum of nine months in which to retrain their horse. While we recognize that not every horse will return for the competition portion of the Challenge, we felt it important to offer an added incentive for those who wished to take advantage of it.

Standardbred Competition:
All R&R-eligible Standardbreds are welcome to compete at the Standardbred Classic Horse Show on Oct. 5-6, 2019, at Eden Park in Sunbury, Ohio. New Vocations does not host this horse show, so the R&R classes will be incorporated into a pre-existing show schedule. R&R horses are permitted to cross-enter (where applicable) into mainstream classes, but they will be responsible for the cost of these classes.

Thoroughbred Competition:
All R&R-eligible Thoroughbreds are welcome to compete at the New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. New Vocations is the host of this horse show and has ensured that there are other classes the R&R horses can enter, so as to entice them to horse show in this iconic venue.

The Survey Says…

New Vocations will not be able to gauge the (hopeful!) success of this new initiative until the conclusion of the adoption period at the end of December. While it may seem the only facet to analyze would be how many horses were adopted for the program (simply put, did we adopt out 100 horses total for the R&R Challenge?), it will also be important to calculate the average stay in the training program for those horses we have dubbed “harder to adopt.” Should the amount of time we have had the horses be drastically reduced, we would consider the program a success even if the goal of 100 horses was not reached.

New Vocations has done very strategic marketing pushes for our R&R horses, in addition go creating a catchy icon denoting a Challenge horse (insert here) that is easily recognizable. In addition, we have focused efforts into sharing R&R horses in more places than our own social media; we feel that this also has helped us move the horses into homes more quickly. We are deeply thankful for the financial assistance of the WaterShed Animal Fund in helping us attempt a new program to see if we can help even more retiring racehorses each year.

New Vocations is grateful to partner with The Right Horse Initiative as the missions of both organizations are closely aligned. New Vocations works diligently to ensure horses retiring from the track have a safe transition to riding horses. As New Vocations’ focus is rehoming as many horses as possible each year, we are honored to be a part of The Right Horse’s initiative to massively increase equine adoptions in the United States. Working together, we can help change the fate of horses in transition; The Right Horse Initiative offers additional credence to racehorse owners and trainers that the work New Vocations does is necessary; it also reassures our adopters that the organization is deeply committed to equine aftercare and finding retired racehorses loving, quality homes.

Sarah Coleman is the Public and Community Relations Director for New Vocations. She is completely smitten with her sassy red horse, Chisholm, who she adopted through the program four years ago. A former Derby hopeful under trainer Todd Pletcher, the “Little Red Horse” as he is known is not so little anymore and is rapidly learning his role as a solid hunter and equitation mount.

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