COVID-19 Places Stress on Thoroughbred Industry, Aftercare

The Retired Racehorse Project’s executive director and longtime member of the racing industry offers insight into the pandemic’s effect on Thoroughbred rehoming as tracks close and sales are canceled.
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COVID-19 Places Stress on Thoroughbred Industry, Aftercare
The effects of auction and race meet cancellations, while unintended, are far-reaching for horsemen and the animals who fall under their care. | Photo: Courtesy Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

COVID-19 is hitting the Thoroughbred industry hard. The effects of auction and race meet cancellations, while unintended, are far-reaching for horsemen and the animals who fall under their care. One of the most concerning trends we are seeing is an uptick in the number of horses retiring from racing earlier than anticipated and in need of rehoming now. We expect to see significantly more in the coming weeks.

While The Jockey Club does not currently collect data on how many horses retire from racing each year in the U. S., Australia does and reports an average of 40% of their country’s racing population retires annually. Earlier this year journalist Natalie Voss, who writes for the Paulick Report and Chronicle of the Horse, applied Australian percentages to American numbers to estimate that roughly 18,500 horses retired from racing last year alone (read more on this and other statistics related to aftercare here.

While females with favorable pedigrees or racing ability likely go onto breeding careers, along with a handful of elite colts that earn their way into stallion barns, we can conservatively expect that approximately 60%-70% of that estimated number of retirees (or 11,100 to 12,950 Thoroughbreds) require rehoming for non-racing and -breeding purposes in a normal year

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Jen Roytz is the executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the market for Thoroughbreds after racing through initiatives such as the Thoroughbred Makeover and off-track Thoroughbred retraining clinics. For more information, visit retiredracehorseproject.org or email Jen at jroytz@retiredracehorseproject.org.

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