As trainers, jockeys and horses flock to the Kentucky Derby this weekend, some animal advocates are bringing up the topic of horse welfare, especially after a recent investigation that revealed disturbing animal welfare issues at the races.
But what about after the race? Where do the award-winning horses go when they're no longer fit to run?
One organization, TROTT USA, is working to take these horses in -- and give them an entirely new life. TROTT, which stands for Training Racehorses Off The Track, has been taking horses straight from the track for years. The Dodo spoke to Bonnie Adams, TROTT's director, to find out more about the life of a racehorse -- after he's retired.
In order to prevent abuse, Adams says it's critical to "pre-rescue" a horse before he gets into a bad situation.
"Fortunately there are many jobs for ex-racehorses as sport and pleasure horses, once they are retrained properly," she said. "These young, healthy thoroughbreds have another 25-plus years ahead of them, and all they need is a little help in making the transition. The critical component for a successful future is that they leave the track in the right hands."
When each horse is taken from the racing industry, he is evaluated to see which job would suit him best -- whether it's jumping, dressage or trail-riding. After about nine months of rehab and training, the horses can be adopted by families or farms.
"We focus on quality placements, rather than just moving horses out as fast as possible," Adams said. "We're a safety net for our horses, and take them back if needed, so we always wait for the best match, and for adopters who meet our criteria."
And the push to save retired racehorses comes not a moment too soon -- each year, 30,000 thoroughbred foals are registered in North America alone, while less than 50 percent of all racehorses ever win a race, and less than one percent ever win a stakes race. That means that there are thousands of racehorses in need of homes every year.
But for now, Adams and TROTT are working to help every horse they can.
"Along with a few dedicated volunteers, we are committed to making a difference in the lives of as many horses as funds allow," she said. "We stop the pipeline to at-risk situations for our horses, and change their world, one horse at a time."
You can learn more about TROTT and support their efforts here.