As our title implies, the distinctive feature of our support for former racehorses is in the provision of sanctuary. Sanctuary from the danger that they may be put down for economic or social reasons whilst, with the right care and attention, they are still perfectly capable of enjoying a good quality of life. Or worse still get passed down to owners who are unable to look after them properly, abuse them or export them illegally for slaughter.
The British thoroughbred breeding and racing industries aspire to be world-leaders in implementing the highest standards of equine welfare, and the racing industry is increasingly dedicating attention and funding to underpin worthwhile careers for thoroughbreds after their formal racing careers – and rightly so. But the authorities cannot dictate the care of horses after racing, they can only advise and exhort new owners to do what is right by their charges. Of course there are lots of thoroughbred owners who can and do care for their horses for life. And there are many small equine establishments where proprietors will take on and care for older horses. But they are dispersed all over the country and we do not hear nearly enough about these unsung heroes.
A racehorse may live another twenty years after retiring from racing, but thoroughbred horses are versatile and responsive to new careers, in dressage, show jumping, cross-country, endurance, hunting or simply hacking. For many the transition is simply and successfully achieved. For some thoroughbreds, either as a result of disposition or injury, expert help is required to make that transition. Even horses which cannot be ridden can have happy, contented lives as companions for more active horses.
Nevertheless for some of the more difficult horses and some who develop problems later in life the only safe alternative to euthanasia is the provision of sanctuary-based care run by experienced staff. This though is an expensive solution to an ethical dilemma: even the most difficult horse does not deserve to be put down, if it is still in good enough health to be able to enjoy companionship and a quality of life.
We have the expertise and track record in helping more difficult horses, but providing sanctuary is costly, so we desperately need your help to meet the increasing demand and to ensure we can fulfil our commitment to take back and care for life any of the horses we rehome if their keepers run into difficulties.