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US thoroughbred rehoming market lacks structure – study

gb-racing-economic-impactA nationwide US study has cast a light on thoroughbred rehoming, finding that racehorses tended to be placed in second careers with long-term owners through a marketplace that lacked networks and forums.

It found that prices and adoption fees were depressed to a level that made subsidies for those providing transition services essential until demand rose significantly.

The report was released by the Retired Racehorse Training Project (RRTP). It said it was the first nationwide study of how thoroughbred ex-racehorses were transitioned into second careers.

It was based on a survey conducted in late 2013 in which owners of 4200 former racehorses from 47 states and Canada responded to 23 questions.

“The public believes that racing owners dump their retiring horses into auctions and that a lucky few get rescued and adopted,” RRTP president Steuart Pittman said.

“Our survey tells a different story. Most of these horses were not rescued. They were sold or donated through networks of people both inside and outside of racing who work very hard to transition these animals.”

The study found:

  • 34% percent of these horses were acquired directly from racing owners.
  • 31% were acquired from non-racing private owners.
  • 13.5% were acquired from non-profit placement or rescue organizations, although that share increased from 11% to 19% over the last ten years.
  • 9% were acquired from professional training or sales businesses.
  • 2.3% of horses came through auctions.

The survey also revealed that prices for horses increased with training, but were still far below what it cost to transition racehorses to new careers.

The average adoption fee at nonprofit placement organizations was $US1001 (22% of the horses were free). These organizations were most likely to have horse protection terms in contracts.

Horses acquired through racing owners were purchased for an average price of $US1265 (30% were given away).

Horses sold through private non-racing owners had an average price of $US2618, not including the 19% that were free.

Horses that were sold through professional training or sales businesses had an average sale price of $US4646, not including the 4% given away.

The survey found that the average price at public auction was $US839.

Survey respondents identified the sport of eventing as their primary riding discipline most often (37%). Hunter/jumper was second at 27%, dressage third at 13%, and then trails and recreation (English) at 9%.

The study concluded that racehorses were placed in second careers with long-term owners through a marketplace that lacked networks and forums through which the sellers, trainers, and buyers could find one another.

Depressed prices meant subsidies for those providing transition services were essential until demand rose significantly.

It found that the financial incentive to retire horses sound from racing would not exist until increased demand raised prices for retiring horses.

RRTP said it would respond to the results of the study with a major expansion of its work in 2014, including second Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Racecourse early in October that will include more horses, more trainers, and more racing stables.

It said it would develop partnerships with racing and riding institutions; explore the feasibility of a publishing venture; and compile, print, and distribute the first state-by-state resource directory for thoroughbred placement.

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