A new start for thoroughbreds: Manitoba non-profit helps old racehorses find homes
TORONTO -- For three thoroughbreds these days, the backstretch is a quiet acreage east of Winnipeg.
But there was a time when the track was home.
The fast life of a racehorse is also generally a short one. Many thoroughbreds start racing around two years old, and are retired a few short years later.
That’s where Emily Johnson and April Keedian come in.
“We started out as a free service for helping people at the racetrack find homes for their horses,” Johnson told CTV News.
“At one point they didn’t know what to do with them. So they got sold. A lot went to meat markets.”
It’s a fate that happens “very rarely now,” according to Keedian, partly because of the work that she and Johnson do.
Working co-operatively with Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs, their non-profit “Final Furlong” helps match each horse that comes off the track with a new home.
They list ads for the horses on their website and their social media accounts, showing pictures of the former athletes along with descriptions of their temperaments and possible skills, in case future owners are looking for show horses.
The thoroughbreds, selling anywhere from $800 to $5,000, often become trail horses, show jumpers or hunters.
The website lists horses who have raced at the Assiniboia Downs, but also will host listings from private owners who are looking to sell their thoroughbred.
Keedian has a personal connection to the work. Her own horse, Wesley, used be a racehorse.
“He raced under the name Western Performer,” she said. “And he ended his race career around four or five, I believe, which is the normal time for most race horses to end their career.”
With their racing years behind them, the Final Furlong has been able to pair the thoroughbreds with new owners.
In a success stories section on their website, happy new owners post photos of themselves with their OTTB -- a short form for “off-the-track-thoroughbred,” a horse that was trained and bred to be a racehorse and has since been injured or retired due to other reasons.
In the ten years this organization has existed, more than a thousand horses have found new homes -- and new purpose.
A racehorse once known as Play the Ace now belongs to a 12-year-old girl. His new owner, Abigail, told CTV News that they just call him Ace most of the time.
“He [has] a really good temperament,” she said. “He’s a good friend to other horses.”
From the winner’s circle to the family circle, thanks to a couple of women who bet on a future beyond the racetrack for these horses.