The following column written on behalf of the MTHA appeared in the April 2020 edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred:
Maryland’s successful aftercare program continues to grow
Beyond The Wire, Maryland’s Thoroughbred aftercare program, hit the ground running when it was announced in May 2017. In fact, applications for retired racehorses already had been submitted before the program officially launched.
Through February 2020, horses entered in the program since its inception totaled 276. The number of horses in the program has grown each year, with a high of 121 horses in 2019.
Beyond The Wire is funded annually from multiple sources: a per-start fee paid by owners; corporate contributions from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Jockey Club; the jockey colony in Maryland; donations received with horses entered in the program, with a contribution of $500 per horse encouraged; and miscellaneous revenue and fund-raising activities.
Fortunately, income has outpaced expenses—but not by that much. The largest expense is stipends for the accredited partner farms that care for the retirees before they move on, hopefully to second careers. Veterinary expenses, primarily in the form of surgeries required before a horse can be moved to a facility and rehabilitated, are substantial.
It is a program that requires constant attention and funding, and regular assessments to ensure there is enough capacity at various farms to accommodate the number of retired racehorses.
Jessica Hammond, who administers Beyond The Wire, noted in early March that she had 18 horses on a waiting list.
“I’m always getting calls from trainers,” she said. “There hasn’t been enough space (to handle the numbers).”
The organization regularly holds board of directors meetings, and at the most recent meeting two Beyond The Wire partner farms—Foxie G Foundation and MidAtlantic Horse Rescue—discussed plans to expand in large part to assist Beyond The Wire.
Foxie G has a plan to convert a broodmare barn to a rehabilitation barn for equine retirees, begin holding monthly open houses to expose the public the good work being done for retired racehorses, and creation of an equine therapy center. MidAtlantic Horse Rescue plans farm improvements that would increase its capacity for at least eight additional Beyond The Wire horses.
Lori Calhoun, who runs the Foxie G operation, said the expansion offers many positives, one of which is education and changing perception of the racing industry.
“It’s very important to raise awareness of what the racing industry does (for retired racehorses),” Calhoun said. “We’re going to start having open houses with picnics and a playground area. We’ll have a cross-section of people there. We want to show people this is what we’re doing for the horses.”
Strauss said has 16 Beyond The Wire horses, and that four others had recently left for other homes. An upgraded facility would allow better movement of the retirees.
“We’re trying to move horses through more quickly,” Strauss said.
The average retiree may spend three months at one of Beyond The Wire’s eight accredited partner farms, but sometimes turnout can last a year. The program’s financial supporters have repeatedly noted that retiring a horse earlier than planned—not running in one or two more races before retirement—can help avoid the need for surgery and make a horse a much candidate for adoption for use in other disciplines.
“All of our horses need to be taken care of—that’s my primary goal and my primary concern,” Hammond said. “These are useful animals that can go on to second careers.”
The board of directors has begun examining funding sources, both dedicated and voluntary, and may issue recommendations on how to increase funding for the program as it continues to grow and owners and trainers become even more comfortable with it.
“Years ago (the legislature) challenged our industry to rebuild, and we did,” said David Richardson, executive director of the MTHA. “There were two areas: people and horses. For our workers, we created the Horsemen’s Health System, and for our horses, we created Beyond The Wire. So far most of the horses that went through the program have been re-homed, and we have not turned away one horse.”
The average cost for a horse to go through the Beyond The Wire program is about $3,300, at least thus far in 2020. The average cost of surgery if needed is about $2,500 this year, and most of that is paid by Beyond The Wire.
By: Tom LaMarra Pictured: Shipper, Jodi Rauso with Evelyn’s Horseplay and Wild River