Constant Star may be Thoroughbred Placement Resources' most famous horse after winning the 2012 Breeder's Bridge Contest and spending 90 days in training with Beezie Madden (Photos courtesy of Thoroughbred Placement Resources).
Kimberly Clark had been involved in the racing industry as an exercise rider, owner, and trainer for many years when she decided to start an organization to help find new homes for retired racehorses.
In November 2007, she formally started Thoroughbred Placement Resources (TPR) and entered the show world to learn how to prepare horses to take advantage of their best abilities.
“The real decision was made because I saw what was happening to these wonderful horses, and I knew I could do something about it. I knew people wanted them, they just needed a reliable way to get horses from the backstretch. The backstretch is an intimidating place if you are not familiar with it,” Clark said. “I realized early on that I needed to get experience in the show world if I were going to present the horses properly, so I went to who I felt was the best to learn the basics of eventing, dressage and jumping.”
TPR is different from some other aftercare programs as some horses are sold straight from the track while others are placed in foster homes or at TPR’s main farm. Anyone who wants to buy a horse represented by TPR has to provide references. A buyer can be approved in less than a week depending on their references and if they are a good fit for the horse they want to buy.
“We do work with first time horse owners if they can demonstrate a good support system and are willing to allow us to match a horse to them,” Clark said. “Actually, a defining factor in each and every placement is whether the person is a good match. It’s not enough for them to just show interest in adopting; we must feel they suit each other. This results in more successful placements.”
TPR has seen interest in off-the-track Thoroughbreds over the last few years but there is a concern that the breed is sometimes labeled incorrectly as a “cheap alternative” and as a breed for everyone.
“Thoroughbreds are wonderful horses, but they are bred to be athletes. They are not for everyone and they are not a cheap alternative. They require care and training just like any other breed,” Clark said. “If you are a qualified trainer, I guess the fact you can get them dirt cheap can be a factor, but they cost plenty to care for and develop into show and pleasure horses.
“I have found that they do better in athletic endeavors such as eventing, dressage and jumping. But that said, there are Thoroughbreds who are quite docile and suitable for trail and pleasure purposes if the potential owner has the know-how to transition the horse or if someone does this for them.“
Clark recommends that anyone who encounters trouble with his or her retired racehorse go to a qualified trainer. Many of the problems Thoroughbreds develop can be solved with information and by making sure the horse has a solid base of basics from which to build.
“I don't want to see the horses being labeled as ‘crazy’ because of lack of skills of their new human,” she said. “I have often said when someone tells me a Thoroughbred is crazy that in my experience someone is driving the crazy car - it's not the horse as much as the rider. We've proven it time and again by taking in ‘problem’ horses, identifying the problem and presenting a fantastic individual.”
EX-RACEHORSE CLOSED COURT WITH HER LITTLEST FAN
Occasional challenges should not deter anyone from looking toward buying a retired racehorse from TPR or any other aftercare program. Bred to be athletes, Thoroughbreds provide the serious rider with a versatile mount, suitable for many different disciplines.
“Most [Thoroughbreds] are generous, sensitive and have a wonderful work ethic. In addition, they are forward thinking. This is something sought in every discipline I know of,” Clark said.
After hearing from Lucinda Green that many horses in Europe aren’t given grain until they are in a high level of work, Clark has carried the no grain rule over to horses trained by TPR. The program sees a big difference in the horses pulled off of grain as the sugar in grain can produce a sugar high like you might see in a child.
TPR recommends a hay-based diet with a good source of fat. Clark also recommends that anyone who has gotten a horse off of the track work with a qualified trainer and read material such as her racehorse retraining manual, “New Track, New Life”.
“With the recent popularity of retired racehorses, ‘trainers’ are popping up everywhere. A good trainer can guide you to success with your new partner. A bad or inexperienced trainer can make you never want to own a horse again. Beware, it's not enough for you to like the person. Check out their experience,” she said.
Since its inception, Thoroughbred Placement Resources has found homes for more than 800 horses but one horse who probably stick out to fans is Olympic Gold Medalist Beezie Madden. Constant Star raced at 2 years old and, after retiring and going to TPR, she was accepted into John and Beezie Maddens’ training program as a winner of the 2012 Breeder’s Bridge Contest. Constant Star had 90 days of free training with the Maddens’ assistant rider Callie Schott, who picked two horses with Grand Prix potential from 140 contest entries.
As a program that depends on volunteers, TPR is always open to people looking to get involved with a Thoroughbred aftercare program. As a 501(c)(3) charity, and also Gold-level-certified GuideStar member, TPR also accepts donations.
KIMBERLY CLARK JUMPING STAKES PLACED WILD LIES
“Obviously there is never enough money to cover [all the horses], but we try to manage it each and every day. … Without our supporters and donors we wouldn't be able to make this happen. They are what make the difference to these horses,“ Clark said.
For those considering starting up an aftercare program, Clark has some advice.
“Start small, quality not quantity. Get ready to wear a ton of hats: grant writer, fundraiser, barn worker, website builder, and social media expert,” she said.
Thoroughbred Placement Resources is accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and was fully accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries in late December.
For more information on the program, you can visit www.goodhorse.org.
If you know of a Thoroughbred Aftercare program that you think should be covered in America’s Best Racing’s Aftercare Program Spotlight, email Melissa Bauer-Herzog (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the program’s name and website.