Horses in one of the paddocks at Mereworth Farm. (Photos courtesy of New Vocations/Sarah Coleman)
Three years ago when the Susan Donaldson Foundation approached aftercare program New Vocations about working together, the plan was to use part of the foundation’s Mereworth Farm as a lay up facility for New Vocations horses who needed time to recover before entering training for a second career. Today, that partnership has expanded with New Vocations building a new training facility on the farm for their Lexington, Ky.-based retired racehorses.
“Once they were complete with (a refurbishing project on the farm) they approached us and said ‘You know we could very easily fill this farm in two months time and never take another horse until one or two passes away, or we could work with a program like New Vocations that helps hundreds of horses every year. Would you guys be interested in working with us? We’ll give you land to build what you need and on top of that, we can provide all the feed and hay and mowing of pastures as well,’” said Anna Ford, New Vocations Thoroughbred Program Director.
“This time last year we were in talks about what we could do and then we signed the lease earlier this year, and then we just started running. It’s such a big project, so my focus is more on the fundraising side and the money we need to build and Sarah Coleman is the project manager who is overseeing the actual building process.”
THE NEW FACILITY AT MEREWORTH FARM
Six months after starting the project, New Vocations had raised nearly half of their $2-million goal and had already built the outdoor arena with the building of the barn next on their list. New Vocations already has about 15 horses at Mereworth in a 20-stall lay up division, which they’ll continue to use after the new barn is built. The new barn will be able to house 50 horses but Ford says they plan to have about 40 horses in active training there, doubling the number of Lexington-based retired racehorses they have now.
New Vocations has seven facilities around the country which gave the team an idea of the facilities they wanted to build at the new farm but Ford admits that there were changes in the plans as they went along.
“This facility is being built keeping in mind how can we most effectively get horses through the training processes and to new homes quickly. How can we build a facility that helps encourage that? So the actual lay out of the facility, everything is pretty centralized in terms of buildings,” she said. “The outdoor arena is the center focus, it’s in the middle because we’re going to be using that probably 10 months out of the year so that’s the center focus and then having the barns on the outside just helps with turnout for all those fields on both sides … We did our research, we definitely changed plans a million times and finally settled on what we have now ... It’s been a pretty long process.”
While the new barn is being built, New Vocations is still operating out of West Wind Farm with plans to gradually move the horses from that facility to the Mereworth Farm facility as the project gets completed. Ford plans to have both facilities open for a time before moving the program solely to Mereworth Farm in early 2016. To learn how you can donate to the project, you can click here.