Barton Brothers Discusses Thoroughbred Aftercare, Upcoming Virtual IFAR Conference

Aftercare
Donna Barton Brothers prepares for an NBC telecast in this 2016 file photo. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Next month, the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) will host its fifth conference. The event, which will be held virtually, is scheduled live for each Tuesday in April at 8 a.m. ET.

Registration for all four sessions is free at bit.ly/virtualifar2021, and registrants will be able to access session recordings if they cannot attend live.

Donna Barton Brothers, who racing fans will recognize as a key member of NBC’s horse racing coverage team, is also an outspoken advocate for Thoroughbred aftercare. She will be moderating IFAR’s “Global Insights on Aftercare” session, which will be held on Tuesday, April 20. Brothers caught up with America’s Best Racing to discuss IFAR and the importance of prioritizing aftercare as part of the Thoroughbred industry.


1. What is the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses?

Barton Brothers with Victor Espinoza (Eclipse Sportswire)

The International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses, also known as IFAR, is an independent forum established to advocate for the lifetime care of retired racehorses, to increase awareness within the international racing community of this important responsibility, and to increase awareness in the sport horse world regarding the versatility of the Thoroughbred horse. IFAR was formalized in October 2016.

2. How does IFAR achieve its goals?

Since its inception, IFAR has hosted four in-person conferences in South Africa, Norway, South Korea, and the United States. These meetings are designed to educate industry stakeholders around the world on the importance of aftercare, share best practices, and offer resources to jurisdictions that are trying to develop aftercare plans.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced this year’s conference to be held virtually, the format offers an exciting opportunity to engage speakers and listeners who otherwise could not have attended. It also gives people worldwide an opportunity to attend the event — virtually — since attending a live IFAR conference may have been logistically and/or cost prohibitive.

3. What is your current involvement in promoting Thoroughbred aftercare?

I’m on the board of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and try to create awareness around the possibilities and potential of OTTBs in a post-racing disciplines. I’m a huge advocate of the TAA because, before them and their built-in accreditation process of aftercare facilities, I was never sure which aftercare facilities I should donate money to. That is to say, I didn’t really have a way of knowing how they were using the donation dollars they received. One of the wonderful things about the TAA is that now I know that if an aftercare organization is TAA accredited then they are both also a 501c3 and they are using their donation dollars for the direct care of the horses (not structurally).

4. Why is it important to you to support aftercare and specifically the IFAR Conference?

For anyone who’s made a living with Thoroughbreds, Thoroughbred aftercare is not a donation, it’s an obligation. I have made my living — and a beautiful life — from the generosity of spirt of the Thoroughbred. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t do what I could to ensure that they, too, have a good life after their racing careers are over. IFAR feels the same way — doing all they can to promote and support horses in their post-racing lives.

5. Why should industry stakeholders and fans tune in?

All of us within the industry have a love of the horses and the roles they play in our lives and, thusly, should want to help them in their post-racing careers. But right now, we only know what we are currently doing or, perhaps, what a few aftercare organization are doing. Is there a way that we could be more resourceful? Is there a better way to increase exposure about the versatility of the Thoroughbred? The IFAR forum will offer many perspectives from all over the world so that we can begin to know what we don’t know.

As for the fans, I believe that they will enjoy hearing the passion that these aftercare organization leaders have for the OTTB.

6. Who/what are you most looking forward to learning about/ hearing from in the IFAR Conference, either in your session or any of the others?

I’m really looking forward to all of them! But, specifically, the April 13 session called “Aftercare for Racing Administrators and Regulators” and then the April 20 session that I’m moderating called “Global Insights Into Aftercare.”

Thoroughbred aftercare must seek — and find — systemic, multi-level, sustainable funding. Aftercare can no longer be an afterthought. The April 20 session will yield some information about how other countries are funding aftercare and, combined with the April 13 session, I would hope that we can figure out a way to create sustainable funding. 

7. How can someone interested in IFAR and global aftercare keep up with it year-round and learn more?

In between conferences, IFAR publishes a semi-annual newsletter and maintains an active social media presence through its Facebook and Twitter pages.

More information about IFAR’s work, including an “Aftercare Toolkit” of best practices, can be found on the group’s website at internationalracehorseaftercare.com.

8. Anything else that you’d like to add?

Yes: Put it on your calendar! I don’t know about you, but for me, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen. I have each of these events on my calendar already so that I can be sure to catch them. I’ll meet you there — in the virtual audience.

To learn more about the 2021 IFAR Conference, please visit internationalracehorseaftercare.com/virtual-ifar, or sign up now at bit.ly/virtualifar2021.

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