Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Everybody seems to be talking about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, including the TRF.  In my eyes, everyone is missing one very salient point.  I’ll get to that in a bit, lets talk about what happened first.

News Article

A reporter for the NY Times wrote a piece on the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, basically calling them out for starving horses.  This is the original article by Joe Drape.  He basically says that the TRF was slow or delinquent on paying for the upkeep of upwards of 1000 horses, so some of the foster homes that were caring for these horses… stopped feeding and caring for them… or the horses are just missing altogether.  One of these farms / foster homes was 4-H Farm in Oklahoma – who I think should be held accountable for their part in all this (as should any farm / foster home found neglecting horses on their property).  If the horse owner is not paying, there are steps you can take to make them pay – but you don’t stop caring for the animals!

The TRF sucks ass.

One of TRFs horses.

The TRF is partially funded by the estate of a wealthy patron, and that estate recently requested a veterinarian visit the horses (and coordinate visitations by local vets in each state) and report back on their condition.  This, my friends, is how the story came to light.

Mr Drape goes on to say:

The cases of neglect, while noteworthy because of the prominence of the organization overseeing the horses, are only the latest embarrassment for an industry that remains vexed by one of its most fundamental challenges: how to humanely look out for horses that no longer have any value at the racetrack or in the breeding shed.

Furthermore, regarding 4-H Farm:

The most dramatic instance of neglect discovered so far, she said, was at the 4-H Farm in Okmulgee, Okla., where the owners, Alan and Janice Hudgins, would not let Dr. Huntington onto their property to inspect T.R.F. horses until the foundation gave them $20,000, a partial payment of what was owed them for taking care of 63 horses since 2005. They also forced the foundation to sign a pledge not to prosecute them for the condition of the horses.

When the horses were released, the 47 survivors were in such poor condition that Dr. Huntington filed a report with the Okmulgee County sheriff’s office. Her report included photographs of the malnourished horses, three of them considered starving. Nearly all of them needed urgent care.

Ms. Hudgins said her farm had kept horses for the foundation since 2005, but in recent years it fell into a pattern of falling behind in payments.

So, basically, Alan and Janice Hudgins KNEW what they were doing was wrong, AND that they could be prosecuted for neglecting and starving the horses… yet they did it anyway.  Not that I didn’t think they knew what they were doing… but the fact that they wanted the foundation to sign a waiver… that just proves it.

Ms. Hudgins said her family got tired of having to settle for less than they were owed by the foundation. She said they had done the best they could with the horses, and had informed the T.R.F. that some older horses had died.

(My bold.)

They “got tired”?  Wow.  That shows the total lack of humanity on their part.  What should they have done?  Well, I’ll get to that…


Not This!

And the rest of the story goes on to say that any time a farm put up a bit of a fuss about being owed money, the TRF took horses away from them (taking them dog knows where), emotionally blackmailed them, and yet all the people on the board were certainly bringing home the bacon.

Salient Point

Why has no one even whispered the word euthanasia?  I”m not saying go out and put down all the horses.  Not by any means.  But if there are a number of higher-cost horses, maybe they should have considered euthanizing them to enable continuing to pay to feed the others.  And this is something that should have been considered long before horses were starving, and farms were owed tens of thousands of dollars each.

I guess it was timely, my last post – in that I was discussing “How Much is Too Much” when it comes to rescuing.  A rescue the size and scope of the TRF should have had in place a business practice that covered how much they were willing to spend per horse, maximum.

According to TRFs own website, they are caring for 1200 horses, with another 650 that have been adopted out.  That is only a 35% adoption rate.  Am I the only one who sees a problem with that?  And if they were delinquent on paying for 1000 horses, that means only 250 were actually being fully paid for.  TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY.  I’m pretty sure the rescue isn’t funding horses that have already been adopted out – or they’re a really shitty rescue.

(Why am I the only person who seems to ever run the fucking numbers???)

Horses are not children.  They are animals.  Lovely, beautiful, deserving animals, but animals none-the-less.  I don’t want to see them put to sleep any more than the next animal lover!  But I think it’s kinder than starving them to death!


While I’m sure there would have been some backlash had the TRF euthanized a number of horses due to lack of funds – I’m pretty sure their response could have been something like this:

In this economy few people understandably are donating to horse rescues.  Since donations have dried up, and our staff have taken pay cuts amounting to half their salary and we still can’t pay for all the horses; a tough decision was made in that we chose the oldest, sickest, most costliest of the animals and put them to sleep.  This enabled us to continue to care for and feed the remaining horses.  The total number of horses euthanized was XX which amounted to less than XX% of the total number of horses we are currently caring for.  We hope you can understand we did not come to this decision lightly.  It is an unfortunate example of what the economy has forced many people to do – make tough decisions.  We felt it better to humanely euthanize these older, higher-cost horses than risk they end up in the slaughter pipeline.

Wow, it literally took me about eight minutes to write that!

Better yet, they should have notified the newspapers themselves, as soon as the decision was made.  I understand they did have a discussion at a recent board meeting that entailed the possibility of “threatening” to euthanize horses in order to drum up more donations… but that obviously is NOT the way to go about things.  Don’t threaten to euthanize horses in hopes of either drumming up donations or increasing your abysmal adoption rates!

I do believe they should have undertaken a review of the horses they had, and come up with a percentage of horses that could have been euthanized, and then publicized it.  That would show me that whatever donations they did garner would go to paying off their debts and ensuring the remaining horses are well cared for.  Of course, this all should have been done over a year ago.


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