For those of you who follow LOPE’s blog closely, it is familiar news that we have started a racehorse education program. Last year, we began outreaching to local professional trainers who wanted to work with LOPE — and they helped us form a training initiative drive. After ten years of our work, LOPE had learned some important lessons about the challenge of transitioning ex-racehorses into new homes — and to keep them less at-risk in the future.
We started with one horse in training — and by mid-February raised funds to place three horses in 30-day assessment training and register two horses to ride in clinics held by well-known horsemanship teachers. The group of trainers in our program now includes Laura Whitfield of Poseidon Sport Horses, Holly Flint of Flint Equestrian and Eric and Michelle Clark of Rancho Bayo. The clinics were taught by Tom Curtin and Peter Campbell. We hope to raise additional funds to expand the program — so we can send more horses to an even bigger group of quality trainers and clinicians.
Each of the trainers in the program gives LOPE a discount on training — and LOPE also pays board (just like a regular client) while the horses are in the training barn. LOPE of course covers the cost for vet care, farrier work, transport cost and so on. For the horses that are sent to clinics, most of them are at the LOPE Ranch (rather than in a training barn) and are ridden by me. Most clinicians don’t typically give discounts (though they will often spend extra time coaching the LOPE horse and rider team).
LOPE’s adoption fees typically range from $350-$1500. To get to the higher end of that range, a horse must have 1) been in training for eight weeks or more; 2) shown talent and aptitude for a particular discipline; 3) demonstrated a kind and extra willing temperament; 4) be up to date on dental, farrier and vaccinations. In our current group of adoption horses, we have two horses with adoption fees of $350, two with adoption fees of $650, two with adoption fees of one dollar (to excellent retirement homes only) and one with an adoption fee of $1200.
So far, our training and clinic costs alone for the program total significantly more than the all the adoption fees combined. This excludes boarding cost at the training barns, vet care expenses, farrier fees, transport/fuel expenses, and feed/hay cost (for those horses at the LOPE Ranch).
How are we able to make this training program sustain itself, if not by profit? And why do we continue to expand the program, if it isn’t financially rewarding to LOPE?
The answers are easy. LOPE is a nonprofit charity, not a for-profit business. Our mission is to help ex-racehorses find new careers after their track days are over — and our goal is to see these horses be less at-risk in the future. Training gives the LOPE horses job skills and a better chance of success for the long-term future. At the same time, by blogging about the training process, LOPE can also share what we are learning with a wider audience of equestrians — and maybe that will encourage some of them to take a chance on an ex-racehorse for their next riding project.
LOPE doesn’t make the program sustain itself — our generous sponsors, donors, and supporters do. The training initiative would have never happened without such enthused encouragement from our network of contributors, trainers, and fans. And each day that the program continues is due to their generosity and huge heart for ex-racehorses in need. Without them, LOPE could never afford to provide professional training for the horses in our care.
Huge thanks and deep gratitude to all the people who have made the racehorse education program possible at LOPE!