A Decade of Learning
Almost ten years ago, LOPE began its work. Our debut was modest — in 2003, LOPE was simply a website listing service for race trainers trying to rehome their horses from the track. The adoption ranch followed soon after — and we’ve never really stopped to think for a minute since then. There were always so many ex-racehorses that needed help, homes, and care through LOPE. The experiences were intense and fascinating — a whirlwind of horses, vet dramas, and training lessons that ultimately culminated in a book and a DVD.
We’ve observed quite a lot in the racehorse adoption world and horse rescue community over the years. And of course there have been many interesting and positive encounters with prospective adopters, professional horsemen, general horse lovers and the clinician community. I personally have learned a tremendous amount from teachers like Ray Hunt, Tom Curtin, Hy Court Farm, Peter Campbell and Buck Brannaman — as well as from the LOPE horses themselves (the best teachers of all).
We have always been drawn to the world of classical horsemanship and its emphasis on foundation building for the horse and rider. LOPE has also learned much about the importance of quality horse husbandry and veterinary care. Most of all, we have come to understand the nature of responsibility and commitment — and how key both are to becoming a good rider and horse owner.
The challenge of transitioning ex-racehorses from the track into new careers has many dimensions. Some groups focus on rescuing the horses directly from dire situations, such as kill auctions or abusive homes. Others devote their mission to reforming the racing industry or to lobbying against horse slaughter in Canada and Mexico. Numerous organizations take in donations of horses and then adopt them to new homes — while several charities act as permanent retirement sanctuaries for the horses they take in.
There are so many wonderful groups and individuals committed to the cause of helping ex-racehorses after they can no longer race. Yet even with all of their dedication and hard work, there is still a persistent, ongoing problem — every year, too many ex-racehorses need homes and too few people want to own them. In short, there is not much of a true market for these horses — the supply is high and the demand is low.
Many people are reluctant to take a chance on ex-racehorses — they are worried about their reputations for bad behavior as well as lingering track injuries. We think the best cure for this anxiety is knowledge about the true nature of ex-racehorses and their track-to-trail (or show ring) transition process.
We have consistently found that education — for both horse and human — is the biggest key to reducing risk for ex-racehorses. If the horses are better prepared for new careers, they are much less likely to have difficulties finding jobs and keeping them. And if prospective homes are aware of the ex-racehorse’s special circumstances and needs, they are much more likely to feel confident about adopting and committing to a track horse.
The Education Gap
After nearly ten years of rehoming Texas racehorses, we have seen a persistent gap in this type of education. And because we think it is such an important area, LOPE will now focus its work on providing the best possible professional education to the ex-racehorses under our care, and sharing what we have learned with the equestrian and horse lover world. Our purpose is twofold: to demonstrate the great potential of these horses to excel in new careers, and to promote a philosophy of classical horsemanship that focuses on foundation training for both horse and rider.
It is our hope that by highlighting specific horses and their journeys to new careers, we will help inspire people to admire the enormous talent of ex-racehorses — while also raising their profile, desirability, and value in the equestrian world.
For the future, we will be taking in fewer horses at LOPE, but doing more with them, such as providing professional training and longer term rehabilitation. And we will be chronicling the progress of these horses in full detail, so that our supporters, fans and the wider horse lover community can learn from these experiences, just like we do.
LOPE will be reaching out to potential sponsors to help each individual horse receive professional training in whatever discipline that is ideal for that horse. The horses in rehab for injuries will stay longer at LOPE — and full details of vet exams and the rehab process will be discussed and shared openly.
On our website and blog, each LOPE horse will be treated like a rock star — whether injured, sound, talented, or spectacularly average. LOPE will also be doing more public outreach with our rock star horses — attending clinics and schooling shows as well as hosting training demonstrations and rehab seminars.
LOPE will still be providing online listing and networking services for Texas ex-racehorses — and will be enhancing these outreach efforts to help even more ex-racehorses find homes.
We are very excited about this new direction! At LOPE, we think ex-racehorses are magnificent for their heart, athleticism, and entertaining personalities. We look forward to giving them the in-depth job skills they all deserve so much — as well as sharing their stories in bigger and better ways.
PS: The horses currently up for adoption at LOPE are Mystery Blessing, Sally, Junior, Zuper and Queenie. Please check out their listings — and get ready to hear a lot more information about them in future blog posts.