(HORSES/TAKE ACTION) The country’s largest racehorse retirement program, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), recently issued an urgent plea to horse lovers and ranch owners across the nation to participate in a Foster Care program. In response to complaints regarding economic instability and insufficient care of former racehorses, the TRF hopes to reduce its herd of 1,100 former racehorses by up to half. Read on for more regarding this much-needed foster program. If effective, perhaps this method could help decrease the number of horses transported from the U.S. to be slaughtered each year. — Global Animal

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation hopes to place up to 300 horses into foster care. Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina

New York Times, Joe Drape

Under pressure from the charities bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation conceded it was short of money on Thursday and put out an “urgent plea” for horse lovers across the nation to adopt one of its herd of former racehorses.

Rob Hinkle, president of the foundation, said it was looking for 100 horse owners or farms to take two to five horses for a minimum of a year in the hopes of reducing its herd of 1,100 by up to half.

“Like thousands of other nonprofit organizations throughout the country, T.R.F. has been adversely affected by the downturn in the economy,” Hinkle said in a statement. “Drought and flood conditions have contributed to the rising costs and shortages of hay and feed, and we are coming into winter.”

The plea comes in the midst of a seven-month investigation by the attorney general’s office into complaints about fiscal irresponsibility and improper care given to former racehorses by the foundation, one of the largest private organizations in the world dedicated to retired thoroughbreds.

The investigation was opened in March after articles in The New York Times about how, despite receiving millions in donations, the T.R.F. has been operating at a deficit for the past two years, owing money to many of its more than 30 satellite farms, and how horses had been neglected and malnourished to the point some had either died or were euthanized.

John C. Moore, chairman of the foundation’s executive committee, said the organization was providing financial documents to investigators and making board and staff members available for interviews. He said the T.R.F. had virtually depleted a $1 million line of credit that it took out to stay current with the farms it contracts with to shelter its horses.

He acknowledged that the foundation, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was in poor financial shape. From 2001 to 2005, it took in more than 1,000 horses, straining its thin resources.

“We’ve had a hand-to-mouth existence ever since,” he said.

Moore said the T.R.F. met with representatives of the attorney general’s charities bureau on Oct. 18 and was told the foundation had three weeks to demonstrate it had the financial wherewithal and will to carry out its mission to provide for retired racehorses.

“We were told we need to come back with several six-figure gifts from donors as well as beef up our board,” Moore said. “We are not filled with Rockefellers or Mellons.”

Over the years, the foundation’s board has included some of horse racing’s most influential owners, and the farms it contracts with have been homes to many of the horses those owners have bred and campaigned. Tom Ludt, the current chairman of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, for example, was chairman of the foundation until August and remains on its board.

Moore also said that the organization was told it must reduce its herd size. That, he said, was why it went public with its plea. The foundation pledges to pick up veterinarian and farrier costs if the adoptive farms request it, but it will not pay the $3 to $3.50 per day per horse it currently pays the farms that stable its horses.

“We have 55 horses in foster care today, and we need to get up to 200 or 250 horses,” Moore said.

Lauren Passalacqua, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, declined to comment on the investigation into the foundation because it is continuing.

Last December, the estate of the breeder and owner Paul Mellon, which in 2001 established a $5 million endowment for the foundation and later contributed $2 million more, hired a veterinarian to evaluate the health of the herd after years of concern about the foundation.

When the doctor, Stacey Huntington, reported that many of the horses required urgent care and were in various states of neglect, and that the foundation’s education of the caretakers and its oversight of their farms were poor, she was fired by the board.

Beverly Carter, another co-executor, is skeptical that the foundation can meet the attorney general’s demands at all — let alone in the face of a looming deadline.

She said, “We are concerned about how they are going to do in three weeks what they haven’t been able to do in seven years.”

More New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/sports/