‘Race industry needs to take care of its horses’

Richard "The Mig" Migliore visits with CL Rib at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's facility in Wallkill, N.Y.

Richard “The Mig” Migliore visits with CL Rib at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s facility in Wallkill, N.Y.

Days before Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah was set to blast off from post-position 5 at Belmont Park, an award-winning jockey turned sportscaster, and nicknamed for a Russian fighter jet, spoke of the need in the horse world and racing industry to take care of its equine athletes.

Richard “The Mig” Migliore, an Eclipse Award winning jockey who tenaciously piloted horses to close to 4,500 wins in a storied career, says that horses brought him “everything good in my life” and now that he is retired from horse racing, he seeks to “pay them back” from his vantage on the Board of Directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF).

Fresh from a recent visit to the TRF’s Wallkill, N.Y. facility, where 45 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses receive care from inmates in the horsemanship skills program Second Chances, Migliore says he has thought a lot about what happens to racehorses after their careers end, and of the absolute necessity for the sport to find a way to take care of its horses.

“I will say this. I believe it’s incumbent upon the industry, and anybody who has derived any pleasure from a horse, to make sure they’re taken care of,” Migliore says. “A lot of these horses have very short careers. Everybody’s very aware of them when they’re racing, and while people are gambling on them and they’re making money for people.

“But they’re quickly forgotten unless they go to stud or become broodmares.”

Bubba Sparks greets Migliore during the Eclipse Award winning jockey's visit to the TRF facility in NY.

Bubba Sparks greets Migliore during the Eclipse Award winning jockey’s visit to the TRF facility in NY.

Since joining the TRF last October, Migliore has been thinking hard about aftercare issues facing ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds, and says he hopes to help craft a plan of action that the industry might embrace.

“The fact that I had so much success as a rider, I feel it is my responsibility to give back to the horses. Horses have given me everything good in my life, from the tangible things like my house and little farm, and my car, to even meeting my wife Carmela. So, everything good has come from them.”

On a recent afternoon, Migliore hopped in his car and drove 45 minutes to the Wallkill facility to speak to inmates about two very special horses in the herd they care for. Stakes placed Ohio bred CL Rib and New York bred Bubba Sparks, two mounts Migliore rode in the early 2000s, greeted him at the fence.

He brought pictures of the horses taken during their glory days, and told stories about the old days. And afterwards, Migliore felt more than just a little enlightened from the experience.

“I can be a little harsh with people who don’t do the right things, I guess. But after speaking with the guys there, I had such empathy,” he says. “Speaking with these guys, I could tell they wanted to change their lives, and I could see the pride they had in the care they were giving the horses. I was really touched to see how much of a difference these horses are making in their lives.”

Now if only those who enjoy the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, and all of the people who are themselves touched by a horse, will help care of the beautiful animals who give so many hope.

24 responses to “‘Race industry needs to take care of its horses’”

  1. Todd Yaeger

    We need to set up adoption ways that reach out to people wanting to buy horses for pleasure when there are too many out there for a free adoption ! So many have no idea who to talk to,where to go.

  2. Eric Ponders

    Excellently written piece and very informative and great concept for the general public, but as a 3rd generation horse person involved in the Industry internationally in various capacities you will never be able to create a national commission as the local state control will always take precedence.

    An INTERNATIONAL movement needs to be undertaken with universal rules from the breeding practices to the dropping of the foal until the horse hits the track then is retired from racing. Until then, it’s all a publicity stunt to say you’re going to try to do something like everybody else; this story reaks of political overture.

    Susan you want a REAL interview where you won’t sugar quote the story? Drop a private message and let’s take on the entire problem RIchard sees internationally. If not, let your editors know that hits to this story might be in the 10’s or 100’s of thousands and bring ad revenue; but once ONE hit of a needle is put into a horse it is not considered to be uniform racing aka UTOPIA.

    Eric M. Poders, Publisher
    The Horseman’s Voice (Cook County, Illinois, USA, Assumed Name April 2004), et al.
    “The International Source for Harness Racing”

  3. Jon

    I think that there are many people that feel good about saying lets save the racehorses (It could be any breed for that matter.) but take no action. Then there are those of us that do. Over the years my wife and I have had a least 12 OTTB’s that we have owned until their last breath. Our one horse my wife had for 29 years. Think about that, 29 years. He retired totally at the age of 17 due to an injury he received from doing something silly in his paddock with one of his turnout buddies. For his remaining 12 years, he lived in comfort with a warm stall when he wanted it, RAMBO blankets, lush pasture, top quality hay, feed, vet care, dentistry and farrier services just as if he was still a competition horse. This is how we do it for all of our horses. Think of the resources that this horse consumed over the years. Taking on a horse is a commitment that is more than shouting and screaming about a problem. It is a lifetime commitment that requires resources, lots of them. I understand that many cannot even think about having a horse let alone the number that my wife and I have had and currently have. If they would step up and donate services, goods, time or money to a local or regional rescue and pressure the horse industry to change its ways, change will come slowly.

  4. Laurie

    Every single horse has a breeder. Require the BREEDERS to care for any horses of theirs that have fallen through the cracks. That will give horses in need a safety net AND hopefully cause breeders to cut down on the numbers they breed.

  5. Jon

    Reduce the surplus by being more selective in breeding. Just because one can breed a horse does not mean it should be done. The shotgun approach to breeding is not working. I have a very nice race mare that had nine foals. 8 raced. I own her 9th foal and chose not to race her. Combined they did not make as much as their mother. Even though she is a granddaughter of the great Seattle Slew, she did not pass on the desired race qualities. I have retrained this mare and found out that she is an incredible athlete and brave little mare. If she was younger she would make a fine sport horse that would turn heads at any show, event or fox hunter meet.

  6. Katja Tootle-Pizka

    We have quite a few of those thrown away OTTB in our care at TheGoldenCarrot.org. Jet Iron, GoGiorgianniGo, Slewsinthefastlane, Kelleric and others… it’s rare to get an owner, trainer or jockey to step up for these guys… they are with us for the rest of their lives. So hats of to Mr. Migliore that he is giving back to these magnificent creatures

  7. Nancy

    I am delighted that there are horse owners trying to help. As an industry,
    There should not be an option to send horses to those horrible slaughter houses Out of the Country. Stop over breeding, stop the ENTIRE nurse foal industry. And Do Not Race them until they are at least 4 years old. It’s disgusting the greed in the horse circles. the whole industry needs an overhaul.

  8. Delrene Sims

    Fantastic article about the plight of many racehorses and horses of all breeds. Keep it in the news and let’s hope all who love horse racing and the horses help out to assure their place in comfortable retirement and or second career. If more become aware more can be helped. Thank you Mr. Migliore.

  9. Bob Coager

    FYI, I’m the person who saved CL Rib, actually me and his trainer in NY Ken Streicher, I told ” Ribby” the day he got claimed for 75k at Belmont Park (September 18, 2003) with tears streaming down my face I’d never forget him and when I could I’d get him back. I followed him on my virtual stable and 4 years later I found him at Suffolk Downs running for 4,000 dollars, I contacted his owner at the time and asked if I could buy him for 4,000 to never be raced again and to his credit he said yes but he wanted to keep Ribby’s halter, and I transported him at mine, Ken’s and his owner from his NY days Jerome Stone’s expense to Wallkill where he’s lived ever since.
    I’m NOT a millionaire horse owner, I’m just a sales person who loves the game and Ken Streicher isn’t a big trainer (but his horses get the best). In fact I never owned C.L.Rib I just hung around the barn and fed him jelly donuts (yeah he loves them), but I considered him mine. Horses don’t ask to be born, but as far as I’m concerned if I didn’t give something back then shame on me. You might not be able to save them all but you can save the ones you know.

    Bob Coager
    Scotia NY

    1. Sue

      Bob, I so agree. I loved a horse from afar, named Porfido, stakes placed in S. CA., bred in Chile. No one was watching him, so it seemed, but me. Got a rescue involved and we claimed him and retired him to Old Friends, KY.

  10. Mary Adams

    There is a wonderful plan and place that can be duplicated. Visit http://www.campruskfoundation.org and see what a great job these people do for retired horses. It’s brilliant, it’s financially feasible, and it can be duplicated! Kudos to the second chance, rehoming and rescues…. but the constant overbreeding has overwhelmed them. Address the cause, contribute, and stop allowing your horses to be sent to slaughter.

  11. Debra Medlock

    I know, I know, it doesn’t always work, but every one of my babies who ship out to racing or other careers has a label on their JC foal papers that says I will take them back if they ever need a home. Not a complete solution, as kill buyers don’t get the papers, but maybe it will make a difference somewhere, sometime. Breeders and owners, step up and do the right thing!

  12. Viktoria Ks (Viktoria Shell)

    A percentage of the earnings isn’t enough. The majority of bred TB earn NOTHING. It needs to start in the breeding shed. You breed a horse into existence, you pay a fee that goes to a fund for the horse…BOTH the mare and the stallion owners. THAT would cut down on the cheaply bred horses as well as FINALLY make some of the big breeders responsible for the BY THE NUMBERS method they breed by. As a TB owner and breeder of only two foals…my partner and I have given up our retirement to take responsibility for that which we created and chose to do with innocent TB lives. Thank you Susan for continuing to keep the plight of the HORSE in the forefront of the human conscience versus the ego that often makes the irresponsible and inhumane decisions for these incredible gifts to humankind.

  13. Linda Simon

    I think that a percentage of the horses own earnings should be set aside like a pension at every track it races at and when the horse is retired the funds should be combined and pay for his reschooling or rehoming. I am leary of big general funds because too many horses fall thru loop holes like he wasnt stabled at the track or he didnt run enough starts at that track,.etc. This way where ever the horse ends up there should be some funds to help him to his next career. I have rehomed 12 race horses myself as well as rescuing Dr.Fish after he broke His leg in his 124 lifetime start. He was a multiple stake winner of almost A half a million dollars and no one would give a dollar back to save him. I had groomed him as a 3&4 year old and he won several stakes while I took care of him so at 13 I took him in and spent 5000 dollars to fuse his ankle and he now lives a peaceful life in Florida.

  14. Amanda Munson

    Lets get the names of those needing support for the off the track life out there for all the public to see and help support! New Vocations, Canter, Retired Racehorse Project…. Let’s help them get the word out more!!! – owner of Studs Hooligan, New Vocations ambassador, Madame Flutterby, Matto of Fact, and Ship To Glory- all off the track STB or TB recycled into pot track careers!

  15. Carol Donnelly

    I think the prisoners should have more access to the horse world, be it TB or Mustangs! They do wonderful work with the horses! It is a win win!

  16. Judy Abernathy

    glad to hear a few are trying…….will take huge change …..from the Bob Bafferts (sp) of the world…one simple could help STOP BREEDING…TB Arabs, Qtr…..we are such a greedy bunch….the stop breeding goes for dogs, cats….there are so many gorgeous horses…..all breeds….spend time with the ones that are here….many just ship to kill buyers or have some picked up…..makes me sick to my stomach…..

  17. Suzanne Carreker-Voigt

    Join Retired Racehorse Project–an organization dedicated to giving second careers to racehorses. Come see Thoroughbreds for All–Saratoga, August 4 in Saratoga Springs! NYS Thb Breeders Fund just gave them a sponsorship too. The world is changing for our racehorses!!

  18. Michelle Y.

    I agree, I am so happy to hear those that were in the racing industry (and those that are currently in it) are beginning to see how important it is to give back to the horses who gave them so much.

  19. Carol Parmenter

    love the fact that finally the industry is starting to take care of these beautiful animals who gives us so much. Why not have a certain percent to the wagering go to support aftercare programs. Thanks so much to all the rescue organizations.

  20. Victoria

    Absolutely needed are more caring race horse people like Migliore. Thanks for posting. Hope he continues with boundless energy and foresight in moving his ideals forward, making much needed change in the industry and sport.

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