At the Fort Erie racetrack, where the distance to the Canadian slaughterhouse is frighteningly short, and where there are no laws or racetrack policies against slaughter, help for Thoroughbreds has recently risen up from the grooms, owners, trainers and racetrack officials themselves.
With the season over at a facility that this year grappled with the sudden loss of its revenue-generating slot machines, the track family has stepped forward, offering a barn, feed, shavings and other donations to help horses whose race careers are over.
For Alexis Kacho-Sinke, founder of Thoroughbred re-homing organization Second Start Thoroughbreds, tears come quickly these days as she arrives at the stall of a horse in need of help.
Not because something bad has happened, but because even during hard times such as theses, charity and kindness abound.
“Sometimes I show up at the barn, and there’s hay stacked for us,” she says, “and it makes us cry. It shows me that this little B track is like a family, and there are good people who want to help.”
Track officials went so far this year as to designate a barn for Second Start Thoroughbreds to house and showcase sale-horses to the horse-buying public!
“This year, the track has been awesome,” she says. “Having our own barn and stalls makes it so much easier to coordinate shipping” of horses to new homes.
With a looming Nov. 11 the deadline to have all horses off the track, five Thoroughbreds are in the possession of Second Start Thoroughbreds, and a total of 40 are for sale by trainers.
Although there is last-minute pressure, Kacho-Sinke has worked to get out ahead of the rush, by convincing trainers to sell their slow or under-performing horses in the spring. “I sold a couple in the spring for about $2,000 a piece, and this showed that horses have more value than the $120 meat price,” she says. “Our system is not perfect, but it’s working.”
Since she founded the horse charity in 2010, she has placed 285 horses in new homes, and many more before that.
And what is most encouraging is how her efforts have been embraced by both the good and the not so good in racing.
“There’s always going to be bad people in any sport, and people who don’t care about their horses,” she says. “Overall, most people are good, but, there are some bad, bad apples who are now using us, and in a way, that makes me feel better than when the good guys do, who would have given us their horses anyway.”
She admits it has been a hard, hard year for Fort Erie. When the government pulled slot machines from the track in March, only half the number of horses expected, were brought in to race.
“Normally there would have been about 1,400horses for a meet, but because people were so concerned” about the stability after the loss of slots “we wound up with only about 700 horses. And, by the end of the meet, we had 500 or less,” she says.
With the season now over, many horses are moving to tracks in Florida and West Virginia, while others will winter at a farms elsewhere, she says.
And for the ones with a temporary barn to shelter them, and the goodwill of the track keeping them fed and in clean shavings, there is hope that they will soon find new homes through her listings at Second Start Thoroughbreds.
Off-TrackThoroughbreds thanks you, the reader, for keeping up with these stories. Over 1,500 readers (so far!) today.