The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) mission is to save horses that can no longer race and protect them from the risk of neglect, abuse and slaughter. However, according to an ongoing investigation and allegations made by several TRF horse caretakers, the organization has neglected hundreds of the horses that it was supposed to protect.
The estate of Thoroughbred breeder and owner Paul Mellon is the Foundation’s biggest benefactor. It launched the investigation into the TRF horses’ care with Dr. Stacey Huntington, a Missouri veterinarian. Dr. Huntington along with local vets have examined hundreds of horses at many of the TRF facilities and found widespread neglect and reports of non-support from TRF. According to Dr. Huntington, approximately 25% of the horses she examined required some type of urgent care.
In response, the TRF posted a statement from Chairman of the Board Tom Ludt on its website.
As we understand Joe Drape’s point to discuss our herd and our organization, the TRF disputes many of the assumptions in his New York Times story.
Statements are mis-characterized. We are disappointed that Joe Drape did not choose to discuss this herd evaluation situation with all parties involved. Dr. T.J. Loafman, who is an independent veterinarian, supervised the load and unload of the 4-H Farm herd and disputes the allegations in the story.
As we have continued to communicate, fundraise and promote the TRF mission, we have had financial pressures put on us due to the economy affecting the donation levels of the past, and the lack of total industry support which has caused pressure on the TRF and its satellite farms. We have continually worked with our satellite farms and have had great support from them. We always try to work hard at fulfilling our mission as we raise funds in support of our horses within our herd.
The released statement also outlines the steps taken by TRF to ensure the well-being of its horses. The full statement can be found at trfinc.org
Who is Responsible?
The TRF was established in 1982 and is well-respected and supported by the racing industry. It facilitates the retirement of hundreds of Thoroughbreds by contracting with various facilities around the country. Essentially, the TRF boards rescued horses and pays a fee to farm owners for the horses’ upkeep.
The TRF allegedly failed to hold up its end of the bargain with several of the facilities. The New York Times reports that some facilities severed ties with the TRF prior to the investigation due to non-payment and a lack of cooperation. Other facilities appear to have stopped providing adequate care, leading to the cases of neglect found in the investigation.
Gayle England, operator of a TRF facility in Oklahoma, criticized the Foundation’s apparently mixed-up priorities.
“They were making their administrative payroll this whole time, but the horses, they were suffering,” she said. “They need to be held accountable.”