Many Finger Lakes owners and trainers expressed concern over the well being of thoroughbreds that had completed their careers at Finger Lakes Racetrack. Our goal is to place Thoroughbreds that are stabled and racing at Finger Lakes Race Track into suitable adoptive homes or other approved equine placement organizations once their career on the racetrack has come to end.
Why We Do What We Do
In the fall of 2004, a woman named Sue living near Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington, New York, sought out retiring racehorses from the track and promised their owners that she would place them in good homes.
Unsuspecting owners and trainers gladly donated or consigned horses after reading posters that advertised that no horses would go to slaughter, and that each horse would be placed according to its needs and abilities. Little did they know that their horses were in reality being consigned to a livestock auction in Athens, Pennsylvania, where animals were bought and sold primarily for meat.
Trigger Happy Jill (photo above left) was one of these horses. Trigger Happy Jill had been unsuccessful on the racetrack, but her owner was determined to find her a good home. Trigger Happy Jill was consigned to Sue in late September 2004.
On October 4, Jill’s owner received a phone call from Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in southern Pennsylvania. Jill had been rescued from a slaughter pen at the auction for a price of $200. Angel Acres had been able to track down Jill’s owner, Valerie Morrison, by tracing Jill’s lip tattoo, and had called her to inform her of the rescue.
Valerie, together with racetrack veterinarian Dr. Margaret Ohlinger and Finger Lakes trainer Phyllis Shetron, began a hurried attempt to find the other eight horses that had made the trip to Pennsylvania with Trigger Happy Jill. While Dr. Ohlinger worked diligently at the track to trace the missing horses, Phyllis and Valerie traveled to Pennsylvania in their quest to find the horses and bring them home.
What they found appalled them. Most of the horses had ended up in temporary homes that placed them in imminent danger. One horse, Polish Jig, (photo above right) was found emaciated, with open, untreated wounds, tied in a filthy, dark stall with no food or water. Negotiations were made with owners of horses deemed to be at the greatest risk, and three of the nine were bought back and brought home to their relieved owners. Trigger Happy Jill remained in the care of Angel Acres and was adopted out to a local veterinarian and his family. Today she has a new career as a polo pony, and has become one of the better polo ponies in the Northeast.
Not all the horses were as fortunate. For a gelding named Austin’s Awesome, help did not arrive soon enough. He was sent to slaughter after going through the livestock auction in Athens. Yet another horse, Emily’s Dad, was never found. (see photos below of Polish Jig upon her return from her harrowing experience)
As a result of this experience, Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, Phyllis Shetron, and Valerie Morrison, together with management from Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, began the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program (FLTAP). It is the first Thoroughbred adoption facility in the country to be run as a collaborative effort between racetrack management and horsemen. We are hoping our efforts will ensure that all adoptable retiring Thoroughbreds are placed in caring homes. With the help of those that support us, we are sure we will be able to attain this goal.
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack has provided the land. New York State and Purple Haze Stables have provided the majority of the funds. But now we need to furnish our barn with all the necessities of good horse-keeping…from hay and wheelbarrows to hoof picks and stalls! We would greatly appreciate any donations of time, material, or labor to get our barn up and running by the time our first horses arrive. Even the smallest donations would be greatly appreciated!