DAYTON – At a low-key farm on the outskirts of Dayton, successful thoroughbred racehorses in the winner’s circle and names like Downie’sHip, The Kahn and Launch The Posse are all given pampered second lives and new careers off the race track.
The farm, owned by Amanda Tranquillo, is a place of refuge and rehabilitation through the non-profit organization Hope After Racing Thoroughbreds (HART). The Iowa group receives injured or non-competitive horses from Prairie Meadows Racetrack, nurses them after injuries or surgeries, retrains them, and adopts them into new homes for a second chance at life.
“This work is important because it helps horses by creating an intermediary that helps horses who do not yet have homes, to find them in a protective environment”,said HART ex-officio Jon Moss. “HART assists (the horses) and ultimately rehoms them by placing them with the best possible candidate HART can find by matching the needs of the horses and the abilities of the people who want to adopt for successful long-term relationships.”
Tranquillo, who worked as a trainer for HART for more than four years, sees horses from their final moments on the track, through surgeries, treatments, vet checks, rehabilitation, training for new careers, and finally helps load them into trailers. as they are adopted into a suitable new home.
“It’s such a rewarding career for me” Tranquille said. “This program and my work are essential to ensuring that our Iowa racehorses transition properly and healthily from their track careers into a second career when they can no longer race.”
HART is able to help the racehorses of Iowa through a series of cooperative agreements and working relationships that have been cultivated over more than two decades, including a partnership with the Prairie Meadows Horsemen as well only with representative organizations such as the Iowa Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (IA HBPA). According to Moss, each time a horse is injured or isn’t fast enough for the track, the rider donates $10 to HART, who will then take possession of the horse. HART also maintains working relationships with the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (ITBOA), Prairie Meadows, and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
“Prairie Meadows HBPA IA began the process of creating a tracking organization in 2010”, Moss said. “Then they brought in Prairie Meadows to help with some elements of the overall $10 donation drive. Since then, the IA HBPA, ITBOA, Cavaliers and HART have all worked together on funding, organizational needs, etc. Prairie Meadows has also kindly donated locations on the trail at key times for HART to raise awareness and do community outreach.
When a horse is injured or can no longer be competitive, a number of conversations take place between the horse owner and HART. Tranquillo and his stable staff then travel to Prairie Meadows where they meet the horse and load it for transfer to Dayton where it will begin its rehabilitation and training process.
“The track and the tremendous amount of training our Iowa racehorses receive while on the track helps make these athletes extremely versatile and enjoyable for anyone from an experienced trainer to a beginner – with the help of a trainer – to own and start a new career with or simply enjoy quietly as an all-round personal horse”, Tranquille said.
In many cases, after rehabilitation, horses become dressage, show jumping or eventing horses. Others enjoy a second career as trail horses, and others, due to injuries, will live out the rest of their lives in a pasture.
“Race horses here in Iowa have a fantastic, lush life on the track, but are extremely used to establishing daily exercise routines and schedules, so my job is to help these athletes transition into a a little less strict routine, which is still scheduled, but more relaxed as to what a house would be like without a race”, Tranquille said. “We are beginning to train and place our horses in new careers and new homes best suited to their athleticism, personality and, of course, soundness and ability for their best future.”
The adoption process through HART is lengthy as the organization wants to ensure the best possible match and a successful lifelong relationship between horse and new owner.
“The adoption process begins with an application link on our website, iahart.org,” Moss said. “From there, a member of our board will contact you and ask questions and referrals. The reason for this process is that it is up to us to do two things: verify that you are a candidate and work with that potential adopter to find the best horse that will meet their needs. We try to find the best combination for the horse and the new owners, so it becomes a long-term commitment on the part of the adopter.
Since partnering in 2010, HART has rehabilitated and adopted nearly 100 horses into new careers and homes, a success that Moss and Tranquillo say is worth all the hay, alfalfa and time spent in the barn.
“Anytime we pair the right horse and rider together, and I see them excel or even just enjoy their new career, that’s a pinnacle moment,” Tranquille said. “Thoroughbreds are bred to be athletes. They are smart, athletic, and capable of excelling in many other career areas after finishing racing.
“The very first horse that entered the program, All The Love, had a very serious injury, and the owner really wanted this horse to have a second chance,” Moss said. “It was thrilling for nearly two full months, and eventually this filly turned around and healed after a sesamoid fracture. She wasn’t strong enough to race again, but the family we were working with at that time the Houdes fell in love with her and thought they would try and breed her which they did All The Love went on to produce an amazing horse who ended up racing and winning here at Prairie Meadows called Loving The Rush It’s always been a fun story about a horse that’s the very first to enter the program and then calves another horse that ends up running and winning here at the same track .
As the new racing season has just begun at Prairie Meadows, HART has already started receiving calls about horses, including Judge Phillip, a five-year-old bay gelding in good health but not fast enough for the track. Tranquillo and his barn staff picked up Judge last week and he is now learning a slower pace of life in Dayton. Information about the judge, his behavior and the adoption application is available on HART’s Facebook page and website. Tranquillo thinks more horses will be supported by HART as the racing season continues this year, which is typical.
“Tracking is such an important part of the racing community now, whether it’s from Prairie Meadows to Santa Anita or Belmont,” Moss said. “Racing is truly focused on our stars and striving to provide them with the best post-race careers that we collectively can, and HART is recognized for this by also being Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) certified.”
According to Moss, TAA certification is an engaging process that requires a lot of due diligence and requires HART to show that they not only rehabilitate horses, but also document the care provided and that important checks and balances are done organizationally.
“HART is very proud to do the work that we do and to be recognized as part of this group of organizations within the racing community for stepping up and showing up to fully welcome the TAA, to watch everything what we do, and certifying that we are who we say we are and doing the important work that we are is so important to us.
As a non-profit organization, HART also welcomes donations for the rehabilitation and care of horses that are brought into the program. Donations can be made through the HART website, iahart.org.