The Rescue Project
The introduction of events such as The Retired Racehorse Project, which began in 2010, has helped to promote a breed that has seen a decrease in popularity over the years. Couple that with the magnitude of social media influencer's who have taken on rescues themselves, the equine industry is experiencing a new and vested desire to take in rescues and give them a new lease on life. This is something I stand by fully, as I have a rescue myself.
As with anything in life, you are taking a chance when you are making the decision to buy an animal who you have little to no time to interact with prior to purchase. More often than not you won't have the opportunity to become familiar with the animals background before making the decision to buy, as auctions happen so quickly. Some people are extremely lucky and get animals who come home sound minded and ready to work, making them an easy project horse to get going exceptionally well in 6 months to a year. But, more often than not these animals need far more time to adjust to life with a forever home. They need even more time and patience than an average horse to understand what will be asked of them in their new career. Below is my experience with taking a horse who had a rough history on the track and developing her into a show horse.
I adopted Rumor in 2015, I was a freshman in College and knew I would not have the time to continue being competitive on the A circuit, but I wanted to continue to have new and unique experiences in the equestrian industry. I was casually browsing various adoption agencies in Georgia and came across a rescue group who had a large variety of thoroughbreds who would be eligible for soprthorse careers (unfortunately the rescue is no longer operating due to lack of funding). After some lengthy discussions with my parents we decided as a family that it was a great time in my life for me to adopt and restart a thoroughbred off the track. So, my parents came up for a weekend, and with the help of my trainer at the time, we went to try several horses at the rescue.
I sat on about 3 horses at the rescue, two who were bound for the hunter ring and one who was bound to be a jumper. While they were absolutely outstanding horses I just did not click with any of them exceptionally well. As we were preparing to say goodbye to the owner of the rescue, she mentioned the new batch of horses she just got off of a killpen buyers truck. Out of curiosity we went to check out the horses, and that is where we saw Rumor (Bozette at the time). Rumor was in the back of a round pen, clearly terrified of her surroundings and untrusting of people. We asked some questions about her as she was built exceptionally well and learned that she had a history of rearing on the racetrack when loading in the starting gates. We went home after thanking the rescue for their time, with Rumor still in the back of our minds.
Three weeks later we decided on a whim to go back and see Rumor, as she had not left my mind since the day we saw her. When we told the rescue we were coming back to look at her they made it explicitly clear that we were not allowed to sit on her, but that they would let us groom her and put her on a lunge-line to see how she went. Rumor stood like a doll as I groomed her for the first time, chickens ran under her feet and she didn't blink an eye. We decided to go ahead and put her on the lunge-line as she had already surpassed expectations. On the lunge it was very clear she was uneducated and had little experience being handled in a nonracing environment. Regardless of that she happily trotted and cantered on the lunge, showing us her beautiful stretchy gaits. I called my parents and we took her home that day.
It has been 3 years since the day we decided to take Rumor home. She is still an exceptionally quirky mare who is continuously working to resolve problems of her past. Problems that we will never fully understand. But, she has also developed into the most willing partner I have ever had. It has been a long process, complete with lots of tears and even more smiles, but everything has been worth it.
Rumor and I have experienced her first horse shows together (complete with being taken off with in the schooling ring), she has slowly learned to be independent of me and trust complete strangers, and she has saved my butt far more times than I can remember. She has become the best teammate and will be my forever horse.
For anyone who is considering adopting, I encourage you to. But be aware that a majority of these horses are not animals who can simply walk into a show ring in 6 months. You have to be prepared to throw your timeline out the window and take every step as it comes. Your horse will tell you when they are ready to progress with training, but until then enjoy the adventure! The months go by fast. Take lots of pictures and always be sure to laugh even on days when nothing goes your way. These animals have lots of love to give, you just have to be willing to take the leap of faith!
If anyone has any questions regarding rescuing please do not hesitate to contact me! I Would love to talk!