by Liz O’Connell
Originally formed in 2005 during the Pataki administration, with a new iteration in 2007, the New York State Task Force on Retired Race Horses has finished its charge of researching and making recommendations to ensure responsible and humane retirement for horses, both Standardbred and Thoroughbred, retiring from racing at New York tracks.
When the task force was formed Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee wrote:
"The unfortunate reality is that the racing industry produces a great deal of horses and often times there are legitimate concerns as to what to do with those horses when they have been retired … On both the state and federal levels there have been issues raised with regard to the slaughter of horses and how best to address it … Through this task force we will be able to, hopefully, identify alternatives that will increase the value and retirement possibilities of retired racehorses."
The very-soon-to-be-released report covers factors impacting the retirement of race horses, makes recommendations and provides the starting point for industry-based funding streams that would enable the retraining and placement of able horses, and secure a retirement for those needing sanctuary placement.
It is my hope that the horse rescues, retraining and retirement organizations and racing industry stakeholders will come together to develop a game-changing paradigm, based on field-tested wisdom and the task force’s recommendations. We have the opportunity to forge a program in New York where we have both the finest horse racing, and, a secure and humane retirement program for the equine athletes that make the racing industry and its attendant wagering and gaming opportunities possible.
I was appointed to the task force by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in early 2008 — Eliot Spitzer was governor, then came governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo. So, three administrations (four if counting the original legislation signed by George Pataki), a couple of Racing and Wagering Board Chairmen, a couple of Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioners, seemingly countless changes in support staff, a staggering recession, maybe an economic recovery, and, we are done.