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Retired Thoroughbreds find second chances and new careers at Kentucky Thoroughbr
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As Kentucky Derby 138 approaches, attention is focused on the 3-year-old crop of young thoroughbreds vying to win the sport's most prestigious race. They run their hearts out for our amusement.

But do you ever wonder what happens to these and other thoroughbred racehorses once their racing or breeding careers are over?

With the growing popularity of big box office horse movies such as Seabiscuit, Dreamer, Secretariat, and War Horse, comes the heightened awareness of the welfare of these beautiful and versatile thoroughbreds (to say nothing of HBO's short-lived series Luck, canceled after three horses died during production).

Many of these horses are still young and have their long lives ahead of them, with much to still contribute after they are retired from racing careers. Thoroughbreds have been successfully retrained in many disciplines including dressage, eventing, hunter-jumpers, barrel racing, pole bending, polo and trail riding. After it became known that Exceller, a champion thoroughbred, was sent to a slaughterhouse in Sweden in 1997 and 2002 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand’s death at slaughter in Japan after his breeding career was over, there was a glaring focus on the plight of many retired racehorses. Endings like theirs, however, do not have to happen.

Thanks to Kentucky-based thoroughbred racehorse adoption and retirement facilities, many of Kentucky’s off-the-track thoroughbreds are getting their second chances at new careers or enjoying a safe and dignified retirement at facilities dedicated to their well being.

My daughters and I made the trip down to Lexington on a gorgeous April spring day to visit two of these facilities—The Makers Mark Secretariat Center located in the Kentucky Horse Park and Old Friends Equine, a Thoroughbred retirement facility, located in Georgetown. Both facilities also educate the public about the thoroughbred horse’s incredible attributes.

Slideshow: 
Two Thoroughbreds graze in the picturesque pastures of The Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Danthebluegrassman is one of the 116 horses under the care of Old Friends Equine.
Flick is a pasture mate of Danthebluegrassman at Old Friends Equine.
Thoroughbred Creator, he's all attitude and knows he was good. Creator hailed from the famous Godolphin stables in Dubai, Saudia Arabia.
The final resting place for the equine residents who have passed on to greener pastures at Old Friends.
Thoroughbred Special Ring shares his paddock with Popcorn Deelites and he likes to let everyone know he is indeed special by showing off his J.C. lip tatoo.
A statue of the late great Secretariat appears to be gazing out over the beautiful paddocks of the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Up for adoption from New Vocations - Little Fruit Fly - 6 yr old, 16.1hh Chestnut Thoroughbred mare, adoption fee $700.
Up for adoption from New Vocations - Moms Activelil Star - 4yr old, 15.3hh Bay Thoroughbred Mare, adoption fee $400.
Up for adoption from New Vocations - Native Tongue - 8 yr old, 15.3hh Bay Thoroughbred gelding, Adoption fee Waived
Ata Slew is a retired Thoroughbred in the Blackburn Correctional Complex's Second Chances program.
Do Not Touch is another retired Thoroughbred in the Blackburn Correctional Complex's Second Chances program.
The horse barn at the Blackburn Correctional Complex.
Retired racehorse Man From Artemus (Aviator) shows his stuff in his new career as a dressage, jumper, and eventing horse.
Retired Thoroughbred Crafty K.C. (Catch Me If U Can) shows off her style in her new career as a barrel racer and pole bending horse.
Old Friends Equine Trophy Room.
The Breeders Cup Trophy won by Starine in 2002 at Old Friends Equine.
This is Old Friends Equine's little dapple grey mascot Little Silver Charm. He is a charming fellow with a mane that any rock star would envy.
Old Friends equine resident Patton enjoys a carrot from Founder Michael Blowen.
Popcorn Deelites, who played the famous horse Seabiscuit in the movie of the same name, gets a treat from a visitor as Old Friends tour guide Beth Shannon looks on.
Thoroughbred Rugby is one of the horses up for adoption at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Thoroughbred Monkey Toes is up for adoption at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Thoroughbred Rugby gets a neck rub from visitor Carly Dolan at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
The immaculate stables at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
U of K marketing Intern Alex gives one of the Thoroughbreds a little attention at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Lovable Thoroughbred Victorias Secret is looking for some attention at the Makers Mark Secretriat Center.
Thoroughbred Duke takes a rest while getting a hug from U of K Intern Julia Fabiani in the Makers Mark Secretariat Stables.
Saddles sit at the ready for Deb Fabiani's saddle fitting clinic at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Saddlefitter Deb Fabiani conducts a saddle fitting clinic to determine which of the Center's saddles best fit each Thoroughbred in retraining at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
Two of the beautiful Thoroughbreds up for adoption out to pasture at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center.
A beautiful spring view of Old Friends Equine's pastures.
Old Friends Founder, Michael Blowen, feeds Thoroughbred resident Afternoon Deelites a carrot.
Patton enjoys grazing in the pasture of Old Friends Equine.
Michael Blowen pets his favorite horse at Old Friends Equine, Marquetry won 2.5 million dollars and bred two Breeders Cup winners.
Old Friends resident Gulch enjoys getting some of his winter coat rubbed off his chest by Founder Michael Blowen.
Old Friends resting place for Thoroughbreds inducted into the Jockey Club's Hall of Fame. This is Skip Away's headstone.
Afternoon Deelites grazes in front of the Old Friends Equine's barn quilt.

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Sandy Dolan's picture

About Sandy Dolan

Owner of Cedar Ridge Farm which operates a children's horseback riding lesson program in Greenville, IN. I have been involved with equine welfare and rescue activities. We have successfully rehomed at risk horses and retrained off the track thoroughbred racehorses in new careers in hunter/jumper, eventing, dressage, and barrel racing disciplines.

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