Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Last updated
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
Formation June 1983;34 years ago (1983-06)
Type 501(c)3
13-3132741 [1]
  • Saratoga Springs, New York
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015) $3,088,323
Endowment $6,513,564

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) is an American organization founded in 1982, whose mission is stated to be: "To save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter."

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Thoroughbred Horse breed developed for racing

The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered "hot-blooded" horses that are known for their agility, speed, and spirit.



Two years after its founding, the TRF had its first retiree. His name was Promised Road, and he was typical of the type of horse that needs someone's help and a caring home. He was then 9, an undistinguished campaigner whose career ended with a sixth-place finish in a $3,500 claiming race. There have been hundreds more like him who have come under the care of the TRF. Ron "Gibby" Gibson the trainer of Promised Road knew that the horse deserved to be taken care of in retirement as Promised Road took care of him while racing. Mr. Gibson went on to teach at the facility before retiring.

A claiming race in thoroughbred horse racing is one in which the horses are all for sale for more or less the same price up until shortly before the race. Race types form a hierarchy in terms of the quality of horse they attract, with handicap races and graded stakes races attracting the "best" horses and maiden races the most unseasoned. Claiming races fall at the bottom of this hierarchy, below maiden races, and make up the bulk of races run at most US tracks. For example in Kentucky in 1999, 54% of all races run were claiming races, but had only 20% of the purse dollar value, the lowest average purse among race types.

The TRF is about more than helping horses in need. Early in the TRF’s history, Founder and Chairman of the Board Monique S. Koehler negotiated a milestone agreement with the State of New York Department of Correctional Services. In exchange for land use and labor at the state's Wallkill Correctional Facility, the TRF would design, staff and maintain a vocational training program in equine care and management for inmates.

The Wallkill Correctional Facility is a medium security prison in New York state in the United States. The prison is located just north of the hamlet of Wallkill, in the Town of Shawangunk.

Upon the completion of their sentences, many former inmates who have worked with the horses have gone on to become productive, solid citizens and have been quick to give credit to the TRF program. The inmates cannot have committed a sexual crime or first-degree murder. This unique prison program has been replicated at TRF farms located at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Kentucky, Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville MD, Putnamville Correctional Facility in IN, Vandalia Correctional Facility in IL, Wateree River Correctional Institution in SC, James River Work Center in VA, and Plymouth County Sheriff's Farm in MA.

Kentucky State of the United States of America

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

The horses at these farms and several of our other facilities often are so infirm when retired from racing that they can do little more than enjoy their days in their paddocks and fields. However, hundreds of TRF horses have successfully been trained for second careers, as show jumpers, companion horses, handicapped riding horses, even polo horses.

Show jumping part of a group of English riding equestrian events

Show jumping, also known as "stadium jumping", "open jumping", or simply "jumping", is a part of a group of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes are commonly seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics. Sometimes shows are limited exclusively to jumpers, sometimes jumper classes are offered in conjunction with other English-style events, and sometimes show jumping is but one division of very large, all-breed competitions that include a very wide variety of disciplines. Jumping classes may be governed by various national horse show sanctioning organizations, such as the United States Equestrian Federation in the USA or the British Showjumping Association in Great Britain. International competitions are governed by the rules of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Pet animal kept for companionship rather than utility

A pet or companion animal is an animal kept primarily for a person's company, protection, entertainment, or as an act of compassion such as taking in and protecting a hungry stray cat, rather than as a working animal, livestock, or laboratory animal. Popular pets are often noted for their attractive appearances, intelligence, and relatable personalities, or may just be accepted as they are because they need a home.

Disability impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions

According to many definitions, a disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. Other definitions describe disability as the societal disadvantage arising from such impairments. Disability substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

The Foundation says that the "sad truth is that a vast majority of the general public and even many racing fans are unaware of the sad fate that awaits thousands of Thoroughbreds each year. They assume each animal is assured a safe and graceful retirement once its racing days are over. Their perception of the "Sport of Kings” is one where great personal wealth and lifelong benevolence to all horses are givens. Unfortunately, it is a perception that does not reflect reality."

In 2001, the estate of the prominent horse owner/breeder Paul Mellon created a $5 million endowment for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for use in its efforts to rescue and rehabilitate retired race horses. The slaughterhouse killings of famous horses such as the U.S. Hall of Fame horse Exceller and the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ferdinand, both occurred outside the United States but helped raise awareness of what can happen to Thoroughbreds, even champions. The TRF also reminds people that the "reality is a Thoroughbred industry made up largely of owners with only modest resources and current economics that dictate that among all owners, no matter how responsible and well-intended, only a relatively few are capable of maintaining even a single Thoroughbred once it is unable to earn its keep on the track."

Paul Mellon American racehorse owner

Paul Mellon was an American philanthropist and an owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. He is one of only five people ever designated an "Exemplar of Racing" by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He was co-heir to one of America's greatest business fortunes, derived from the Mellon Bank created by his grandfather Thomas Mellon, his father Andrew W. Mellon, and his father's brother Richard B. Mellon. In 1957, when Fortune prepared its first list of the wealthiest Americans, it estimated that Paul Mellon, his sister Ailsa Mellon-Bruce, and his cousins Sarah Mellon and Richard King Mellon, were all among the richest eight people in the United States, with fortunes of between 400 and 700 million dollars each.

Slaughterhouse facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products

A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are slaughtered for consumption as food. Slaughterhouses supply meat which then becomes the responsibility of the packaging department.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Professional sports hall of fame in Saratoga Springs, New York

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1951 in Saratoga Springs, New York, to honor the achievements of American Thoroughbred race horses, jockeys, and trainers. In 1955, the museum moved to its current location on Union Avenue near Saratoga race course, at which time inductions into the hall of fame began. Each spring, following the tabulation of the final votes, the announcement of new inductees is made, usually during Kentucky Derby Week in early May. The actual inductions are held in mid-August during the Saratoga race meeting.

The TRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization entirely dependent on public contributions. Income is derived from donations from horse racing fans, owners, breeders, trainers and racing officials who believe racehorses deserve better than a trip to the slaughterhouse when their track careers are over.

On March 18, 2011 a New York Times article reported that the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation "...has been so slow or delinquent in paying for the upkeep of the more than 1,000 horses under its care that scores have wound up starved and neglected, some fatally, according to interviews and inspection reports." [2]

In November 2013, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation settled a lawsuit with the attorney general of New York State that alleged the foundation mistreated animals in its herd. The settlement noted TRF denied any wrongdoing. [3]

See also

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Exceller is widely considered one of the best horses to race in the United States not to win a year-end championship. Despite his exemplary achievements as a racehorse, and his unique accomplishment in being the only horse to ever defeat two U.S. Triple Crown winners in the same race, Exceller is now remembered more for the tragic manner of his death and the horse rescue movement it helped inspire.

The Blood-Horse is a weekly news magazine published by Blood-Horse Publications that originated in 1916 as a monthly bulletin put out by the Thoroughbred Horse Association. In 1935 the business was purchased by the American Thoroughbred Breeders Association. From 1961 to 2015, it was owned by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a non-profit organization that promotes Thoroughbred racing and breeding. In 2015, The Jockey Club purchased a majority share in the publication.

Sam-Son Farm is a Thoroughbred horse racing stable with farms located in Milton, Ontario, Canada and Ocala, Florida. Originating in the 60's by Ernie Samuel, it began as a home for competition hunter/jumper horses. One Sam-Son horse, Canadian Club won the 1967 Pan-American Games Individual Jumping Gold medal and was a member of the 1968 Team Gold Medal for Canada at the Mexico Olympics ridden by Jim Day. Sam-Son continued to send entries to International show jumping, dressage and three ay venting events including the 1972 and 1976 Olympics and thereafter. In 1971 it became home to its first Thoroughbred race horse and officially entered racing in 1972.

Jockey Club (United States) US breed registry for Thoroughbreds

The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States and Canada. It is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing and fulfills that mandate by serving many segments of the industry through its subsidiary companies and by supporting numerous industry initiatives.

Ferdinand was a Thoroughbred racehorse that won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic. He was voted the 1987 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Silver Charm

Silver Charm is an American Champion Thoroughbred race horse. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Gary Stevens, he is best known for winning the 1997 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in the Triple Crown. He also won the Dubai World Cup, and stood at stud in both America and Japan. Upon the death of Hansel, Silver Charm became the oldest living winner of the Preakness Stakes.

Sunshine Forever was an American Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. Bred by Darby Dan Farm owner John W. Galbreath who owned his dam, Outward Sunshine, and his damsire, Graustark, Sunshine Forever was sired by Galbreath's 1972 Epsom Derby winner, Roberto.

Charles Plunket Bourchier Taylor was a Canadian journalist, author, essayist, and thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder.

John C. Mabee was an American Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder whom the New York Times Company's subsidiary called "a California racing icon."

John Franks was an American businessman and a Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder. A native of Haughton, Louisiana, he earned a degree in geology from Louisiana State University. In 1957, he founded the highly successful Franks Petroleum Inc. and later invested in real estate with Franks Realty LLC. In 1989 he sold his petroleum company to Sonat Inc.

Fred William Hooper was an American Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder. He was a member of The Jockey Club, an honorary director of the Breeders' Cup, and one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and one of its first presidents.

The American Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) based in Lexington, Kentucky is a trade organization for Thoroughbred racehorse owners and breeders. Founded in 1961, the TOBA's stated mission is to "improve the economics, integrity and pleasure of the sport on behalf of Thoroughbred owners and breeders."

Jersey Act 20th-century British Thoroughbred horse regulation

The Jersey Act was introduced to prevent the registration of most American-bred Thoroughbred horses in the British General Stud Book. It had its roots in the desire of the British to halt the influx of American-bred racehorses of possibly impure bloodlines during the early 20th century. Many American-bred horses were exported to Europe to race and retire to a breeding career after a number of US states banned gambling, which depressed Thoroughbred racing as well as breeding in the United States. The loss of breeding records during the American Civil War and the late beginning of the registration of American Thoroughbreds led many in the British racing establishment to doubt that the American-bred horses were purebred.

Mackenzie "Mack" Todd Miller was an American Thoroughbred racehorse trainer and owner/breeder. During his forty-six-year career, he conditioned seventy-two stakes winners, including four Eclipse Award champions.

Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps was an American financier, Thoroughbred racehorse industry executive, and horse breeder. Widely known by the nickname "Dinny," he was chairman of the family's Bessemer Trust until retiring in 1994, and served as its vice chairman.

Martin J. Wygod is an American businessman and a prominent Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder.

Barbara J. Minshall is a Canadian Thoroughbred racehorse trainer and owner who has competed both in Canada and the United States. She is the widow of Aubrey W. Minshall, the successful breeder and owner of the 350-acre (1.4 km2) Minshall Farms near Hillsburgh, Ontario. Following her husband's death in 1993, Barbara Minshall, having been involved in the operation of the farm, continued the business and became a licensed trainer in 1995.

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey

Kenneth L. "Ken" Ramsey and Sarah Kathern "Kitten" Ramsey are horse breeders and owners of Thoroughbred race horses. They have multiple graded stakes winners, three Breeders' Cup winners, and the Ramseys themselves have won multiple Eclipse Awards for outstanding owner and breeder. Ken and Sarah own Ramsey Farm, a 1,200 acre horse breeding operation in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and have raced horses at tracks throughout the United States. Many of their race horses have names incorporating the word "Kitten", Ken's nickname for Sarah Ramsey, used as the inspiration for the name of their leading stallion, Kitten's Joy, a successful racehorse in longer races on turf racetracks. When his style of racing proved unfashionable and outside breeders were reluctant to send mares to him, the Ramseys bought a herd of their own mares to breed and raced the progeny themselves, with considerable success, punctuated by Ken Ramsey personally leading most of his horses into the winner's circle after their races. To further promote the stallion, most of his offspring have "Kitten" in their names and, in some cases such as Breeders' Cup winners Bobby's Kitten and Stephanie's Kitten, the Ramseys honor friends or family members by incorporating their names as well.


  1. "Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Form 990 2015". ProPublica. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  2. Drape, Joe (17 March 2011). "Ex-Racehorses Starve as Charity Fails in Mission to Care for Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  3. Hegarty, Matt (19 November 2013). "Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, New York attorney general settle lawsuit". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 24 September 2014.