Based on an average lifespan of 30 years, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates

in 2008 the average cost of unwanted or at-risk horses of all breeds at $1,825 annually ($5 per day) without factoring in the then-recognized increased cost of feed and hay. This estimate is consistent with 2011 costs reported by The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Little Brook Farm, a horse rescue and sanctuary in Old Chatham, NY, estimates their costs for a healthy young horse in a pasture retirement scenario at approximately $2,500 annually ($6.85/day) for feed and hay. This does not include veterinary or farrier care.

ReRun, a national thoroughbred rescue and retraining organization with a chapter in Fulton, NY, factors $10/day ($3,650 annually) as a baseline cost for feed, hay and stall (if needed) for a retired racehorse awaiting adoption.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation estimates that it costs an average additional $5 per day per horse in rehabilitation and retraining for adoption.

Cost comparisons across the country:

• Tranquility Farm, based in Tehachapi, California, spends $3,000 annually for each permanently retired racehorse at its facility. This includes full maintenance except for veterinary and farrier expenses.

• Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in Glenville, Pennsylvania spends $2,500 per horse for feed and hay. The rescue spends $3,600 per horse with special needs.

For the purposes of these recommendations, a preliminary budget is included in the appendix. It accounts for 1,624 retiring horses (Standardbred and Thoroughbreds) per year. The costs assumed are $7.75 per day per horse, inclusive of basic veterinary and farrier costs for retired horses, and $12.75 per day for six months for horses in rehabilitation and retraining for sale or adoption.

The budget also assumes an annual decrease rate in the total number of horses of 5 percent to account for horses that die naturally or are humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. The budget also assumes that 40 percent of the horses may be sold or adopted within six months after retirement. This leaves 893 horses for long-term or permanent retirement each year.

The Task Force recognizes and applauds that thereare retired racehorses that find homes that do not require financial support.

Therefore, as detailed in the recommendation that owners budget for at least the initial six months of TRP for any horse they own, the Task Force establishes an average minimum cost of $400 per month per horse for transition from the track followed by foundational retraining to assist in successful placement in a second career. The inability of an owner to pay this amount does not preclude a retired racehorse from entering a TRP program.


While retired racehorses need to go through a period of transition and retraining once they have finished racing, the ability of a racehorse to adapt and transition to alternative tasks beyond the track portends well for a second career. Both Standardbred and Thoroughbred horses are acclimated to being around large groups of people and loud noises. They also develop a level of patience and understanding with people, have had more exposure to traveling in vans and trailers and to working in unfamiliar surroundings.

They are also accustomed to being handled,stabled, groomed, bathed and shod.

Therefore, the effort, time and financial investment in transition and retraining can

be expected to result in the likelihood of a retired racehorse to successfully adapt to a new career.

Retired racehorses of sound physical health and temperament are prime candidates for retraining for second careers. The level and cost of training

varies, depending on the health and temperament of the horse, its intended career, extent of volunteer involvement and the resources available at the training entity.

Retired racehorses are employed in a variety of fields for second careers, ranging in level of activity, both competitive and noncompetitive. For example:

• Hunter/jumper/equitation

• Dressage

• Combined Training

• Polo

• Pleasure/trail riding

• Therapeutic riding, where horses are ridden,groomed, and cared for by individuals as part of a physical and/or mental health rehabilitation regimen

• Hippotherapy, a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy where the movement of the horse is a means to a treatment goal

• Educational and agricultural studies (4-H, the U.S. Pony Club, Young Riders, Dressage4Kids, collegiate and trade school rehabilitation and training programs

 • Mounted police

• Cutting, reining and team penning

• Barrel racing and other gymkhana events

• Ranch horse versatility

• Endurance/competitive trail riding

• Companion animals

• Correctional facility and juvenile justice facility use

• Military ceremonial capacities

• Companion animals for young horses on breeding farms

• Broodmares

• Sires and teaser stallions

• Work horses for the Amish community

The Task Force believes that second careers can be found for both retired Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds through a program of transition, rehabilitation, retraining and placement. An increased public and industry-focused awareness campaign will highlight the viability and athletic capacity of retired racehorses 

Reference Books:  Re-Educating Racehorses: A Life After Racing              by Fred Cook and Rowena Jane Simmonds


Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racecourse to Riding Horse by Anna Morgan Ford