Featured OTTB Program: New Vocations

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program

Twice a year OTTB Mafia picks an organization that advocates for off the track Thoroughbreds to feature. The very first feature that I had the honor to interview is New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. They have been dedicated to rehoming retired racehorses since 1992, and they are the largest racehorse adoption program in the country! I interviewed the team to see what everyday life is like, behind the scenes of the massive program, which includes 9 different locations. They have loacations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky.

Interview with OTTB Mafia and Anna Ford
New Vocations’ Thoroughbred Program Director

Approximately how many Thoroughbreds do you have at one time between them all the locations? 

We typically have 120 to 130 Thoroughbreds in the program at any given time.

Do most of your OTTB’s come from certain racetracks?

They really come from all over. Some of the most consistent locations include the NYRA tracks, Kentucky tracks, those in Maryland and Louisiana, and Gulfstream Park.

What is your selection process for choosing off the track thoroughbreds to come to New Vocations? 

We typically take in Thoroughbreds coming directly from a racetrack or a training or rehab facility that have a good prognosis for having a second career as a riding horse at some level. This can range from a low-key pleasure or trail career to a high-level competitive career.

How much of your overhead is dependent on donations?  


What is your biggest expense in operating New Vocations? 

Our biggest expense is definitely the daily care and board for the horses.

I love that New Vocations advocates for OTTBs in the horse show world. Tell me a little more about your annual all Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show? 

The New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show is one of our favorite events! We love hosting a weekend of fun and competition to show off Thoroughbreds’ versatility in hunter/jumper, dressage, equitation and pleasure, Western, in-hand, and other classes, plus combined tests and more. In 2021, the show moved to Aiken, SC, for the first time (it had taken place at different facilities in both Ohio and Kentucky in the past), and we’re looking forward to returning to Aiken this spring for the 2022 event. 

Interview with OTTB Mafia and Leandra Cooper

New Vocations’ Lexington, KY, Trainer and Facility Manager

What is it about New Vocations that made you want to work there?

I️t was a pretty natural path for me. I️ was already working with Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds from the track and transitioning them to a new career before rehoming them, but I️ was working solo. When I️ heard about the opportunity with New Vocations, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to grow and be part of something even bigger, and to enable me to help more horses.

At what point in your riding career did you first fall in love with off the track thoroughbreds?

Very early on! I️ was totally enamored with an older OTTB, named Cinnabar, in the riding program that I️ grew up in (Dana Hall School Riding Center). That program ended up getting another OTTB, named Max, who was pretty quirky and needed some work to get acclimated to a lesson program, so I️ pestered my trainers relentlessly until they let me take on tasks to help be involved with Max. With time he ended up being a great horse in the program and we had many successes together doing little local shows, too! 

Mind you, the riding program was one with lots of Warmbloods and ponies that were very fancy and expensive types, it wasn’t like it was a backyard program or one that just had tons of Thoroughbreds. The Thoroughbreds have just seemed to have always had a direct tie to my heart. They were always my favorites.

How much time off do you give thoroughbreds when they come to you straight from the track?

I️t really just depends on the individual. Some are ready to start doing some retraining work right away—and might mentally or physically benefit from staying in some sort of program—while others need a slower route. We cater to the individual horses, but I️ would say in general that we give them the first two weeks in the program to just get used to their new surroundings for the most part. 

Credit: Lydia Davis Photography/Courtesy New Vocations

How long do you work with your OTTBs before they go up for adoption?

That’s another thing that varies a bit based on the individual. Some horses seem consistent from the beginning. In those cases, we might be comfortable putting them up as available for adoption sooner while still feeling confident that we can accurately describe the horse and match him or her to an adopter. On the other hand, some horses need time to settle or adjust and may take a little longer to be at a point that we feel confident matching them well. On average, we might spend 45 days letting them adjust and working with them before they go up for adoption. Many of the horses will become available for adoption after just a handful of retraining rides in our program.

What is the most common injury that you see?

The most common cosmetic injury is probably a splint, but those are generally not performance-limiting. We commonly see fetlock changes, like palmar osteochondral disease, sesamoid fractures or suspensory changes around the fetlock region.

Approximately how much does it cost a day to feed one OTTB?

We are very lucky to have our grain costs covered by Mereworth Farm, so we don’t feel the full expenses. But here’s how I️ would estimate it otherwise:

  • Most of our horses eat 12 pounds of Tribute Kalm Ultra daily. I’m estimating one 50-pound bag of Tribute Kalm Ultra to cost $24, based on some of the prices at different locations. 
  • Our horses eat an orchard grass/alfalfa-mix hay that costs $8/bale. The horses get free choice hay, but at least 20 pounds per day. We’ll estimate that they eat half a bale each day. Many of them also have access to grass in pastures in paddocks (some of our round pens don’t have grass, but they have hay if they’re turned out there), which we won’t count in the cost estimates.
  • Based on those estimations, they eat approximately $5.76 per day in grain and $4 per day in hay. That puts us at $9.76 daily.
Photo credit: Equisport Photos/Courtesy New Vocations

Cover Photo Credit: Equisport Photos/Courtesy New Vocations

Anna Ford’s photo courtesy of: New Vocation

Leandra Cooper’s photo courtesy of: New Vocations

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