Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization that is doing good work in the horse world. This week we salute the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.
This week’s honoree:
The Standardbred Retirement Foundation’s mission statement:
The Standardbred Retirement Foundation is a non-profit, tax exempt organization created to care for, rehabilitate, and secure lifetime adoption of non-competitive racehorses, to ensure their proper care with follow-up, and combine the needs of youth at risk with these horses in therapeutic equine programs to benefit both.
Judith Bokman, co-founder of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, answered our questions about the organization, which helps retired Standardbred racehorses find loving forever homes as companions, driving or riding mounts.
How did the SRF get started?
SRF was founded in 1989 by Judith Bokman, the wife of a race track veterinarian, Stephen Bokman, and Paula Campbell, the wife of champion driver John Campbell, when they realized that horse dealers from rural Pennsylvania communities were buying these horses off the track who were lame or slow, and often promising good homes as buggy horses to use for churchgoing on Sundays. The fact was that these horses, most if not all, were being resold at livestock auctions and most went to the slaughterhouses. Once Judy got on her Standardbred to ride around the backstretch and found a lovely riding horse she knew there was opportunity to help them. With some guidance from her husband, and relationships Paula had developed within racing, the program had its start.
Where do your horses come from? Are they placed with you by owners, or do you operate as a rescue, taking horses from bad situations?
Our horses mostly come directly off the racetrack; some are rescues, some may come from auctions that are bound for slaughter, some may be returned by an adopter who can no longer provide good care.
Can you describe your facility, staff and volunteers?
Our horses are stabled at Walnridge Farm in Cream Ridge, which is located on 300 acres in the heart of Central New Jersey’s horse country; we use several fields. Our riding arena has soft sand footing and the horses all live in fields with shelter; none are stalled unless they need specific care. This helps to keep our cost down. Our satellite farm is a boarding facility in Kentucky where we keep some adoptables and some retirees.
Most of our staff is administrative help: they manage the horses on our database; market for new adopters; screen and work with potential adopters; screen the horses so they are homed properly; manage our 200 head of which 130 are retired for life by ensuring their care remains appropriate at the boarding facilities they are retired at, implement our follow-up program so we are sure every horse remains safe in their home for life; manage fundraisers, donor management and related tasks. The direct hands-on work with the horses is done by seasoned horse professionals with backgrounds including veterinary science degrees and equine business degrees, and our trainer has a strong background in racing as well as experience working for top European dressage and jumper athletes.
Our volunteers come from all backgrounds. We have a few who have been with us for many years: the retired mounted police officers, the eager horse enthusiasts, or those who like to come out of the goodness of their hearts to help us with prepping horses for an event like our Meet and Greets, or simple office tasks. They are priceless and we always welcome more. We have several events we attend and we cannot accommodate without volunteers.
How many horses are kept directly on the property or in foster homes? How many horses have been adopted out?
We keep 40-45 horses at the main facility where they are boarded and trained, and have over 200 total in our care. Those retired are primarily in Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey and New York. We have a few wonderful foster homes. Last year we adopted out 124 horses. We have secured more than 2,600 homes since 1989.
What’s your adoption process?
Applicants complete an application listing references such as their current equine vet, farrier, small animal vet, barn manager (if boarding;) photos of the facility must be received and include the barn, turnouts with run-ins, water source in the fields, how the grain/hay is stored and any other animals in their care. Then we interview on the phone asking about specific horse care and horse handling. After applicants are approved they are welcome to come ride and get to know our adoptables. If the match seems right and they agree to our bi-annual vet follow-up form policy, then they go home with a new friend.
Do you have any upcoming events or fundraisers you’d like to share?
Meet and Greet: Friday, April 10th, 5:00-8:00 PM at the Cream Ridge facility
The Annual Golf Outing: Tuesday, May 26th at Knob Hill Golf Club
The SRF is unique; it is unlike any other program. It is 26 years old and has been the model for many, but unlike others we follow-up on every adopted horse semi-annually, requiring the attending veterinarian to fill out a form when administering vaccinations to let us know how the horse is doing. If needs be, we will intervene. Without this, horses can easily find themselves at risk once again. Our horses have gone on to fourth-level dressage, team penning, grand champions in many horse show classes, riding in the mountains in Colorado, police mounts, therapeutic riding programs, pleasing many adopters as English and western pleasure mounts and more–they can do anything any other breed can do and they do it with a great temperament and willingness to please.
We maintain a small reserve fund and must raise funds each year, which is a challenge. The endowment is very small and needs to be developed for longevity. We maintain 130 horses that are retired for life due to age or injuries and are passed over by adopters, and have about 70 horses ready and waiting for their new adopters right now.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected] Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.