The desire and vision of a few very determined people to start a Thoroughbred adoption program has become a reality at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack. FLTAP obtained 501(c)3 certification in May of 2006, paving the way for tax deductible donations such as donated Thoroughbreds, supplies, equipment, services, etc. Since the inception in early 2005, nearly 400 Thoroughbreds have found new homes and new careers through FLTAP.
In the fall of 2004, a woman in the area sought our retired racehorses from the track and promised owners and trainers that these horses would end up in good homes. Little did they know the fate these horses encounter. They were brought to a livestock auction in PA where animals were sold primarily for meat. Trigger Happy Jill was one of these horses. She had been an unsuccessful racehorse, but a nice horse, nonetheless, and her owners cared about her future.
In October, Jill's owner received a phone call from Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in southern PA. Jill had been rescued from the slaughter pen for $200. Angel Acres tracked down the owners using her lip tattoo and called to inform them.
Valerie Morrison, Phyllis Shetron (Finger Lakes trainer), and Dr. Margaret Ohlinger (Track Veterinarian) began an attempt to find the other eight horses that they knew had also made the trip to PA. What they found appalled them. Many of the horses ended up in temporary "homes", placing them in neglectful hands. One horse, Polish Jig (photos below), was found emaciated, with open, untreated wounds, tied in a filthy, dark stall with no food or water.
Three of the eight horses were found and brought back to their owners. Trigger Happy Jill remained in the care of Angel Acres and was adopted to a local veterinarian and his family. Today she has a new career as a polo pony, and has become one of the better polo ponies in the Northeast. Not all of the horses were as fortunate. Austin's Awesome did not receive help soon enough. He was sent to slaughter after going through the livestock auction. And another horse, Emily's Dad, was never found.
Polish Jig as a 3 year old after a winter of recuperation.
(Check out her story on our success page!)
As a result of this experience, Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, Phyllis Shetron and Valerie Morrison, together with the management from Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, began the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program (FLTAP). Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack is the first Thoroughbred racetrack in the United States to open an in-house adoption program, dedicated to the retraining and adoption of its retired racehorses. It is the first Thoroughbred adoption facility in the country to be run as a collaborative effort between racetrack management and horsemen. Ground breaking for the “adoption barn” took place in late June of 2007.
Support and funding for the project came from a variety of sources. Delaware North Companies, the parent company of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, donated the two acres of land on which the barn is located. The construction of the barn was made possible through $60,000 in state funding secured by New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, as well a grant from the American Humane Association. A significant amount of additional funding was generously provided by Wanda Polisseni. Through the efforts of these altruistic individuals and so many others the “Purple Haze Center,” opened (although not officially) in early November '07 when the first FLTAP horses took up residence.
The Purple Haze Center is a 10,000 square foot state-of-the-art horse barn that can house 16 Thoroughbreds in its 12 x 12 foot stalls. All the stalls have cushy rubber mats on the floor. The stall doors have fold-down fronts that allow the horses to hold their heads outside their stall and look around, as well as interact with barn visitors. With safety bars across the windows in each stall, horses are able to look outside and enjoy the fresh air from outdoors. There is a 70 x 72 foot riding arena as well as four 60 x 60 foot paddocks for turnout. There is a wash stall, a large utility room, a heated bathroom and office with soothing lavender painted walls. Great attention to detail is given for the comfort and safety of the horses housed at the Purple Haze Center.
Donations of equipment and computers continue, and ongoing support is always needed to help these Thoroughbreds find new lives. FLTAP is fortunate to have attracted many very dedicated volunteers who lovingly donate their time doing anything from cleaning stalls to fundraising.
FLTAP ended 2007 with being presented the prestigious Lavin Cup Award on December 4 th at the AAEP 53 rd Annual Convention held in Orlando, Florida. Phyllis Shetron, FLTAP Board Treasurer, and Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, co-founder, traveled to Orlando to accept this honor on behalf of FLTAP. AAEP is an acronym for The American Association of Equine Practitioners. The AAEP annually honors “a non veterinary individual or an organization that has demonstrated exceptional compassion or developed and enforced rules and guidelines for the welfare of the horse.” The Lavin Cup is named in honor of AAEP past President A. Gary Lavin, VMD. Some past recipients of the Lavin Cup include the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Inc., the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Days End Farm Horse Rescue, and the Thoroughbred Charities of America.
Thoroughbred Adoption Program Received the 2007 AAEP Equine Welfare Award
As published in The Horse on December 3, 2007
The Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program (FLTAP) in Farmington, N.Y., is the 2007 recipient of the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Equine Welfare Award, the Lavin Cup. Named for AAEP Past President A. Gary Lavin, VMD, the award is presented to a non-veterinary individual or organization that has demonstrated exceptional compassion or developed and enforced rules and guidelines for the welfare of the horse. The award will be presented on Dec. 4 2007 during the AAEP’s 53rd Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla.
The FLTAP is dedicated to finding homes for former racehorses. Racetrack veterinarian Margaret Ohlinger, DVM, trainer Phyllis Shetron, and horse owner Valerie Morrison, together with management from Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, founded the program in 2005. It is the first Thoroughbred adoption facility in the country to be run as a collaborative effort between racetrack management and horsemen. They have since found new homes for more than 100 former racehorses and are currently fundraising for the construction of a new barn to house retirees before adoption.
Previous recipients of the Lavin Cup include the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Inc., the American Quarter Horse Association, the California Horse Racing Board and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Thoroughbred Charities of America, and Days End Farm Horse Rescue.