ReRun, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, meaning it benefits from important tax deductible donations. It was founded in 1996 by Shon Wylie and Lori Neagle, who recognized the problem owners and trainers of Thoroughbred racehorses face when their horses are no longer profitable. There is an “economic low point” (Pikulski in Wise, 2003) that racehorse trainers face when their horses are no longer winning races. The horses still require food, shelter and training regardless of the number of wins. Therefore, a losing horse becomes a financial drain to both the trainer and the owner. Retiring to stud is sometimes an option, only if the horse has a winning race record and has not been gelded (neutered). Many horses such as Exceller, great racers that simply do not perform well at stud, once again become a financial drain. The traditional option for unprofitable horses is slaughter. ReRun, Inc. provides trainers and owners with a retirement option for their horses which is far greater than slaughter houses. Although often called a “retirement facility”, ReRun, Inc. promotes the “recycling of racehorses”. Only Thoroughbreds that are “sound” and physically able to take on a second career as a pleasure or performance horse are normally accepted into the program. Off-the-track, sound Thoroughbreds are given priority, although any Thoroughbred that ReRun, Inc. feels is in danger of being sent to slaughter is accepted into the program. Since the founding of ReRun, Inc., Neagle estimates nearly 400 horses have been accepted, rehabilitated and successfully adopted. ReRun, Inc. overall company strategy is best explained below.
“ReRun gives ex-racehorses a second chance at a productive life by first evaluating temperaments, talents and physical capabilities and then matching the animals to new owners. We assist in the re-training and recuperation process with the help of volunteers and paid personnel skilled in horsemanship.”
ReRun, Inc. is headquartered near Lexington, KY, the “Horse Capital of the World”, a title shared with Ocala, FL (www.ocalacc.com). There are also state chapters located in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Arkansas, Washington and Maryland. Lori Neagle and Shon Wylie are the only two full-time salaried employees. They care for several horses on their own private farms as well as run the daily business of the company, overseeing operations in all eight states. Until adoption, the horses accepted into ReRun, Inc. are placed on private facilities, where the paid labor is contracted. Unlike many other nonprofit organizations, ReRun, Inc. utilizes only a minimum of volunteer labor in the actual hands-on care of the horses. When questioned about this practice, Neagle responded that the insurance liability costs of volunteer labor are simply too high. Volunteers are reserved for organizing and carrying-out fundraising events. A board of directors for ReRun, Inc. meets a few times each year to make any major decisions and to approve the yearly budget.
There are currently four private facilities in Kentucky that are contracted to provide care for ReRun, Inc. horses. ReRun, Inc. pays $250.00 per month per horse to the facility to board the horse. The facility is responsible for providing feed, hay, pasture, shelter, daily grooming, veterinary care and dental and farrier work. Although this method of operating can be expensive (approximately $90,000 was spent in board costs in 2003), Neagle claims this type of system is worth the expense to ensure long-term survival of the company. She explained that horse retirement organizations that have their own facilities and provide their own care often become overrun with horses very quickly. Their efforts are then focused on providing care instead of finding homes. Money and other assets dry up and the organization is often forced to close. By knowing that every horse taken into the program requires $250 per month, the temptation to accept every passing horse is reduced and ReRun, Inc. can focus its efforts on adopting-out the horses that are accepted. The exception to this rule is the state chapter in Maryland. A project still in the developmental stage, a separate nonprofit organization in Maryland has aligned with ReRun, Inc. to provide both its equine and educational facilities to provide seminars, ownership classes and lecture series.
When questioned about any recurring positive or negative experiences, Neagle responded that she has been continually surprised by the public demand for ex-racehorses. She claims that horsepeople have always had an interest in acquiring Thoroughbreds, but have never had a channel through which to obtain them; ReRun, Inc. provides that channel. Neagle also responded about the overwhelming presence of unsound horses on racetracks. She believes discovering the daily abuses of racing Thoroughbreds has been her most negative experience while working with ReRun, Inc. She says that the rules and regulations regarding drug use on Thoroughbreds varies between each state and that Kentucky’s rules are the most liberal. “It’s not the illegal drugs, but the legal ones we have to worry about” (Neagle, 2004).
Cortisone injections are the most common “legal” drug used. Horses that should not be raced due to injury are simply given a cortisone injection. They are then able to run pain-free, although damage to the underlying tissues is still ongoing. Once the race is over, the horse is unable to run again until another injection is given. This is the most obvious example of the unsustainable system in place in the Thoroughbred racing industry; trainers and owners think of only short-term money, not long-term health of the horse. ReRun, Inc.’s ultimate goal, besides finding homes for ex-racehorses, is to create awareness and education in the racing community. By working with drug manufacturing consortiums, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), ReRun, Inc. hopes to develop better tests for detecting both legal and illegal drugs in racehorses in an attempt to hold trainers accountable for their actions within the industry. The hope is that once trainers are publicly exposed practicing unethical injections, they will desire to improve their public image and cease injecting the horses.
“The Kentucky Thoroughbred industry as a whole, and race tracks in particular, get a much needed image boost as they join forces with ReRun to better the lives of the very animals that make our sport possible.”