Sunday, October 13, 2013

Retired Racehorses Looking for New Homes

October 11, 2013 1:04 pm  •  

Dick Bowman, veterinarian and founder of the Bowman Second Chance Thoroughbred Adoption program, with "Lumpy," an ex-racehorse with a sweet disposition that Bowman says he plans to keep forever.

RHAME, N.D. — The horses at Dick Bowman’s place northwest of Rhame in wide open ranch country were once the expensive spoiled darlings of the racing world.
Today, they could use another job.
Most of them are around 6 years old — too young to go to pasture, but because of injury and other reasons, too unfit for the starting gates at Canterbury Park racing track in Shakopee, Minn.
So Bowman, a Canterbury veterinarian half the year, brings them home to his ranch, where they get care and open grassy pastures until someone adopts them.
He founded the Bowman Second Chance Thoroughbred Adoption program in 1993.
These are thoroughbred horses, a breed all its own, capable of bursts of immense muscular speed, but not trained for much else.
But just because they’re raised to run, doesn’t mean they can’t have a second career.
“They’re trained to race, go around in a circle to the left, fast. Stopping is optional. It’s all about retraining. These are nice, usable horses,” he said.
Hundreds of these beauties have been adopted through Bowman’s ranch over the years and been retrained for jumping, dressage, rodeo, ranch work, and trail riding, he said.
A drive through Bowman’s pastures out to the horses is bit like cruising down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, looking for celebrities.
“That one is the granddaughter of Secretariat,” Bowman says, pointing toward one, a beauty, but not a standout in the group of all beauties. “Her name is Miss Mary H.”
Some thoroughbreds that have come through his ranch cost their owners hundreds of thousands of dollars and others have earned their owners that much and more in race winnings.
But like any professional athlete, an ill-timed injury, or quicker replacement can end even a brilliant career.
The cost of adoption is only $300, a pittance in comparison to their former value, but what’s important to Bowman is that the horses get a good home.
That $300 just covers the cost of transportation from Shakopee to Bowman’s Rhame ranch. Otherwise — other than a $2 retirement fee each owner pays for every time the horse starts a race — costs to keep the horses in hay, fencing, hoof and medical care come out of Bowman’s pockets.
He doesn’t begrudge a dime of it.
“I’ll do it as long as I can physically and financially handle it,” he said. “I never ran a pencil on it; if I did, I’m sure it would scare me. I’m sure my banker wouldn’t like it.”
He doesn’t tire of the sight of those horses either.
On a drive to a pasture miles from his family’s homestead headquarters, the sight of Bowman’s pickup causes a group of the thoroughbreds to run a wide galloping circle around him.
Their sleek forms catch the afternoon’s waning autumn light as they run through the high tawny grasses, such a long way by every measure from the manicured tracks of Canterbury.
“To me, these are the most beautiful animals,” he says.
His attraction to them is not an illness, exactly, but it is in his blood.
“Horses are like a virus that some people have. If you have the true bug, you never get over it. I have the affliction,” he said.
Occasionally, he loves one of the ex-racers too much to part with it.
This year, among the 30 that came to the ranch from Canterbury Park, was one of those, a chestnut horse someone with an odd sense of humor named Lump in My Oatmeal.
Bowman calls him “Lumpy.”
“He’s the favorite one that I’ve ever brought home. I plan to keep him forever and a day,” he said.

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