Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press
Published 8:59 a.m. ET June 19, 2020 | Updated 10:05 a.m. ET June 19, 2020CLOSE
Check out some of the horses rescued by the Standardbred Retirement Foundation at the nonprofit’s Upper Freehold farm.
As racing roars back with Belmont Stakes, the pandemic’s hurting this good cause. Adoptions, donations needed for horses saved from slaughterhouses.Judith Bokman saves retired racehorses who are headed for slaughterhouses. After three months of the coronavirus pandemic, that’s gotten harder.The Standardbred Retirement Foundation, a 31-year-old nonprofit based at a rescue farm in Upper Freehold, lost roughly $200,000 in expected revenue from four fundraisers that had to be canceled since March. Another hit: Adoptions and fosters of the foundation’s horses slowed significantly as the meet-and-greet process became sight unseen — video only — over the past three months. Only last week did in-person adoptions resume at the farm.As horse racing roars back to life Saturday with the Belmont Stakes, the plight of these forgotten equines stands in stark contrast. Bokman, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director, calls it “an emergency situation” for her operation.More important than the Kentucky Derby: A look at the plight of retired racehorsesAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide“We’re not taking new horses,” she said. “Right now there are 19 standardbreds going to ship for slaughter next week and unfortunately we just don’t have the funds to do it. I hate to say no to an animal. I’ve always found a way and I can’t right now. It’s upsetting.”Bokman’s rescue mission, which is one of the largest in the country with 343 horses currently under the foundation’s care, focuses on standardbreds — horses used in the harness racing that takes place at Freehold Raceway, the Meadowlands and dozens of other U.S. tracks.
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Many change hands several times as they age, and some end up getting sold at auction, where may be purchased at cost (perhaps as low as $100) by buyers who intend to sell them to foreign slaughterhouses. As many as 100,000 horses a year meet this fate, according to government statistics.NJ horse racing: State seeks to ban whips, require necropsies; approves $20 million subsidyBut others get “bailed out” by a network of volunteers who intervene before that happens. The Standardbred Retirement Foundation’s sprawling, rented farmland in Upper Freehold winds up being the destination for some of them — 76 right now. The others under the foundation’s care are scattered on farms throughout the country.Money: Monmouth Park offers $1 million bonus for Haskell, Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup sweepIt costs a total of $3,000 a day to feed them right now, and Bokman is marshaling all of her resources to that and veterinary care. When they arrive at the farm, some of these horses are emaciated, crippled or sick. Ultimately, the goal is to get them well and then adopted or fostered.Over three decades, the Standardbred Retirement Foundation has rescued more than 4,000 retired racehorses.“We’ve been an extremely productive organization for many years, but COVID-19 has been devastating,” Bokman said. “SRF does not receive industry or government grants and we rely greatly on individual donations from people who care about these beautiful and majestic horses.”Tax-deductible donations can be made at www.adoptahorse.org or mailed to Standardbred Retirement Foundation, P.O. Box 312, Millstone Township, N.J. 08535. Those interested in adopting, fostering or donating land for horses to use can call 609-738-3255 or email SRFHorsesandKids@gmail.com.Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at email@example.com.Read or Share this story: https://www.app.com/story/news/local/animals/2020/06/19/belmont-stakes-racehorse-sanctuary/3219394001/