The Standardbred is a breed of horse derived from Thoroughbred and Morgan bloodlines, dating back to Messenger. Initially known for their incredible ability to trot at high speeds, all Standardbreds can trace their heritage to the stallion, Hambletonian. The breed name comes from a time when racing Standardbreds had to qualify by going a mile in a 'standard' time, which has dropped drastically over the years. Stereotypically, Standardbreds are the harness racing horses you see at tracks like the Meadowlands. They are known for pulling carts, called sulkies, at a trot or pace. (Except for about 5% of Standardbreds, their natural gait is the trot and they generally trot five miles a day to keep fit while racing. They are forced to pace with equipment.) They are a breed referred to as brainiacs, smart. They have a tremendous work ethic and try very hard to please. Their temperament is unlike what one would think of as a race horse, it is quite the opposite. More information is available in the “Why adopt a Standardbred” section.
Standardbred Retirement Foundations Mission Statement
SRF provides humane care and services for horses in need of lifetime homes, and in crisis, through rehabilitation, training, adoption, lifelong follow-up, or lifetime sanctuary; and offers therapeutic equine opportunities for children, and adults.
History of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation
The SRF was created in 1989 by Mrs. Judith Bokman, wife of a prominent Equine Practitioner in New Jersey, Dr. Stephen Bokman DVM. She created the Foundation when she realized what was happening to Standardbreds that could no longer be competitive as racehorses. Horses were being sold to dealers, the vast majority were from rural communities who would then resell at livestock auctions where for the lack of buyers would be slaughtered. The few resold for use most often went on to pull heavy machinery in fields, or used as transportation on asphalt streets. Because these communities generally have limited education, regard animals as equipment, there is an abundance of horses available, the care of the horses spared slaughter is very poor. Mrs. Judith Bokman contacted Mrs. Paula Campbell, wife of Hall of Fame Standardbred driver, John Campbell. She too realized the need and joined Mrs. Bokman in the development of the SRF.
Although horseracing is a multi-billion dollar business, the Standardbred racing industry has made no provisions to support these grand horses when their racing careers come to an end. Some horses end their careers at a young age with injuries or lack of racing speed. With rest and rehabilitation provided by SRF, these lovely animals often become wonderful riding, driving, eventing, police mounts, therapeutic riding or trail horses. Unfortunately, some retire from racing with injuries too catastrophic to allow them to transition into new careers. The SRF steps in to provide the adoption and rescue services necessary to ensure that these noble horses are retired with the dignity and care they deserve with the intent of finding them permanent homes. Many are never adopted due to their physical condition or age and remain under the SRF’s care for life. For nearly 30 years SRF has been able to provide for every horse it has encountered and now has 250 under its expense that are passed over by adopters due to age or injury. One hundred fifty are rehabilitating and in training hoping for homes.
The SRF has recently been helping a group of volunteers with a page on Face Book, Save Our Standardbreds From Slaughter (SOSS). This group learns of Standardbreds in “kill pens” where they are tagged to ship to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. They reach out to past relationships in racing to seek support for the horse, whether it is to take the horse back into their possession, or assist financially to prevent slaughter. (Approximately, 15% are reunited with past connections from their racing years.) Most of these horses physically come to SRF for help, and while a small percent are healthy and just unwanted, the majority are injured and sick. The most common injuries are dropped suspensory ligaments from over stressing legs either from racing or most often from being used as machinery in the rural communities; emaciation; illness; fresh injuries from overcrowded kill pens; fractures; nasal tumors; and blindness. Since 2017, more than 1000 horses have been helped by this group and SRF together. While this group of volunteers are dedicated, each has a responsibility to provide for their families and are employed, the time consistency of their work varies; SRF is unable to salary staff for this work at this time due to financial constraints. As 2018 comes to a close, SRF now has 403 trotters and pacers under its expense and care and is headed into its 30th year of operation with over 3000 adoptions to date.
Approximately 80% of its funding comes from donations. Less than 3% comes from harness racing organizations, less than .06% from grants, 17% from fund raising events. SRF receives just $250 annually from an endowment, one of the greatest needs it has to continue this work.
Sadly, due to pain or illness preventing quality of life, at the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian, SRF submits to humanely euthanizing a horse by a veterinarian. Generally the cost for the veterinarian and renderer is $500.
Information on horses right off the track is compiled from the treating veterinarian and trainer so a proper placement can be made and no horse is asked to perform beyond its physical ability. Owners are asked to help but this is not required, as long as SRF has funds.
Horses from kill pens are assessed as best as can be done at that location to determine physical care needed, a facility to board that can provide for specific needs is then decided. (SRF does not own a farm and uses boarding services in many areas-appx. 35.) Most horses that can travel, but appear to need veterinary care will often go to the NJ leased farm where Dr. Bokman donates his services and medications. This is his gift since 1989.
No horse has a guardian in life until it comes to SRF. Horse ownership remains with SRF for life so no horse is ever at risk again, and to provide SRF with the freedom to step in if ever needed and remove a horse whose adopted living and care situation is lacking.
Because the breed is not a popular riding horse such as the Thoroughbred, if SRF was to relinquish ownership and an adopter wish to rehome or sell a horse, the risk is too great that the horse would be tagged for slaughter. In the past 10-15 years there is a decrease in the number of adopted horses coming back from adopters to SRF in need of a second, third, fourth home in their lifetime, and horses now live well into their 30s. We believe it is due to more horses coming from kill pens and true horse “lovers” adopting with the rescue component as a criteria, the compassion to help a horse. Every horse is available for adoption, that is the ultimate goal. The application and contractual agreement are provided under forms on the website.
SRF welcomes questions and visits. Visits are best scheduled so a representative can meet with you. Its federal tax returns can be accessed on the internet or reviewed at its office location at any time.
SRF is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization