Saratoga Springs

5K race in Saratoga Springs benefits horses — and humans

Retired jockey adjusts to racing himself
Children compete in the 9th annual Run for the Horses 5K, benefiting the Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors of Saratoga.
Children compete in the 9th annual Run for the Horses 5K, benefiting the Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors of Saratoga.

Over the course of Ramon Dominguez’s 19-year career as an award-winning jockey he participated in many different races in Saratoga Springs. But none quite like the one he finished on Saturday.

Dominguez was one of about 300 runners who participated in the ninth annual Run for the Horses 5K race held at the Orenda Pavilion in Saratoga Spa State Park. Dominguez said he first started running when he was a jockey to help maintain his weight. But he has continued the activity into his retirement because he enjoys it.

He said he’s hoping the Run for the Horses 5K race will help many thoroughbred horses enjoy their retirement.

“This is my first time. It was dual purpose,” Dominguez said. “I wanted to run a race and get fit, but also what better cause than to run for the horses and to help retire horses? I’m an advocate for after care.”

The Run for the Horses 5K is organized by Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors, known as RACE, a consortium of  charitable organizations that helps horses transition from being race horses into other roles in society.

RACE Vice President Jennifer Stevens said her organization is hoping to be able to donate $2,500 each to the Heading for Home adoption center and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which manages about 750 retired horses, on 18 different farms in 12 state, the largest collection of such horses in the world.

She said about 20,000 horses, both thoroughbred and standardbred, are bred for the purpose of becoming professional racing horses annually.

Of those horses not all will make into it racing. But of those that do, about 7,000 will retire every year after a relatively short career of maybe three to six years in length.

Most suitable stallions are put out to stud to breed new race horses. But geldings and mares, who could in theory live to be 25- to 35-years old, face a difficult transition into finding “jobs” or uses that don’t involve being sent to slaughter houses.

Kim Weir, the director of major gifts for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, said her organization provides sanctuaries for injured horses that make them unsuitable to continue working. She said the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has eight farms located on prison facilities, a program called “Second Chances”, where prisoners can learn how to care for horses, providing both rehabilitation and job training for possible careers after incarceration.

“This puts the horse in the role of teacher, which isn’t very taxing,” Weir said. “They teach the inmates how to take care of horses and, honestly, how to become better people.”

Stevens said organizations like Heading for Home provide necessary “retraining” for about 10 retired horses without injuries annually, getting them out of the habits and ingrained instincts of being race horses and enabling them to take on jobs like being police horses.

Stevens said the goal of the after-care movement is to keep former race horses from being neglected and to “keep them out of the slaughter pipeline.”

Dominguez said he knows something about racing instincts after more than 21,000 professional races. He said preparing himself for the fun run was similar to preparing a horse for racing at Saratoga. But, he said, he has to focus on improving himself rather than worrying about beating every other runner.

“This is totally different from being a jockey,” Dominguez said. “I was doing jogging to be fit then. … Now I need a different strategy, to be prepared, just like preparing a horse for a race — you focus on the horse and where they are at. And the same thing is true of me. I listen to the group that I am running for pleasure with and trying to improve as I go along,

“But I have to focus on myself, and my time will improve as I go along,” Dominguez said. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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