"Thoroughbreds have a little bit of a stigma attached to their name, especially the ones off the track,” says Laurie Lane. “Like, oh, they are all crazy. Well, they’re not.” Lane, 44, is the founder and president of the New Jersey chapter of Rerun, a non-profit organization that provides retraining for second careers to thoroughbred horses. Since its founding in 1998, the organization has placed over 500 horses, with a recent average of 50 placements per year.
Rerun is holding its eighth annual Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show on Saturday, August 29, at Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown. The show has two purposes — to raise money for Rerun’s work and to demonstrate to the public the potential that retired thoroughbreds have. Lane also hopes to educate people in the horse industry. “If you decide to retire your horse from racing early enough, there is another life for them,” she says. “You can potentially sell the horse as a showhorse if he’s sound instead of running him down to the ground when there is nothing left of the horse.” (The following day, on Sunday, August 30, the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization holds its annual show.)
At this year’s show, spectators can see dressage, jumping, model classes, and a warhorse class in which the horses had to have earned $100,000 or more. “You might be able to see your favorite racehorse that you’ll remember from five or six years ago and see what he’s up to now,” says Lane.
The daughter of a jockey, now a horse owner, Lane was born in the Bronx and grew up in Monroe Township, with horses as a part of her life whether she liked it or not. “At three months old I was at the Saratoga racetrack,” she says.
Her first horse, King, was purchased at an auction for $300 and helped form her own love of horsemanship. “He was a little bit of a rogue in the beginning,” she says. “I was eight years old, climbing on him, and my mom was crying because she thought I’d fall or break my nose. We just stuck with him. After three or four years you could put a two-year-old kid on him or a 20-year-old. He was just an amazing animal.”
Rerun was started in 1995 in Kentucky by Lori Naegle, the wife of a jockey, and Shon Wylie, the wife of a horse trainer. “They pioneered the idea of taking a four-year-old horse who was coming off the track and not just retiring them but adopting them out because they still had a lot of life in them,” says Lane. Before Rerun was started, retired horses frequently went off to auction, or perhaps to a retirement farm. “Lori and Shon really pioneered the concept of reschooling these thoroughbreds off the track and giving them other, second careers,” says Lane.
Lane’s father was involved in claiming horses, a way of purchasing a racehorse during a race. “For the first time, my dad had purchased a little baby,” she says. “The family was involved in naming him and the whole thing.” This was in 1996. Then the horse was injured and Lane’s father offered it to her as a riding horse. “When I took him to ride him, I found out he had these bad injuries. Here in New Jersey, I was looking for a place to own him myself but it was difficult to find him space. He was my naughty boy and was kind of beating up all the little shell ponies at the farm.”
Lane’s mother, a housewife, did some research and found Rerun in Kentucky, where Lane ended up sending her horse, who was then adopted by one of the co-founder’s neighbors. Lane keeps in touch with the horse to this day. “I expressed to the girls in Kentucky that there was nothing in New Jersey for these horses,” says Lane. “We don’t even know what to do until we’re faced with this question. They asked if I wanted to start a chapter in New Jersey. I said I’d try it and we’ve been up and running ever since.” Rerun sublets the back portion of a farm called Reindancer Therapeutic Riding Academy (on the grounds of the Larita Riding Academy) in New Egypt.
When a horse comes into Rerun, the 15 staff members work to evaluate, rest, and rehabilitate it. The horse’s injury will usually determine what comes next. “The horses will tell you what they are good at,” says Lane. “I have one right now, Tilt My Horn, who has a knee chip. It’s never going to resolve itself to the point where you could say she could go on to do anything. She enjoys some trail rides and has the temperament to do that. That’s her chosen profession. Then you’ve got other horses, like Scorsica, who came to us with just a pulled shoulder muscle. We rehabbed her for a year and now this little mare just wants to jump.”
The horses are trained by Diana Koebel, a former event rider. “She just loves thoroughbreds and she does so much to reprogram them,” says Lane. Volunteers ride the horses. The organization used to run chapters, but in May of this year, acquired its own farm. “Everybody brings something to the table with this program, and we all work as a unit to get a lot accomplished with little resources,” says Lane.
The horses stay with Rerun as long as needed. “If a horse has the sky as the limit, sometimes they don’t even hit the website before they leave,” says Lane. “There is a long list of people waiting for those pimple-free, diamond-in-the-rough horses. For my other horses, like poor Tilt, options are very limited; they’ll be with us for some time. It’s about finding the right person for the horse, not just finding a home.”
After going through Rerun, the horses go on to many different “second careers” such as working as trail horses, barrel racers, companion horses (horses that can’t be ridden anymore but are used to keep a riding horse company), and eventers (horses that compete in three-day endurance events comprised of dressage, cross-country, and jumping). Lane recounts a team of thoroughbreds who pulled a wagon as a driving team.
People interested in adopting a horse fill out an application for adoption and pay a fee of between $500 and $950, depending on the horse’s capabilities. The adoption is done under a contract. The adopter is under a probationary period for two years, during which they must have a licensed veterinarian fill out an inspection form and send a dated, signed picture of the horse every six months.
“If you are happy with the horse and the horse is given proper care, then we release full ownership,” says Lane. “If at any time the horse ever needs a home, you can always call us and the horse can come back to us.”
The highlight of the horse show, according to Lane, will be the Battle of the Breeds, which will have seven classes and is open only to thoroughbreds and standardbreds. The Battle will be followed by an all-you-can-eat barbeque. “We need people to come out and cheer on their favorite breed,” says Lane. Rerun opened the classes to all breeds in response to community members who wanted to raise money for Rerun but didn’t own a thoroughbred.
Compared to a traditional horse show, Lane thinks the Rerun show is a little more relaxed. There isn’t the pressure to win or to do well in order to campaign a horse. “Our show is just basically to raise money for their less fortunate friends,” says Lane.
Lane, who herself works as a summer tour guide at the Monmouth Park racetrack and works part-time at a radiology group, in addition to leading Rerun, is very grateful for the community support. “We have a lot of 4-H kids involved,” she says. “I get all choked up when I think of what those kids do. They hold bake sales throughout the year and they come with their fly spray and their halters and they raise every little penny to help the horses.”
Annual Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show, Rerun, Horse Park of New Jersey, Route 524, Allentown. Saturday, August 29, 8 a.m. Dressage, hunters, jumpers, equitation, and pleasure awards. Register for entry, $25. BBQ dinner, $15 adults, $10 children. 732-521-1370 or www.rerun.org.