Lucky few to be sold to breeders looking for a winner
As a second generation trainer with the Fort Erie Race Track, Rodney Johnson has seen horses come and go in her 30 years there, but nothing like in the last month.
Rodney said she has sold seven horses from her stable just this week, with a few going to hopeful breeders from Florida looking for a winner, and the rest being sold outside the industry as riding horses.
There’s one main reason for the sudden surge in sales to private owners as riding horses: the savings.
“With all the closures and uncertainty, the value of these horses has bottomed out. They aren’t worth what they were at the start of the year and people see a bargain so they are snapping them up,” said Johnson.
With more than 500 race horses in Fort Erie with no place to race next year, many will be headed to the slaughterhouse alongside 10,000 other redundant race horses province-wide, according to the latest report from the horse industries transition panel.
“Hopefully we are finding these horses good homes, with people who will love them, because we never even want to hear about the slaughterhouse as an option,” said Kristi Roberts, another trainer in the track’s stables.
Many of the horses at Fort Erie will be running for their lives, literally, during the final weeks of the season, as a win here and there could be the difference between the slaughterhouse and a life of racing and breeding at Woodbine.
Johnson’s horse ‘He-Da-Man’ is one of the lucky ones. The three-year-old filly picked up a big win on Monday which Johnson said likely secured his future as a race horse.
“It comes down to financials, plain and simple. A horse is either going to be an earner, or it’s going to cost you money, and there’s no need for this guy to retire just yet,” she said, giving He-Da-Man a hug.
But even Woodbine is a longshot for most of the horses in town.
“In reality, Woodbine is full, I don’t think many of these horses are actually going to make it there. A few will end up out west, some will go down south, Last Chance (Horse and Pony Rescue Centre) will take a few, but the rest of them, well,” she said with a worried shrug, unable to finish the sentence.
As upset as she was over the unfortunate fate of the horses, she was also quick to put things into perspective.
“As sad as I am about what’s going to happen to these horses, I’m more concerned about the hundreds of people in town who are going to lose their jobs because of this,” said Roberts.
Johnson agreed, and said she worries for the trainers and breeders who’ve been working at the track their whole life.
“It’s a shame, there’s people who’ve been here working with horses for 40 or 50 years, and now they’re being told to do something else, but they don’t know anything else,” said Johnson.
“They’ve been here their whole life, and what people don’t realize is that by closing this place down, you’re closing down their home,” she added.