Why I Adopt (and Shop!)

Last year, I adopted my first horse.

That’s right – nearly 15 years of horse ownership, having owned 20+ horses, and I had never adopted until last year.

Last year, I fell in love with a gigantic baby horse at New Vocations and just had to have him. Cold Gone Hot, aka Tiny, was a special guy – sweet, stunning, and standing at a towering 17.2 hands. One look at him and I had to break my no-adoption rule.

Tiny – first week home. Photo courtesy of Hillary Ramspacher.

The no-adoption rule was an unspoken agreement I had made with myself. Not fully understanding what adoption entailed, I was convinced adopting a horse was not for me. I’m a professional horse trainer, I buy and sell horses for a living so a 3rd party adoption contract just wouldn’t work. It was too restrictive, wouldn’t fit into my business model and was made for people who can offer every horse a forever home. Or so I thought. 

But, after my first adoption experience, I am pleased to report back to all of my fellow trainers, owners or riders who may have thought the same thing – that is absolutely not the case. 

It’s true that my business model doesn’t offer me the luxury of keeping every horse for their whole life. In reality, most of my horses come and go in just a few months. I’ve found lucrative opportunities in taking the “diamond-in-the-rough” types, polishing them a bit until you can just start to see the potential, and then moving them on to qualified homes who can really let them shine.

In these situations, adoption likely isn’t the best fit. The owners who donate horses to agencies like New Vocations want to ensure their horses have wonderful lives after the track, most programs will require a minimum term that you must commit to before moving the horse on. Because the vast majority of horse owners aren’t professional trainers, this is a completely understandable rule. It keeps the horses from getting passed around and gives them the best chance to succeed in a second career. So, in these situations, I shop for my prospects.

But for every 3 or 4 quick projects I take on, I like to have 1 or 2 longer term horses. These horses are ones I really enjoy – the ones I get to show, to bring up the levels, to count on to make me a better rider while I teach them new skills as well.

Tiny – 8 months of training. Photo courtesy of Hillary Ramspacher.

Competing in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover has been the perfect excuse to take on longer term projects. Instead of finding their perfect people in just a few months, my RRP mounts stay much longer in order to attend the Makeover. With ownership of these horses lasting from 6 months to 2+ years (I’m looking at you, Java), I felt totally comfortable agreeing to a 12 month minimum adoption term. That’s right – New Vocations requires a 12 month agreement, which allows you to sell your adopted horse after that term (with reasonable exceptions, of course).

So, with this gorgeous creature nuzzling me across the fence, and the need for a long-term RRP mount, Tiny became my first adopted horse. The experience was so enjoyable – not only did I find an amazing prospect who was let down, assessed by a professional, accurately represented and then offered for an extremely reasonable fee, but I felt like a part of something bigger. I found a family of like-minded horse owners connected by a common goal – to make a difference, one Thoroughbred at a time.

When it was time to start the search for this year’s RRP hopeful, I knew exactly where to turn. I am extremely excited to have adopted again this year. Everyone – meet Cool Sailor!

Cool Sailor_NV logo
Photo courtesy of New Vocations. 



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