A New Brunswick horse breeder and trainer is trying to raise awareness about what often happens to standardbred horses once their harness racing careers are over.
Cheryl Geldart of the Norton area and a Saint John group created the Standardbred Rescue and Adoption Day after a horse of hers ended up in a slaughterhouse.
Geldart bred the horse 11 years ago and named him Untouchable One.
The standardbred horse was sold at one year old to the Dooley Boys Racing Stable and was the Atlantic Breeders Crown champion two years in a row. He was then sold to a stable in the United States, where he spent most of his harness racing career.
Untouchable One raced in 151 races and finished in the top three for 70 of those, earning more than $260,000 before being retired. His last race was in Ohio in 2017.
On Nov. 1 last year, Geldart found out Untouchable One was in a slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania, after being worked as a cart horse in an Amish community.
"A lot of the time, they end up going down to the United States as cart horses or road horses with the Amish, and then once they're used up they end up at slaughterhouses," said Geldart.
The Standardbred Retirement Foundation flagged Untouchable One on Facebook and asked for donations to help rescue him. The slaughterhouse priced his bail fee at $1,200. If not paid, he would be sold for meat.
Geldart was keeping a close eye out for the horse, knowing the common fate of standardbred horses. She immediately offered to take him in and soon raised enough to pay the slaughterhouse, and Untouchable One's transportation and quarantine accommodation costs.
By the end of December, the horse was back at Geldart's stable in Kings County with his mother.
Standardbred horses are most commonly used for harness racing because of their athletic build, but Standardbred Rescue and Adoption Day is meant to raise awareness of how versatile these horses are in hopes of increasing interest in the breed, Geldart said.
"They often go to jumping, and dressage and endurance horses, even mounted police horses," she said.
The event will be held on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Exhibition Park Raceway in east Saint John.
There will be harness racing to watch, a meet and greet with Untouchable One, and a presentation to inform people about adopting standardbreds.
Standardbred horses are required to retire from harness racing at 14 years old.
The average horse can live 25 to 30 years, which means they still have a lot of life to live once they leave racing.
"When people are considering a horse we want them to consider a standardbred and connect these people with trainers that might say 'I have this horse that's not quite fast enough,' or 'He's getting to the point where it's time to retire,'" said Geldart.
"We can be the bridge in between."