CANTER Colorado: Rehoming Racers in the Rockies

One of the organizations TCA proudly assists is the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racers (CANTER) affiliate in Colorado. CANTER Colorado was founded in 2008 and is currently directed by Jamie Girouard. As stated on CANTER’s website, the organization is “committed to rehabilitating, retraining, and rehoming each horse in our program.”

Nationally, CANTER USA maintains two types of affiliate programs across the country. Phase I programs offer an online listing service to benefit retiring Thoroughbreds. Phase II programs offer housing, rehabilitation and retraining services for Thoroughbred athletes in addition to the online listing service.

CANTER Colorado manages both a phase I and phase II program. In phase I, volunteers work on the backside of Arapahoe Park working with trainers to list any retiring racehorses on the website. Trainers have an option to donate their horse to the Phase II program, where CANTER Colorado takes on complete ownership, care and responsibility for the horse. CANTER Colorado generally cares for five or six horses at a time.

When a horse arrives in the program it goes through an in-depth evaluation process including a lameness exam, dental exam, flexion test, hoof trim, deworming, and vaccinations. One of the greatest assets of working with backside trainers and owners is CANTER has a base of knowledge about the horses they receive including training methods used, career performance, and injuries. The preliminary examinations provide supplementary information.

Once a horse has been fully evaluated, it is boarded at a CANTER Colorado facility and entered into a retraining program until an appropriate adoptive home is found. Girouard says adopters find CANTER through two main sources: social media and word of mouth. “People will call the trainers we work with and the trainers can tell them about the horses we have,” she said.

CANTER Colorado has provided a great deal of support for retired Thoroughbreds since its inception in 2008. A few of the biggest successes in 2015, Girouard reports, were getting TAA accredited, partnering with the Retired Racehorse Project, Colorado Horseracing Association and Arapahoe Park to launch Colorado’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest and working with Dale Simonton and other great trainers. Arapahoe Park has been “tremendously supportive” of CANTER Colorado and their efforts to retrain and rehome retired racing athletes.

Despite many noteworthy successes, CANTER is striving to find more private donors. Girouard says, “We have to work hard at getting grants and organize fundraisers. We don’t have a lot of private donors contributing to the organization because we’re not as well known to the non-horse industry.” Girouard and her team are working to increase public awareness for CANTER Colorado through news publicity, social media, word of mouth, referrals, and relationship building.

Girouard continually pushes to find private donors and strengthen the program at CANTER Colorado. Her driving force is a deep personal connection to CANTER’s mission. “I’ve built this organization from the ground up, and every year we get more accomplished. I really just want to see how healthy we can make the organization and how many horses we can assist every year.”

In addition to her goals for CANTER, Girouard hopes to see change within the Thoroughbred industry. Overall, she wants to see a broadening interest in Thoroughbreds. She elaborates, “I would like to see that people are drawn to the breed and choose to use Thoroughbreds for sport horses and competition. I would also like to see the Thoroughbred breed have a national competition that draws more competitors as well as spectators.”

TCA’s grant has helped CANTER Colorado to reach their goals in 2015. “The TCA grant is incredibly important,” said Girouard. “It helps us grow our current organization and expand, and that’s really the objective. We want to be able to take in more horses and maintain the quality of their care and training.” She continued, “I like that there are organizations like TCA [that] are starting to take a holistic approach to caring for the horses during and after racing. TCA is a fantastic organization, and we have enjoyed partnering them with the past. We extend a big gratitude to them for the work they are doing.”