It’s time to step up in a major, major way. It’s the end of the year and while many Americans plan to join gyms to lose all that weight, or promise to keep in touch with friends and family better, or stand up for themselves a bit more, might I suggest another New Year’s resolution. And this resolution is aimed right at the horse business as a whole, not just the racing end, not just the breeding end.
Every horse that is born is guaranteed a retirement.

Breeders offer live-foal guarantees so let’s take it a step further. Now that the foal is alive let’s ensure that after it weans, breaks, races, and retires that the horse doesn’t end up in nickel claimers until it kills itself or ends up on a meat hook.

Some people might balk at the expense, even the property to house all the retired horses, but it has to be done. This is the only humane thing to do for these animals that were born so we could watch them run, so that we could bet on them, so we can curse them out and then revel in their glory.
There are over 35,000 foals born every year, give or take. Some get to the racetrack, other don’t. Of that size of a crop, how many Grade 1 winners are there? That is, how many horses who win those races do have a guaranteed and lavish retirement at Lane’s End, Three Chimney’s, Vinery or Coolmore? An infinitesimally small number compared to the rest of the crop.

These horses don’t know how much they are worth. They are born horses and most run their guts out. Whether they want to or not, they run as fast as they can for as long as they’re asked. Many times they are asked for too much for too long.

The NFL is finally recognizing that concussions are a real and prevalent cause of worry for current and former players. The NFL is funding research and will hopefully care for the players that made it the richest sport in the country. Players aren’t just meat. The veterans of the sport who went brain-dead from trauma to make a hit or dive for a first down need the support of its employer for the long term.

Why is it that this country fails to see that the here-and-now is only that, the here-and-now? Battles are waged long after careers are done. Just look at the post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates of soldiers returning from the Middle East. How often are they left behind?

But this is horse racing and perhaps this sport can get it right because these animals cannot speak for themselves. States must open their land to these animals when their knees are so swollen and their ankles so chipped that another step would be and should be considered murder on the part of its handlers.

Money needs to be set aside from the breeders who deliver the horses, who pay $50 million for Big Brown, $39 million for Smarty Jones, $30 million for Lemon Drop Kid or $60 million for Fusaichi Pegasus. It all starts with them, doesn’t it?

Let’s see a penny from every betting dollar go to retirement, retirement being a new branch of the business the same way racing and breeding are. One Abe Lincoln profile-penny per dollar on the 2009 Travers Day from Saratoga Race Course alone would have put close to $69,000 in the retirement’s coffers. That’s from one day, albeit one of the richer days, but just one day. The money would need to be used to hire extra help since more horses need more hands and more feed and more hay, more everything.

Use the dreaded “T” word, taxes, call it what you want, but “tax” the purses, because if you benefit from a horse in action, a horse out of action should benefit from you.

I’m not smart enough to come up with a plan that appeases all those who have needs and those who would be angry at the prospect of shelling over extra dollars to fund something of this magnitude.
But if you have anything resembling a heart, know that the race doesn’t end at the wire. The wire is out in a field with grass where the seven-year-old winner of one $10,000 claiming race can let his hair grow long the way Bernardini and Curlin can.

They didn’t ask to be born, but they were bred for our entertainment.

People are in this business, largely, because they love the horse. Let’s prove it. We owe that to the horse.

Before you cash another winner and harvest the benefits that its four hooves gave you, keep in mind that his or her retirement, if any, at this point, is from charity and should be mandatory.