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Nov 04, 2011 - NTRA
Niall Brennan Stables is one of the top Thoroughbred training facilities in the United States, and in 2011, ended the year as the nations’ #1 consignor of two-year-olds. Located in Ocala, Florida, Niall and Stephanie Brennan’s facility is situated on lush, rich land decorated with beautiful, old oak trees.
Stephanie, who runs Final Furlong, is the sales and marketing director for NBS. Originally from Western Canada, Stephanie has been involved in Thoroughbred racing almost 20 years.
Stephanie says that Final Furlong Horse Retirement, which was incorporated as a non-profit in 2009, “was an idea conceived by a small group of professional horsemen, owners, veterinarians and dedicated volunteers affiliated with Niall Brennan Stables. It was established as a means to control the retirement and placement of graduates of Niall Brennan Stables and to aid clients in providing a safe and secure retirement for their cherished racehorses at the end of their racing career. Final Furlong’s goal is to simply offer these horses, who have given so much, an opportunity to excel at another career. At the same time, owners will have the peace of mind of retiring their horse, with the knowledge that it will be given a safe and loving home.
Any program or sale graduate of Niall Brennan Stables is eligible for Final Furlong. We will also take horses in for clients looking for a retirement program and finally, we will always be available for those in dire circumstances that need special care.”
Keeping track of the large number of horses that graduate from Niall Brennan programs or consignments can be a challenge. According to Stephanie, “We are proud to promote Final Furlong both at the sales and at the racetrack. The success of our program is based on word of mouth but it is seldom the immediate purchasers of the horses who end up sending the horses into our program.
We have a team of volunteers who help us to follow all the horses we have trained/sold through stable mail, and when it is noted that a horse running poorly at the bottom of the claiming ranks, we contact the trainer (usually through the HBPA) and let them know that this program is available for the horse. Most trainers/owners are delighted to hear that the horse has a place to go when he is ready to be retired. We have also put stickers on the JC papers but I honestly don’t know how helpful those are as once the horse goes to the track seldom are the JC papers seen by anyone but the racing secretary.“
When asked if Final Furlong’s prior experience with these NBS horses is an advantage, Stephanie says, “I think that our familiarity with these horses is our biggest asset. Obviously, the horses change greatly from when we had them as two year olds but knowing that they had their basics with NBS is a great starting point. We also have a complete history on the horses from when we had them, so it also gives us more information of earlier issues, mental capacities or things that should be noted from their past. One of my least favorite two year old sale horses became one my favorite Final Furlong horse!
An NBS graduate has spent a lot of time during the breaking period learning the basics: walk, trot, canter, changing leads, trail rides etc before ever heading to the racetrack. Knowing that the horses have such strong basics also helps me to place them with confidence. It is an informed belief they can go on to do a job other than strictly being a racehorse.”
When a program/sales grad enters the Final Furlong program, Stephanie says, “We don’t do any retraining of the horses. Our focus is getting the horse healthy and sound through the “let down” period. Once these horses have “completely let down” (which usually takes 90 days) we begin the placement process. We are confident that our horses know the basics but I will get on a horse and do basic walk, trot to make sure it is sound and safe for its new owner. We make sure all potential clients understand that the horse is not presented as a trained horse and at the same time make sure all clients have the experience to handle an OTTB.
Once we feel a horse is ready to start the placement process (it is easy to handle, will stand in cross ties, has been turned out with other horses, is sound and is in good health) we post a photo with a description on our website. We also have created a network that we contact, to help place the horses. We are small enough that it is done by word of mouth and everything is monitored closely. The horses are my biggest spokespersons! We have also been fortunate that many of the people who have Final Furlong horses are proud to pass the word around! We always reiterate that our focus is on placing the horses in a job that they are capable of doing and will be happy doing.
Our program is supported primarily by the owners of the horses, so we don’t feel a need to charge an adoption fee and honestly, we would rather the money go towards the horse than towards Final Furlong. All adopters must provide two letters of reference, one from their attending vet and one from a professional in the industry who will vouch that they are capable of working with a OTTB along with photos of the facility. Again, because we are a smaller operation, we can hand pick where the horses go.”
So how is Final Furlong funded? “As mentioned before, we are primarily funded by our owners who send the horses to us. We ask that a donation equivalent of one month’s board at the racetrack be made for each horse sent to Final Furlong. We are a 501(c)(3) charity, so the owners can use the donation to their benefit.
In the case where a horse comes in without financial support, we will try to create a “support syndicate” for the horse contacting breeder, consignor, trainer, past owners etc. It costs our program approximately $2,400 for 90 days in our care which covers all vet expense, blacksmith, dentist, transportation and miscellaneous costs. Thankfully many of these professionals have kindly provided their services for free or at cost to show their support and Final Furlong could not function without them. We have also received donations from Blue Horse Charities and Brennan Equine Welfare Trust.”
Learn more about Final Furlong
Stephanie Brennan can be reached at email@example.com
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