Joseph Battaglia has been a fan of both thoroughbred and standardbred horseracing his whole life. The president of Heading for Home Racehorse Retraining and Adoption Center, Battaglia realized when he became a standardbred racehorse owner in Saratoga Springs that there is a critical need for the aftercare of retired racehorses in the racing industry. Battaglia, along with other current members of the Heading for Home board, started the charity to help with addressing the “where do they go after racing” issue. “We thought the concept of Heading for Home would be an option for owners to consider,” he said.
Volunteers of Heading Home have various backgrounds in the local equine industries and in the local business community. Heading for Home board member and practicing attorney, Sarah Burger, has represented clients in the horse industry. A native of Saratoga, she grew up around horses and believes in the mission of Heading for Home. “The organization’s focus on the aftercare of racehorses in conjunction with its focus on pairing horses with equine therapy services is so important in the horse industry,” Burger said. “I am a part of this organization because I believe in what it is doing.” The common denominator: offering the racing industry an option for horses at retirement. “A success story about a racehorse going on to a purposeful and fulfilling life after racing activity is something that should be celebrated as much as any successes they may have had on the racetrack,” Battaglia said.
It is no secret that Saratoga Springs is a horse town. “The horses are the stars of the show when they are on the track and have much more to give after their racing days have ended. It is a responsibility that everyone associated with racing in any way should share,” he said. He thinks the community should be concerned for horses as they age off the track. “Saratoga being a racing community should take this responsibility very seriously since so much of our local economy is driven by its history of hosting horseracing. We owe a lot back to the horses. Just look at the walls of almost any establishment you go into in the Saratoga area and you will likely see images of horses.”
Heading for Home is one way Battaglia and the all-volunteer board and staff are trying to save one horse at a time. The program accepts both thoroughbreds and standardbreds. “We help transition them from the racetrack environment to a more relaxed setting and then evaluate each for potential options to adopters,” he said. “Our horses have participated in equine assisted counseling programs while in the care of Heading for Home. We are in the process of developing our connections in the community to use our horses and facilities for physical therapy programs as well. We are open to coordinating with other charities to expand the potential uses for our horses to create as many off the track options as possible for the horses,” he said. Heading for Home is a member of the Saratoga Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors collation (RACE). “RACE works together with other local charities in support of our common racehorses’ aftercare missions, including hosting the upcoming Run/Walk for the Horses on September 1st,” Battaglia said. The Run/Walk will be held at the Saratoga Spa State Park and will benefit participating local non-profits that rescue and provide second chances for ex-racehorses. Heading for Home is also participating in a joint program with Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at its farm this summer.
On Tuesday, July 17 Heading for Home is hosting its second annual charity golf event at Fairways of Halfmoon Golf Club, which includes local craft beer tastings at its award ceremony. The cost is $125 a player and includes lunch, dinner, golf, cart and craft beer samples. Raffles and prizes will round out the day. One hundred percent of proceeds raised at the tournament benefits local Heading for Home programs. “We rely heavily on donations and other support to keep our programs going and possibly expand them when feasible,” Battaglia said. Anyone interested in directly supporting the golf event can participate as players, sponsors or perhaps even by providing raffle items for the event. “The topic of racehorse aftercare becomes a hot topic during the local thoroughbred meet but the need goes on throughout the year. If someone shares that concern this is one way for them to step up and be an active participant in making a difference,” Battaglia said.
For more information on how to register for the golf event or to volunteer please visit the organization’s website at www.headingforhomeadoptionhorses.org.