Article by Jane Bellmyer, firstname.lastname@example.org, on January 19, 2024
ELKTON — A Cecil County non-profit organization that has rescued, rehabilitated and re-homed 900 thoroughbred horses from the racing industry is itself in a race to raise funds to buy the property it calls home.
“We’ve raised $150,000 so far but we need more to have a mortgage for a non-profit,” Bonnie McRae, Executive Director of After the Races, said.
After the Races has called a 77-acre farm off Telegraph Road near Fair Hill home for most of its 12 years.
“It’s under conservation,” she said of the rental property. Only 33 of the acres is in use. The rest is wooded and North East Creek runs through it as well. “It can’t be developed.”
She said not only do the horses like the property, so do the humans.
“We really want to make this our permanent home,” McRae said. “We don’t want to move. Our employees are the best, the volunteers we have are great and our veterinarian is here.”
McRae said the price tag is $1.5 million. She’s working on contacting groups, organizations, government officials, and anyone else who can donate or tell her where to pursue donations for the purchase.
“I feel there’s a lot of money to be had with the Maryland horse industry. We just haven’t tapped into that yet,” she said. Cecil County Economic Development Director Bill Sorenson has been helping and Larry Metz, owner of The Wellwood in Charlestown, is planning a fundraiser for After the Races.
“I used to train race horses and now I own race horses,” Metz said Thursday. “This is close to my heart.”
Metz is still putting together the fundraiser to help After The Races pay for their current property or a new location. He said After The Races provides a vital service to the horses and the horse racing industry.
“When you retire you have a whole new outlook on life. These are horses that have been trained to do one thing. Your job now is not to run as fast as you can,” Metz explained. With the work done by McRae and her team the horses that learn that new lifestyle can become a family horse.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Every horse has a different personality.”
McRae is also looking at other options to fund the farm including forming a limited liability corporation. That way people could invest in the property and support the non-profit.
McRae is also making plans for a future where After the Races doesn’t have to move.
There is a house on the property and 20 stalls are already in place.
“But if we buy the plan is to build a 10-stall rehabilitation barn,” she said. “A lot of what we do here is rehabilitation.”
The house would get an addition so interns could live on site while learning from the volunteers and paid staff.
“There are a million ways we could offer training,” she said. She sees a future with interns from regional colleges and schools learning from After the Races.
Before all that can happen, After the Races needs to secure ownership of the property. In the meantime, the work continues. Through rehabilitation, these former race horses are turned into riding horses and could be found on the trails at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area, at a 4-H competition at the Cecil County Fair, or on a farm.
To donate, volunteer or learn about purchasing a thoroughbred from After the Races go to aftertheraces.org.
“I want to do everything I can to make them successful,” Metz said, noting it helps the horses, owners and racing facilities. “It’s a good job they do finding good homes for these horses and making people smile. It’s a win-win for everybody.”