The re-training philosophy employed at TRNL is that it is "better to do a great job with a few horses than a poor job with many."
Re-training efforts at TRNL focus on each horse's individual strengths and on developing horses that are first and foremost safe to work with, calm, balanced and communicative. Horses in re-training are developed slowly and are provided with strength work to develop muscles that have not previously been used during racing. Transition work is very important as racehorses are typically known to "start" and "stop." Each horse that enters the TRNL program is allowed as much time as needed to "come down" and to overcome psychological and physical barriers that may present when introduced to a new stage of life. Many veteran racehorses need to rediscover how to "be a horse" and understand that expecations post-racetrack are quite different than those imposed on them during their racing careers. Using behavioral principles, horses are re-trained to overcome obstacles, fears, anxieties and anticipatory behaviors that are associated with high levels of performance. Systematic desensitization is used as a safe method to introduce horses to new stimuli associated with their new jobs.
Operations at the Thoroughbred Retirement Network of Louisiana are overseen by Cindy Morgan-D'Atrio, a graduate (and valedictorian) of Meredith Manor International Equestrian Institute and well-rounded and skilled horsewoman. She has studied dressage extensively under a number of prominent trainers including the late Bodo Hangen (member of the German National Dressage Team) and Sybille Viegel (also from Germany). Cindy began riding racehorses at the Fairgrounds Racecourse in New Orleans at the age of 14 and rescued her first Thoroughbred at age 15. From there, she rode hunters and jumpers, campaigned Saddlebreds, Arabians and most frequently, Morgans in multiple disciplines, including driving. She has also shown draft horses in hand and in harness. Her first love, however, has always been dressage.
Although her career in the show ring has been met with much success, Cindy has spent a great deal of time working with horses that have been neglected, mistreated, over-trained, or simply started the wrong way. She is a licensed behavioral psychologist and is happiest working to find the right fit or "niche" for each horse and a home in which they will be well cared for and never put at-risk. The ultimate goal for each horse at TRNL is to ensure that horses achieve their potential in disciplines for which they are best suited, built for, and are the happiest.
The Mission of the Thoroughbred Retirement Network of Louisiana (TRNL) is threefold:
1) To offer the owners, breeders and trainers of Thoroughbred racehorses a full service retraining, retirement and respite facility so that these horses may be retrained and/or rehomed without the risk of being raced again or used for inhumane purposes.
2) To rescue Thoroughbreds who have been neglected, harmed, abused or who are at risk of going to slaughter.
3) To educate the public as well as those in the racing industry about the responsibilities of owning Thoroughbreds, ways in which owners, breeders and trainers can enhance the likelihood that their Thoroughbreds will retire successfully and purposefully, and to teach others about about retraining ex-racers.
It is the hope of the TRNL to retrain and rehome many, many retiring Thoroughbreds. We are, however, committed to establishing a quality foundation for each horse with whom we work and are focused on understanding the needs of each individual. Therefore, the TRNL will not make claims regarding the amount of time it takes to rehabilitate or retrain any of our dear equine friends.
Flash from the Past
Meet LITTLE ROYALTY. A tall, dark and handsome boy, Cindy rescued him when she was 15-years-old and working at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans. Every day, while grooming, riding, and walking horses, she'd visit Roy's stall, where she'd find him standing in a plastic garbage can in ice up to his elbows. Having bowed tendons twice on each front leg, his owner had reached the decision to "let him go." Knowing what that meant for him, Cindy convinced her parents that it would be a smart move for her to take him and he was moved out to the farm where she boarded her own horse.
This photo was taken in 1979 after 10 months of rehabilitation. Roy was a sweet and noble creature. His ground manners were impeccable as was his behavior under saddle. After over 16 months of care with Cindy, Roy was retired to a farm where he was well loved and cared for by a gentleman who was in search of a "pet."