Our organization is named after the beloved racehorse, Ferdinand. Despite winning prestigious races such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup Classic and being named the Horse of the Year in 1987, Ferdinand met his fate at a Japanese slaughterhouse after a lackluster career as a stud. In response to this tragedy, it brought forward renewed interest in Thoroughbred aftercare to prevent other ex-racehorses from joining Ferdinand in the slaughter pipeline.
Friends of Ferdinand, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and currently the only Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited organization in Indiana. The horses in our program are vetted at intake, given let down time, and have at least 30 days of professional retraining at one of our facilities in Indiana or Ohio.
To dive deeper into what a horse experiences in our program, click here
Our Founder Story:
The founder story starts with two gentlemen named Jim. “The Jims” were horseplayers/bettors. One day, they were at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana, enjoying the races with a long-time Thoroughbred breeder when they learned the fate of unsuccessful racehorses. In 2005, the outlook for an injured or slow Thoroughbred leaving the track was not good, and “the Jims” decided to do something about it. That night, the concept of Friends of Ferdinand was born. “The Jims” established the business side of the non-profit, raising the seed money to start the organization amongst their friends.
Hoosier Park and the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Alliance used to host a paddock sale every fall. The sales were open to the public, the minimum bid was low, and unsold horses were often gathered after the sale by kill buyers (people who purchases horses to send to slaughter). In 2005 “the Jims” bought every horse who didn’t receive a minimum bid; that marked the day they became horsemen. The catch was, they didn’t know much about caring for horses, much less transitioning retired Thoroughbreds into second careers. This was also back before the days of zero-tolerance for steroid use, and the let-down for horses coming off the track was much harder for both the horse and the horse’s handlers. This is where Sara Busbice stepped in.
At the time she was a volunteer for CANTER, and she watched as the Jims saved four horses from the meat man: Riverman Council, Ghazi Rose, Ozark, and Cheersto Glory. After the sale, she walked up to “the Jims”, shook their hands, congratulated them, and offered to help load their new horses onto the trailer. This is where it gets funny… they said, “Trailer? We thought we had a few weeks to come back and get the horses?” She replied, “No, the track is closing and they have to leave, with you, today."
The next week, Sara negotiated reduced rates for stalls in boarding stables around Indianapolis, and every evening she was back at the track picking up a horse and delivering it to its temporary home. She was planning to wish the horses luck and go back to her normal life, but she knew the horses needed her and the "Jims" needed someone to help them. And so it began...
Friends of Ferdinand Through the Years:
Sara took up helm as the President of Friends of Ferdinand, and provided many years of leadership, including getting the organization accredited with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the only accrediting body in aftercare.
As the needs of retiring horses from the Midwest have changed through the years, Friends of Ferdinand has expanded and evolved with them. What started as one or two English-based trainers has now grown into trainers in both Indiana and Ohio, some with a focus on English training and others for western disciplines.
Through the years, Friends of Ferdinand has always worked to create the best ways to market our horses and retraining program, from having a volunteer program at the racetrack to connect trainers and owners with the resources they need to retire their athletes from racing, to having a presence at sport horse events such as the Retired Racehorse Project, to hosting our biggest annual fundraiser, the Friends of Ferdinand Virtual Derby, each spring during Derby season.
We are able to do what we do through grants, private donations, and the volunteer hours of many hardworking horse-lovers.
In recent years, Friends of Ferdinand has expanded our offerings with the Broodmare Bunch (with a focus on broodmares retiring from their time being mothers and looking for “third careers”), Pasture Pals (with a focus on matching non-riding horses to long-term homes), and #PoniesOfTheCaribbean (with a focus on partnering with Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare to bring horses back to the mainland from Puerto Rico.) All of these initiatives help us forge new paths to help off-track Thoroughbreds – while keeping in line with our mission of rehabbing, retraining, and rehoming ex-racehorses from across the Midwest into long-term homes and successful second careers.
Our dedication to our horses and our adopters is what sets us apart. Each Friends of Ferdinand horse comes fully vetted, with a test ride, and with a 30-day trial period. We also stay in touch afterward and our horses come with a long-term guarantee – if things in our adopters’ lives change and the horse needs a new home, we are always there to welcome them back into our barn!
Our Board of Directors: