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"Take the Lead" helps prepare retired race horses for their second careers

"Take the Lead" provides care for retired race horses
"Take the Lead" provides care for retired race horses 03:55

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Just like every other athlete, every race horse must someday retire, but what happens after their racing days are done?

You might be surprised to learn retirement doesn't mean the end of competition. The "Take the Lead" retirement program is the focus of this week's Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.

At Belmont Park, the busiest time of day is early morning.

"Feed time's always a lot of fun, especially this time of the year because we have young horses here," said horse trainer Rick Schosberg. "So they just think that feed cart is theirs, not my neighbor. This is room service."

Schosberg prepares the horses of Clear Stars Stable for racing and their life after racing.

"I've always had an affinity for these horses ... It's built on the love of the animal and realizing that a good portion or almost 70-75 percent of the horse's life takes place after the races," he said.

A thoroughbred's racing career typically lasts just two to three years, but their lifespan is 20-25.

Watch Snapshot New York's animals special

Snapshot New York: Animals Special 19:13

Schosberg is president of Take the Lead, an after-care program for retired horses.

Overmyer joined him as he rode around to other barns to look at horses on the verge of retirement.

"Now, do you take into account his personality when you try to figure out where he'll go?" Overmyer asked.

"Yeah. As a matter of fact, on our intake form, there's a section down there for personality, vices and things like that, so when they get the horse, they know what they're getting," Schosberg said.

Each year, Take the Lead places about 150 New York thoroughbreds into retirement, but it's not the kind of retirement you might imagine. Their second careers can be competitive. Many become equestrian horses, some Olympians. They just need to learn how.

"These horses, all through their lives, are learning every single day ... so when they transition to second careers, they just flow with it," Schosberg said. "They gotta be athletic, they gotta have stamina, and they gotta be sound."

"To be an owner, you feel you're part of a community of people," Clear Stars Stable managing partner Michael Sternklar said.

When Sternklar's horses retire, his focus is on their safety.

"There's no way you can do that without appreciating and caring about what happens to the horses ... so I wouldn't be part of this world if I didn't feel confident and comfortable that we were doing right by these horses 'cause every day, they're doing right by us," he said.

Schosberg spent the day meeting horse after horse, learning their dispositions and idiosyncrasies.

Because of this organization, the idea of retiring a horse is suddenly heartwarming because every horse they take in will eventually ride off into the sunset.

"Do you speak horse?" Overmyer asked a stable worker named Kristin.

"I try. They'll tell you a lot if you're listening," Kristin said.

"Exactly, it's a matter of listening," Schosberg said.

"You just gotta listen," Kristin said.

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