After fracturing both ankles during her debut race at Canterbury Park, Digi’s Luck was barely able to walk off the track. The two-year-old filly suffered from the same injury to her front pasterns that led to the tragic death of Eight Belles at the 2008 Kentucky Derby. With immediate surgery and specialized care, a team of veterinarians saved Digi’s Luck. But her short-lived career as a racehorse was over. Fortunately for Digi’s Luck, AAEP member Dr. Richard Bowman believes injured racehorses deserve the chance to recover and take on new jobs. He has found second careers for nearly 400 ex-racehorses that have been rehabilitated at his 4,000-acre North Dakota ranch, coined “Second Chance Ranch.”
Dr. Bowman, a racing regulatory veterinarian for the Minnesota Racing Commission who also operates an equine dental practice, now boards about 60 ex-racehorses at the family ranch he’s known his entire life. His rescue efforts started about seven years ago when trainers at Canterbury Park asked him for assistance finding new homes for racehorses with injury or little value. Whether injured or unsuccessful at the track, Dr. Bowman’s rescued ranch horses receive quality veterinary care and nutrition, with much of the expense coming out of his own pocket. State veterinarians Drs. Lynn Hovda and Christy Klatt support the program as well. The upkeep for the group can cost as much as $100 a day, and most horses stay at the ranch for six months to a year before they are healthy, sound and ready for adoption.
Dr. Bowman receives additional funding through the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association program at Canterbury Park. The track collects $1 fee for each horse that starts, and then matches the funds. Dr. Bowman said the program contributes about $8,000 to his efforts annually. He also accepts private donations from his clients.
Dr. Bowman constantly seeks permanent homes for the Thoroughbreds through a network of horse owners and colleagues. His rescued racehorses have started new careers as police mounts, pleasure horses and competitors in a variety of equestrian events. Owners keep in contact with Dr. Bowman, sending him photos and postcards of their adopted horses over the years. “It just makes you feel good to know that these animals are doing well,” Dr. Bowman said.
When she reached full recovery on the ranch, Digi’s Luck was quickly adopted as a mount for a young boy. The pair now competes in 4-H horse shows. While Dr. Bowman says his motive to start the rescue project was solely to ensure the well-being of horses, rescues and rehabilitation centers are helping to improve the public’s perception of the racing industry. Finding uses for horses post-racing conveys to the public that these horses are valued.
“These are wonderful animals, and my consideration from the get-go was for the horse,” Dr. Bowman said. “There’s a secondary effect from a racing industry perceptive – if we can do this all over the country, it would do a lot to help improve the public’s perception of horse racing.”
Dr. Richard Bowman
Second Chance Ranch
Reprinted from the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s website, where Dr. Bowman was featured in the AAEP’s Good Works Campaign.