Central Virginians concerned about the fates of rescue horses after a dispute between a national organization and its local chapter need worry no more.

A fully local group has been created to pick up the reins.

You might recall the brouhaha last year when the national Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation lost its lease at Montpelier.

President James Madison’s property had historic ties to horse racing when it was purchased by Marion du Pont Scott and became the focus of her breeding and racing operations. She endowed it to be preserved after her death in 1983.

That left the property with extensive pasturage and stabling, which were put to good use hosting the TRF, an organization dedicated to rescuing racehorses that don’t succeed on the track. Some horses can be retrained for other uses and adopted to new owners; others simply need a safe place to live out their lives. Without such intervention, they could be vulnerable to exploitation from careless or cruel owners, or even be sent to slaughter.

But the TRF made some administrative changes last spring, including moving all local funds to its headquarters in New York and announcing that the local branch needed to follow national standards more consistently. The organization also said it wanted to curb costs at the Montpelier location, and there was some indication it wanted to reduce local control in general.

A number of local members of the organization resigned in protest. And the Montpelier Foundation’s board of directors voted to terminate its lease with the TRF as of Nov. 6, 2019.

The TRF is out. But the new Virginia Thoroughbred Project is in.

Supporters worked to create a rescue organization that will be fully local and that can continue to collaborate with Montpelier.

The 41 horses formerly cared for by the TRF are now grazing contently under the eyes of the VTP.

“We are delighted that the horses, many of whom are advanced in age, are able to remain on the grounds of Montpelier, where they have resided for a number of years,” said Sue Hart, chair of the VTP’s board of directors.

The staff gets to stay as well. Ms. Hart noted that farm manager Crystal Wever and staff had been together for several years and had built a good working relationship. That smooth relationship also benefits the horses.

Many local residents had donated to the Montpelier branch of the TRF, or volunteered assistance, specifically because it was a locally managed operation with which they felt comfortable.

The national headquarters may have the right to consolidate control over the local branch and to shift its treasury to headquarters. But that decision was costly: It damaged the trust that local donors and volunteers had placed in the organization.

When push came to shove, these supporters — and apparently the Montpelier Foundation as well — were far more confident of the local group than the national organization. And they acted accordingly.

We’re glad that supporters were able to come together to create a new, locally managed group; that Montpelier was able to continue providing space — and that the horses will continue to be cared for, retrained and rehomed when possible.

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