I would like to comment on the Dec. 18 article “Retired from racing, now hungry for resources” (Page A1) and the Dec. 27 Maine Voices, “Next-generation model needed for owners, riders and horses” (Page A4).

I am a therapeutic driving instructor who has used retired Standardbreds for some time in my work with developmentally delayed adults and veterans seeking relief from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma.

I have found these horses to be well suited for the work that I ask them to do. They come with a great work ethic and already know how to drive. They also know how to function in a noisy environment. Best of all is how perceptive and sensitive they are. It is amazing to watch how they act as a mirror to display the emotions of the participants in front of them.

Participants find Standardbreds easy to get along with and very comforting. Participants working in the presence of a Standardbred are more apt to feel like they can say whatever is on their mind.

Veterans, especially, relate to the visual scars (pin firing, for example) that Standardbreds bring to the barn. Our therapist has noted that working with Standardbreds allows us to reach people in one-tenth the amount of time it would take in an office.

I echo horse rescuer Joy Cutrone’s and racehorse re-trainer Robyn Cuffey’s proposal for an aftercare facility.

In addition, I would suggest that we institute a Social Security deduction for every horse that wins a race here in Maine. This would be similar to the system we humans pay into to help care for us in our later years. Perhaps it could even be at the same rate with the same exclusions for earnings over a certain amount in a year. People could apply to this fund to help care for Standardbreds who have completed their racing careers.

Mario Pascarelli

Therapeutic driving instructor


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