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12 March 2020

The joys of volunteering come in many forms. Read Sarah Lally’s experience of fostering a thoroughbred from The Racehorse Sanctuary – helping one of over 4,000 leaving the industry every year.

Not your typical volunteering

I never imagined I would be a foster carer for a horse, but that all changed following a ‘phone call with Graham Oldfield – Co-Founder of The Racehorse Sanctuary. A month after that call, a frightened little three-year-old filly named Blossom arrived on our farm in North Yorkshire, following a long journey from a stud in Newmarket.

Blossom was not a straightforward horse, which is why she is in permanent foster care with me. I have worked in the equestrian industry and owned ex racehorses for many years. Prior to her arrival I had promised my husband that the next one would be a nice sensible cob, but I think we all knew that was never going to happen! Blossom was born with a lower leg deformity, which meant she would not be able to race. In many cases this would have meant the end of the road, but Blossom’s kind owners wanted her to have a second chance, so the sanctuary was asked to help.

How the Sanctuary works

Graham and his team treat all horses as individuals. They believe every ex-racehorse deserves a life past the post, not just those that have the potential to be competition horses, and I share that view. Blossom was never a racehorse, but for the past two years I have spent time slowly building her physical and emotional strength. Long walks together in the forestry, followed by weeks of long reining and making new friends in the village, I finally backed her last summer and we have been enjoying riding out ever since.

I’ve found fostering for the sanctuary a highly rewarding experience. Blossom has not only been a joy to work with, but she also provides gentle companionship to my loveable rogue Rupert (so-called after Jilly Cooper’s infamous character, Rupert Campbell-Black!) Also, by fostering Blossom, I am giving another ex-racehorse a place at the Sanctuary. With over 4,000 leaving the industry every year and the sanctuary’s waiting list ever increasing, the demand for foster carers has never been so great.

Could you foster for The Racehorse Sanctuary?

  • Are you an experienced horse owner with a knowledge and love of thoroughbreds?
  • Do you have equestrian facilities, including grazing?
  • Are you looking for a companion for your current horse?
  • Can you commit to fostering a horse for a minimum of six months?

To find out more about the Sanctuary’s fostering scheme contact Graham on 07710 904189. Further information is also available on their website:

Other ways to help racing’s charities

There is a diverse selection of volunteering opportunities on the Careers in Racing’s job board by using the ‘Volunteering’ category or this direct link:

Volunteer roles can range from supporting social media and events, to providing fundraising support and being equine volunteers. Racing charities that rely on volunteer help include Racing Welfare, Palace House, Greatwood, and several more.

Racing Together Community Day – May 7th

Racing staff are not shy about helping community causes and the sport’s day of employee volunteering takes place this year on May 7th. This popular initiative has grown rapidly in recent years and well over 60 racing organisations are expected to be represented, as staff find innovative ways to help their community and the environment.

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