As a trainer, owner, breeder, simulcast host, bloodstock agent and stakes coordinator, Vicki Pappas is one of the most recognizable people in Canadian horse racing. It is her work with LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, an organization she founded two decades ago, that has made Pappas one of the game changers in racing and thoroughbred aftercare.
Along with a board of other concerned horsepeople, Pappas built up LongRun into a charity organization which has placed over 500 retired racehorses. LongRun began simply as a small office on the Woodbine racetrack backstretch but, thanks to fundraisers, donations (including an annual stipend from Woodbine) and a lot of saving, LongRun now has a permanent farm in Hillsburgh, ON.
At the LongRun farm, which was purchased from one of Ontario’s top breeders, Gail Wood, there are some 50 horses enjoying rolling paddocks while they await adoption. Each resident receives plenty of exercise, most are being re-trained to become riding horses, but there are a few older horses who are permanent residents living out their post-racing life.
A major presence on social media, LongRun shares stories of retired racehorses who have gone on to be the best friends of horse lovers of all ages, successful sport horses and loving companions.
LongRun is accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and Thoroughbred Charities of America and receives yearly grants to continue this important work.
What are the most critical challenges facing the industry in Canada today?
“One of the most critical challenges is the shortage of owners in the industry. We have to continue to show the public what a wonderful and rewarding experience thoroughbred ownership is. One of the issues that has had a negative effect, I believe, is the ‘techno-age’ luring a younger generation away from agriculture and animals.
“Another major challenge is the lack of a tax break for horse owners (through the Income Tax Act of the federal government) and the negativity surrounding the horse racing industry as a whole.”
What needs to change about the industry in the next 5-10 years?
“I believe everybody has to embrace and contribute to responsible aftercare if we are to convince the general public that we love our equine athletes and are dedicated to finding them loving homes after racing.
“I also think the industry would benefit from a uniform regulator throughout North America.”
How can you help affect that change?
“I am going to continue my work with retired racehorses as chairperson of LongRun. An important part of that is to expose the general public to the support our LongRun program receives from the industry. I think it is important to introduce more people to the horses themselves, and we do that at LongRun as the public is welcome. The beauty and courage of the thoroughbred will attract participants to racing.”
Where do you see the thoroughbred industry in Canada in 10 years?
“I believe our industry in Ontario will be diminished to a degree unless we continue to have the cooperation and support of government. It is crucial to ensure government understands the importance of our role in the economy. Thoroughbred racing employs thousands of people from truck sales to feed, not to mention the wonderfully skilled people who work with horses every day.”