Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Equine Resolutions for the New Year--What Are Yours?

Photo by John Chun

Why a photo of Einstein's saddle clothe? Because as his name would infer it doesn't in fact take a genius to know that resolutions need to be made in horse racing to protect race horses.

Some inroads were made in 2009. We saw the public announcement by the NYRA that a "zero' tolerance stance was going to be taken at all New York racing tracks. The message was clear, knowingly send a horse to slaughter and your stalls would be pulled and denied in the state. The Second Race and many other organizations collectively applauded the stance. The question will be, will there be any real teeth to the announcement?

And yet today news from Florida stated that an investigation into an illegal slaughter house has begun after two race horses from Calder Racecourse where found there on Christmas Day. Three steps back....

Arizona has a problem, Kentucky has a problem, California has a problem....and on and on. Several tracks have recently been accredited by the NTRA Safety Alliance, however what do the tracks have to do to be certified with respect to a plan to safely protect the race horses? Who is regulating? And who is minding the people at the race track that provide the means and access to the gate to let in the trucks in the middle of the night?

Racing fans have asked why isn't more being done? Unfortunately with the current system of racing, each state has it's own groups, and then within each state again, there is a maze of regulatory bodies governing those same groups. If racing had one shared entity instead of so many factions, like the National Football League, or National Basketball Association does, would racing be able to do a better job of protecting the very horses it needs to exist?

The needs for resolutions in 2010 abound....let's hope that the racing industry collectively, actually does something in the New Year.

As for The Second Race our resolutions are:

1. To more efficiently and effectively network to assist the transition of race horses from the race tracks throughout California, western states and the Southwest. To work more closely with horsemen's groups, trainers, and race tracks---networking for adoptive homes and new careers.

2. To market everywhere the service that The Second Race can provide and to visit race tracks outside of California (Arizona, Washington, Kentucky, New York, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida--invitations await) over the next 18 to 24 months.

3. To begin lobbying efforts to help those that do not want to give up their ex-race horses because they can no longer feed them. Often times the difference is a month or two of hay, and care in order for a situation to turn itself around. Wouldn't it be better to allow a horse to remain with their owners who want them, instead of looking for an already over burdened rescue to take them in?.

4. To look at ways to partner with existing groups/volunteers in a POSITIVE manner on behalf of the horses. The pettiness, egos and games only hurt the horses and the hard work of many when we do not work as a co-operative for the horses and create "hubs" of The Second Race at race tracks and surrounding areas.

5. To KNOW in my heart that The Second Race did all it could THAT day on behalf of a race horse ( be it Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint or Standardbred) before I close my eyes at night.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Because of Love

This story was in my in box, and I thought it timely to share with the holidays upon us.... thank you to Christy for sharing:
A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where their elderly parent dwelt with their small herd of horses. The farm was where they had grown up and had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine, which topped the hill beyond the farm. Through the years the tree had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside. The young siblings had fond memories of their childhood here but the city hustle and bustle added more excitement to their lives, and called them away to a different life.
The old folks no longer showed their horse, for the years had taken their toll, and getting out to the barn on those frosty mornings were getting harder but it gave them a reason to get up in the mornings and a reason to live. They sold a few foals each year, and the horses were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's end.
Angry, as the prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks, "Why do you not at least dispose of "The Old One'. She is no longer of use to you. It's been years since you've had the foals from her. You should cut corners and save so you have more for yourselves. How can this old work out horse bring you anything but expense and work? Why do you keep her anyway"?
The old man looked down at his worn boots, holes in the toes, scuffed at the barn floor and replied " Yes, I could use a pair of new boots. His arm slid defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her near with gentle caressing he rubbed her softly behind the ears. He replied softly "We keep her because of love. Nothing else, just love".
Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his wife Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley. The old couple shook their heads in sorrow that it had not been a happy visit. A tear fell upon their cheeks. How is it that these young folks do not understand the peace of the love that filled their hearts? So it was, that because of this unhappy leave-taking, no one noticed the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the first spark fall. None but the "Old One".
In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save the beloved horses. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire's fury. His wife back from calling for help cradled him in her arms, clinging to each other, they wept at their loss.
By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife exhausted from their grief huddled together before the barn. They were speechless as they rose from the cold snow covered ground. They nodded thanks to the fireman as there was nothing anyone could do now. The old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulders as his shaking old hands clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandanna. Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has sparred our home on this eve of Christmas. Let us gather strength and climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared and pray for our beloved most precious gifts that have been taken from us.
And so, he took her by the hand and slowly helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his old, withered hand. The journey up the hill was hard for their old bodies in the steep snow. S they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they paused to rest. Looking up to the top of the hill the old couple gasped and fell to their knees in amazement at the incredible beauty before them.
Seemingly, every glorious brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on it's top most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this. They were breathless as the old man held his wife tighter in his arms.
Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder and incredible joy. Amazed and mystified, he took his wife by the hand and pulled her forward. There, beneath the tree, in resplendent glory, a mist hovering over and glowing in the darkness was the Christmas gift. Shadows glistening in the night light, bedded down about the "Old One' close to the trunk of the tree, was the entire herd, safe.
At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the horses through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping cautiously through the snow. The foals were frightened and dashed about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the cracking, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The mares that were in foal with a new years crop of babies, pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved calmly up the hill to safety beneath the pine. And now, she lay among them and gazed at the faces of the old man and his wife. Those she loved and had not disappointed. Her body was brittle with years, tired from the climb, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift--- Because of love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Time to Pick a New Calendar--- Here is One I Recommend

Magic Route before and Magic Route after his arrival and return to health by Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue (photos by Laurie Taylor/TMA) from the SCTR website

Several organizations, rescue and retirement agencies (horse and otherwise) are selling calendars to support their groups.

One of the calendars that I have personally been excited to see (and purchased today) is the one offered by Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue (SCTR).

SCTR has aptly named theirs "Still Winners". The featured cover boy is Luis Especial, a personal favorite of mine while he was racing the Southern California circuit.

Luis, was purchased from an auction lot on Kentucky Derby day for the princely ransom of $ 250 after earning $ 183,000 on track. This handsome dark bay is one of several horses showcasing the love, care and bloom of horses once deemed "trash", that SCTR has recycled back to their former selves in their 2010 calendar. Luis has since been adopted by a top equestrian trainer and is going to be in for a surprise (per Caroline Betts, founder and president of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue) when training for his next professional career beginning in early Spring.

Other horses featured include Noble Gambler, Magic Route, and Sunday Match (lovingly renamed Bam-Bam and when you see his photo, you will understand why). Magic Route was a formerly starved horse that was rescued from his owner and patiently and quickly brought to life again. The transformation bears mention and notice, but pictures tell the real story and his are a tribute to the care that a horse can find itself in when taken in by SCTR. The cost of the calendar $ 24.95 plus shipping, equals $ 27.00 and is an attractive investment for the thoroughbreds that will be helped in the coming year. (Anything beyond the $ 27.00 would be appreciated).

If you would like a new calendar that makes a difference, may The Second Race suggest this one. To order go to their website and click on the header "2010 Calendar!", a link to PayPal is provided. If you want to send a check instead their address is SCTR, 635 Hacienda Drive, Norco, CA 92860.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reflections on Six Months of Following a Dream

Worchester entered retirement to CERF in November

As 2009 comes to a close, and a decade filled with impossible tragedy, economic collapse and catastrophic events draws to an end I am reminded that there is still hope and possibility.

How can I make a statement like that? Because after losing two jobs in as many years, I decided to follow my bliss, and start The Second Race which endeavors to use the administrative, marketing and managerial skills that I have developed over the past 20 years, and use them to run the rescue/retirement of race horses like a business. I do my best each day to make business decisions, not emotional ones with respect to the horses. I work to be their advocate and have developed a 10 year business plan on their behalf. In a short 6 months; our Facebook page alone has over 4,000 members. Many of those facebook "friends" have contributed to the placement or have adopted a horse offered through The Second Race. We have also helped groups outside of my own via Facebook, and raised $ 1500 as my birthday wish, for the Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue (SCTR). In turn this past week, SCTR purchased two ex-race horses from a local auction lot, sparing the lives of two more horses that others deemed "throw away".

Ocean Chief, being loaded up to his new home in October.

Horses have become the silent victims of this economy. Racing has let down the very athletes that millions of dollars are wagered on each day. Breeders have suffered, and in turn broodmares; no longer of use, due to declining inventories are cast aside like three day old bread. Many race horse owners have fallen out of love with owning expensive horses, and the cost of their hobby has meant that a non performing horse, finds itself quickly in peril.

Runamuq at his new home in September, receiving the first of several equine massages, donated through the networking of Facebook.

Through the networking efforts of many, The Second Race has been able to facilitate the adoption/transfer of 30 race horses into new homes or careers since it's inception in June.
We are currently networking on behalf of 13 more, and have helped to raise the bail monies for 2 ex-race horses in WA state, that were saved from a feedlot and 1 ex-race horse in NJ.

I am proud of this accomplishment and that I took a leap of faith, when many would think it ill advised. It requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes to find a home for a horse. Posting pictures on the Internet, marketing the horse, calling upon mentors for advice, screening applicants, verifying references, arranging transportation, asking for discounted services, relying on fosters, and at times asking the very owners who no longer want their horse to castrate their charge, or pay for the transportation itself. Because we do not have our non profit status, money spent is in most cases out of pocket. Several opportunities await us in the new year when our 501 (c) 3 status is granted--(donations, services at a discount, matching funds programs through employers, lease opportunities to name a few).

I have learned that people are generally good and want to help, I see this every day. For every bad situation (and there are many) that I read about or experience each day, there is a story of inspiration and hope. So many, do so much, with so little, that they inspire me to be a better person. To be able to contribute more and to push myself to dream bigger dreams, when it would be easy to abandon them altogether.

But when you follow your bliss, and you see the fruit of your passion you just can't stop. When you look into the brown, soulful eyes of a horse that relies on you for it's literal next meal, and when you see the happiness of another upon receipt of their new friend. Well words escape you, sleepless nights don't matter, and hours spent evaporate when you hear "the horse far exceeded my expectations".

2010 will bring more stories, more worry and more importantly more horses needing homes. I am happy that I have carved out a "niche" working directly with horsemen, racetracks, lay up farms and owners. I hope that in the short time of our existence as a business; we have saved some horses from going to groups like SCTR and others.

I hope that The Second Race in the new year, will provide a voice for the voiceless, and bring a synergy that does not exist to a bigger stage for those that toil each day on behalf of the race horses in the US and internationally. I truly believe that as we harness technology, using social networking and our modern vocabulary of Twitter and blogging, and as we rethink how to support each other instead of dividing, we will start a real change in this sport, and industry.

The Second Race is poised to take on the challenge, I personally can't wait!
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

New York Racing Toughens Stand on Horse Slaughter

A chestnut Thoroughbred Mare currently on a feedlot in New Jersey, is a tattooed, ex-racer earned over $ 77,000 and is a direct descendant of Secretariat.

The New York Racing Association in a published release last Thursday, announced an official anti-slaughter policy that would introduce harsh penalties for offending horsemen. The policy would also encourage horsemen to use and support horse rescue and retirement adoptive initiatives as a recourse to sending a horse to a feedlot (knowingly or unknowingly).

According to NYRA policy any owner-trainer stabled at a New York Racing Association (NYRA) track found to have directly or indirectly sold a horse for slaughter will have their stalls permanently revoked from all New York tracks.

"We are fully committed to protecting our sport's equine athletes" said NYRA president, Charles Hayward.

Other tracks have stated similar policies, however there remains little enforcement as horses every day are sent to feedlots. Currently in New Jersey (see photo above) there are three, tattooed thoroughbreds along with a couple standardbreds. In California last Saturday, six tattooed thoroughbreds were on the lot. Several yearlings from a commercial breeder where found on the lot as well. Each state can site a tattooed, ex-racer on their lots at any given time.

The language of NYRA's policy may have a loophole in it that a horsemen could stand by, and that is stating that a horse is "sold" for slaughter. Often times an offending (or again an unwitting owner or trainer) stand by their innocence due to "giving away" a horse. The three degrees of separation is evoked often when a rescue or retirement group calls a former, owner, trainer or breeder of a located horse.

While I applaud all racing associations and race tracks that take a stance against slaughter of the very horses that employ them, I am curious how each of these tracks is actually enforcing their stances?.

Nationwide 15 race tracks have adopted no-tolerance policies that bar owners and trainers. However, the vague intrepretation and the lack of transparency into these policies by interested groups, such as The Second Race when requested, leaves public knowledge and enforcement of these same policies, difficult at best.

Time well tell, in the meantime, the thoroughbred on this page desperately needs to be saved. Her "sands of time" runs out on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST. Donations can be sent via PayPal to

POST SCRIPT: I received word today 12/13/09 at 9:49 a.m. PST, that all of the horses that were at the auction, were saved. Including the chestnut mare. This was accomplished by using social networking sites such as Facebook, and networking emails. The sole reason for creating The Second Race, was to harness technology and the modern way we communicate, to save and help horses. Glad that this one had a happy ending!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Standardbreds Named from the Fatal Fire & Fundraising Information

The names of the 42 standardbreds who perished in a barn fire in Lebanon, Ohio have been compiled by the Ohio Harness Racing Horsemen's Association. The formal identification of the two grooms that passed hasn't been announced yet.
The names of the horses are:
A Mid-Night Mover, Air Marshall, Artimidation, Bluebird Eva, Candy's Clown, Caper Chase, Capital Asset, CG's Renegade, Cruiser Girl, Crystals Wrath, CSI Love Hurts, Dancing Kassady, D B's Attack, Ed's Western, Endeared Hanover, Get Down Sally, Grand Firmation, Hear No Evil, Hey Dude, Hoosier Flash, Last Call Y-All, Medoland Bryce, Misty Mornin Girl, Mood Man, One Hot Tanale, Panda Cafe', Pumpkins One Shoe, Rolon Emma, Rose Run, Melissa, Ruby Flyer, Rushing Call, Rushway Call, Sail With the Wind, Slate, Small Town Guy, Spectacular Myrt, Staley Lane, Super Kid N, TG Reanne, That's My Story, The Roan Ranger and Vickie's Dreamboat.
Five of the horses had won at the meeting the night before the blaze. They were Hoosier Flash, Dancing Kassady, Mood Man, TG Reanne and Caper Chase.
The fire, which began around 4:50 a.m. on Saturday, engulfed Barn No. 16 at Ohio's Lebanon Raceway, a harness-racing track which is part of the Warren County Fairgrounds. Investigations into the cause are ongoing, but state authorities have ruled out criminal intent. Meanwhile, the Lebanon Raceway has established a find to which people can donate.
A fundraising event for the victims and horsemen is also being planned by Kathy Prickett, of the track kitchen for Saturday December 19, under the grandstand.
The Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association has established a victims' fund the "Lebanon Horsemen's Disaster Relief Fund". Anyone interested in making a contribution may make a check payable and mail to: Lebanon Horseman's Relief Fund-- Account # 987395070, National City Bank, Attn: Larry Elovitz, Branch Manager, 763 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215.
A fund established by Lebanon Raceway, at the LCNB National Bank, is for those who wish to make a monetary contributions. Donations for the "Barn 16 Donation Account" should be sent to the bank, at 2 N. Broadway, Lebanon, OH 45036, or direct bank transfers may be made to the fund using bank routing number 042205708.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bing Bang---- The Flying Horse and a Prayer Answered

Our third installment is by Maggie House- Sauque and the prayers sent, and answered regarding a race horse named Bing Bang:

Bing Bang came into my life by accident. He was just a horse I played with while my dad was looking at another horse to buy. His name made me laugh and his pretty head drew me to him. He looked like a Breyer horse with a tiny, gorgeous head and a perfectly balanced body. He had won a big handicap in France and was brought (to the States) with the intentions of being sold by our bloodstock agent. Though I pushed my dad to look at him, he wasn't interested, but I couldn't stop talking about him.

I told everyone at the barn about him and prayed my dad would change his mind. God must have been listening because my prayer was answered and my dad surprised me a couple months later, he had been purchased to race for our stable.
It wasn't meant for Bing Bang to run for us as he was constantly sidelined with little problems. It was so long (his ongoing nagging injuries), that I forgot about him until I got a phone call from my Dad. He said that Bing Bang had bowed a tenon and had returned to training but wasn't doing well so they decided to retire him and make him a trail horse and so he was sent to a western trainer. Not a good idea! Bing Bang scared them so badly that they didn't want to ride him. So naturally my Dad thought I could have him for a show horse.

I agreed to take Bing Bang, after my trainer saw him and he came to live with me. It was a big gamble he was five and had been racing a long time, which makes re-training very difficult. However I figured I needed a challenge in my life and went for it. Bing Bang was by far the biggest challenge I have ever experienced! He had no trust and spooked at everything! It was awful, but slowly, very slowly it got better. Being in the ring with Bing Bang with other horses was a challenge. He didn't like them behind him and scared everybody so badly no one dared get to close to me. I learned quickly that talking to him calmed him down.
Jumping was a different story, he did it effortlessly-- like he had done it his entire life, nothing scared him! It was freaky! As Bing Bang became more confident, he moved so well we started him in the hunter ring and we did okay, but with little blow ups he would never make a top hunter, no matter how well he jumped. We returned to jumpers and it was there that he found his calling. He has been a successful jumper ever since, winning many championships.

Out of all the horses I have ever owned, he has taught me the most about patience and understanding. Even though I have a history of doing well in the show ring, he has taught me to play by his rules. There were many times I wanted to give up, gotten sick of his quirks, but I learned to love him and not change him. When we are in the ring, we are a team and he gives me everything he's got. Bing Bang has proven that the heart he showed as a racehorse transferred over to the show ring, and I am so lucky God put "Bing" into my life.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nopie--- The Funny Name Horse and His Rescue by Two Women Miles Away

The story of Nopie is the second in the series of December stories. I met Nopie at GEVA (Glen Ellen Vocational Academy) in Northern California in June of this year. A four year old colt, he was already well traveled by the time he arrived at GEVA. As a colt, he has tons of personality and was charming and pulled me in with his talent for getting into mischief (including figuring out how to open up the refrigerator door located just outside his stall).
Photo of Nopie by Christine Churchill

Here is his story and the ladies that saved him, Joyce and Chelle: (As told by Anne Koletzkep, GEVA volunteer):
On a cold winter day at Nebraska's Fonner Park, February 20, 2009 to be precise, just three days before his 4th birthday-- a dark bay horse with improbable name Nopie ran his last race. At least he tried to. He stumbled coming out of the gate, pulled up lame, and was vanned off the track. We now know he pulled his suspensory ligament and in doing so tore away a piece of the sesamoid bone in his left front ankle. The real tragedy of this already sad story is that Nopie should never have been entered in the race in the first place.
Nopie's story, what we know of it, began on a happy note in Northern California in December 2008, when he won two races back-to-back at Golden Gate Fields. But the note quickly turned sour when he didn't even place in his next race. Something had to be wrong. And it was- X-rays taken in January 2009 revealed that there was an irregularity developing in the sesamoid bones of his left ankle. Instead of giving the horse's ankle the rest it needed--which would have been costly especially for a lower level claimer as Nopie-- his owner transferred him to a trainer in Arizona to see how he would do in al lower-level claiming race. Again, Nopie finished in the back of the pack. So Nopie was sold to an owner/trainer in Nebraska, who was fully aware of Nopies' compromised ankle, kept Nopie in training and entered him in the race at Fonner Park.
Fortunately, Nopie had something going for him that, in a very real sense, saved his life-- his BIG, PLAYFUL, SUNNY personality. A personality that two women, Joyce and Chelle, had fallen in love with when they had met him at Golden Gate Fields. Assuming Nopie had been retired because of his ankle, Chelle and Joyce were horrified to find out he was entered to race at Fonner Park. Desperate to save him from what they feared was certain disaster, they pulled out all the stops to try and buy him before that race, but the owner refused, because he was absolutely certain his horse was going to win. After the race, of course, he was only too eager to sell. Chelle and Joyce hadn't been able to save the horse from disaster, but at least they had him. Nopie was coming home.
But Nopie needed a place to stay where he could be tended to while he gained some much needed weight and his leg healed. To the delight of everyone at GEVA, Chelle and Joyce chose to place him in Pam's capable hands until he was well. Since Nopie was looking at 6 to 9 months of confinement, Pam created a small paddock for him in front of his stall so he could spend his days getting lots of fresh air and watching the other horses on the farm. Her original plan was that Nopie would spend his nights inside the stall, but Nopie soon made it clear he didn't think much of that idea, so the paddock become his full-time home. Now, 7 months later, he has graduated to having simultaneous access to both his paddock and his stall, and judging from the number of times he moves from one to the other during the day, he very much approves of this new arrangement.
Such long term confinement is a lot to ask of a horse, but Nopie has not only risen to the challenge, he has managed to maintain his BIG, PLAYFUL, SUNNY personality through it all. That said, there's no denying that BIG, PLAYFUL, SUNNY, however endearing, is not always easy to live with. For example should you decide to tidy up Nopie's paddock, here is what awaits you:
Oh boy, look, a playmate is coming to my paddock. Can we play? Can we play? Huh? Can We? No? You have work to do? Well, OK, I can help, I can help. Yes I can. Oh, I'm sure I can. Like what's this? Your hat? Well what's that for? Don't you think it'd look better over here on the floor? Hey, what's this long pole? Handle of the pitchfork? Wow, look at how I can move it around with my shoulder; I'm sure that helps you so much. Here, let me move it some more. Hmmm. Maybe if I chewed on it, I'd be helping you even more. Wow, you got a carrot in these pockets? No? I'll bet you do. Let me just check and see for myself. Boy, this is really a deep pocket. You sure there's nothing in the bottom here, just over here in this little corner? Hey, what's this funny looking tab on the front of your jacket? Oh, wow, if I get it between my teeth and pull it, it goes up and down. This is really fun, don't you think? Up and down and up and down. You leaving? Why are you leaving? We were just getting started. Oh, oh my, maybe you're going to get me carrots. No, no, not that way, over here, in the big white box that's cold inside and has the door I know how to hold open with my chin. Oh nuts, you're going over to visit that other horse. Phooey! He gets all the attention. Like I'm not hurt, too. See, here my left leg? See? The one I'm pawing up all the bedding with? That's the one. It's hurt really, really, bad. You need to come check it out. I'll bite all the wrapping off if you don't. Oh wait! You're not stopping to see that the other horse after all, you're going to the buckets. The buckets! Food! OH WOW, you've got MY BLUE BUCKET! You're rinsing out MY BLUE BUCKET. YOU'RE GOING TO BRING ME FOOD! But no, you've put my bucket down. You must have forgotten I'm over here. I'd better make some noise to remind you. Hey, I'm over here! Here! Here! Over Here! Me!!! The one with the hurt leg and all his ribs showing-well, they used to be showing-- I'm hurt! I'm starving! I'm.....Excuse me, but where do you think you're going? You're leaving me here? All alone?! You're going off to do what? To go clean water tanks? You're going to clean water tanks instead of staying here to play with me? Are you out of your mind?! Hello...anyone there? Hmphf! Oh well, She'll be back. She always comes back. They all do. They dote on me. And how could they not. I'm Nopie!
To learn more about Nopie (or visit him) and the other residents of GEVA go to the website at

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What a Thoroughbred Taught a Person--- The Story of "Puppy"

This month I am dedicating The Second Race blog to stories of ex-race horses that have touched the lives of those that either adopted them, rescued or just loved them. My hope is in sharing stories this month, a few of the horses currently listed with our group (or any group for that matter) may find their way to a new home.

The first in the series of stories is by author Diane Tuorto......

"Puppy" AKA Regal Destroyer, photo Diana Tuorto

I met my Thoroughbred gelding, Puppy (registered name Regal Destroyer) in 1998, while taking lessons on a farm in New Jersey. Then 15 years old, Puppy had endured a hard life, having been shuffled from owner to owner. His early years were spent racing in Fingers Lake region of New York state; he remained there for five long years. While Puppy was a stalker, not a sprinter, his owners continued to enter him in six furlong races, where his performances were always noted as "tried hard in the end". He regularly came in second or third, but rarely won a race, earning barely over $ 10,000 in his many years on the race track.

At a towering 17.2 hands, Puppy next found work as a jumper, where he excelled in four foot courses. He had an amazing work ethic and also had the movement and responsiveness to succeed in 2nd level dressage competitions. By the time I met Puppy, this schoolmaster was working as a lesson and pleasure horse.

Puppy was a perfect example of a horse who was a bit TOO well trained. A friend of mine demonstrated this one day when she had forgotten something up at our barn. She said to leave Puppy. tacked up and alone, in the indoor arena and asked him to "stand". He stopped and stood perfectly still. When we returned, nearly five minutes later, there he stood, having not budged an inch or even lowered his head.

When his stall was left open one night, Puppy wandered outside to eat some grass (judging by the hoof prints), but by morning, was standing straight in his stall as if the door had been closed behind him. Thankfully, over our time together, Puppy realized that wasn't all about work and started to enjoy being silly and playful -- even small things like rubbing his head against my back seemed difficult for him to feel comfortable doing, but as the months went by, he learned that he wouldn't be scolded for what must have previously thought of as "bad behavior".

I had always loved Thoroughbreds, but had never been comfortable jumping any horse; under Puppy's guidance and patience, I soon took on fences, dressage, and hunter paces-- Puppy was willing to try whatever I asked and provided the confident partner I needed to overcome my nerves and excel at different disciplines of riding.

I purchased Puppy in 2000, but sadly, in February 2002, I was forced to put Puppy to sleep when degenerative arthritis in his spine and back (from a starting gate accident years before) had taken its toll on him. I still miss him terribly.

One thing Puppy and many other ex-racehorses have taught me is perseverance. Even when Puppy continued to lose on the racetrack, or in other disciplines, it was always noted how he would constantly give it his all, never complaining, hesitating, or showing any signs of the arthritis that ultimately took his life until the absolute end. Puppy was a fighter. His character and presence inspired me so much that I committed myself to write a novel loosely based on his life, which became Luck of the Draw, the story of a Thoroughbred racehorse that never gives up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zenyatta--- The Lesson for Girls Everywhere

Zenyatta, Del Mar 2009. Photo credit: John Chun

Zenyatta crossed the finish line on Saturday in the Breeders Cup Classic to a roar of emotion shared by all in attendance. Whether it was tears of joy, amazement or knowing you were witnessing history in the making, all around me and throughout the stands, the win was felt in unison.
As the blush of the win wore off on late Sunday afternoon, I remembered something that I had read previously about Zenyatta. As a yearling, she was purchased for $ 60,000 the bloodstock agent who purchased her said he felt he had possibly made a mistake and was bidding on the wrong horse as he couldn't believe she had slipped through the cracks and he had been able to successfully purchase her at the low price.
The reason why she was only $ 60,000? She had a skin disease that made her less attractive or desirable even though she had "vetted" out well. On the surface she was passed over for other yearlings, who looked better. This got me to thinking about young girls who are passed over every day and have labels put upon them at a young age. These labels can hamper their development for the rest of their lives. So many young ladies today are diamonds in the rough, and I wish society embraced them as girls in transition, not airbrushed creations in magazines.
Now of course, Zenyatta didn't buy into any labels or even know she was dismissed for something superficial, nor did she know that she was bigger than the rest of the yearlings in the sales barn. Zenyatta didn't know that her bones were bigger, and that she would need time to grow into herself to bloom into the stunning mare she would become. But her handlers did. Zenyatta was able to start her first race at the age of three instead of the current trend of two. She was given the time to grow into herself. Patience was given to allow her to become the filly she should be to compete at the highest level. Not rushing her to become a precocious sparkler, but a full blown fourth of July fireworks display.
Girls need the same thing, the time to grow, be nurtured by those around them that care for their well being and to not be forced or rushed into being something that someone else wants them to be. Girls need to accept their bodies and its bounty (and its limitations) without pressure. A beautiful swan can just be under the ugly duckling exterior, love and time will expose both.
Zenyatta is a winner, nothing can take that away. Girls are winners too, my hope is in watching Zenyatta crossing the finish line, that the same girls with their "Zenyatta Rocks" posters last Saturday looked in the mirror that night and said "I rock too".

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Offspring of Famous Horses Bring Hope to Cancer Patients

( Calvin, a 14 y.o. thoroughbred ex-race horse at Heaven Can Wait)

Discarded Offspring of Famous Racehorses Bring "HoPE" to Cancer Patients in New Program

Abandoned offspring of famous racehorses and other equines form unique healing bond with cancer patients in new program at horse sanctuary in Central California.

San Miguel, CA (PRWEB) October 28, 2009 -- HoPE - Horse Passion for Everyone - at the Heaven Can Wait Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in San Miguel, California, is uniting cancer patients and survivors with the discarded offspring of famous racehorses and other equines in a successful, free program that helps both patients and horses.
"The patients and the horses, in their own way, can relate to being sick and, sometimes, feeling abandoned," states Susan Schwartz, the hands-on founder of the Sanctuary. "When the patients see these beautiful creatures that need their love, the pain of their own illness temporarily dissolves. In turn, the horses have a powerful energy they want to share and reach out to the patient."
Pair O'Docs, a grandson of Secretariat, lost 3 races and ended up a pack horse, eventually falling off a cliff - but doesn't care if the person brushing his mane has no hair. Princeton, a great grandson of Seattle Slew, was a loser as a racehorse. Discarded due to a leg injury, Princeton is now a winner in the eyes of a cancer patient who, while recuperating from chemotherapy, leads him around the ranch.
Psychotherapist Leigh Shambo, the director of H.E.A.L. (Human Equine Alliances for Learning) worked with Heaven Can Wait volunteers, providing training and developing a plan to make each session safe, inspiring, and healing for all.
The Sanctuary is an incredibly clean and peaceful environment currently housing 26 horses and donkeys. While not all of the horses in the HoPE program are ex-racehorses, all are rescues. "Many of these animals have been horribly abused," adds Schwartz, "and housing and treatment are very expensive." Yet, it is a labor of love for Schwartz who hopes that those who have racehorses, bet on them or just enjoy their own horses will make a donation to the non-profit to both help the horses find comfort and peace and to aid the cancer patients who visit them.
"All ages are welcome and no prior horse experience is required to take part in the HoPE program," notes Schwartz, "just a willingness to share your love and feelings with an animal that, somehow, knows exactly how you feel."
To make a tax-deductible donation or to find out more about the HoPE program go to:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Retraining a Race Horse-- A Handbook

Congratulations! You have adopted a race horse fresh off the track. You now have lifetime commitment to both the horse and to yourself to 'retrain' the "race" out of your horse.
Tranquility Farms in Tehachapi, CA has developed a 17 page tool to help the experienced as well as novice off the track thoroughbred owner to transition their ex-racer into a pleasure riding horse.
Several helpful topics are discussed such as grooming, tying the horse, lunging, saddle work and confidence building tools.
Practical insight into what a race horse knows on the track is discussed including wash racks, grooms, exercise riders and how a jockey receives a "leg up" on race day. These subjects are useful in letting your newly acquired race horse learn to unwind, relax, bond with you his adopter or trainer, and build his confidence.
Additional items in the handbook, are the subjects of ulcers, diet, hoof care along with socialization and reminders that are good to know when your race horse arrives at your barn.
About Tranquility Farms:
Priscilla Clark is the President of Tranquility Farms and is a lifelong horse professional. Since her earliest involvement in racing she has taken in Thoroughbreds that were injured or unwanted, and for the last ten years advocacy for humane retirement has been the main focus of her working life.
Harry A. Biszantz Memorial Center for Thoroughbred Retirement has grown to care for a constant population of 100 horses in rehabilitation, retraining, or comfortable retirement. Now known simply as Tranquility Farm, this special place of spacious barns and pastures is dedicated solely to the welfare of the Thoroughbred horse, where retiring runners enjoy the peace and appreciation they deserve, and where an unwanted broodmare or yearling can find shelter while awaiting a new life in an adoptive home.
To learn more about Tranquility Farms or to visit the ranch go to

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tampa Bay Downs and T.R.O.T. Partner Together for Racehorses announced today that Tampa Bay Downs and T.R.O.T. (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa) have partnered to transition race horses from it's race track to T.R.O.T. The main function will be to educate the trainers of Tampa Bay Downs on the option to have their horses surrendered at the end of their racing careers either due to injury or because they can no longer be competitive as a means to re-train, rehab and/or re-home them. I applaud the efforts of both to ensure the safety of the horses. My hope is that more race tracks will follow suit.
I visited the T.R.O.T website and found this article to share:

(Reprinted from

The life of a racehorse is not an easy one. While the industry of horseracing is controversial amongst the general public, we recognize the courage that these horses have to go out and risk their lives in every race. Many run with known injuries; others run for years on strength and heart until their bodies are just tired and worn out. For those who run the dozens of races and make their earnings dollar by dollar, life tends to be long and difficult. These horses deserve a dignified retirement to loving homes, where they can live the rest of their lives as a friend and companion.
Unfortunately, too many of our country’s noble Thoroughbreds are ending up in poor conditions and auction lots. This is often the end of the road for these horses as many are sold to kill buyers who send them off to slaughter. Horses like Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and the great Exceller both met their unfortunate fates in slaughterhouses. While we stand against the practice of equine slaughter, we understand that curbing these atrocities starts at home and on our local racetracks. Our goal is to offer trainers a safe means of retirement for unwanted Thoroughbreds, and the public the opportunity to welcome one of these brave horses into their homes. While the endeavor to save all of them is seemingly impossible, we will strive to help those we can to ensure their second chance at life.
Anyone who has been around Thoroughbreds knows that they have unique personalities all their own. Anyone who has accepted them into their home after racing understands the challenges, but gratitude that they exude for changing their life. All of those involved with TROT have personal experiences with OTTBs. From learning to ride, to rehabilitating a brave Thoroughbred pulled from the slop of a kill pen, and others working daily to ensure the health and safety of those who are still employed as racehorses… We understand their value, we honor their bravery, and we are committed to their safety.

Online Games and Horses-- Where is the Disconnect?

Hi I'm Haleigh and I was looking at your web site. I play on a game called and lot of me and my friends on there post messages to stop horse slaughter I think it could help. Sometimes on people pretend to be slaughtering there horses by not feeding them or going to the vet or farrier. Its like there mocking it, its annoying and scary. The horses on horseland (virtual) can get sick and either die (slaughters say they go to slaughter house) or they can be rescued by a group me and my friends made to save them. :). its sad to see them lowering there heads it almost looks real:(. thanks for reading! bye!

This was the post that caught my eye this morning and it got me to thinking about the disconnect between fantasy and reality. I guess the purpose of fantasy, is just that an escape, where there are no rules, boundaries or remorse for your actions. Haleigh, I would suppose can't be much older than a pre-teen and she is displaying a level of maturity with her post that many should paid heed to.

I went to the website to learn about this online community. The description under 'Learn More' said the following:

Horseland is an online community and virtual world. You can care for, compete with, breed, and trade your very own horses and dogs. You're the stable manager! It's the oldest and biggest online horse game.

Hmmmm nothing about the fun of disposing of your horse as the stable manager after its no longer useful. Now while it appears that I am passing judgment on the makers of this site, I am not. They can't possibly be held accountable for what is done, said or created on their online community by the several thousands playing the game. What I am passing judgment on is the moral compass that is constantly being pointed in the wrong direction and the disconnect between reality and fantasy for kids.

If a young girl like Haleigh is distressed about the uncaring fictional world she finds herself in while playing her online game and the uncaring, disposable approach her fellow community members use towards the horses. How can we help her? How can we help the other "Haleigh's" of the world that need to be reached ie. those that don't care?. How do we has a society teach that animals are living, breathing creatures that are dependent upon us for their care?. How can we teach as a society that we are not going to continue to be a disposable world be it diapers, paper plates or horses. There is too high a price to pay for that animal, that human, and the earth when we treat even a "virtual" game with such disregard. I am past the age of the generation that loves video games, virtual games or starring endlessly at building a farm or caring about Mafia wars. I do not understand the appeal at all. What I do know however, is that these games have desensitized people to "truth". Where else can the Haleighs of the world, kill 30 alien predators before going to school at 8 a.m. in the morning? Nowhere but in a fantasy. And sometimes we know that perception is reality, look at Columbine for instance. Does this seem like I am over reaching here, I don't. The ugliness of horse slaughter is real, and if the message purported in Haleigh's' post is any indication, we aren't doing a good job as a society of deciphering real pain from fantasy.

Haleigh's post to me is a cry for a rally to teach children from their earliest remembrance that we are responsible for our actions, our thoughts and for the animals given to us to have dominion over, but in a responsible, caring manner.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buyer Beware When Donating to a Charity

An article in the Bostonist, dated 10/13/09 regarding Blue Hills Riding Center closing spurred me to look into how to decipher a legitimate charity from one that may be in trouble, or in other cases, non existent. Blue Hills from the article ran into financial trouble when it appeared that the owner, an animal lover but not a businesswoman started to collect or hoard horses and refused to adopt our or sell the horses when the money started running out. Charity events put on by this same person were paid for by donations that should have went to the care and feeding of the horses. Its easy to have donations exploited or mismanaged so knowing where your money is going is important. Knowing something about the charity, the administrative team, the allotment of monies, the salaries paid out and to whom etc can be found with some time and investigation.

Here is an article that I discovered giving some key tips on investigating a charity.

It is important for donors to be careful when selecting a charity to support. Some charities are outright scams. Others siphon most of the money they receive towards administrative costs rather than reaching out to the community. Still others are legitimate but ineffective and poorly run. Donors need to do their homework before handing over their hard-earned cash to the wrong people.

Ideally, a charity should be a not for profit with 501(c)(3) status. If it’s not, donors cannot claim their donations on their taxes. (This shouldn't’t scare donors away from international charities—most have some affiliation in the U.S. and are registered with the IRS.)

The charity should have a clear mission statement and should use the majority of the money it receives from donations to support its programs rather than to pay off executive salaries or do more fundraising. Donors should be able to request and receive written material about how the charity uses its funds.

When researching a charity, donors need to be very sure they are researching the correct charity. Scam artists frequently use names similar to those of a well-known charity to trick donors. For instance, one scam artist named his charity “Kids Wish USA.” Many of his victims confused the name with that of the legitimate charity “Make A Wish Foundation.”

People donating to national charities can research a charity on or Charity Navigator also provides information about international charities. offers charities that meet their standards a logo with the phrase “BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards” on it. offers a “Four Star Charity” logo to their highest-rated charities.

Small or local charities are harder to research as they often do not show up on national databases (although does list some local charities). People who wish to donate to charity locally should consider asking for references—who has the charity benefited?

(article reprint from Legitimate Charities website).

The Internet is invaluable in researching a charity, horse rescue or individuals associated with either. A Google search can net articles, photos and additional information regarding a person or group. As always, "buyer beware" is the name of the game when donating your hard earned money.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Retirement of Smokey Stover to Old Friends and what The Second Race is all About

On Sunday evening, I received the news I had been waiting to hear, Smokey Stover had safely arrived at Old Friends. The story of Smokey Stover's retirement to Old Friends is one that exemplifies what networking,and The Second Race is all about.

The events leading to his arrival at Old Friends began approximately two weeks prior when I was alerted late at night of a posting on the CANTER California website that Smokey Stover was listed on their website for sale at $ 600.00. I was surprised and thought that someone had made a mistake. I went to the site and sure enough the description was there. He had been listed on the site on 9/4/09 and the contact information was that of his former trainer. There wasn't a picture of the glorious black gelding, but I knew it was in fact the former Breeder Cup winner that was for sale. I just couldn't stand the thought of this horse going to someone that didn't know who he was, or that he could not have the retirement he deserved. He was a bit arthritic, so what would his future career be? The listing said he loaded well, stands when shod etc, but not much more about what he could or couldn't do. I at that moment made it my mission to do what The Second Race does, and that is Network for Results.

The following Facebook post by Vivien Morrison describes in some detail what transpired and his arrival at Old Friends. Vivien is a volunteer for Old Friends and keeps the thousands of followers up-to-date on the activities of the equine athletes that reside there.

Smokey arrived safely at Old Friends Sunday, just before nightfall. Before leaving the Golden state, he received excellent care in the barn of trainer Greg Gilcrest, but now retired from the racetrack, it became apparent that Smokey was looking for a forever home. For a time, it appeared he might go to an adopted home through CANTER, and equine advocates, including the FOBs began to raise funds on his behalf...however, Sharla Sanders, of The Second Race spotted his adoption listing and with a great appreciation of his contributions to the racing world, she went into action, contacting his connections and referring them to Old Friends. Sharla's efforts were rewarded as Michael Blowen was very happy to see this lovely fellow home and so with Ms. Sanders continued assistance, transportation was arranged and with the aide of Mr. Gilcrest he was on his way to the Bluegrass!...... Best known to some as the stablemate of the star crossed Lost in the Fog, he was owned by the late Harry Aleo and trained by Greg Gilcrest. Bred in Florida, by Put it Back, out of the Jolie's Halo mare Milady's Halo, Smokey Stover was a successful stakes winner during his three and four year old campaigns, started 14 times and only finished off the board once..... He ended his career with over $ 750,000 in earnings and 8 victories. His most high profile victory perhaps was in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita. He also captured the G2 Potrero BC H and the G3 Bay Meadows BC H. Sprint. The best part of the Smokey Stover story is that his connections were willing to put the horse first and his arrival at Old Friends is a true testament to the appreciation and respect true racing supporters like Sharla Sanders have for these outstanding athletes...Smokey brought joy to his followers in California and her primary aim was to find him a forever home in which he could be admired by his many fans and given the dignity and respect deserving of such a fine champion. We are honored to have this beautiful...and tall...fellow in our Old Friends family.
I want to extend my thanks to Greg Gilchrist, the family of Harry Aleo, Diane Repp for alerting me to Smokey Stover's posting on CANTER, Michael Blowen, KC Transport, Irish Rose Farm in Bradbury for allowing me to visit Smokey before he continued on his journey to Kentucky and for the 100's of racing fans that cared about him when discovered he was available to a new home. The networking that took place in literally hours, shows what can be done when racing fans, organizations, and people work together for a common good. Best wishes to Smokey and enjoy your retirement you handsome boy....until next time.....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hard Questions to ask Yourself if Interested in Horse Rescue

Often times I am asked "How can you do horse rescue?". Truthfully, I don't "rescue" horses, I facilitate their (the horses) placement, transition or adoption from the race track into a new home or career. I have chosen this niche, as I would like in my efforts to try and "save" a horse from an uncertain future or from the auction lot by working with owners, trainers, jockeys and race trackers as the first line of defense for our equine athletes. Having said that I do on occasion volunteer my efforts, money, or resources to those that do "rescue". I found a group that networks for horses, one horse at a time, and on their website there was a checklist or a "gut check" of questions that a responsible person or group should ask themselves PRIOR to becoming involved in equine rescue. The questions are:

Checklist for Potential Rescuers

- Am I physically/mentally up to this challenge?
- Am I strong enough to take criticism for what I am doing?
- Do I have the time to dedicate to saving this horse?
- Can I decide between rescue and euthanasia with the signs the horse is giving?
- Am I committed to following the guidance provided for the horse’s care?
- Am I organized enough to document what is being done to care for the horse (both
for “proof” of care should I be reported for neglect myself and to keep track of meds, weights, feed routines, etc.)
- Do I have friends/family that can help me care for the horse in my absence?
- Do I have the money to pay for food, vet bills and necessary supplies?
- Do I have the necessary equipment (feed buckets, water trough/buckets, weather
appropriate blanket, halter, lead, sling for raising a horse)?
- Do I have a clean, warm/cool, dry and safe place to nurse the horse back to health?
- Do I have room for the horse to get exercise?
- Do I have a good relationship with my local vet?
- Is the vet willing to make farm calls quickly?
- Do I know how to check the horse’s temperature?
Do I have stomach/skills for administering feeding tubes, shots, doctoring wounds?
- Can the horse eat without assistance?
- Do I have any clue on what to feed this horse?
- How bad off is he/she? (Body condition score)
- Does the horse drop feed when trying to eat?

The mission of One Horse At a Time, Inc from it's website states:

One Horse at a Time, as our name implies, works with one horse at a time either through a bonefide rescue organization or one on one with individuals.

We provide a network of resources scattered throughout the country. Through our affiliated groups, we can direct resources to where it is needed. In the short period of time we’ve been an organization, we’ve contributed to the rescue and rehabilitation of many horses. We’ve had yard sales, lemonade stands, conducted on-line fundraising to generate the funds needed to help these horses.

In addition to sponsoring a horse, One Horse at a Time also donates to horses with special needs or helps in equine emergencies (such as raising funds for a hay shortage drive or hurricane damage).

To reach One Horse at a Time go to

Friday, October 9, 2009

Upcoming Events to Support Horse Rescues

There are several upcoming charity events throughout the United States that support horses, here is a sampling of just a few:

New Jersey and Pennsylvania:

Children's author Diana Tuorto will participate in several book signings this fall to benefit New Jersey and Pennsylvania-based horse and cat rescues.

Tuorto will appear on Saturday, Oct. 10 at REASON Horse Rescue’s annual open house in Harveys Lake, Pa. and 50 percent of Tuorto’s book proceeds will benefit REASON. She will also appear at the Mylestone Equine Rescue’s annual open house in Phillipsburg, with 50 percent of book proceeds benefiting MER. On Saturday, Oct. 24, Tuorto will participate in Thoroughbred horse rescue ReRun’s open house at its new facility, Reindancer Farm, in New Egypt, with 50 percent of book proceeds also benefiting ReRun.

For more information,visit


Hair Cuts for Horses
Heidi Olson-Hilder is hoping haircuts will help horses who need help in North Clarendon.

The Rutland hairdresser will put her scissors to good use Friday when Avanti, the salon she works at on Center Street, will host an all-day "cut-a-thon" to raise money for Spring Hill Horse Rescue.

Olson-Hilder, who keeps a coin-can for the rescue on her cutting table, said she's been trying to help the group ever since one of the stable's nonallergenic horses helped her fulfill a longstanding wish.

"I'm deathly allergic to horses, but I've always dreamed of riding them," she said.

The rescued horse she rides has granted her wish. Now, she's trying to give back to the shelter that takes in equines from a wide range of venues and backgrounds and either permanently cares for them or tries to find them new homes.

It's an expensive undertaking, according to the rescue's director, Gina Brown.

"It's about $40,000 a year to provide feed and medical care under normal conditions," she said describing the needs of her 23-member herd. "If a horse has suffered cruelty or has medical needs it costs more."

This winter, Brown is worrying about more than just the medical needs of her horses. Her 15-year-old daughter, Zoey, was recently diagnosed with leukemia and Brown said she's grateful for the fundraiser.

"If I know I'll have money through the fundraiser to pay for hay, I can focus on Zoey and getting her well," she said.

Brown said all the money raised by the cut-a-thon would go toward the horses. The nonprofit rescue is supported primarily by donations, she said, along with a small amount of grant funding.

The cut-a-thon will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday with Olson-Hilder donating all the proceeds from her haircuts. Other hairdressers at the salon will donate portions of their day to the fundraiser, she said, with a minimum donation of $20 per customer.

In addition to the haircuts, interested donors can buy raffle tickets for gift certificates from local businesses. The raffle will be drawn during an event at Pub 42 on Wales Street from 6 to 8 p.m. which will include live music.


Hunks & Horses Calendar Launch Event

The launch of the 2010 "Hunks & Horses" calendar will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Boot Barn, 3719 N. Oracle Road.
Calendar sales benefit HEART — Happy Equine Acres Rescue and Therapy — of Tucson, a horse rescue facility on the east side that performs miracles on a daily basis.
The original Hunks & Horses calendar was published for 2009 by Swingin' SaddleBabes LLC, a partnership of local women who spend hours riding desert trails together. The idea took shape when they discovered that no one had ever done a calendar of farriers except a group in England who created a calendar featuring nude farriers, a possibility the Swingin' SaddleBabes chose not to explore.
"Other than me and my veterinarian, there is no one who is more important to my horses' well being than my farrier," said Jean Waters, a founding member of Swingin' SaddleBabes.
"Even if your horses go 'barefoot,' you still need a farrier to trim and take care of their hooves."
Recruiting farriers for 2010 was easier, with six farriers volunteering for a second round.
The first year was a learning year for the group, and as planning for the 2010 edition began, they capitalized on the lessons they'd learned. Because printing costs require such a large amount of capital, finding ways to save money in production was vital.
According to member Linda Fernandez, "We wanted to double our contribution to the horse rescue this year, so we really focused on how to be more efficient with our resources."
To that end, the group enlisted the services of a student photographer, Tanya Sova, a senior in the University of Arizona photography program.
For more information visit the Web sites and

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Your Ex-Racehorse Knows--- How to Transition Him from the Racetrack to Your Barn

While looking at several retirement organizations websites, I ran across this post from CANTER Mid-Atlantic that I wanted to share. For more articles from this author visit I also learned that as of August 19, 2009 CANTER Mid-Atlantic was no longer accepting thoroughbreds except from Delaware Racetrack. This decision was made in part from the lack of funding it obtains from among other resources the racing industry itself. Hopefully in the future race tracks will work with designated retirement agencies to partner for the equine athletes.

From Mid Atlantic CANTER:

by Kristie Buckley-Simon

Every Thoroughbred has been trained and handled by different people, and each possess their own very different personalities so obviously every one of them is unique, but this is a general guideline as to what your new off the track Thoroughbred has been exposed to and what is new for him now that he’s off the track and in your home.

First off, remember that even though your horse may have been exposed to something everyday of his "previous life" you’ve now brought him into a completely new environment. That does not mean that he will act like a bomb-proof childs pony just because you want to hose him off. You’ve brought him to a new home, with new people, new animals, and a new barn. And don’t forget, he’s probably got an awful lot of pent up energy. So just because he’s used to being hosed every day, that does not mean that he will stand there and let you hose him off. You might very well end up short a wash rack and gain a very upset horse.

Thoroughbreds at the track are exposed to a variety of things in their nomadic life spent at various training facilities and racetracks. Even at the tender age of three, these horses have been working for a year or more, unlike our home raised show, trail or sport horses that barely know what work is until four or five years old. You would be amazed at what these horses experience as routine and if you have an opportunity to visit the backside of the track, you will see what I mean, but here’s a list of a few things you might not be aware of.

Even at a young age, your ex-racehorse will probably have excellent, even impeccable, ground manners, especially for the farrier and the vet. They are used to being blanketed and brushed, hosed and clipped. They’ve had their legs wrapped and medicated; their feet picked and prodded. Their hair has been trimmed, shaved and thinned. They’re used to having bicycles and golf carts zipping by endlessly, tractors and other noisy, heavy, and otherwise normally terrifying equipment working nearby. They’ve been bombarded by noise from the loudspeakers and cheers from winning betters.

But, and this is a very important but, your new pal has a lot to learn. Things like hot wire (electric fence) and crossties will be new, very frightening, and possibly dangerous experiences if you’re not careful and introduce these things slowly. Experiment first to learn if your horse respects a wire and always make sure that any hot wire is clearly marked or flagged. Although used to standing quietly tied from under the chin loop of their halters, sometimes for long periods waiting for an exercise rider to appear, most ex-racehorses are totally unfamiliar with the fact that the sideways pull of crossties means to stand still. They will attempt to move forward or backward, confused by the unusual restraint and might attempt to rear or break free. Use common sense and caution in teaching your horse how to stand in crossties and never leave them standing unattended.

Other things that he might need to learn are how to deal with the feel of someone mounting, not to mention the feel of new and heavier saddles. Normally, you will find that it only takes a short adjustment period for them to accept a new saddle, however, you’ll probably have the best luck sticking with a snaffle bit for quite awhile. The jockeys are boosted into the saddle while the horse is at a walk so if he attempts to move off while being mounted, he is only demonstrating for you that he has learned his lessons well!

Dogs are not something you will find at the track so you might find that your hundred pound German Shepherd or your even your five pound poodle and your new horse are not the best of friends. In fact, if your dog seems overly inquisitive or is a herding dog that insists on moving your horses from one end of the pasture the other for fun, you might want to keep him a good distance from your horse, especially in that first adjustment period after you bring him home.

If you have small children use the same principle as with your dog, keep them at a distance and introduce them to your new Thoroughbred slowly and in a controlled environment. They are not used to small children and it’s always best to err on the safe side when dealing with children.

Some training aspects that you might find frustrating are lunging (they have never done it), leg yields (jockey’s legs are up at their necks), trotting and cantering to the right (racetrack turns are always to the left) and especially stopping (fast stops on the track at fast speeds could mean injury).

When your Thoroughbred was first trained he learned to tolerate the weight of a rider, he learned what the bit was and then he learned how to run. He didn’t learn how to balance while making the transition from trot to canter. He didn’t learn that a rider might actually have a say in what gait the horse will go. When they go out to run, either race or just a workout, basically they walk or trot to the track, and canter slowly a quarter mile until warmed up. They are then allowed to fall into a racing canter and then fall into a controlled gallop. Fall being the important word here. These are not flowing dressage transitions. Your Thoroughbred quite literally has learned to fall into a canter...and always on the left lead. When training, this will be a source of frustration. But now you can’t say you didn’t expect that.

The other source of frustration will be stopping. Previously when asked to stop your ex-racer probably did just that, only it took him a half mile or so before he did. Huntseat judges frown on that type of transition in the show ring. It will take work to train him to stop in a timely fashion, but with patience and work it can be done.

Hopefully, this will prepare you for when you bring home your new off the track Thoroughbred. At the least, I hope it cuts down on your surprises. Patience is the key and with patience and time, I promise you will find training your Thoroughbred will be a fun and rewarding experience -- for you and your ex-racer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on the Arabian Horses Seized in Texas

Auction for 76 Egyptian Arabians to end this week

October 2, 2009

There has been a big improvement in the condition of the north Texas horses seized nearly two months ago, including the horse, pictured above and at bottom this week, and below, when he was seized.

An online auction in Texas for the right to adopt 76 Egyptian Arabians seized by authorities has attracted strong bids for some of the horses.
A total of 77 horses were seized from a Pilot Point property by the Denton County Sheriff's Office on August 14, assisted by staff of the Humane Society of North Texas.

Almost all the horses were identified as Egyptian Arabians, many of them with rare bloodlines. There are fewer than 30,000 registered Egyptian Arabians in the world.

Sixty-six-year-old Gordon Dennis Key, of Ranazans Arabians, signed the animals over to the humane society, which set about rehoming them.

The bidding process was devised by the society after consulting with key Arabian industry leaders. Prospective bidders had to apply for registration for the right to bid. They were vetted to ensure they had the experience to handle the horses, most of whom are unbroken.

While the society received several hundred inquiries about adopting the horses - at one stage they had four lines receiving calls, as well as cellphones - the vetted list of approved bidders considered to have suitable credentials amounted to a little over 100 people.

The society's lead humane investigator, Tammy Roberts, said 76 of the horses have been offered in the auction process, which closes this week. She told Horsetalk today that one of the breeding mares had reached $7500 and others had reached $2500.

There have been several bids of at least $2000. Even some of the older geldings were attracting bidder interest, around the $100 to $300 mark.

About 20 of the horses have so far attracted bids.

"We just want to see these horses in good homes and being cared for. They have been through so much."

Roberts said many of the horses were older. She said there were two yearlings, several 3-5-year-olds and a large group aged 8-10. The remainder were mostly over 20.

She expected some of the horses would remain without homes after the auction and the society would sift through the applications in a bid to get the horses suitably rehomed.

Nearly all the horses have been formally identified and have been matched to registration paperwork.

"Some wonderful Arabian people came in," she says. They went through the paperwork, checked those with brands and managed to match nearly all the animals with their formal paperwork.

She said the society was still getting calls about the horses, including overseas interest, which would likely lead to more bidders being approved.

Some of the horses were found in stalls thick with dung and urine.
Roberts said the horses had improved remarkably since they were seized, in particular the mares, which had been in generally better condition than the others at the time the animals were seized.

Their improving condition has seen some of them grow feistier, she noted, with staff getting the odd nip and bite.

Roberts said the Humane Society of North Texas had spent $200,000 so far this year on equine cruelty cases.

"We have taken on over 500 horses in the last two years," she said.

She praised the arabian horse community for its support.

"The arab community has stepped up to assist in volunteering and raising some funds." One organisation raised $2000 to help feed the horses, she said.

"We would like to see more of this in the horse world," she said. The arab community had set an example that she would like to see other breed groups follow.

Roberts said the Denton County District Attorney's Office was continuing its investigation into the treatment of the horses before their seizure.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Retired Racehorse Training Project Kicks off in Maryland

(photo by John Chun)

(Press Release from

Both the Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association are supporting a new project to train Maryland riders to work with ex-racehorses.

Maryland trainer Steuart Pittman, Jr. of Dodon Farm in Davidsonville is kicking off the Retired Racehorse Training Project on October 4, with a ticketed event at Maryland Therapeutic Riding in Crownsville.

"Retired racehorses are a forgotten treasure in the horse world," said Pittman. "Twenty years ago recreational riders thought nothing of hopping on these animals and heading off to their local horse show. Today we have misdirected our obsession with safety against these horses simply because they are enthusiastic about their work. When trained and ridden well these are some of the most responsive and safest horses anywhere."

The Retired Racehorse Training Symposium will show ex-racers at all stages of their post-race training with riders at various skill levels. The audience will learn what it takes to ride and train these horses effectively, starting with the balance and tact of a jockey.

"The only way to drastically increase the market for horses off the track is to demystify the race horse," Pittman said. "They are for the most part happy animals who have been treated like kings by expert horsemen at the track. They come away ready to learn and eager to please. It's an issue that horse folks are passionate about, both inside and outside the racing industry. It's an area where a little education can go a long way toward solving a big problem if we can reach enough people."

Ticket sales for the October 4 symposium have exceeded expectations. Plans are being made for a national tour of these events in 2010, and for a series of sessions in January at the Maryland Horse World Expo. Tickets and additional information are available online.

The symposium will take place in the indoor arena at Maryland Therapeutic Riding in Crownsville, Md. from 1-5 p.m. with an intermission. Tickets will cost $25, with $5 of that going directly to Maryland Therapeutic Riding

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lava Man-- A Commentary

I don't care how many quotes I read about how much happier Lave Man is now than when residing in a paddock somewhere. No doubt a good horseman can read his animal's emotions to some degree; but until Lava Man inks the contract himself and tells us all just exactly what he really wants to do, this is just another case of humans putting themselves before the animals they claim to love.
Obviously the connections of Lava Man will say they'll only run the old guy if they're 100-percent sure he's healthy and capable. And the truth of the matter is they will have no clue. Consult the spirits of Barbaro, Eight Belles, Pine Island, George Washington and Ruffian.

Since the official announcement of Lava Man's return to the race track I have received numerous emails, phone calls, text messages, commentaries, comments and now the latest, a petition to remove Lava Man from the race track altogether. For some reason, this request directed to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), Dr. Rick Arthur and Doug O'Neill has irritated me more than the others. There isn't a horse alive that "inks a contract" so the comment is hyperbolic at best.

I understand the emotion, I understand the fear and I understand the risk for any horse on any given day; including the risk associated with the "un-retirement" of Lava Man. What I believe has been missed in most of the debate is the potential that many race horses will have their careers extended with the advances of stem cell procedures such as Lava Man's.
I am in a unique position, having a small glimpse into Lava Man from my association with some of those involved with him. I can say that originally I was shocked when I learned that Lava Man was galloping and training at Magali Farms months ago. I love Lava Man as much as the next person, and have had the privilege of seeing him several times during his racing and resting periods. I know the care and condition that he was in before he left Magali and arrived at Hollywood Park. The pictures for this post are from my last visit with him four days after he arrived back at the race track. Does this look like a beaten down, broke down, unhappy horse? I beg to differ.
But his being happy is not what this commentary is about. This commentary is from another point of view. The stem cell research while expensive at this time could have far reaching ramifications for race horses. Much like Barbaro, Eight Belles, and Ruffian (the later having an equine hospital named in honor of her) their tragedies did make a difference, but AFTER their injury and demise. Lava Man is alive and well, and the research and results will be monitored and that means going back to the race track and entering in a race to really understand the full success or failure of this procedure. Absolutely there is risk involved with this, heart sick risk, but when I think of the numbers of horses that could race longer, retire sounder, or have a better quality of life because of advances in equine medicine when they can no longer race, I have to take notice. Others like myself, take in the broken down horses that can't race. At 2 or 3 years of age these horses become available to rescues/retirement facilities on a regular basis. What if these same horses were able to take advantage of replacement therapies as a viable option instead of being a disposable commodity?

In California while synthetic tracks have reduced somewhat the catastrophic injuries, it has been documented that the injuries now to race horses are of a different nature. More fractures and career ending injuries due to the new tracks. What if stem cell therapy was an answer to keeping horses racing longer? Thereby extending for a few more years their careers and alleviating the need to scramble to find them homes (meaning not dumping them when they can no longer race. The potential results, more race horses running, filling races, and keeping horsemen and owners in the game, which is what this sport currently needs especially in California.

The TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) recently produced a video of the presentation given on stem cell research perhaps if we educate ourselves on exactly what Lava Man has had done to him, we can better see the advantages of this medical intervention and remove emotion and name calling.

Let's stop for one minute, remove the emotion and outrage from whatever perceived ills the owners of Lava Man have done by putting him in training and let's look to the science of this decision for the greater good of many others. Perhaps this will make it easier to see that Lava Man may have not "inked" this deal, but I do know one thing, Lava Man is a champion in more ways than one, and could have the legacy that makes him one of the greatest for the sport of racing.

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