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.

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