Monday, May 10, 2010

Touching Greatness in a Special Way

Sometimes platitudes of greatness are thrown around to easily. In horse racing this is often the case. We talk of greatness often prematurely, and are disappointed when our hopes for a race horse don't pan out.

Luckily, I am able through my volunteering as the "Artistic Director" for the Equine Expression paintings done for CERF (California Equine Retirement Foundation in Winchester, CA) to spend my time in a unique way and give back while touching true greatness in a very special way. I have the enviable task of creating artwork with notable horses at the race track. Through the "masterpieces" created by name race horses; they (the race horses) touch those that purchase their artwork, and in turn support the retired race horses at CERF.

Equine Expressions are made using non toxic paints, some encouragement through treats, and a knowing eye when enough is enough. I work to secure the artists with the horsemen at the track, asking for a donation of the talents of their horses. The painting sessions, include pictures taken during the painting, a clipping of their tail or mane and the satisfaction of spending time around horses that mean so much to so many.

This past year I was able to paint with Lookin At Lucky, who is currently on the Triple Crown trail for the Bob Baffert barn. Other stars that offered their talents were Misremembered winner of the Big Cap at Santa Anita, and Richard's Kid who won the Pacific Classic. Evita Argentina, the multiple winning race mare for John Sadler was a willing subject, and Bluesthestandard, formerly claimed by Kristin Mulhull at the end of his racing career, painted for us before being permanently retired to Old Friends in Kentucky.

Others that lent their talents were M One Rifle, Silver Swallow, Kinsale King who went on to win in Dubai, the recently retired (again) Lava Man, The Pamplemousse, Bertrando, Tribal Rule, The Tin Man, Grazen, Springhouse and the recently departed, Hyperbaric.

Not all greatness is on the race track. Commissioned paintings were completed for owner of their horses that think they are very special even without winning on the track. Commission artwork can be arranged throughout California. Your horse does not have to be an accomplished race horse; any breed can paint and support CERF!

New arrivals off the track to CERF joined in the painting circle, Top This and That, in particular gifted a former police officer struggling with ALS a portrait of his work to cheer him as he works everyday to fight his disease.

Some of the retired race horses at CERF that have painted are Debonair Joe, Truly A Judge, Sigfreto, and Unfurl The Flag. A resident horse at CERF is available most anytime to paint a commissioned painting.

Yes, greatness is a word thrown around easily, but the above mentioned talented thoroughbreds and their generous connections show there are times when the word is right on target.

To learn more about CERF and Equine Expressions visit their website at

(PHOTOS top to bottom): Lookin At Lucky, Bluesthestandard, Evita Argentina, and Top This And That

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tolo-- A Story of Patience and Reward

The Second Race welcomes another story by one of our members, Tarra and Tolo what a great team they have become...Enjoy!

It all started on January 24th of 2007, my 8th grade year, when I woke up to find my 3 year old Quarter Pony (my first horse I ever owned, I had saved up all my birthday money and all from when I was little) on the ground showing very severe signs of colic. Had the vet out, trailer hooked up ready to get her to vet and all. 3 hours later, after many attempts to get her up and a clueless vet my pony was put to sleep. I had only had her for 11 months and was heart broken. It had taken me so long to finally buy my very own first horse that I lost hope in finding another one any time soon.

Fast forward 4 months later. I went on a trip with one of my friends I had met in 4-H to go see two horses she was going to look at to buy one of them, of course I went along, I always love a good horse adventure :) We made the 3 hour drive to Bend and 'patiently' waited around for the trailer to arrive. We got the call around 12 or 1 am and headed outside to see what two horses awaited us. Although it wasn't the two horses that were supposed to come one of the others came up really lame before and the one that was supposed to come who my friend really like came off the trailer 3 legged lame. But when Tolo (then called Splendor) walked off the trailer I told my friend that's the one you should get.

So what was so special about that skinny, neglected, not halter broke, not people friendly horse that was on a feed lot headed to slaughter? I honestly couldn't tell you but the minute my friend decided she didn't want him I was on the phone with my mom (who wasn't with me!). For just $300 I could take home this almost wild horse, I said why not?! Whats there to lose? Later down the road I find out there was absolutely NOTHING to lose from this special horse at all.

Four weeks after we got him and many frustrating days of him not letting me near him he somehow unlatched his gate and got loose. Not trusting me yet he ran full speed around our property and earned himself a 3 in deep cut in his neck, missing his jugular (and dying) by less than 1/2 and inch. The next day, while trying to cold hose him like instructed by vet we tied him up ( I will never, ever do this again). Before we even did anything he freaked out reared up got let caught on lead rope, de-gloved the back of his leg, punctured his nostril all the way through and sliced right above his eye. One emergency vet call, 4 days at the vet clinic and 3 months of stall rest/hand walking, and one summer spent solely at the barn later I had a sound, much for friendly horse from being handled at least 3 times daily to apply his meds, and one summer spent solely at the barn.

After being started on ground work he never had any set backs and we had our first ride on February 5th of 2008. Tolo has more heart than what he knows what to do with! Originally he was going to be a re-sale project because he was so small when I got him, about 14.3 hands at 3 1/2 years old but now stands almost 16 hands at 6 years old! Although he is still small for me, what he lack in physical size he makes up for with the size of his heart. This guy will do ANYTHING for me. We go swimming, run on the beach, compete in high school equestrian team in events from dressage and jumping to reining and pole bending and place good in all of them. At his first real dressage show this month he got two 70%'s one in First Level! Tolo will also be competing in two recognized three day events this summer including Inavale Farms and Caber Farms horse trials along with other dressage shows and such. Our goals for next year include qualifying for ODS Championships and USEA Championships.

Tolo has shown me that hard work and perseverance really does pay off in the end. Not only did I get a great horse who everyone has come to love and adore he has taught me so much. He has also helped continue my love for saving slaughter bound horses and since him I have helped rescue 3 other horses. He has been a great ambassador for horses on the feed lot and his story is shared with anyone and everyone that asks about him or comments on how nice of a horse he is. He is a prime example of how not only good but GREAT horses can end up on the feed lot because someone else didn't want to send the time with him to make him into the horse he is today. He truly was a diamond in the rough.

After all, one mans trash is always another mans treasure.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saving Captain Dudley---- How Barbaro Inspired a Rescue

The Second Race from time to time posts stories submitted by supporters, showcasing their stories and the story of their retired race horse. Here is the story of Captain Dudley, the inspiration of Barbaro and the story of Saving "Brego"... Thank you to Julie for submitting her story. Enjoy!

Brego’s story begins by looking backward, long before he was born, long before Barbaro was born. Brego’s story really begins with a deep, deep love of horses and one hell of a crush on Steve Cauthen. The father of one of my classmates was editor for Equus Magazine, and in the 70’s it was more focused on Thoroughbred racing than general equestrian stuff. This is where I read about Seattle Slew, a horse I grew to love, and Affirmed, because I thought his jockey was the hottest thing on the planet. Never mind that I was six years old and the proud owner of a new horse (my parents gave in, finally). At that time I could follow present day thoroughbreds but learned all about the great legends through my Breyer horse collection. I had Silky Sullivan, Man O’War, Ruffian, Kelso, and the list goes on.

As I grew older, my love of racing faded, but my love of horses did not.

Fast forward many years to the day of my brothers wedding and the day of the Preakness. I was watching the pre-race festivities, saw interviews with Michael Matz and listened to the talk of Barbaro. My brothers wedding began ten minutes before post time.

One day later I became a fan of Barbaro.

A few years before that Preakness Day I was introduced to Joe Sheldon at TB Friends, who was good friends with a dear friend of mine who happened to be a trainer. My friend Ernie suggested I get to know Joe because he always had access to so many great horses. Ernie and his wife Fran had been privy to my brewing dream, to set up an environment where horses could heal people and people could heal horses. What better place to get horses that needed healing than from Joe? I already knew where to go to get the people that needed healing.

I knew it was time to start looking for my first off the track thoroughbred when Barbaro was injured. The nation rallied around a horse in a way I hadn’t seen before. It inspired me.

I began watching Joe’s site like a hawk, convinced that he would get my horse. Every now and then I’d swing up to Woodland and drop a bunch of grain off and look around his field but there was no spark. So, I waited. For better or worse I wanted a bay with a white star (I later realized that my first horse was a bay with a white star). Searching local websites, back and forth to Joe’s this went on for over a year.

Then one day I was looking at the Bay Area Equestrian Network in the Retired Race Horse Section when I saw this:

“17H tattooed gelding with star like Barbaro. This gentle giant has a sad look in his eye and his energy seems beat down and despondent, although he seemed happier after I rode him. His knee has some swelling”

His name was Espresso and he was at a feedlot in Yakima Washington. He was just four years old. And there was something about, something about that sad look in his eye that pulled on me. I contacted the rescue working with the feedlot and inquired about his availability. I then printed out the pictures of him and took them to my barn.

“He’s a train wreck!” my trainer exclaimed at the site of the photos. “Of course he’s a train wreck, he’s in a feedlot!” I barked back at her. After much negotiation, mostly with my husband who could not for the life of him understand why I needed another horse, and this horse, I purchased Espresso site unseen and decided I’d deal with the knee later.

He was quickly renamed Brego. He remained in quarantine for one month at Camelot Farms in Yakima. During the first vet check I got and ran his tattoo. He was Canadian-bred Captain Dudley, his name honoring a friend of the breeder, who died the day Brego was born. He was a grandson of Seattle Slew. I could barely gather myself, I had a Slew grandson – I was pretty chipper with this newfound news.

Brego was shipped to California on June 6th, 2007. When he came off the trailer he was in pretty bad condition. A two on the body scale, which prompted the barn manager to hide him in the upper barn because no horse on the property looked like him.

It was a matter of moments, as he looked around in his stall, that the realization sunk in maybe, that he was “home”. In two weeks he didn’t need to be hidden anymore.

We focused on getting weight on him while we evaluated the knee. He had chips, we just didn’t know how many and what the prognosis was. A few months later he was scheduled for arthroscopic surgery. The surgeon pulled three chips out of his knee. The first true testament to his character was coming out of anesthesia. My trainer and friend watched him as he tried to stand. He would try to get up, and realize he was too wobbly, and then rest for a few minutes, and then try again. On the third attempt he was able to stand. I was so impressed by his patience and intelligence.

He was rehabbed for six months and then began a long retraining process. We spent several months rebuilding his muscle before we put a rider on his back. After a full year, we were ready (we quickly learned that he had been ready for a while!). I asked one of the trainers who was also a jockey and exercise rider at Golden Gate Fields to get on him first. We didn’t know how he’d respond and Nicole can stay on anything.

Brego responded the way he had to everything else. No big deal. He was actually more comfortable with someone in the saddle.

We continued this process for another six months and then it was time for Brego to go learn how to be a horse. From the time I saw him come off the trailer through all the rehab and retraining, I wanted to see him run, really run, like he was bred to do.

When we arrived at Pegasus Ranch last April, I had no idea that one of my dreams was about the come true. Brego led the herd run, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my lie. And he was reunited with Wild Inspiration, the horse he was stalled next to when he first arrived at my barn.

Brego is now at a family owned barn in the town I live in. He is, dare I saw it, fattish…. Hay belly-ish.

I am working with him as a teaching horse for my programs, where horses interact with people to help them come human again. He is coming along great.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wanna Save a Race Horse? Then Keep it to Yourself!

So you wanna save a race horse huh? Well as the title suggests "keep your mouth shut". Huh? If you are scratching your head at this point, let me share the firestorm that happened yesterday.

Yesterday the message boards and "blog world", including Facebook were lit up regarding an owner that had purportedly dumped her race horse directly to the kill buyer. This owner and trainer were "outted" by this well known, snarky blog author. With a warning to All Racehorse Owners in America, that if you did the same your name, your personal information, and biography would be posted on her blog. The woman's photo was plastered over the Internet and the attacks began. This woman having no way to defend herself, until a few kind hearted people attempted a different tactic and wrote the woman directly. Her response was posted on other blog sites, and the war of words and defamation of character continued throughout the day. Now, I don't purport to have first hand knowledge of any of the dealings that took place, and that in fact is my point-- If you as self-appointed judge and jury have the temerity to "out" all parties, than at least try to find out some facts before posting to the virtual universe.

By outting this woman, and the trainer in the manner it was, the immediate and swift response by the auction lot owner, where the horse was found, was to declare that no rescue group will be allowed on his lot to purchase the Thoroughbreds (ie. racehorses). You see he is a businessman too. And while most of us don't like the business he is in, he is allowed the freedom to have his lot. Its a private lot, therefore his allowing groups that rescue horses including race horses, on it is a mutually and sometimes divisive relationship, it is still a necessary relationship.

What some fail to realize is that an auction lot owner, often BUYS horses from other sources (knowing their market), and then allows rescue/retirement individual access to the horses that can be purchased prior to their either going through the auction ring, or straight onto the back of a truck for slaughter. This businessman, needs a continuous supply of these overpriced horses to sell to those that want to help them. This cottage industry has been going on for some time. Often horses are obtained so that the price can be "jacked up" to accommodate the greed of the auction lot owner and the sympathies of the rescues. Its a symbiotic relationship.

What doesn't factor into this arrangement, is another group of "well meaning" people (often who have never actually rescued a horse off a lot) or worked with the horsemen at the tracks, using their First Amendment freedom to screw it up!

With the advent of Facebook, and popular message groups like Alex Brown's, thousands of faceless people can sit behind their computers and shout from their keypads "FIRE", doing tremendous damage to a tenuous relationship. Quickly and often, when the auction lot owner receives trouble-- threatening phone calls, emails and other personal attacks, the ability to go on the lot is over. What does that mean? The very horses that these people think they are protecting in the future, are in fact often times sending them straight to their demise.

I read many times yesterday rantings about where are the 'Zero Tolerance' policies on horse slaughter and the race track management?. Unfortunately, its a misnomer to think that every single race track in America, has a zero tolerance plan. It would be nice, but it is factually not the case.

For instance MEC/MAGNA prior to its bankruptcy in 2009, stated that they would enforce strict guidelines to ensure that a trainer/owner found to have DIRECTLY sent a race horse from the track to slaughter could lose their stalls and licenses. The immediate problem with loose language like that, is that there can be and is often a three or even a six degree of separation when a horse is found on a lot from the race track. In the state of Washington, where this particular race horse was found, I could not find an umbrella policy in place. Links to rescues in the state of Washington where not on the Washington State Horse Racing Commission website (except for the TRF).
I understand from again, research, that there is one thoroughbred retirement facility that works with Emerald Downs, but that facility is underfunded and is not accepting horses at this time from the track. The Emerald Downs website does have an Industry Links tab, showing several thoroughbred retirement groups; inside and outside of the state. Portland Meadows a Magna owned track, and where the horse last ran on closing day---does not display on their website a policy. It does not provide links to retirement facilities as well. The NTRA has not accredited either Emerald Downs or Portland Meadows to date.

My point being that there are many things that racetrack management, horsemens groups and the Washington State Racing Commission (in this particular case)can do to protect horses. That's a given. If an owner states they no longer want a horse (and it happens for many, many reasons), the owner and trainer ARE responsible for it's safe transition. But racetracks KNOW that there are people on the back side all to willing to take a horse (for good reasons and bad), and with all the retirement, rescue groups that walk the backside, horses still slip through the cracks or onto the backs of trucks. In my opinion, there should be a 'safe haven' program at every single racetrack, funded by purse monies, totes or a program like CARMA (California Retirement Management Account)in tandem with an approved state specific rescue/retirement for the horses to go to. The rescue/retirement would then be responsible for the well being of the horse and its adoption or transition. Then if you find a horse goes to slaughter, despite the ease of all on the backside to place the horse into safety, you have some real "teeth" to go after the owners/trainers that just don't give a damn.

I agree only with the snarky author, that there is culpability to the race horses by owners, trainers, breeders and race track management. I could list many programs that are working, and that aren't. I could list policies that I know are not being adhered too, and I know much but I don't open my mouth, why? Because I want to be an advocate for the horse. Does that make me culpable too, perhaps.

What I do know is that there is more than one party to point the finger too in the "business" of horse rescue/retirement, however screaming and outting one person without facts and following proper protocol, to me is an injustice to the horse and is irresponsible. So if you aren't in the "business" of rescue, placement, or retirement, of race horses do the rest of us a favor....Be Quiet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Super Save on Derby Day

On Kentucky Derby Day when Super Saver crossed the finish line after another brilliant ride by Calvin Appaloosa/quarter horse mix with an uncanny resemblance to the fictional race horse, Hayseed, was waiting on another finish line.

Luckily, "Hayseed" as the fortunate horse would be called had several groups and individuals trying to save his life while he was on an auction lot in New Jersey.

The story of Hayseed, started in the imagination of Sally Schrock, a deaf author that was in the process of losing her home due to foreclosure when her book caught the attention of The Second Race back in January.

Read about her story and our original blog post

After admiring the story of Hayseed and Sally, I became Facebook friends with her. Sally and I often write each other through the week; and several times we have talked informally about finding a "Hayseed" some day. A month of so ago, I had actually sent a picture to her of a horse that looked somewhat like him, and we together daydreamed about finding the perfect one, one day to rescue...what a story it would make.

Well as fate would have it, this horse appeared on a message I received on April 28th or 29th. I was stunned when I saw him. I sent the picture to Sally, but she had already seen a post as well and knew too, that this was her Hayseed.

Efforts began immediately to save him from the slaughter truck. Voice for Horses Network, founded by Diana Murphy over ten years ago, took the helm on his being saved. A portion of the monies needed to pay the broker fee of $ 900.00 was raised (including a donation from the Quarter Pole Fund, by The Second Race) in time on Kentucky Derby Day to save him, with Voice for Horses dipping into their funds to pay the outstanding balance to secure his safety. Hayseed was across the finish line; just like the millionaire Super Saver in Kentucky.

Interestingly enough, Sally stated that Diana didn't know about the book, Hayseed's First Race, and when told about her book Diana not only stepped up the efforts, but purchased the book too.

Hayseed, will be arriving in Ohio from New Jersey in the next day or so to complete his 30 day quarantine (QT). His QT costs will be $ 200 for the month, and in addition will incur vet bills that will need to be covered. The hope is that sponsors for Hayseed will be found, their names will be added as the story unfolds with Hayseed.

Hayseed's new life is being mapped out by Sally. In the meantime a trainer is needed to assist with the transition to help "bomb proof", Hayseed so that he can be at the race track, county fairs and other places where his story, and the stories of other unwanted horses can be told. If you are interested in helping with his training you may contact us at and information will be forwarded.

If you would like to donate to become a Sponsor of Hayseed, please send your donation via PayPal to and you will be listed as a Sponsor in further communications. To pay for his immediate care send your donation to Voice for Horses at

We look forward to hearing the great work that this "Super Saver" will do in the future.

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