Friday, November 26, 2010

A Conscious Decision to Do the Right Thing

"I am a great champion
when I ran, the ground shook
the sky opened
and mere mortals parted
... parted the way to victory
and I met my owner in the winners circle
where he put a blanket of flowers on my back" (from the movie, Dreamer)

How many of us have had the thrill of being in the Winners Circle? Whether your horse is the favorite or a 55-1 long shot, nothing matches the thrill of winning! Your horse, your time to celebrate! The excitement is the same for the millionaires and the syndicate that has 25 people buying into a $ 15,000 claimer, its the victory that we remember most.

But after the excitement, the back slaps and the high fives, the horse that brought the victory goes back to its barn and may or may not ever win again.

When that happens, what happens?

That choice is equally the responsibility of the owner and trainer. Both work in tandem to ready the horse for its race, and both should be responsible in ensuring that when the horse can no longer perform, that it finds a responsible, safe vehicle for retirement.

Becoming involved in horse racing is a choice for every person that participates in it, only the horse bred to race doesn't have a choice in the matter. That doesn't mean that they don't want to run, that's an argument for another day (and one that we won't debate--as we know that horses are bred for and love to run). The choice is made (based on his or her abilities) to become a race horse. If a human can make the decision to consciously breed the horse, break the horse, train the horse and race the horse. Then that same conscious decision should be made to provide a retirement for that horse after it can no longer race.

A race horse is a created, dependant animal for our pleasure and entertainment. Only education and the truth provided by the race track industry will ensure that owners (including new and prospective) and trainers employed by the owners understand their responsibility to their investment....when the finish line is no longer an option.

To learn the process of surrendering a horse to The Second Race or for our assistance in networking to help place a horse go to our website page

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.

The prose was listed on a Facebook friends page and I had to stop and pause. How succinctly and sweetly was the poem about giving thanks. We make a lot of the meal, the football and the travels that it takes for many to be with their family during this time.

Tomorrow most will be thinking of shopping for the holidays, the money that will be spent trying to find the perfect gift (with possibly much less money than in years past), and well the stress of managing it all. Forgetting completely, the day before where everyone says "Happy Thanksgiving" to each other.

But giving thanks, truly giving thanks is such an easy thing to do every single day. It's a habit that can be developed in a short time and with a loving, full heart of thanks, your life can change without you even knowing it.

I know this to be true with The Second Race. The beginning of our organization started with a true leap of faith, and with a vision to give thanks to the race horses that had entertained and gave so much to provide the enjoyment and relief from my stressful job every weekend.

I love going to the races and in 2003 at the Breeders Cup I decided that somehow, someway I would be part of horse racing. Fast forward to 2009 and I couldn't imagine that the way I would become involved would be to start a national network to transition race horses off the tracks across the U.S.!

I am thankful that God put the thought into my head years earlier, and then made a way for me to make this dream come to fruition. It meant that I lost my job for the second time in as many years, that I literally had nothing to stop me ( a divorce earlier in the year had been finalized), and that I realized that things were just things, and I was able to begin the funding of The Second Race, with my own collection of racing memorabilia.

I am thankful that so many people, complete strangers on Facebook and Twitter, caught the vision right along with me and encouraged me to proceed. I had a goal in mind that if I could garner at least 2500 Facebook friends, that I would launch our website and never look back. Which of course we did. We have an online community that will start on January 1, 2011 with much more in store for the new year.

I am thankful that the horsemen at the race track have been so encouraging, have allowed The Second Race the privilege to assist them to transition their horses to the next step along the path of their lives. Without them, The Second Race would not exist.

I am thankful that a friend, made the most amazing donation of a piece of their beautiful ranch "the peninsula" to house The Second Race foster horses, and that we have been able to leap ahead with our plans to safely provide a respite for the horses from the track.

I am thankful that we continue on, with the help of mentors that allow us to share our frustrations, joys and tears with us. Doing what we do is a labor of love, nothing more, no one is ever going to get rich helping ex-race horses. There are more monetary costs than can ever be recouped, but it is with thankfulness from a heart so full that we wish all a Happy Thanksgiving, not in part with our lips; but with a full heart.

To see the current ex-race horses awaiting sponsorship or adoption visit our website at

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Visit With Zenyatta and a Legendary Hand

Over the weekend my good friend was here from Texas and as any good friend in California, you have to take your friends to the local attractions. Once perhaps, that was Disneyland or even the beach, but right now in Southern California the main attraction is Zenyatta.

Julie had some photos that she wanted to gift John Shirreffs with and so we made the trek to the barn. Coming around the corner I saw something different this time. Not that Zenyatta on any given day for the past couple months, doesn't have fans stopping by, but now there was a barricade of perhaps three or four sawhorses and piping "roping" off the area to view her while she grazes. What was different was the single file line of fans, cameras and treats in hand, waiting for their couple "up close" minutes with her. One by one the fans that had come to see her were given a minute to speak with her, touch her muzzle and feed her treats. Steve Willard, has become the "tour guide" and it strikes me that his job has become much like the park ranger discussing El Capitan in Yosemite. There is something about her that continues to take your breath away, much as the monuments that are God made, Zenyatta simply doesn't disappoint.

The visit with her was more magical for some reason because on this day there were several young girls and boys with her. She patiently inspected each child that came up to her and loving put her head down, welcoming their delight.

The young girl featured in the photo above seemed to be the most vocal and encouraged the other kids around her to come up and feed her. Someone had brought a peppermint to give her, well only some know that Zenyatta has a sweet tooth, and loves her candy. When she happily ate up the peppermint, she licked the hand of the child, and the little girl said to her friend "Now you have a legendary hand". I chuckled out loud and had the biggest smile on my face. Yes, she is legendary, and its of course the races, the tremendous finishes, the heart stopping beauty, but mostly its the grandness with which she accepts the adulation and respect.

She holds court, there isn't another word for it. She looks at you, in the eye, and says to you "I understand". Whether child or adult, she accepts each moment with you. She does know she is the queen, but to that little girl, well she is legendary....and no matter what the jaded writers and handicappers think, Zenyatta has charmed her way into many a heart unlike any horse I have ever known. And to that little girl, that brought a smile to my face, I hope you grow up to be legendary as well.

Photos by Cecilia Felix Photography and Zoe Metz.
To see other horses (not quite so legendary except to The Second Race) go to

Friday, November 12, 2010

Never, Ever, Give up-- The Story of Sarah Says Go

Photo: Anne Buxton. After nine years, the halter was ready for her return, held together and fitting.

I have been remiss in my postings to this blog. It seems there just aren't enough hours in the day and yet one of the things that I do like to do is share a good story. So, as we saddle up and renew our postings, I thought the story of Sarah Says Go and Anne's love for a horse she hadn't seen (but never forgot about) in nine years time, was a fitting place to begin...(as told to me by Anne, in her own words)....

9 years ago I sold a mare that my husband bought as a yearling, and we raced successfully until she was 4. We sold her and eventually, of course, she ended up hitting the bottom at Suffolk Downs, making her final start in 2003. I always felt bad that I wasn't in a position to claim her back then, but I watched for her for a long time.

When she hadn't run for over a year, I made inquiries, but no one knew anything, or anything they would tell me. Every year I would check produce records, she was never listed as bred, or had any foals. I finally just figured she was dead, and hoped she at least didn't go to slaughter.

Fast forward to last Thursday, when I was messing around punching names into the pedigree query. I almost didn't put her name in, it was too depressing, but I finally did. Imagine my shock when the pedigree came up, and at the top of the page it said, "Rescued from Camelot killer pen 6/30/2010" I about had a heart attack. I immediately got on Facebook went to the Camelot page, and looked for the album from that week, which, of course, wasn't there.

After posting as my status, and on several people's pages, for help finding her, a woman named Sabrina came up with the Flicker photos from that week. I went through 60+ pictures and found her. No name listed, it didn't even say she was tattooed, and the age listed was off by 5 years, but I knew it was her. I asked Sabrina, "now what?, Who has a list of buyers?". She looked awhile, and then said she had read something very bad, my heart sunk. She posted a link to a girl's page, with this status update from the DAY BEFORE!

"It is with a heavy heart that my vet, barn manager and myself have decided to humanely euthanize Annie, hip # 479, who I pulled from the 6/30/2010 kill pen. I have done everything possible to save her but her blood work came back with very poor results. Please know that she was loved and viewed as a member of my family."

I almost fell over, I looked for 9 years, only to find her the DAY AFTER she was put down? I couldn't believe it. I sent Andra a message saying I was almost positive that she had my old filly, Sarah Says Go, but I wasn't sure. She messaged me back, yes it is her, please call me. With a broken heart I called her, and she told me that she WASN'T dead yet, she was scheduled for euthanasia the next day. We talked for awhile, I asked what her problem was, and could she ship?. The long and the short of it is that Sarah was just too over the top nuts for the hunter barn she had found herself in and I guess Sarah was pretty abused after we sold her, making her even more difficult.

Sarah is coming home tomorrow I am beside myself. In addition to finding her the day before she was going to be put down, and Andra calling her Annie, Andra lives in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA too!. A completely bizarre set of circumstances, to say the least. I can't wait to have Sarah back, she'll never leave us again :)

Postscript to the story....

Sarah is happily munching on hay and savoring her good fortune. The Second Race was happy to help with a portion of the shipping costs to bring Sarah home where she belongs.

And as all fairy tales say..."they lived happily ever after"....

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