Day At The Track

Retired race horses do have a good life

12:20 PM 18 Sep 2018 NZST
Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print
Red Victor, harness racing Our Lucky Killean, harness racing Fifty Shades Darker, harness racing Hyperion Hanover, harness racing Typical New Yorker, harness racing Classic Conway, harness racing
Retired Standardbred racehorse Red Victor enjoying some paddock time
Rebecca Segal photo
Former racehorse Our Lucky Killean competing with Jennifer Connor up
Vicki Wright photo
Michelle Crawford with retired racehorse Fifty Shades Darker
Michelle MacDougall competing with former top pacer Hyperion Hanover at the National Standardbred Horse Show
Vicki Wright photo
Typical New Yorker gets ready for a ride at the John Hallett Stable
Jessica Hallett photo
Classic Conway going for a ride with Michelle Crawford
Previous
1 - 3 of 6
Next

Every career and every job has this factor. It is the thing that keeps the job going and keeps the consumer interested. It may be a service or a product. It is the reason people do, people buy, and people watch.

Harness racing has many different factors that keep the fans in the stands and the horsemen in the barn. It is the lights and camera at the end of the race, the cheers of the crowd in the grandstand, the anticipation and excitement in the paddock at post time. It is watching with tears and screams of joy as the horse you own or the horse you bet on win.

More importantly, it is the animal that makes the sport what it is. The horse that is carefully and slowly trained for days, weeks, months, and years. The horse that is cared for on a 24/7 basis with a specific feeding schedule, training regimen, and equipment list. Each horse is treated and cared for individually.

The sport of horse racing is plagued by stereotypes that depict the game to be inhumane and cruel. Rumors and lies are spread that convey the sport as abusive to the animal. The uninformed believe the bits and the equipment, the driver and the whip, the stall and the gates, and more are harmful to the wellbeing of the horse. The purpose of each of these and the behind the scenes in the barn is seemingly only known to those who have actually experienced it and lived it.

The bit fits comfortably in the mouth where it does not make contact with the teeth. It is used for steering and control. Each piece of equipment is specific to the horse to ensure safety in the race. At a young age, these horses are trained to become accustomed to their harness and equipment.

Trainers work slowly with them so that they understand their job and so that they are ready and fit to race. The whip that the driver uses is hit against the numbered saddle pad that the horse wears producing a sound, not pain. The stall a horse sits in is reasonably sized for the animal. It is for the protection and safety of the horse.

There is a reason for everything that horsemen do – the only solid and most commonly shared reason is that these are here for the safety of everyone involved (horse, trainer, driver) and for the comfort of the horse.

Horses are beasts of power and strength. They are capable of enduring long distances at fast speeds or short distances at even faster speeds. They run courses, go over jumps, race around barrels, and more. They are equally as intelligent as athletic. They have the ability to communicate through movement.

Their ears, their eyes, and their nose communicate specific emotions. A simple gesture of the ears forward or back to indicate whether or not best to stay away or come close. The eyes moving directionally or as a retaliation of fear or anger when white. The nose flaring due to activity and motion or fear.

They cannot verbally communicate with us but we have the ability to understand them. Harness race horses are individually cared for in the sport. Horsemen do what it takes to adjust them to their stable and their routine. Horsemen understand the personalities and quirks of these animals.

They know what the horse’s favorite treat is, whether or not the horse likes a certain grain, how much water they drink, or what allergies they may have. They find the right equipment, right shoes, and right medicine. And, when it is time, they find the right home for the horse after their racing careers have come to an end.

These horses power our sport and they have had a significant mark in history while continuing to write it. They are our horses, our pets, our family. No matter if they are a trainer or owner or groom, horsemen do what it takes to ensure the comfort and safety of their horses and a forever home after racing.

Hyperion Hanover, now a 15-year-old pacing bay gelding, out of Cam Luck and Hattie. As a two-year-old, Hyperion was purchased out of the Harrisburg sale for $75,000. The trainer lightly raced him and put him back in the sale. Trainer-driver Jim McDonald purchased the colt for $5,500 for SSG Stable. He was shipped to Florida and retrained as 3-year-old.

He was a stubborn horse with no good work ethic, according to McDonald. He was schooled multiple times and qualified three times. They started him five times with two wins, one in 54 and last quarter in 27.3 with driver Wally Hennessey. He was shipped to Rob Fellows in Ontario and won his first sire stake in 52.

Then, he was shipped to Rod Hennessey in Western Canada where he won the Western Canada Pacing Derby. He made $300,000 as a three-year-old. He continued in Ontario and became an open pacer for another year. He went back to Jim McDonald in Florida and was given the winter off then, qualified, and sent back to Ontario. Once again with Fellows, he won in 1:50 flat.

Until 2012, Hyperion continued to be a preferred type horse. He was shipped back to Florida and campaigned with the Open Pace for two more years. At age 12, he began to lose stamina and paced in only 53 and change. Owner Ed James decided rather than putting the horse in a claiming race and continuing to race him, he would retire at age 12.

He was turned out in a two-acre paddock at a farm in Florida - Smiley Farms owned by Gary and Caroline Smiley. That farm was sold three years later so the Smiley couple called James and asked him to find the horse a new home. Ed James decided to put him on a truck to a facility in Canada that James is familiar with and has brood mares at already. He paid $1,500 to ship him from Florida to Canada for his new and forever home at Killean Acres in Ingrasall, Ontario.

Hyperion Hanover was turned out with other horses upon arriving, the farm owners being wary of how he would act with the others. Within ten minutes he had found himself a buddy. He was never made into a riding horse because of his disposition and because the owners felt he earned his right to retirement. Overall, Hyperion Hanover had 301 lifetime starts (52 wins, 49 seconds, 42 thirds) and over $1.2 million in earnings lifetime with a record of 49.1.

Ed James is the owner of Hyperion Hanover and the owner of SSG Gloves and Glasses. He has been involved in harness racing throughout his life, mostly as an owner. He was very active in the Ontario program and is the owner of McWicked. He contributes to the USTA retirement fund and is active in post-racing.

He is also supportive in other equine facilities, including the hunter-jumper divisions in West Palm Beach. If a rider is wearing SSG gloves when they win a category in the show, he donates a set amount of money to a charity.

A horse with a solid record and an owner with a well-known business, SSG Gloves and Glasses. Despite the large cost to transport the horse from Florida to Canada, Ed James was willing to do whatever it took to bring the horse to his retirement home.

Five years ago, Michelle Crawford built her retirement farm. She built it for her love of the horses and great interest in developing a good life after racing for them.

“It became this fire in the belly to just make sure they went to good homes,” she said.

Michelle has a history of working as an advocate for rescuing and rehoming Standardbreds, including in the involvement of retiring racehorses. She has worked with Standardbred Retirement Foundation and has helped rescuing tons of horses.

She had already had some retirees and a breeding farm, but expanded to build the retirement farm. A thousand acres and beautiful facilities that would be forever homes to numerous horses.

She has 35 current retirees at her farm, including retired broodmares. It depends on the age, if the horse is young enough and has potential if it is either sold or moved to the retirement farm.

“The hardest part is that some of these horses still have purpose, more than to just stand in a field for their lives. Especially, if they are young, but if there isn’t a better option for a better home, it is better they stay in place.”

There are Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds at her farm, some that may be broke to ride in the near future with the help of a local woman.

Michelle Crawford purchased Fifty Shades Darker as a yearling. He had gotten an injury to his foot that his first trainer rehabbed, but was unsuccessful in getting him back going again.

He was finally good enough to be able to race again. The decision was now to race him up and down in the conditions or put him into a claimer. The trainer suggested putting him into a claimer, under the impression that no one would claim the colt. The first race in a claimer and he was claimed.

“It broke my heart. I waited a year and a half after that hoping to get the horse back, but he wasn’t in a claimer,” Crawford said.

“I watched every race and finally, he was in to go in a claimer at Pocono Downs. I didn’t know anyone there to claim him, but got in contact with trainer Chris Oakes to claim him so I could just retire him.”

Chris Oakes convinced Michelle to allow him to try to race him which resulted in winning the first four starts. He made too much money and was back to square one with the decision to jam into the conditions or be put into a claimer again. The decision was made to retire him.

He now lives in a paddock with a Clydesdale and four old broodmares.

“Everybody loves him. They can just jump on his back. He is just a lovable and wonderful horse. A treat hog and a carrot hog. He was just one of those horses with this distinctive brow line that really set him apart. I just loved him so much and wanted him back for retirement,” Michelle said.

Crawford also retired Classic Conway, a horse that she was able to watch being born. It was her “first child coming into this business”. She kept the trotting gelding from birth to retirement, where he now resides at her retirement farm. He is now a nine-year-old pasture mate to other horses at her farm.

According to Michelle, Classic Conway had this special personality. He would hear her voice and come running. “He knows he is special,” she said.

He won a lot of sire stakes as a two-year-old and had a lot of potential. In his three-year-old year, he hurt himself. Michelle began to nurse him back to health. He was trailered to Morrisville for the spa and towed on the grass for soft footing. He came back and won the final that year.

Classic Conway was later retired due to a suspensory. He was and is Michelle’s most special horse with Fifty Shades Darker being right behind him. One horse that could continue racing and one that could not share a great life after racing on the same farm.

“I am a huge, professional corporate, but found a place in the horse world to serve a purpose. I want to leave a legacy in making a difference to help animals and to save the Standardbreds or any horse. I hope that we can stop slaughter. I’ve made it my mission to gather troops to promote and do right by the industry and help in the after-racing world.”

Michelle was introduced into the business 11 years ago after meeting her husband. She has an owners license and a breeding farm and now, retirement farm. Her farms have 80 broodmares, their 80th mare just being bred and 300 horses of babies, yearlings, and more. She is also a proud owner of Atlanta, the recent Hambletonian winner.

Casie Coleman is currently an owner-trainer and former driver in the harness racing business. She was born and raised into it and she says it is all she has ever done. At just the age of 38, her lifetime stats include earning just under 60 million and over 2,000 wins. She has won Canada’s trainer of the year five times.

Coleman claimed Our Lucky Killean (“Luck Dog”) when he was three years old out of an allowance claimer that went for $60,000. The pacing bay gelding went on to make over a million dollars in purse money, winning the Molson Pace, Des Smith Classic Pace, and other open events.

“He had a mind of his own, a hundred percent,” Coleman said. “He was the boss. If things weren’t done his way or if we fought it, he would tie up easily or just get sour and race poorly.”

“When you would walk him to the race track hooked to the jogger, he had days that it would take nearly an hour because he would just stand still, watching the other horses jog by. He wouldn’t move until he was ready to.

“Other times he would literally go backwards in the jog cart. One time, he took me up a large hill and tried going backwards. I did my best not to tip over the jog cart!”

Casie Coleman retired the gelding when he was ten years old. He was still sound and in great shape, but just wasn’t performing the way he used to. “I didn’t want to cheapen him and I didn’t want him in a claimer,” she said.

She found a home with a friend of hers, Jennifer Connor, who worked for Blue Chip Farms at the time. He is now 17 years old and she still has him.

“He has an amazing home. I don’t even want to know what stall rent is at the barn he is at, it is gorgeous.”

Connor shows “Luck Dog” at Standardbred shows. Coleman found this new and wonderful home with the help of sharing a post about her search on Facebook. Jennifer contacted Casie expressing great interest for the horse.

“I knew she would give him this unreal home, so I sent him out to New York,” she said. “He lives like a king now.”

Casie is able to see him every him every once in a while, when she is in the area in New York.

“Lucky, as I call him, or Luck Dog as Casie calls him is one of the classiest horses I have ever had the privilege to be around,” Jennifer Connor said. “He walked into the indoor arena the day after he arrived and I was able to get right on him. He marched around the arena like he had been doing it his whole life. And he never looked at any of the jumps that were scattered around the arena.

“He exudes confidence. He has never refused anything that I have asked of him. He has shown in-hand, under saddle, jumped, been driven, hunter paced, recently went on a camping trip, and was part of a commercial shoot for Chase Bank at Blue Chip Farms.

“I love this horse so much. He would jump a table if I asked him to. He walks, trots, and has a pretty decent canter for a pacer. He likes to work and prefers to be stabled with all the amenities like a fan in the summer. He’s always professional. He might not be the most affectionate horse, but he tolerates a lot!” she said.

Jennifer Connor grew up in harness racing. She showed jumpers and equitation in most of her childhood. She attended University of South Carolina and rode on the NCAA Division I Team. Lucky is the first Standardbred she has ever retrained for a second career. “He is by far the easiest horse I have trained!”

Casie Coleman contributes to retired race horse charities and funds. She even, recently, discovered one of her former horses that she hadn’t owned for years, Rudy the Rock, was located at a slaughter house. She contacted them and sent $1,200 to bail him out. He was rescued and given to Go and Play Stables.

Our Lucky Killean is one of many horses Casie Coleman has retired. “Way too many to remember them all,” she said. “I always try to find good homes for them.”

Michelle Crawford and Casie Coleman have high profile stables in the racing business. They have done whatever it takes to help provide current and former racehorses with forever homes.

Owner-driver-trainer John Hallett and owner-trainer Michelle Hallett are New York and Florida horsemen and, also, my parents. They have both been in the business throughout their entire lives. They began their stable, Hallett Racing Stable, in 1991 and have since raced along the East Coast, more recently out of their stables in Tioga Downs and Pompano Park.

Typical New Yorker was short in stature with a thick build. He had a black coat with a small white star in the center of his face. He earned his name as he was a “typical New Yorker”. Across the Tappan Zee bridge, the population of New York City is riddled with the stereotype that they have this overly pompous attitude. They are home to the Bravest and the Finest. New York City is the Big Apple, the land of dreams. The skyscrapers are big, the personalities are big, the attitudes are bigger. If you have ever had the pleasure of traveling across into the city, you understand where all of these notions originate.

New York City has definitely earned their title and respect. It is a big and beautiful city. Yet, it is shaded by those ideas that they are better than everyone. A “look at me” attitude surrounded by the fact that they must be the center of the world.

Typical New Yorker was nothing short of that. He was small but captured the attention of everyone around him. His name earned him multiple features in Justin Horowitz’s filming of ‘Inside Harness Racing’. If you ever looked into the eyes of this two-year-old colt, you would’ve seen the attitude just flourishing within. His eyes pointed like daggers at everyone around him; except, of course, in the face of a camera or in the presence of Michelle Hallett.

New Yorker was her pride and joy. He was spoiled from day one. Of course, all of our horses are spoiled with treats and toys and more; but, this one was different from the start. He had reined her in with his demeanor. He was fed pudding and more. His favorite flavor was Butterscotch. He would eat anything put in front of him. He was extra spoiled when one of his owners, Roger Doire, brought him oranges. He even had a special “New Yorker” lead chain that him and him only could use.

John Hallett purchased the yearling out of the Harrisburg Sale in November of 2009. John and Michelle began breaking him to race, trained him, qualified him, and then entered him into the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) once he reached the age of two-years-old in the summer of 2010.

He won his first five sire stakes races in a row as a two-year-old. “He was a tough little bugger – fat, but definitely had a lot of heart and strength,” John said.

“He was a tough guy until he saw a bird – white birds particularly. He was a perfect gentleman to jog or walk, but once one of those white birds flew by or landed, he was gone. He would take off and throw himself. He was funny like that,” Michelle said.

Typical New Yorker was still able to race, but John and Michelle Hallett along with partner Michelle Oglesby agreed that retiring the ten-year-old would be the most beneficial option for the horse, avoiding the possibility that the horse reinjures his leg.

He was retired at Tradewinds Park Stables as a trail riding horse for the staff and public. I remember the first time I tried to ride him and, with his attitude, he tried to throw me off. He was, however, a barn favorite at Tradewinds and very well-mannered to ride and go on the trails.

“We chose this farm because it was a beautiful facility with practically all-day turn out with a few hours of ‘work’ time as a trail horse. Other Standardbreds were here as well and we knew workers and volunteers at the farm. However, it was the hardest decision to make. It was an easy decision to make to retire him, but so hard to watch him leave.,” Michelle said.

From about eight in the morning to four in the afternoon, the horses are pulled from their turnout paddocks and moved into their stalls. They only go on one or two rides on the trail per day, depending on the day. Then, they are moved back to their fields where they spend the rest of the day and night. Their life is easy and comfortable. They have other Standardbreds at the facility. Whenever they have an open stall, they love to get retired Standardbreds due to the ease of transition into saddle.

John and Michelle Hallett have shared a lifetime in the business. Michelle Hallett was born into the business with her parents being trainers Bruce and Linda Aldrich. Her brother, Bruce Aldrich, Jr. is a racehorse driver in the tracks of New York. John Hallett was introduced into the racing world at six-years-old and continued throughout his life working for various trainers, primarily Wally Hennessey, until creating his own stable with Michelle.

They have two kids, Jonathan (John) Hallett and Jessica Hallett (me). They are currently training this summer at Tioga Downs. Typical New Yorker is just one of numerous race horses they have retired to happy and forever homes.

Bruce Aldrich, Sr. is a lifetime horseman in the harness racing business. Since the beginning of his journey into the racing world and the beginning of his stable, he has seen and trained many horses. Of all the horses that every horseman has come across in Standardbred racing in general, there are always the select few being the favorites. For Aldrich, it was the trotting colt named Samsawinner.

Samsawinner is a 12-year-old trotting gelding. Throughout his career, the horse had 62 wins with a record of 56.

The gelding has always been a goofball with a special kind of personality, according to Aldrich. When he was turned out in the paddock at the top of the hill at Monticello Raceway, he was hard to catch. He would swerve and bounce out of reach to avoid being caught. He thought he was funny.

Sam wasn’t racing to par, unable to go anymore, and would be forced into a claiming race, so instead he was retired. He is now at a farm in upstate New York living the pasture life. He had a good card with a lot of wins and a lot of money made. Owner Woody Hoblitzell agreed to retire the colt.

Bruce Aldrich, Sr. started in the business when he was 12 years old when he cleaned stalls for Bob Tisbert. He has worked and trained for numerous stables in his career, include Carl Allen and Mickey McNichol among others. He has had his own stable as well for many years. He has trained for Woody Hoblitzell for over 20 years. Samsawinner is his first retired horse.

Cheri Clarke and her husband, trainer Edgar (Sparky) Clarke, trained racehorse No Monkeys Allowed. “It’s quite humorous don’t you think? Not your typical tough, regal racehorse name and not your typical racehorse,” Cheri Clarke said.

No Monkeys Allowed was originally named Issuer Blue Chip. “Someone must have seen his playful attitude and legally changed it to something to fit his personality,” Cheri joked.

They got him at the age of four in 2011 for owner Robert Orr of Deerfield Beach, FL and took a career record the following year of 1:50.3 at Vernon Downs. The Rocknroll Hanover gelding with earnings of $358,624 lifetime was retired at age 11.

No Monkeys Allowed, or “Monkey”, was very fat, according to Cheri as well as what other people have told her, too. He ate very well and always knew when treat time and lunch time was.

“If you are headed to the paddock and it generally takes about ten minutes to get up there, give yourself 20 with Monkey,” said Cheri.

He was a very nosy horse and needed time to stop and look around as they would walk to the paddock. He also had this personality that he would just know when to behave, when to stay calm, when he could get away with acting up, and then when to be a racehorse. He would let you know with his eyes if something was not right. Yet, nothing bothered him. He wasn’t afraid of anything. He was just calm and collected.

The Clarkes favorite memory of Monkey was pacing in 49 and finishing second in Vernon.

As time went on and Monkey got older, as all things do, his pace grew slower. Instead of putting the gelding in a claiming race, they decided to search for a new home, a new life after racing. They checked local farms with no luck due to no space available. Finally, they discovered a horseman with connections in need of a horse for trail riding.

Putting the horse in a claimer and if he had been claimed would have led Cheri to wonder and worry. When any horse is claimed, especially a barn favorite, every horseman agrees to just have this thought in the back of their mind, wondering how they are doing or how they are being treated, what is going on in their new lives, where they are. With the home Cheri and Sparky found, there was no worry or wonder. They are updated regularly with pictures and stories.

He is a really good riding horse and goes out on trail rides on his own or with other horses just fine. His new home was on a farm in Texas.

“Although my career is short by most standards of horsemen, my husband grew up in the business with his brother, Bruce. He has had 1,500 wins and $6.3 million in purse earnings. His father, Roy (Rod) Clarke, was a predominate trainer in the Maritime provinces of Canada,” said Cheri.

Sparky and Cheri are currently training at Tioga Downs for the summer and in the winter, Pompano Park. No Monkeys Allowed is their first retired horse.

My Sweet Mandy was racing in her two- and three-year-old years when she was discovered by Mandy Lareau. “I wanted her and I followed her through her early years of racing. She was not a claimer, though.

“I had family in the grandstand at Tioga Downs at one point and they saw this mare and her name in the race and knew I should have her.

“It was a dream for me to have this horse, to get her. She shared my name and I have always wanted a grey horse,” Mandy said.

The grey pacing mare was put into an auction in Delaware where Gaston and Mandy Lareau had planned to buy her, but was later taken out. She was moved to Florida where she was entered into a claiming race for her first start and claimed by the Lareau Stable. They kept her for three years until she injured her foot. The veterinarian had said it was an infection and that the horse would need to be put down, a definite no by Mandy Lareau.

Four months were put into rehabilitation by Mandy. The mare was able to be brought back to the track again. Yet, the Lareau’s decided to retire her to avoid re-injury to the foot. They started by talking to Laurie Poulin for turnout at her farm. After some time, the final decision was made and now, at eight-years-old, she is a broodmare at Poulin’s farm in Florida.

“She’s a sweetheart. I think she will be a great mother. She has taken care of an orphan baby at Laurie’s farm already. She just has a great personality,” said Mandy.

Every horse has their own personality. Their own quirks and traits that make them individual and unique. No different than people, they have this character that makes them, them.

According to Mandy, the mare has the greatest personality, just her own personality. She didn’t like anything tough on her. No lead chain over the nose. She would kick and squeal when you put the harness on. She was bad to jog. She loved treats. She didn’t wear any equipment at all, didn’t like it. The less equipment the better she would race. She would fight you to race. The easier you were on her, the better she was to you.

She had a record of 53. She was a good race horse. She is good to people she is used to. She did not connect with certain people, but, according to Mandy, she loves Laurie Poulin’s granddaughter.

At Tioga Downs, My Sweet Mandy was in the first stall. But, at Pompano Park, she took the second stall so that, as Mandy worked on the cross ties, the mare could play with her.

If Mandy was put on the trailer second, she would not go on. She was spoiled and loved attention. She always got her way. If you showed her the lead chain she would talk.

“In a way, she was like me. I wanted to be like her. She was a free spirit and just happy all the time.

“My Sweet Mandy was just a joy. I loved seeing her in the morning. It would make me smile and I miss her, but I know she is in a better place now at Laurie’s farm,” said Mandy.

Gaston and Mandy Lareau have each been a part of the business for over forty years. Gaston has owned, trained, and driven. “He is a horseman who loves horses and tries to figure them out, a real horseman,” according to Mandy.

They have been together for thirty-eight years. “When he says something, I already know what he’s going to say.”

My Sweet Mandy is their first retired horse.

Typical New Yorker, Samsawinner, No Monkeys Allowed, and My Sweet Mandy were equally alike in being the barn pets and favorites for the Hallett, Aldrich, Clarke, and Lareau Racing Stables. John and Michelle Hallett; Bruce Aldrich, Sr.; Sparky and Cheri Clarke; and Mandy and Gaston Lareau did whatever it took to bring their cherished babies to a happy and forever home.

Michelle MacDougall, D.V.M., is an active advocate in the race to helping find racehorses homes after retirement. She has helped place horses and has been a member on the board of Futures for Standardbreds.

She has had quite a few of her own horses that she had placed in forever homes as well.

Handleyourscandal is a ten-year-old mare that was retired from racing due to breathing complications while racing. Since retirement, she has foaled three, but was not being bred for the 2018 season.

“In early March of 2018, I learned about a good friend, Laurie Poulin, losing her mare shortly after foaling.

“I had Scandal at the farm and was not planning on breeding her this season, so I offered to try inducing lactation. Despite cautious optimism from a colleague, he provided a protocol and Scandal was able to produce milk in only four days,” said Doc MacDougall.

On March 7th, Scandal was introduced to her foster filly and there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation. “A few nickers back and forth and the filly immediately latched on and successfully nursed,” Doc MacDougall said. “Laurie sent a video of the moment and I actually shed a happy tear or two.”

Since then, there hasn’t been a single awkward moment, according to Michelle. The two are inseparable and have joined the broodmare herd. “There are even reports that Scandal has adopted a second colt in the field. Apparently, he prefers to spend time with her rather than her birth mother and Scandal happily nurses both fosters as if they are her own. She is such a wonderful mare.”

Michelle MacDougall has also had six other retired horses – Handle My Scandal (4, P, Bay, Mare – $1,830 – Retired 2017), Overseer NZ (15, P, Bay Gelding – $125,296, 1:52.0F – Retired 2013), Twin B Flirt (8, P, Bay, Gelding – $121,080, 1:52.1M – Retired 2017), Surprise Ending (18, P, Bay, Mare – $107,734, 1:54.4 – Retired 2010), Gilbralter (18, T, Bay, Gelding – $129,598, 1:55.3F – Retired 2012), Glors Boy (18, P, Bay, Gelding – $623,421, 1:50.4M – Retired 2012), and To The Point (12, P, Bay, Mare – $80,447, 1:53.0Z – Retired 2012).

Handle My Scandal (“Ms. Piggy”) was bred by Michelle MacDougall. A full body scan at the age of two revealed a microfracture in both knees and left tibia and so, the mare did not make the races. Despite the injuries, the only symptom was getting rolly and making breaks at speed in the turns. She was given time off and restarted in her three-year-old year. Another full body scan influenced Michelle to retire the mare. She is now in Maine. She participated in a youth program and graduated and was adopted by one of the youth program kids.

Overseer NZ (“Lou”) was a talented racehorse whose career was cut short from a soft tissue injury, according to Michelle. She rehabbed him for over a year before breaking him to ride in the winter of 2014. Michelle set her sights on endurance riding and he was the perfect mount. “He was small, light on his feet, quick, nimble, and would rack and canter when asked,” she said. An injury to Michelle prevented her from participating in her endurance debut, despite tirelessly training Lou. He now serves as “Uncle Lou” in her breeding program where Michelle weans foals from their mothers into the paddock with him. He has raised four years of weanlings for her.

Twin B Flirt (“Flirt”) suffered two separate soft tissue injuries. According to Michelle, during her time racing the colt, he was a significantly fun-loving, happy horse with all kinds of spunk and play. He had successful rehabilitation, yet the decision was made to retire him when he faced a Lasix reaction. Michelle decided that best for his health would be to retire him.

He is now in a home with a novice reins man, Keith Gordon, president of Blue Star Equiculture that provides home and sanctuary to draft horses at the end of their careers. Flirt enjoys a life of pleasure driving around the farm in Massachusetts; although, at first, Michelle had warned him that driving a draft horse versus a Standardbred is the difference between a Mack Truck and a Maserati.

Surprise Ending (“Prize”) suffered a slab fracture in both knees as a 3-year-old, but successfully continued racing for many more years. She was retired when the aches and pains were taking too long to recover after a race. She had a great attitude for life so Michelle decided a second career as a pleasure horse would fit her well. She has been broke to ride and spends many hours pleasure driving down the carriage paths of Arcadia National Park with now owner, Barbara Pretorious.

Gibralter (“G-Money”) was a hard-hitting horse with a huge desire to race, but unfortunately was plagued with poor conformation which caused him to interfere at speed one the aches and pains of being an aged racehorse changed his gait. Changing track sizes did not help so the horse was retired. Michelle broke him to ride in 2012 and kept him for two years as a trail horse, riding through the Ocala National Forest. She offered him to New Vocations for placement. He now participates in 25- and 50-mile endurance rides with his new owner.

Glors Boy was an incredibly successful racehorse who participated in and won some of the most prestigious races in harness racing. He was well-deserving of a great life after racing and was retired in 2012 as a riding horse for Michelle. She rode him for the next three years through the Ocala National Forest during her winters in Florida.

In 2015, she contacted Futures for Standardbreds and Robyn Cuffey to find anyone interested in a “husband horse” because he was so good at being babysitter on the trails. He was placed in a home in the spring of 2015 and even showed and won in a local dressage competition with his new owner. He is now shared as both a trail and show horse throughout southern Maine.

To the Point (“Big”) was a super talented free-legged pacer, but was plagued with lameness issues throughout her career. From a young age, she suffered from progressive white line disease and often required significant breaks from racing to allow the hoof to grow out properly. In 2012, she was retired to Michelle’s broodmare program, but, unfortunately, could not carry a foal to term so Michelle broke her to ride.

She played around with her in the Ocala National Forest until 2015, when she was donated to Robyn Cuffey to become part of a competitive driving herd. Big was perfect as a singles driving horse, but was unable to relax in the pair due to her competitive nature. She was adopted as a companion to Glors Boy.

Doc MacDougall is also a participating member of Racing Under Saddle (the R.U.S) as well as a competitor in the New Jersey National Standardbred Horse Show. She has trained horses to ride under saddle for the RUS and in dressage, hunt-seat, and more for the horse show.

Michelle MacDougall, D.V.M., plays an important role in life after racing for harness horses. She has placed her own horses as well as others, contributed as a member of societies for placement, and has trained horses for the transition into new careers after racing.

We will be competing alongside each other at the National Standardbred Horse Show in New Jersey at the end of this summer. It is a large venue that gives the opportunity to showcase the talent and flexibility of the Standardbred. It features the transition from harness and race bike to saddle and show ring. From dressage to hunt-seat to jumping, these horses can do it all. Their handlers and trainers do what it takes to ease a transition into a post-racing career.

Twelve-year-old trotting gelding Red Victor was claimed to a stable that Rebecca Segal worked for six years ago, at the age of six. During this ownership, the chestnut broke down, taking a year and a half to get back going. Once he was ready to race again, the owner died, causing the horse to be put into the sale.

Segal bought the eight-year-old out of the sale and has kept him ever since. She spent six months bringing him back to race ready and qualified him, where he won. “It was the most exciting part of owning him and my favorite memory that he was able to come back after all that time,” Segal said.

He was very full of life, according to Rebecca. He had quite the personality, very loving and just cool. “Once the cart was on, he would rear up and just be ready to go,” she said.

He didn’t race much and eventually stopped racing due to a broken bone. They were told they would have to put him down. When it came time to actually having to do it, he was moved to the house of a veterinarian and then to another place to actually help him get better. Rebecca got the horse back six months later and has kept him ever since. He travels with her; wherever she goes, he goes.

Keeping a retired horse is not entirely cost effective for a groom. Rebecca ensures to keep the utmost comfort for the horse; maintaining up-to-date shoeing, vaccinations, and more. She finds a local farm, within 20 minutes of her at most, where she can board him while she works at the track, from Batavia to Buffalo to Tioga to Pompano.

Rebecca finds the farms based off of good references and people that she knows and trusts. She is very specific of where she keeps him and the farm needs to match her views on good horse care, because everyone has their own style and way of doing things.

“It is important to me that he has a good life being retired. I have been lucky to have been able to find people that are willing to help us. We have been able to find deals on boarding and shoeing and more that really help us out a lot,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca Segal was born into the business and has been in it for all 27 years of her life. Her family is also involved in the harness racing business. She is a groom at Tioga Downs this summer and in Pompano Park in the winter. She just got her owners and trainers license. Red Victor is her first retired horse and she has done whatever it took to keep him comfortable and close-by. His new life involves traveling and a career in casual or pleasure horseback riding on the farm.

Regardless if you are a groom, trainer, owner, veterinarian, or anything else, we take care of our horses, our pets, our family.  There are options for racehorses after retirement. From being a trail riding horse to a show horse or a driving horse to a pasture mate, broodmare, or stud, our racehorses have a wide spectrum of opportunity for life after racing. They can be easily broke to ride and are very adaptable to a new environment.

Every horse has their own personality, quirks, and traits that make them special, that make them who they are. We, as horsemen, have our favorites. We have small stables and big stables, one horse to a full farm. We are all unique in the way we care for our horses. From the time of day we feed to how we train to how we schedule a race night in the paddock, we all have our own way.

But, one thing is for sure, and that is how we treat our horses and that is in the best way possible. We make sure they are comfortable. We show up seven days a week and give them all the attention and care they need.

The best part of racing happens behind the scenes. It is when the horseman puts in all the time and effort and does what it takes to keep the animal happy and safe.

These horses may or may not be able to continue racing; yet, regardless, their owners and trainers take the time to make the best decision for them whether it be to continue or to sell or to retire. These are only a few of the examples of life after racing and horsemen doing what it takes to give them a forever and happy home for life.

by Jessica Hallett, for Harnesslink

Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print

Read More News About...

Stallion Name

Next article: