Woman, 73, opens farm to ex-cons; 2nd chance

Anne Tucker, 73, grooms a horse with boarder Norman King, a former inmate and graduate of the TRF's prisoner/racehorse program Second Chances.

Anne Tucker, 73, grooms a horse with boarder Norman King, a former inmate and graduate of the TRF’s prisoner/racehorse program Second Chances. Photo by Linda Passaretti

A 73-year-old Virginia woman who boasts a connection to Kentucky Derby winner Day Star, is doing something absolutely stellar with her modest horse farm.

For the last bunch of years, Anne Tucker has taken “a big leap of faith” and welcomed former inmates to her farm, providing a roof over their heads, rent free, and a path to transition from prison to society.

“At first, my family was not as enthusiastic about the idea as I was,” Tucker says. “My husband had some reservations and my daughter did too. But in 2009, I welcomed Tamio Holmes to come live on the farm … I knew what a great person he was, what a hard worker, and thought it would be nice to have him around.”

Holmes had just graduated from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) prisoner/racehorse program Second Chances at the James River Work Center when he was offered the chance to live rent-free and get back on his feet. Holmes, who learned horsemanship and farrier skills through the TRF training in prison, was spring-boarded into a new life. (Please see an earlier story here). Today he owns a successful farrier business, and was recently married.

Holmes lived on Tucker’s farm for nearly two years. After she watched him return to society a new man, she opened her doors to former inmate and TRF graduate Norman King, 60.

Tucker, on right, walks with Penny Chenery's daughter Kate Tweedy, and Secretariat descendant, Covert Action. Covert Action was the first horse welcomed into the TRF's James River program.

Tucker, on right, walks with Penny Chenery’s daughter Kate Tweedy, and Secretariat descendant, Covert Action. Covert Action was the first horse welcomed into the TRF’s James River program.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Tucker, a founding member of the TRF’s Second Chances program at the James River Work Center, and past president, discusses her life helping racehorses and inmates.

Q: You didn’t hesitate to open your home to a former prisoner. Why?

Before I offered the house to Tamio, we had another person who lived on and helped with the farm chores. When that person left, Tamio just popped into my head. And I thought, now there’s someone who could do this work, and do it very well. He had a great personality, was a lot of fun, and it would be great to have him around.

And I knew he was going to struggle when he was released. He’d already gone back to prison (after a prior incarceration). He was on work release working for Dr. Tom Newton by day and returning to the prison at night. He was also working with a highly respected farrier named Bill Lane. All he needed was a leg up with getting a roof over his head and utilities in exchange for morning and evening help with the horses.

Today, Tamio is one of the stars of our (Second Chances) program. He has done so well for himself, has a thriving business, and just got married to an amazing woman.

Q: Having a place to land and call home is so important to a former inmate.

Tucker, left, with Tamio Holmes and massage therapist Courtney Davis.

Tucker, left, with Tamio Holmes and massage therapist Courtney Davis.

Most of these men come from very negative backgrounds, and part of the reason they’ve gotten in trouble is that they don’t take the time to think things through. Incarceration is also an extremely negative situation. So when the men come out, even if they’ve taken the Groom Elite/Second Chances class and become certified (in horsemanship), they still lack that additional experience of living outside (prison walls) and thinking things through. Working in a barn, and having a place to live, even my modest 3-bedroom Cape with no frills and no dishwasher, gives them a chance to stop and think.

For instance, when they leave the barn at night after night check, they’ll learn to think it through and to ask themselves basic questions, like, did they remember to make sure everything is turned off. They learn to conduct themselves in ways that are second nature to us, but that they need to re-learn.

Q: How did you get involved with helping prisoners?

For me, it all started with my love of horses. My great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson Nichols owned the 4th Kentucky Derby winner, Day Star. And my grandfather Silas Kenney Nichols had some stakes horses and broodmares. I never knew him, because he died of pneumonia at an early age. But being his granddaughter was kind of an entry ticket for me to the backstretch of any training track; I was always introduced as ‘Kenney Nichol’s granddaughter.’

Tucker enjoys a moment with Covert Action.

Tucker enjoys a moment with Covert Action.

Although I didn’t go to work with horses—I went to the University of Kentucky and got an undergrad in microbiology and a graduate degree in toxicology, and had a professional career in immunotoxicology.

I always loved horses. And my daughter was a very good rider. I became a horse-show mother. And in 2007, I got involved with a group of people talking about putting horses at the James River Work Center. We thought it would be a great way to take care of horses, and help inmates learn new skills. The idea combined my love of horseracing and my love of the horses.

In 2007, we took our first horses in at James River, and I was there the day that Tamio Holmes took hold of the halter of Covert Action, our Secretariat grandson. Watching their relationship is part of the reason I’ve spent so much time invested in this program. That’s when I saw how much horses meant to those men.

Q: After Tamio Holmes transitioned back to society you took in another ex-con.

Norman King, we call him Norm, came here in September 2014. He’s in his 60s, and I knew he’d have an extremely hard time getting a job. He served quite a bit of time, some of it in a federal penitentiary. He’s working out very well.

He’s extremely reliable. I know that if I say we’re going to feed the horses at 4 pm., that when I walk down to the barn, every stall will be ready, filled with hay and fresh water. And we’ll go get the horses.

And he loves the horses.

Norm is very hardworking and just trying to get himself out of the hole he dug. Like so many men when they get out of prison, he had nothing.

Most of these men have little if anything when they are released:  no job, no living quarters, no driver’s license or any idea of how to get one.  Many have outstanding fines to pay, sometimes into thousands of dollars, and often back child support. It is a big hole to dig out of, often with no help.

It’s no wonder that some of them wind up back in prison.  We are trying to change that.

Penny Chenery’s t’bred to help fete Secretariat

Secretariat’s great-great granddaughter, Groundshaker, will be coming to her ancestral home as the star attraction of the annual Secretariat Birthday Celebration at The Meadow April 1-3.

Secretariat’s great-great granddaughter, Groundshaker, will be coming to her
ancestral home as the star attraction of the annual Secretariat Birthday Celebration at The Meadow April 1-3.

Doswell, Va.—Secretariat’s great-great granddaughter, Groundshaker, will be coming to her
ancestral home as the star attraction of the annual Secretariat Birthday Celebration at The Meadow April 1-3.

The celebration is a major highlight of the Virginia Horse Festival, which attracts thousands of horse lovers from all over the Mid-Atlantic. Efforts are underway to eventually welcome the retired racehorse as a permanent resident at the historic birthplace of the Triple Crown champion.

Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner and daughter of Meadow Stable’s founder Christopher T. Chenery, said it was only fitting for Groundshaker to play this role in the ongoing preservation of The Meadow’s heritage.

“Groundshaker needed a new job and a new home,” said Chenery. “She is the last horse I
bred and raced, so her stay at The Meadow will bring our story full circle. As we mark the 80th anniversary of my father’s founding of Meadow Stable in 1936, Groundshaker will be a living, breathing, beautiful thread to that treasured past.”

Groundshaker is a regal mare descended from Secretariat.

Groundshaker is a regal mare descended from Secretariat.

Groundshaker, a regal, 17-hand bay mare, is by Quiet American, sire of 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet. Her link to Secretariat comes through her dam, Cotton Anne, who is a granddaughter of Terlingua, one of Secretariat’s best daughters and the dam of Storm Cat. Groundshaker is five years old.

“We are beyond thrilled that Penny chose to send Groundshaker to The Meadow,” said Leeanne Meadows Ladin, Secretariat tourism manager and resident historian. “Her gesture was enormously generous, as we have wanted to have a Secretariat descendant here for a long time. Groundshaker, a living link to Secretariat and Penny’s last racehorse, will be a tremendous boost to our heritage tourism program and help us perpetuate the Meadow Stable legacy. Once our facilities are ready for her, we plan for Groundshaker to assume her role as hostess to our ‘Hoofprints of History’ tour guests.”

Secretariat's annual birthday celebration will take place April 1-3.

A celebration is planned to honor this great Thoroughbred, Secretariat.

Ladin noted that Groundshaker will not only help educate visitors about the history of The Meadow, but also help them learn more about horses. The Meadow will soon launch a fund-raising campaign to build a functional barn and pasture fencing for Groundshaker, and to eventually restore the 1930s-era Meadow Stable barns listed on the state and national historic registers.

Groundshaker, along with members of the Secretariat racing team, will be a VIP guest at two ticketed evening events during the Secretariat Birthday Celebration: an April 1 Paddock Party and a special 80th Anniversary Program on April 2. A portion of the proceeds for each of these events, as well as a special silent auction of Secretariat items, will benefit the barn fund.

Additionally, Groundshaker will greet guests throughout the three-day event, where fans will also enjoy:

• Celebrity appearances with Charlie Davis, Secretariat’s exercise rider and Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery and co-author of “Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend” with Leeanne Meadows Ladin,

• Special displays of rare Secretariat and Meadow Stable memorabilia,

• Farm tram tours, including VIP tours with the Secretariat team,

• Official Secretariat merchandise for purchase and more.

The Secretariat Birthday Celebration, a collaboration with Secretariat.com, is a major highlight of the Virginia Horse Festival, which celebrates horses and riding disciplines of all types. Fans can enjoy three days of clinics and demonstrations with top clinicians; a parade of breeds; 60,000 square feet of indoor shopping for all horse lovers; special events like the Colt Starting Challenge USA and much more. Festival hours are Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m; and Sunday 9 a.m.– 5 p.m.

Festival and Birthday Celebration evening event tickets go on sale Feb. 12 at VirginaHorseFestival.com. General admission tickets are $12 in advance (online only) and $15 at the gate. The April 1 Paddock Party tickets are $35 and the April 2 anniversary reception and program tickets are $75. Tram tour tickets will be sold onsite. See VirginiaHorseFestival.com for complete ticket information and the full program schedule.

For additional updates on the Secretariat Birthday Celebration, please visit Secretariatsmeadow.com and Secretariat.com.

$750 horse steaming toward Rolex after blip

Leah Lang-Gluscic and her OTTB AP Prime are back in training, aiming for a second trip at Rolex.

Leah Lang-Gluscic and her OTTB AP Prime are back in training, aiming for a second trip at Rolex.

The $750 Thoroughbred who made it all the way to Rolex last year before being pulled back from competition is steaming back, better than before.

AP Prime is outperforming himself and looking better than ever following months of rest, slow rehab, and a diet change, says owner/rider Leah Lang-Gluscic. The professional rider pulled her horse from competition last April after a tendon strain incurred in a jumping accident showed signs it wasn’t fully resolved.

Though AP passed all soundness testing with flying colors prior to the fabled four-star event in Kentucky, and competed in dressage, Lang-Gluscic yanked him from the hardcore cross country out of an abundance of caution when an ultrasound on AP’s left, front leg, previously injured in a fall, showed a “worrisome” result.

AP Prime
Sire: A.P. Indy
Dam: Czarina Kate
Foal date: March 14, 2005
Though the goal-oriented equestrian, who quit an investment-banking career to compete AP Prime at the highest level, was very disappointed, in hindsight, the time away from competition paid big dividends.

“The time off he had was really a blessing in disguise,” she says.

A blessing because Lang-Gluscic was able to tweak his diet and give AP downtime, and only later, a slow return to work, she says.

While AP was taught to graze calmly in a field, curbing his tendency to gallop around, Lang-Gluscic changed his feed, and was amazed at the result.

After the transition, his topline became stronger, and he built muscle and developed a great attitude.

AP and Leah at Rocking Horse, their first event since Rolex. Photo by John Clarke

AP and Leah at Rocking Horse, their first event since Rolex. Photo by John Clarke

“It has been a real game changer,” she says. “I now had the time to experiment with his feed, and the results have been amazing. His topline has never been stronger, and he looks fabulous.”

His fabulous good looks were enhanced by a careful fitness regimen. Following a two-month vacation, the horse and rider spent another month on walk-only rides, and another two months on trot-only rides. And when AP was finally cleared for canter work, he started off indoors, cantering the straight line and making shallow turns, she says.

His recuperation was monitored by veterinarians Jill Copenhagen of Florida and Dana Marsh of Illinois, she adds, noting that though her horse never took a lame step. He was given all the care that a four-star competition horse needs.

And it paid off!

The pair recently ran a preliminary cross-country at the Rocking Horse Trials in Ocala, Fla., with excellent results. Though finishing mid-pack in the competition, AP put in his best dressage work, and proved to be more rideable than at any other point, she says.

AP now uses a therapeutic EquiVibe plate everyday, and his flexion has improved tremendously.

AP now uses a therapeutic EquiVibe plate everyday, and his flexion has improved tremendously.

“The whole point was for him to go in the ring and be relaxed. And we totally accomplished that,” she says. Afterwards, his affected leg was veterinarian tested, and proved to be in top condition.

With the return ride under their belt, AP and Lang-Gluscic plan to attack the competition season this year as they make another run up to Rolex. They will shoot for the CIC three-star at Pine Top later this month, and the CIC three-star at Carolina in mid-March.

“This little blip we had” at Rolex “really gave me some time to sit back and tweak his program. I don’t think he’s ever been fitter, happier or more sound,’ she says. “Everything’s really working right now. He’s got springs on his feet and he’s feeling so well trained and rideable. We’re picking up right where we left off last year, only this time, we’re more prepared.” Please see past stories about AP Prime and Lang-Gluscic: