Cathy Ann Savino-Kedzierski of Milford, Mass. isn’t squeamish.
After all, she loves to hunt quail and pheasant accompanied by her German shorthair pointers.
But in spite of the animal lover that she is, she still never had much sympathy for “extreme” animal-rights organizations.
Four years ago however, after watching a video of horses, still conscious, being brutally put down, she had her eyes opened to the horse slaughter issue. And that awareness grew to a passion to do something, anything to help. She started volunteering for horse adoption nonprofit CANTER New England, and a short time later purchased her own off-track Thoroughbred.
“When I discovered how they were slaughtered I felt this sense of urgency to do something. Even if I could help save just one horse, I felt I had to try,” she says. “I don’t support” radical animal rights groups. “I mean, I’m a hunter, I shoot pheasant and quail and we shoot what we eat. My point is that I’m not an extremist, but the way horses are slaughtered is so horrific.”
About four years ago, she started writing grants for CANTER New England, and it wasn’t long before the nonprofit’s executive director Ellen O’Brien helped Savino-Kedzierski take her passion a step further. Tattoo: D18281
Race name: Classalwayshows
New name: Valentino
Sire: Master Bill
Great grandfather: Mr. Prospector
Foal date: April 12, 2000
“One night I got an email from Ellen. She knew I was looking and she said she had found ‘the perfect horse’ for me. She sent a picture of him and he had such kind, liquid eyes. His personality really showed through, even in a photo,” she says.
In October 2006, Class Always Shows was transferred from his foster farm in Vermont to Legacy Stable in Mendon, Mass., where she stables him. And now, more often than not, the stall that Valentino calls home is where Savino-Kedzierski can be found six nights a week.
Sometimes she grabs a stool, takes a seat in Valentino’s stall, and whiles away the hours reading quietly, or talking to him while he munches hay.
“It’d been 17 years since I owned a horse of my own,” she says, noting that law school and family obligations had been the priority. But when the stresses of studies and parenthood eased, she decided it was time to own a horse again, like she had in her younger years.
“I knew I wanted a Thoroughbred, but now that I’m in my 50s, I felt too tired and too brittle to retrain a completely green horse,” she says. Valentino fit the bill. He’d been off the track and well into retraining when she met him at the foster farm in Vermont. And he has a great personality to boot.
“He’s just such a mellow horse.”
Although he was initially head shy, through treat rewards and vocal reassurance, Savino-Kedzierski has retrained him to think of her hand as a welcome, “safe” thing.
Her goals are to continue riding in the dressage discipline, introduce Valentino to a few Hunter Pace events, and possibly prepare him to be mount for Field Trial “game bird” competitions, training which would include introducing him to the sound of a shotgun.
Along the way, Savino-Kedzierski has helped spread the word about off-track Thoroughbreds. She wrote an article for Alex Brown Racing about her experience, and their story was also featured in The Chronicle of the Horse. She also blogs about her experiences on www.classalwaysshows.blogspot.com.
She knew instantly that the ex-racehorse who was close to going to auction when CANTER bought him should be saved.
“He has a forever home here with me in Massachusetts. I’ll go to the ends of the earth to make certain that he always has the best life I can give him.”
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