Rocketing toward the finish line, in a frenzied, final push to win, the dark bay gelding stumbled suddenly, and went crashing to the ground.
Just shy of the final pole at the Finger Lakes Race Track last year, the great warhorse began to fall, but before completely hitting the dirt, Out From Africa did what he had done so faithfully in his grindingly long seven-year career. He finished the race.
When the strikingly beautiful gelding who, by now, had grown nasty and had soured on people, regained his feet, he was placed 8th in Race 2 on June 6, 2011.
But the big race wasn’t over.
As he was led back to the shedrow, the 10-year-old who had ground out nearly $300,000 in winnings, putting his connections in the money in 40 of 81 starts, was about to face an uncertain future, and some might say, the race of his life.
“He had already been through several hands in the last five years of his racing career,” says Claire Taylor of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption.
“He’d begun showing signs that he was done with racing; he became closed off, started biting and kicking, and was so unruly in the paddock, that it took several people to Race name: Out From Africa
Sire: Cape Town
Dam: Sweet Leader
Foal date: May 12, 2002
Earnings: $292,399saddle him” before a race.
But despite making so many trips to the winner’s circle, a warhorse like Out From Africa could not expect a hero’s welcome at most retirement or retraining facilities, Taylor says.
“Nobody wanted an older, unhappy horse that was a cribber with a nasty disposition,” she explains.
But, when it appeared that Out From Africa had few options, and worse, faced possible euthanasia, a woman identified as a “good Samaritan” took him in, and started his rehabilitation while she looked for a facility where she could place him for re-training and eventual adoption, Taylor says.
“She tried several rescues and adoptions centers, and even pleaded on the Internet for someone to give him a home,” Taylor says. “Finally, New Vocations was contacted, and on a chilly November day in 2011, he made the trip to our facility in Marysville, Ohio.”
That’s where ex-racehorses get gentle retraining, and as much TLC as they can stand, and where Out From Africa finally began to develop a renewed vigor for life, and a desire to be back in step with his kind.
“His transformation really started at the farm of the good Samaritan who took him. She reported to us that at first, he stayed in his stall, even though she left the door open,” says Amy Allison, farm manager and trainer at New Vocations. “But as he decompressed on her farm, he started going outside, and eventually he integrated with the herd.”
And, after arriving at New Vocations, although his quirks were still there, he “started to turn very sweet, very fast,” Allison says.
“It was as though he figured out that life was going to get good. He became a joy to have around,” she adds.
Within three short weeks of his arrival, he has wormed his way into the kind heart of equine veterinarian Molly McOwen, with whom he is making a permanent home in Ohio.
Did she set out to buy an ornery ex-racehorse Thoroughbred? No.
But, while helping a client of her practice look over videos of adoption prospects at New Vocations, her interest was piqued by the horses in their care.
“I actually wanted a horse who was a little older, with some mileage and more maturity to his brain,” she says. “So, I told the people at New Vocations that if they get someone who’s in the double digits (in age) to give me a call.”
When that call came in a short time later, McOwen wasn’t exactly biting. But then she saw photos, and the nicely put together racehorse looked more appealing.
And once she read his story and saw his videos, her heart melted.
“He’s had such a hard-knock life and I’m well versed with dealing with animals with baggage—it seems most of my barn is filled with misfits,” she says. “I’ve got a soft spot for these guys.”
Out From Africa has not been an easy horse.
One difficult moment came suddenly, as McOwen was trying to measure him for a girth. “My husband was holding him at the head, and I was cinching up the girth—it wasn’t even tight—and just that contact on the belly caused him to panic. He went into a full meltdown.
“We got him settled down and I turned him out in the paddock and was just on the verge of calling New Vocations and telling them it wasn’t working. But this was a Sunday and they were closed, so maybe there were some winds of fate working there.”
Wondering if she’d adopted a crazy horse and a mean fighter, McOwen walked out to the field to check on him; she found him lying down.
As she drew closer, unlike most horses who would scramble to a stand when approached by a person they don’t know well, he stayed where he was.
McOwen inched closer.
“I squatted down near his shoulder and explained to him that I’m offering him a really good life. I said I wouldn’t ask much of him, and that he’d get really good food, and get to go trail riding,” she says. “But I said he had to meet me half way.
“Then I got up and walked over to another horse in my field, and Out From Africa got up, walked over to me and put his forehead right against my chest. I know. It sounds so anthropomorphic, but I couldn’t believe it.”
Now every day is better than the previous one.
With gentle lunging exercises and regular grooming sessions, his personality has blossomed.
Add to that the several rides they’ve had, all gone very well and quite fun, and slowly but steadily, he is learning to be a horse again.
“I’m proud of my little boy,” McOwen says. “It’s a lot of fun just watching his metamorphosis from an angry, hateful, sour animal to one starting to enjoy life again, and starting to build a trusting bond.”
The video below shows Out From Africa under saddle at New Vocations shortly after he arrived.
14 responses to “$300K winner falls at Finger Lakes into great life”
I have often wondered how many of these horses come to be at New Vocations and then, where they go after. It warms my heart to read stories like that of, Out of Africa. What an amazing horse to begin to trust again after his hard road. I am so grateful that there are people out there that care enough to help the hard knock cases. God bless all of you for the hard work you do to help these beautiful creatures.
Sunny Humphries, I agree with you 100% animals most certainly have emotions. They show it every day but sadly, some people simply cannot see the obvious.
Makes the story even more remarkable!
Is the ‘good samaratin’ remaining anonymous? Either way a great story.
Hi Carl, I was told the person who took the horse wanted to remain anonymous. Which is no problem at all.
Please don’t use that awful word, “anthropomorphism”! It assumes only humans are capable of emotion & reason, and that’s just not true. (As Out from Africa so aptly proved!) We are an arrogant species, and I have grown cynical of us. People like Molly McOwen & those at New Vocations and other rescue groups renew my belief in the goodness of (some) humans! Now, if we can just come to recognize that emotion isn’t only for humans …
If only, if only ALL race horses could have happy endings as Out of Africa has been so lucky to have found. It breaks my heart to read what he had to endure to get to where he is now–and then it was only sheer luck that he wasn’t sent to slaughter, but was instead noticed and rescued. the Good Samaritan, New Vocations, and Molly are all angels in my book. If only the thousands of others like him that don’t get noticed could be so lucky…if only, if only, if only…
(Nancy Babcock) Just to note: Out From Africa was NOT in danger of going to slaughter. He WAS, however, going to be euthanized at the track if no one took him home. It would have been very sad and unfair if he had been eathanized, but it would have been inconscionable for him to have been sent to slaughter.
Susan L., yes, I had heard that he was possibly going to be put down. I hope the story doesn’t imply he was in the slaughter pipeline, because he wasn’t.
sorry – “euthanized” (sp)
Susan L, I’ll go fix it in your comment! I should have seen it and done it anyway.
So nice to read about a horse that may not have had such a great ending if not for the Good Samaritan, New Vocations, and Molly for sticking with him. May she enjoy many trail rides with him!
Such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us!
So sweet! My eyes are filled with tears. 🙂
Awesome story! Looks like Molly has gotten a real winner in many ways! So glad that Out of Africa will be able to blossom into the horse he has tried so hard for so long to be… this time with a partner he so deserves! So grateful also, for the good Samaritan that rescued him! Hope we will hear of a follow up later down the road! This pair will surely have stories to tell!
Best of life and happy trails to you both!