Elizabeth Reeves Smith of Lexington, Ky., had been painfully unemployed for 11 months when she first laid eyes on the son of racing superstar Point Given languishing, all beat up and tired at the end of the line.
Orchard Point was 250 pounds underweight, and was about a day away from shipping from the New Holland livestock auction to a Mexican slaughterhouse, when Smith spotted his photograph and an appeal by horse rescuer Mindy Lovell.
Lovell, a well-known horse advocate who patrols feedlots and auction houses for ex-racehorses in need of an 11th hour reprieve had seen the golden-red beauty, whose coat had faded beneath caked on dirt, in a group of horses who all wore bright identification tags bearing three-digit numbers.
With the clock ticking down to what could be his last hours alive, Lovell made an appeal for funds on Facebook to buy him from the feedlot, hoping someone would give him a home.
On July 16, 2012, Smith saw that message and threw caution to the wind.
“I said a small prayer, and then I sent Mindy a Facebook message,” Smith says. “It took her all of 30 seconds to call me.”
Three hours later, she received a follow-up call: Orchard Point was all hers.
Race name: Orchard Point
Barn name: Opie
Sire: Point Given
Foal Date: April 16, 2005A lot of people might have asked Smith what she was thinking; no work, no income, no certainty ahead. In fact, there are still some in her family who have no idea she saved an ex-racehorse.
“At the point that I made this decision, there was nothing on the horizon as far as employment, and it was really something I can’t explain,” Smith says. “But, I just knew that come hell or high water, I was going to make it work.”
Before the lovely golden-red gelding arrived at the boarding facility Smith had selected it already felt as though they were knee deep in both hell and high water.
Orchard Point came down with a bad cold while in quarantine at a holding facility, and then contracted Strangles.
Transportation problems also plagued the entire process to the point that Smith says she thought she’d have to drive to Pennsylvania and ride him home.
But eventually the roadblocks cleared, Orchard Point regained his health, and on Oct. 12, a transport trailer carrying her underweight warrior arrived in Kentucky.
“As soon as I heard the engine of the truck, I started bawling,” Smith says. “I just couldn’t wait to meet him and start to take care of him. He had been neglected for so long, I knew he would really need help.”
It’s unclear where the lackluster runner had been before he landed at New Holland. The last people connected with him had sent him to a layup facility after he’d run poorly in his last race, she says.
From there, the animal was sent to a rescue, which had been researched and vetted, and from there, and as far as anybody knew, the horse had been placed in a new home.
It wasn’t until Jen Roytz of Three Chimneys farm called his connections to let them know he’d shown up at New Holland that his whereabouts was discovered, says Smith, explaining that Roytz got involved with helping the horse, the son of a Three Chimneys stallion.
Regardless of how he wound up at New Holland, or where he spent the months prior, life took a turn shortly after his discovery, and the woebegone animal adapted quickly to his better lot.
After a week spent settling in at his new farm, time spent figuring out, Smith says, that he is, indeed home, the former racehorse quickly assumed his new role as gentle pet.
Nicknamed Opie, for his initials O.P., the gentle ham is so good with people that Smith trusts him with her twin daughters, who are 13.
“They are not horsey girls, but he’s so good with them that they can feed him and brush him while he just stands there, eating up the attention,” she says.
He has regained about 200 pounds while soaking in his new, pampered existence.
And in him, Smith has fulfilled a dream she has had for many years, to rescue a horse from a kill pen and give him a better life.
But as she waits to ride him out on the rolling, picturesque trails near the farm, Smith will have to cool her heels a bit during the day. For she’s now found work once again, in the employee benefits field.
Seems like good fortune comes in pairs, and giving and getting go hand in hand.
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