Diana Baker was haunted by the beautiful face of a racehorse she once knew.
For years she tracked the lovely large eyed Thoroughbred who grew up on Spring Hill Farm, where she worked and helped to rear him, and was later sold into a racing life.
She followed his every step, always putting the word out to his connections that she would take the feller they called Honorable Ruler whenever he was done with racing.
“When he ended at Penn National, I spoke with his trainer, and said I would give the horse a home when he was done racing,” Baker says. “I called the guy later and he told me he had given him away.
“I thought the horse went to slaughter; I thought he was dead.”
For years, thoughts of Honorable Ruler dying in a slaughterhouse preyed upon her.
Baker, a former member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and current member of Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, is one of those horse people, like many, who Race name: Honorable Ruler
Sire: Honour and Glory
Dam: Queen Tutta
Foal date: April 27, 2002worry after the soft muzzles and winsome faces like she would a child.
The wife of WinStar Farm general manager Chris Baker says that this horse had been “through hell and back” with owners and trainers, and until her phone rang in late summer 2012, she’d thought she’d failed in her promise to herself, and to the horse, to find him, wherever he was, and to take him home when his hard work was done.
Goosebumps rose, and she started to cry when California Thoroughbred advocate Deborah Jones called in late September to inform her that Honorable Ruler was alive and needed some help.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard his name! It was so unbelievable when Deb called me that I asked her if she was serious, was she sure he was still alive?” she says. “I burst into tears because finally I got to keep my promise to this horse.”
Working in tandem with Jones and with Thoroughbred re-trainer Lisa Molloy, Honorable Ruler was lavished with care. Baker paid to update his long overdue vaccines, as well as his Coggins. And in short order, he was taken to Molloy’s Virginia-based facility, where she re-trains horses from Re-Run, Inc. and Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue.
When Molloy first caught sight of the large bay, he wasn’t in the best shape, but neither was it the worst.
“He wasn’t critical, but, his hind legs were encrusted in scabs and sores, and he was underweight,” she says. “And his teeth needed to be done because they had massive hooks.”
Immediately, the dentist was called in to file his teeth, and a farrier brought in to shape up his overgrown feet, and shoe him. A chiropractor was also retained to help ease some discomfort in his back, she says.
As Molloy has tended to his needs, she has apprised Baker of his adaptation to a new life. And Baker has promised to help pay for any other needs the horse may require.
About 150 pounds underweight when he arrived, Honorable Ruler has regained nicely, and is happy to gobble up anything thrown in his stall, she says.
And as he fills out, his somewhat aggressive personality has softened as well.
“He’d been outside for two years and was used to fighting for his food,” Molloy says. “Now, if he’s been outside for two hours, he wants to immediately come back into the barn!”
She adds, “I think he remembers his pampered days back at Spring Hill, and he’s thinking, ‘Hey, I’m not supposed to be left outside for long periods of time, and I’m supposed to be wearing a blanket.’ ”
Bred by the late Edward D. Evans of Spring Hill Farm, Honorable Ruler earned $7,000 on the track, before retiring from racing three years ago.
But while Honorable Ruler is dining and sleeping in luxury and comfort, Molloy has greater plans for him than to be a fat, round pasture ornament.
He has now been entered in a 90-day training program called the Re-Run All Stars, which is funded by an ASPCA grant and promises to turn him into the perfect riding horse for an intermediate rider, Molloy says.
Though he may not be destined for great competition, he will most likely make a fine riding horse, says Molloy.
It is a tribute to the good nature of the breed, that makes this special horse a prize, even after all he has been through, Baker says.
“I wish more people understood how wonderful these horses are, from backyard horses to first-class athletes,” she says.