He was 28.
His death came at the close of one of his happiest years, says Nicole Smith, Exceller Fund volunteer executive director. Rescued the previous year from a farm that confined him to a stall for six years, Verifiable was fostered by well-known Kentucky horsemen Jackie and Ercel Ellis and cared for like a family pet.
Remembered as a spunky and good-natured horse, Smith notes that it was nearly impossible to get his picture; he was always much too interested in nuzzling the camera lens right before his image was captured.
“He was so into people, and he loved everybody, that it was impossible to take his picture before he got his nose up to your camera,” Smith recalls with a chuckle. “I’ve worked with a lot of horses, and I’ve cried when most died. But Verifiable was an absolute love and we adored him. I’m embarrassed that I’ve cried so much.”
Smith helped facilitate Verifiable’s transfer last October from a farm that kept him stalled all the time, to the Ellis’ 22-acre farm, which offered him plenty of running room.
In an interview with Off-Track Thoroughbreds.com last year, Smith explains that the lightly raced stallion had reportedly been abandoned on a farm, and with a family not equipped to handle a stallion.
“The owners contacted me directly and said they had a Secretariat. But at this point, I just knew there was a horse in a situation he needed to get out of, and that was the main concern,” Smith says. “The people who had him were doing the best they could for him —he’d been abandoned by his owner on their property, and they weren’t set up for a stallion— so we did our best to get him out of there.”
When he arrived at the Ellis farm, he was transitioned slowly from indoor to outdoor life. Started in a round-pen and small paddock, he acclimated well and made friends. By the time he was turned out to a grassy field, he had access to winter grass, which is less rich than spring bluegrass, Smith says, noting that everyone involved was very careful to limit his exposure to grass, so his body could adjust.
For such an older gentleman, he carried himself across his field with a real bounce to his trot. “He just had a ball out there,” says Smith, noting that though the Exceller Fund is sad to lose him, at least his last year was very happy.
Smith asked that his mane and tail be cut for her, so she and the Exceller Fund can hold on to a little piece of Verifiable, a horse whose bloodlines carried historic greatness, and whose good nature brought them all joy.