One of the oldest Secretariat sons dies

Verifiable in his paddock at the Ellis family farm in Kentucky

Verifiable in his paddock at the Ellis family farm in Kentucky

Verifiable, one of the oldest living Secretariat stallions, was euthanized Sept. 28th after becoming extremely ataxic and falling twice in his Kentucky pasture, the Exceller Fund reports.

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 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.

Verifiable in his paddock, where he spent a very happy year of life

Verifiable in his paddock, where he spent a very happy year of life

“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.

21 responses to “One of the oldest Secretariat sons dies”

  1. jaya


  2. Daryl

    thank goodness he was able to get out and walk and trot if he wanted, they want to be free and you can’t blame them.

  3. Susan Crane-Sundell

    It’s sad to think that a son of Secretariat got lost in the “system” or lack of one, anyway. He should have had trainers looking out for him and advocating on his behalf all the way along his life. But lacking that, a great last year with a beautiful pasture to roam in and people who gave him the best life possible was a fitting tribute for a son of Big Red. He certainly had his Daddy’s looks. A happy last year with freedom and love is a great way to heal.

  4. Tawnya Northen

    Rest in peace, Verifiable. God’s speed. Enjoy all the green meadows in God’s land! Son of a great horse, Secretariat!

  5. Tonya

    RIP Verifiable. Such a great story to hear he went from a bad home to a great loving family who loved him til death. Sorry for your loss on Verifiable.

  6. Barbara Griffith

    This is one of the reasons that don’t agree with stabling and keeping a horse locked up in a stall all the time. If a person has no choice but to stable a horse it needs a good size turnout so the animal can get exercise and and graze, and roll if it wants too. The people that had kept this horse in a stall for six years should have asked for help as soon as they found out they could not handle a stallion, not confine it for that long. To me that smacks of cruelty along with ignorance.

  7. elle

    this is what happens to horses,,especially those who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars(even millions) on the track .They are tossed aside &abandoned or sent right to slaughter . The horse industry and slaughter idiots are pushing to open slaughterhouses claiming only old feeble horses will be killed This is far from the truth ,as you can see The above practice is VERY common

  8. adele

    Along with all of the many emails I have to say as well, God Bless you for taking care of Verifiable. You are a special family and he is smiling with all the other horses and thanking you from a distance. I wish I could help. Would love to volunteer weekends and give the love to these beautiful and God sent creatures. If I may please let me know. Thank you.

  9. BendOrBoy

    RIP boy. Go run with your sire in he green pastures you deserve. He had love and caring the last year of his life. He had great people to care for him. There is no better way for an animal to live.

    We have to remember that there are people out there that care.

  10. Christine

    Running into God’s Light…… sweet boy………run to your beloved Gorgeous Dad!!!

  11. Trish Lake

    Such a happy ending to a sad story. We lost a horse that was on the farm as a 5 year old he dies at 34 years old. We still fill the loss J Bar Tuffy was a big part of our life and family.He only made 300,000 lifetime. and we retired him after a big comeback at 12years old. After 4 races he lived his wonderful life on the farm. J Bar Tuffy RIP

  12. Mary

    A natural for the camera, just like his dad. Rest in greener pastures and run like the wind now.

  13. Jon

    Rest in peace gentle horse.

  14. Judith Schmader

    So sorry to read this and he is at peace running in Gods heavens. Horses have such a spirit and one of the best animals God created.

  15. Christina

    Saddens me because, wow, if even a son of Secretariat can be treated so poorly, seems there’s little hope for the many horses with less stellar bloodlines or track careers…yet at the same time is a spark of joy because the actions of the people involved remind me that there are lots of people who do care and don’t make “it’s a business” excuses to justify cruelty and go the extra furlong to take care of these animals…kudos to them all and how nice to know this was one horse that got to live out his days in a pasture and loved by his people.

  16. John Bellucci

    Nice to hear Verifiable had a good last year with folks who loved him so. Now he can run free … forever. And to Nicole Smith … never feel embarrassed about how much you cry for a Horse. 😉

    1. Nicole Smith

      Thanks for the kind words, John. Verifiable is truly something special and has been an inspiration to me. For him to have gone through what he did and yet be so willing to trust people going forward… and to remain so kind spirited. We have pulled many horses out of bad situations, including kill pens/auctions, etc., but to imagine a horse enduring six years of confinement. I try to remain professional in these situations, but to be honest, the tears continue to flow freely when I think of him. You just can’t help but fall in love with them.

  17. Mike Muscato

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It was wonderful reading he spent the last year being a happy ol’ guy

  18. Greg Jones

    So glad he passed with his dignity, and was able to have fun the last year of his life. Thank you for those that cared for him. R.I.P. Verifiable.

  19. Jean

    I read this through tears but so glad that he got to live the last year of his life knowing so much love and freedom. I was at Secretariat’s birthplace a couple of weeks ago and it is a beautiful place and gives me chills whenever I am there to be able to walk on the ground that some of the greats have walked on.
    RIP Sweet Verifiable.

  20. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Rest in peace Verifiable.

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