Beyond the Roses charity is broke, needs help

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk earned $813,953 on the track. Here he is arriving at Beyond the Roses last June.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk earned $813,953 on the track. Here he is arriving at Beyond the Roses last June.

Gail Hirt, executive director of Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue and Retirement, reports that her nonprofit charity is in dire straits, and may have to close its doors following a combination of financial setbacks.

The nonprofit charity with 15 horses in Ohio and Michigan saw funding sources dry up this year, and other attempts to bring in money to support war horses — who earned a combined total of $4 million on the track— have failed, she says.

The charity is down to its last $5,000, Hirt says, and she is actively considering the heartbreaking decision to close the doors to the certified nonprofit by June.

“I’ve been lying in bed thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ If it doesn’t get better by June, I won’t be able to continue this.”

Prior to starting Beyond The Roses, Hirt was a national board member of CANTER USA and the secretary for CANTER Michigan. During her tenure with the national Thoroughbred charity, she fostered and rehabilitated 42 horses from 2003 through 2011.

She branched off on her own in 2008 when she rescued the famous poster-child for racing warhorses, Top Bunk. Foaled in 1997 by Dixie Brass, the racehorse earned $554,284 in 90 starts, before Hirt joined an effort with Alex Brown of Alex Brown Racing Forum to get the hard-knocking horse retired.

An unidentified Thoroughbred whose lip tattoo was obscured, came to live at Beyond the Roses and is now called Rocky.

An unidentified Thoroughbred whose lip tattoo was obscured, came to live at Beyond the Roses and is now called Rocky.

From that point on, the name Top Bunk was adopted on a racehorse watch list, called the Top Bunk List, which kept an eye on seasoned campaigners, who, like Top Bunk, had earned more than $500,000 and were still racing.

Despite numerable successes retiring and re-homing horses, Hirt says her charity, which was officially certified as a 501 c 3 in 2012, has hit hard times. A key reason for the evaporation of financial support was due to restrictions enacted by past funding sources, which made her ineligible for funding help this year, Hirt says.

“Some of my grant-funding sources changed their rules to require that charities be a certified nonprofit for three years,” she explains. Although Hirt’s work with Beyond the Roses extends back longer than the requisite three years, she has only had her certification for two. The result is that Hirt can no longer turn to donors who helped her in the past, she says.

Beyond the Roses’ yearly operating budget is $70,000. Some $58,000, the lion’s share, pays for the upkeep of the animals, including regular veterinary care, dental care, feed, transportation, etc. The remainder is used to pay a reasonably priced trainer to school horses for new careers, Hirt says.

Ebben Estoora (the gray) grazes with Top Bunk at After the Roses Equine.

Ebben Estoora (the gray) grazes with Top Bunk at After the Roses Equine.

“I’ve got $5,000 right now and I have four horses that need to go into training so they can be eligible for new homes,” she says. “My trainers don’t charge a lot, it’s very minimal.”

Hirt adds that a generous donation from After the Finish Line, which provided funds for hay, is a big help, but that her other efforts to raise funds, through both applications to donors, and Facebook campaigns, have been shockingly disappointing.

“I asked on Facebook for some help with vaccines, and posted three announcements,” she says. “I didn’t get one dollar. In the past, when I’ve posted for help—I only ask when I absolutely need to—I get help.”

Horses currently under the care of Beyond the Roses include, Fuhrever Dancing, Skippy Due, Greatest Star, Distorted Groom, Harley D, Nurse Merf, So Busted, and Flyingwiththebeat. Sanctuary horses are Rocky, Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, Twisted Wit, Top Bunk, Ebben Estoora, Mighty Win, and Untamed Irish.

“The thing that’s so sad about all this is that together these horses earned, for the industry, $4,335,697 in 904 races. Over $4 million,” Hirt says. “These horses all had their place in racing, many were stakes winners; many were the sons of well-known stallions like Distorted Humor, Tiznow, Devil His Due, Black Tie Affair and Dixie Brass.”

Top Bunk is the horse that started it all for Gail Hirt, back in 2008. A Wendy Woolley Photo courtesy of Gail Hirt

Top Bunk is the horse that started it all for Gail Hirt, back in 2008. A Wendy Wooley Photo courtesy of Gail Hirt

She adds, “Our financial status is good until the end of May. Then we’ll have to make some hard decisions. One of my board members keeps saying, ‘God’s watching over us, and every time we need help, something comes through.”

Hirt hopes and prays she is right.

Donations to Beyond the Roses, a certified 501 c 3, are tax deductible, may be made in one of three ways: A credit card may be accepted over the phone at 586-321-6780. Via Pay Pal to:, or through the general mail to: 11621 Bryce Road, Emmett, MI 48022.

25 responses to “Beyond the Roses charity is broke, needs help”

  1. Stanley

    The only difference between a rescue and a horse trader is the horse trader uses his own money. As more rescues lose their funding and become horse traders, you are going to wish there were processing plants near by to get rid of your culls and provide some money to support the good ones. Ya all did it to yourselves! Welcome to reality.

    1. Susan Crane-Sundell

      Stanley I don’t care if I have to have horses living in my living room, I will never EVER wish there were processing plants nearby to get rid of any horse. I’m very proud and grateful that each and every day so many dedicated people work tirelessly to keep “processing plants” from becoming a reality here and we also continue to work to eradicate them from reality elsewhere.

      1. MARIAN


    2. Susan

      Stanley, the reality is over breeding is the problem, and irresponsible horse owners who don’t understand the food supply is not their private disposal service.

      It’s a Federal criminal offense to knowingly contaminate the food supply. With all the horse drugs – especially race and show horses – US horse slaughter could rank up there with Chinese toxic food exports. It’s potentially the most contaminated US food export, and it needs to end.

  2. Gail Hirt

    I just wanted to get on here and thank everyone for your help and support. The horses and BTRE are very greatful. BTRE will be able to continue the work we do for the horses with your help. THANK YOU !!!!!

  3. Heather Woodall

    Jen Arbogast Ruberto sent out a post for help to you. I think alot if Jen so I will help where I can and send it out to my peeps. I understand ur stress and frustrations. Prayers

  4. Chris Colflesh

    I’m confused about something. Who are the “sanctuary” horses–are those horses permanent residents of Beyond the Roses? Is “Mighty Win” really Mighty Wind, the one-eyed horse that was retired from Beulah Park a few years ago?

    1. Gail Hirt

      Yes Chris..Mighty Wind is with us. Yes they are permanent. Sancturary horses with him: Top Bunk, Twisted Wit, Ebben Estoora, Untamed Irish, Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk and Rocky. All of their costs are personally paid for by me, not the rescue.

  5. cheri vaughan

    I feel ill. I really do. I have heard of Beyond the Roses and of the great works they have done… We wish with all our hearts that they don’t close up.

  6. Shannon

    I have my own OTTB (Intrinsic Danielle, now renamed Dante) and donate to 3 different rescues here in So Cal. However, I will send a little bit to this facility today. With love and wishes for much good luck from my Dante.



  8. Alison Thompson

    I understand the burden of taking on these horses. I too have 13 under my roof that have been with me for a year. I do not get funding or any help from the government or agencies. All our TB’s have been broken physically and and mentally. When things are down I ask myself what am I doing??? but then out of the blue… what we need comes. It takes alot of money to care for and bring them back to health. They should make the people responsible of getting them to that low point pay for them to bring them back! Stay strong Gail !!! and never stop believing in what you are doin!


    Gail, you are an angel. Keep on tryin. Its one of the hardest things in the world – what youre doing.

  10. Gail Hirt

    Many of our horses are the “War Horses” that were older and still running. Some of these horses are a little harder to place because people are leary about adopting a horse that ran 90 races. What happens to the TB’s that are adopted out from the track and end up in bad situations with people that can’t care for them. All are TB’s that we have helped. Like Rocky (28 years old, brought to attention, was starving), Leah aka Nurse Merf (27 yr mare, found at Shipshiwana and bid upon to get from Jaron Gold the kill buyer), Greatest Star (was given to a lady after racing who had no knowledge of horses, not handled for a year and starving), Loot Tooten Dandy (adopted out by another rescue in MI, was found starving and taken from the owner by Animal Control with two other horses). Where would these horses be if we wouldn’t help? We just got back from seeing a 15 year old mare that made just of $100 on the track, given to a woman when no one wanted her 4 years ago and now she can’t feed her. She mare hasn’t had vaccines in 5 years and really needs hoof care. We can not take her in but are going to helped the woman feed her while we try to find her a home and take care of her immediate needs.

  11. laurie canty

    This is terrible. Other then the two year issue are there any other restrictions. Our rescue in California had to change to include only Cal breds. Also when I wrote our grants they had to know that none of the horses were life time residents. Not an easy thing with some of the horses. So our criteria had to change in regards to what we could rescue.

  12. Susan Crane-Sundell

    This is an abomination, Gail doesn’t take a salary and spends on average 12-15 hours per day taking care of these horses. All her money goes into this charity, including her personal savings. She is honest to a fault and anytime she has fundraise every penny is accounted for. When she has taken donations for a fund to retire a horse and the horse could not be purchased (a trainer/owner changed their mind, etc.) every penny has been refunded to those who donated.

    I know that some funding sources have discretionary funding that they can apply as needed and where deemed necessary, surely a source has some bridge money that can be put forward.

    It is certainly time for some owners and trainers to open their hearts to an honest organization and group of knowledgeable and caring individuals who donate all their time to caring for the horses that are the cast offs and old warriors of this racing industry.

  13. Jackie Harris

    It is a shame too, that Facebook changed how it let’s people see posts. I believe rules should be different for 501c3 and not having to pay for people to see posts about needing assistance. We are only out here trying to do good, and to charge us for our posts to be seen, is ridiculous. Dreaming of Three will certainly make a donation and share this story to try to help!

    1. Susan Salk

      Great point! But, interestingly, this story is getting around, and had been shared quite a bit.
      It’s harder to publicize now, because of the cost. I do pay to publicize, but have to keep a rein on spending.
      Hopefully the right people will see the story and be able to help Gail and Beyond the Roses. Sue

  14. Elayne

    I totally agree with the above comments. Your dedication to these horses who come to you have survived and that is due to your knowledge and caring. I will do whatever I can to get the message out. I have a sanctuary for horses and I know what you face each and every day. My thoughts are with you.

  15. Brandy

    The difference between the $70,000. Taken into the rescue, and the $56,000. Spent on the horses, is $14,000. That money was spent on actually getting these horses off the track. Our training fees were included in the 56,000.

  16. Lucy

    These stories make my heart break. There needs to be a state by state legislative incentive to mandate money be set aside for aftercare. In NYS, there is no such mandate; however, I am going to begin a journey to insure that every NY bred horse has a pot of money to follow them into aftercare. While the charities and rescues are wonderful, they should not be responsible for taking horses who have made even $1 for their breeders, owners and trainers.

    This three-year rule needs to be changed immediately. We face a crisis in this country–there are too many horses and not enough people for them. Let us all apply some common sense to the problem !! Gail has provided a sanctuary in addition to re-training and adoption services for these horses for the past SIX YEARS—-

  17. patricia bewley

    one problem with what funding there is out there is that only some of the organizations get the lions share of the money. other worthy but less ” marketed ” get little, if any .


    TB Dance, i wholeheartedly agree. gail is among the best there is and deserves to be continuing her fine, extraordinary work. The whole system works against the ver creatures who should reap the benefits of their existence and efforts….mainly the horses! The owners, trainers, should all be part of the after-the-races care for the those who earned them so much (and also the ones who didn’t but were in their stables). The whole set up is a sham and a disgrace to the morality, rather the lack of morality, in the racing industry by some, not all, of the bad characters. Let me emphasize, there certainly are many good people out there who do care and who do right by the horses but many more who don’t. I pray a miracle shows up in time for Gail and the horses.

  19. TBDancer

    I hate stories like this because, in addition to some wonk coming up with a new rule to serves to tighten the belts of charities/rescues doing good work, it draws attention to those who made those millions off the horses and what little THEY have done to insure that their “machines” are provided for once the glory days are gone.

    Not sure why the funding rules were changed–what is “magic” about a certification record of three years? Why not TWO years?–but it is always some rulemaker NOT involved with the cause who doesn’t realize what his/her “little rule tweak” does to those who are doing REAL work. If the busy-body bureaucrats would stop and SEE what they’re doing to rescues like Beyond the Roses, maybe they’d have a different take. It would be too much to ask that they just shut up. They ARE politicians, after all.

    The second issue is that the number of phony rescues (and other “animal charities”) have made people more cautious about clicking the button on a website or Facebook page to send money to help save the (pick the animal) pictured on the page. Perhaps the rule about the three-year certification is to weed out the scum, but everyone suffers. I hope this article makes enough people aware of the plight of Beyond the Roses and some owners and trainers of these war horses step up and pungle up enough to keep the charity running for another year so former funding sources will be available again.

    1. Dale

      Read this and am very sorry. I have several old show horses of mine. Am sending you $200 to help

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