‘He went from the penthouse to outhouse’

Scrumpy is a well-bred beauty who is said to have gone "from the penthouse to the outhouse." Photo by and courtesy of CJ Wheeler

Scrumpy is a well-bred beauty who is said to have gone “from the penthouse to the outhouse.” Photo by and courtesy of CJ Wheeler

When Scrumpy was done with racing, and racing was done with him, he stood helpless on a blistered and bowed tendon, mere steps from slaughter.

A stakes winning T’bred with a beautifully sculpted head and darkly handsome looks, he was a horse who once upon a time had everything going for him, including a lineage as fine as the blood running through Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. And a winning spirit that drove him to run for the finish line, even once on a bowed tendon, says Bonnie Adams, founder and president of charity TROTT USA.

But when it was time for Scrumpy to exit the race industry in 2010, his heyday long forgotten, his injured left front leg oozing from where a gel cast had blistered his tendon, it was the friends he made on the way down that managed to get him a ticket to freedom, sparing him the last indignity of the butcher’s blade.

Sire: Taskmaster
Dam: Sweet Dish, by Candi’s Gold
Foal date: March 29, 2003
Earnings: $188,660 in 23 starts
The change of course began with a frantic phone call.

In August 2010, Bonnie Adams received a pleading call from an exercise rider at Los Alamitos racetrack. Scrumpy, the rider told Adams, was a beautiful horse who was too injured to run, and would soon be sold to the killers if someone didn’t do something, Adams recalls.

“In the words of one rider who knew him, ‘Scrumpy went from the penthouse to the outhouse’ and I was told that if we didn’t do something he’d go to the killers,” she says. “She pleaded with me to take the horse, so I sent a trailer to Los Alamitos and picked him up.”

On the long road to recovery there were many bumps in the road.

The first was the severe bow, which had turned into a “bloody, scarred mess” as it sweated encased in a gel cast, Adams says.

“Someone had let the gel cast on too long and he had blistered. It was pitiful,” she says.

After he healed, a small scar remained on the injured leg, and as it would turn out, a scar remained on his psyche too.

Scrumpy was known to run with heart. Bill Vossar photo courtesy of Bonnie Adams, TROTT USA

Scrumpy was known to run with heart. Bill Vossar photo courtesy of Bonnie Adams, TROTT USA

“Poor Scrumpy was such a beautiful mover and we thought he would make a nice riding horse. But he had such severe anxiety that he wasn’t adoptable,” she says. “If you put him on the cross ties, for example, he would stand while you stood there with him. But if you walked away, he’d flip out.”

Under saddle he was equally and dangerously unpredictable.

And it was with a sad heart that Adams realized Scrumpy was ruined, she says, noting that the lesson she took away from the gelding’s story was a real “game changer” for her charity. Whereas in the past, TROTT USA sought to save, retrain and re-home just about any horse they were in a position to help, after Scrumpy, the mission changed: the charity now tries to obtain OTTBs before they slip down the claiming ranks.

“I want to go to the good tracks and the good owners to try to prevent any more Scrumpies from happening,” she says.

Scrumpy is now one of the most popular horses in the HartSong sanctuary.

Scrumpy is now one of the most popular horses in the HartSong sanctuary.

As Adams strives to prevent horses from winding up like Scrumpy, the beautiful gelding enjoys life as a sanctuary horse at HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Greenwood, Calif. As the second Thoroughbred ambassador at Kathy Hart’s sanctuary, Scrumpy has become a sanctuary favorite, attracting admirers every day.

“He’s magnificent and he has the most beautiful eyes. He’s touchable, and he doesn’t bite. We share his story to all our visitors,” Hart says. “We tell them how an animal like Scrumpy can be worth millions of dollars and later be thrown away.”

At HartSong Ranch, Scrumpy has finally found his place in the world. Carrying on the good work of his predecessor, a Thoroughbred named Clipper who was Hart’s longtime ambassador, Scrumpy has stepped into the role as the “face” of the sanctuary.

“I promised myself after Clipper died that someday, somehow, someway, we would find our second Thoroughbred ambassador,” Hart says. “When we found out that Scrumpy was no longer a candidate for riding, and were asked to take him, we said yes immediately. We share his story with everyone; he’s exactly the type of horse we needed to carry on Clipper’s memory.”

9 responses to “‘He went from the penthouse to outhouse’”

  1. LL

    The picture of him reminds me of one of my former runners long with another trainer who has now come down the claiming ranks and finished last in his last race. Our organization has reached out to the trainer and hopefully he will have enough compassion to release him.

  2. Carolyn McDonald

    Another fortunate racehorse saved and nurtured after being used and abused in horse racing.
    After 23 starts and earning $188,660 in prizemoney alone (let alone the punt) he was almost with the kill buyers when his connections were finished with him but thankfully a trackwork rider cared about him and thankfully Bonnie Adams took him on. 19 of his starts were in Claiming Races and he did not finish off his race twice half way through his career but they kept him racing.
    Have a look at Scrumpy’s racing photo. I would like to make a comment on it if i may.
    Firstly I see this horse doing his utmost and it looks to me that he is not far from the finish line given the jockey’s action and by that I mean I can see whip marks on his sensitive flank area where he’s been struck with the whip but then jockey puts whip right up to Scrumpy’s eye threatening him with further pain of being beaten with the whip. Some horses when being repeatedly beaten will duck in and out and they can lose ground when they do this and if rivals are nearby it can cause an incident. Jockeys will then desist from hitting the horse with the whip but in lieu will put whip up to horse’s eye and this is when the horse is seriously fatigued and being pushed beyond his limits, his central nervous system is telling him to slow down to prevent him from suffering injury/death but he can’t escape the whip and the pressure from the cur on his back.

  3. Delrene from Carlsbad, Ca

    What a relief to know he is safe and happy at the sanctuary. What a lovely retirement. He is so very handsome.

  4. Sandra Lattanzio

    We at Thoroughbred Sport Horses will not refuse a TB horse even if injured. We rehab many. We are in KY. We will be Rehoming around 300 TB horses this year. Its still not enough.

  5. Rebecca Hill

    I AGREE with Emma and the ones who know that the fact is.. they don’t have to have a rider again, once they have had the life that ones like “Scrumpy” have had.. just much TLC and a nice grassy field and good animal husbandry.. goes a long ways with these.. Ottb’s! Thanks again for the story of an incredible thoroughbred race horse!!!!

  6. Stephanie Morse

    My OTTB also finished a race on a bowed tendon. Luckily for him, he had a pair of great women as owners. They knew me and I offered to rehab him for them to sell as a riding horse later. They gave him to me for the proverbial dollar and he was one of the greatest horses I’ve ever had. I’m glad everyone recognized Scrumpy’s ‘disability’ and found him the perfect job.

  7. Emma

    My friend has a horse who came off the track with 56 starts and a lot of mental baggage from poor management over most of his six years of racing. He might never be safe to ride either – but he is the sweetest animal on the ground, and he has a safe home for life. A horse doesn’t have to be ridden to be someone’s world, and Scrumpy has obviously found a place where he will be safe and happy for as long as he lives. The warm fuzzies are interspersed with sadness that he ended up with so much fear around riding, but I wouldn’t call him “ruined”.

  8. comedyflyer

    I wish all the Scrumpies a sanctuary with as much heart as he has…

  9. tbdancer

    A horse dealer once told me, “Every horse needs groceries and a job to do.” That “job” can be anything and Srumpy obviously has the perfect job for him–one that fits his personality and allows him to get all the kisses and attention he deserves. Excellent story!

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