Paoli is a 17-hand strapping gelding so beautiful that strangers will stop their cars to get a picture.
He presides like a king over the small Kentucky farm he shares with three other ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds. As the alpha male in the herd he makes sure everyone behaves; and, as the apple in the eye for owners Elizabeth and Glenn Rosenberg, he’s a powerful reminder of the worth of all equine athletes.
“Paoli in particular is such a wonderful, wonderful horse,” Elizabeth says. “Never could I have imagined having a horse like him before he came along. And even though he can’t be ridden, he is a tremendous addition to our family.”
Dam: Dijla (GB)
Foal date: March 30, 1999Though the striking chestnut gelding broke down in his last race at Suffolk Downs in 2005, fusing his pasterns and making him un-rideable thereafter, the Rosenberg’s adopted him not for what he couldn’t do, but for all he had done.
“Paoli was raced until he broke down. He gave everything he had,” Elizabeth says. “Paoli and horses like him give such tremendous pleasure and love, and they bring such calm and beauty to our world that I feel very proud and extremely lucky to have athletes like him in our care.”
The Rosenberg’s decided to adopt Paoli after first sponsoring a horse at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, she says. Week after week, she and her husband would visit the mare at the TRF’s Blackburn facility, who has long since died, and marvel at all the beautiful horses, some of them quite needy. “The one I really wanted was really quite handicapped, and I wasn’t able to find a facility to put him in, so someone said, ‘we have 88 horses here. Do you think you could find someone else? And I saw Paoli’s name and I knew him! I saw him race in Delaware and he’d come off the track in the spring. I got him in August 2006.”
For the first few years, before the couple purchased the 16-acre Le Bon Cheval Farm (Translation: The Good Horse Farm), they boarded Paoli at a nearby facility. After a time, Glenn decided he wanted to buy ex-racehorse Speedway, a horse he had admired from afar. And after that, the couple acquired two more Thoroughbreds (Interpretation and Miss Moderate) and a Quarter Horse. And they built a house squarely in the middle so they could watch their equine athletes from every window.
“We have pastures all around, and when we get up in the morning we can look out and see them every minute,” she says, noting that Paoli has inspired them. “We had no horsey background before this. Paoli has taught me all there is to know.”
And he has protected her as well as he looks after his herd of fellow OTTBs, she says. Like the time he stepped in, years ago, to drive off two charging horses who made a beeline for her at their old boarding facility, she says.
“I was facing the barn and watching a couple of guys spraying water, washing the barn down. The spray must have spooked these two horses, because they came straight at me, and Paoli turned around and reared up, and they just took off. I’ve seen him get bitten by another horse rather than move into my space, and when the other horses crowd the gate when I come through, he steps in and moves them away.”
Paoli is as much a member of her family as any of them, far more than a pretty face, and certainly not to be dismissed as a mere “pasture ornament.”
“I actually find the term lawn ornament offensive,” she says. “Paoli broke down at his last race at Suffolk Downs. People think it’s clever to talk about lawn ornaments, but you don’t hear them saying this about a professional football player who gets injured, they don’t call him a lawn ornament. These horses gave their all to a sport, and some of them got hurt.”
They deserve more respect, she says, noting that at Le Bon Cheval, her little group of equine athletes is living the retirement life they all so richly deserve.