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Glory Days—Nicki Wheeler rides Dragonada for Henry Cecil during her early career. Now she is a star teacher in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances program.

Q&A: Inmates from Chicago learn to love horses

A woman who once galloped horses and groomed for legendary horsemen—Sir Henry Cecil, John Gosden and Henry Jones among them—now finds meaning and inspiration at the Vandalia Correctional Facility in Illinois. In a careworn barn far from the glitz and glamor of her old stomping grounds at Royal Ascot, Nicki Wheeler, originally from Scotland, teaches inmates from Chicago how to care for and trust thousand-pound ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds. Serving as the barn manager and equine instructor for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program, Wheeler works with inmates, teaching them valuable horsemanship skills while they care for some of the 900 […]

Sonofaqueen, a graded stakes winner was tied to a meat-buyer's truck before he was saved.

Stakes placed TB leaves meat truck to help vets

A stakes placed T’bred who’d earned north of $350,000 during a lifetime spent racing, stood tied to a meat truck; his head hung in defeat. “This is the part that makes me want to cry. He just stood there, with his head dropped, and an attitude like he’d just accept whatever’s next,” said Nicki Smith, a Thoroughbred advocate with the Exceller Fund. “What’s so heartbreaking is he would have willingly walked on the trailer because he has such a pleasant disposition.” But it wasn’t Sonofaqueen’s time to die. Though he’d already been purchased by a meat buyer at the New Holland […]

This beautiful OTTB gelding was rescued by the Fans of Barbaro in 2007, about a year after the Kentucky Derby winner broke down. Named Gunner, he is the spokeshorse for a new charity.

Barbaro friends start quest with throwaway TB

By the time the anonymous black Thoroughbred wound up in the trash heap years ago, he was destined, like so many, to fade into the obscure masses of slaughter-bound horses. Nobody even knew his name. And any so-called family connections—past owners, a breeder, or glamorous Thoroughbred pedigree — had faded just like his lip tattoo, which could have, were it legible, revealed his identity. But the horse had friends. Average folks— a golf pro, a biochemist, and others—were complete strangers until they watched with a nation as Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down at the 2006 Preakness Stakes. And as […]