Pulled off livestock truck, OTTB readies for show

Mae's Debut had been loaded in a livestock truck and was destined to slaughter before she was rescued last year.

Mae’s Debut had been loaded in a livestock truck and was destined to slaughter before she was rescued last year.

A Thoroughbred mare with the kind eyes of a puppy, having been pulled last year from a livestock truck, rumbling unremittingly toward the slaughter pipeline, debuts next month at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover Show; all glossy and beautiful as she prepares for her comeback.

Mae’s Debut, a 7-year-old lightly raced mare, will compete in two field-hunter divisions and one handy hunter with all the grace with which she has weathered life’s storms.

“It’s horrifying to me that she was loaded on a trailer and headed to the meat buyer,” says her owner and rider Kim McVeigh of Factoryville, Penn. “This horse is so amazing. She just gives and gives and gives.”

Mae’s Debut
Barn name: Mae
Sire: Noble Causeway
Dam: J Ps Afleet, by Northern Afleet
Foal date: May 5, 2009
Last weekend, in fact, the liver chestnut mare won a 7-mile hunter/pace with flying colors. At the end of the show, when other horses might have flagged a bit, Mae cantered up a hill, jumped all the jumps, and seemed to be looking for the next test, the next challenge.

A year ago, the mare barely made it off a livestock truck destined for a well-known meat buyer’s yard, and ultimately, the slaughterhouse. A Thoroughbred advocate volunteering for Penn National’s re-homing program New Start happened to spot the mare, says Lauren Zagnit, program director for the HBPA’s Pennsylvania program. “There were two horses on a trailer, and we quickly figured out that she’d raced at Penn National. So I said to go ahead and get her out,” she says.

Mae was purchased and taken to a quarantine farm where she caught the attention of her new owner.

Mae enjoys everything life puts before her now that she is free of the slaughter pipeline.

Mae enjoys everything life puts before her now that she is free of the slaughter pipeline.

McVeigh had been asking around for a new Thoroughbred project horse to bring along when she was shown a picture of Mae. “When I saw her, the first thing I noticed was her super kind eye.”

Though she was forewarned that a slight pigmentation in the mare’s eyes may indicate a problem, a veterinarian quickly determined there was nothing to worry about, that the mare’s eyes would not impede a future career, McVeigh says.

In fact, Mae seems to be capable of accomplishing anything McVeigh puts in front of her. When McVeigh started training her, she had a tendency to rush into a canter. But the racehorse quickly learned to hold herself in the correct frame after building her hind-end muscles walking and trotting up hills. A “forgiving” green horse, Mae has taken everything in her stride, from dogs and chickens on the farm, to the difficulties of navigating the woods.

“I hate to say it, but it’s not even that surprising to me anymore when a kill-pen horse turns out to be phenomenal,” McVeigh says. “I have another Thoroughbred who nearly died, and who has turned out to be amazing. And Mae is no exception. She looks like a Quarter Horse, and I guarantee that whoever gets her after I sell her will be able to do anything with her. She’ll probably be one of those horses who goes western one weekend, and English the next.”

Mae will be offered for sale after the Retired Racehorse Project to make room for another kill-pen horse, she adds.

“Do I want to keep her? Yes. But, there’s another horse sitting on a truck waiting for me,” says McVeigh, adding, “I hope Mae helps to show that these horses are worth taking a chance on.” — This blog is brought to you by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Please consider making a small donation to help the 840 horses in the TRF’s herd.

In a twist over Rolex jump, pair sealed their fate

Sound Prospect and Ali Knowles have been on fire. So much so that Rood & Riddle just recognized the Thoroughbred sport horse in its annual award.

Sound Prospect and Ali Knowles have been on fire. So much so that Rood & Riddle just recognized the Thoroughbred sport horse in its annual award. Photo by and courtesy Sherry Stewart

Surging toward a fence at the six-minute marker at Rolex, the Thoroughbred slipped badly just before takeoff.

In a split second, where others might have been thrown off their game, fearless OTTB sport horse Sound Prospect twisted and turned, practically defying the laws of gravity and launched himself over the four-star jump, exactly between the red and white flags.

And in that instant, as the wind whistled and the horse soldiered on through the most challenging course in North America, rider Ali Knowles knew they were invincible.

“When we landed at that jump, I thought, damn, this horse is really with me. He worked so hard to get us inside the flags, and this was the point when I realized the fear was gone,” she says. The pair went on to place 16th overall in the three-day competition that set the stage for a minor racehorse to make a major impact as a sport horse, and an example of all OTTBs.

Sound Prospect
Barn name: Sounder
Sire: Easter Echo
Dam: Miners Girl
Foal date: Feb. 22, 2002
So mighty, so impressive was the horse on courses this year that he was named as a divisional winner in the Rood & Riddle Thoroughbred Sport Award; an honor reserved for only the top Thoroughbred sport horses, such as the great gray competitor Courageous Comet.

“To be in a league with horses like Courageous Comet is just amazing,” says Knowles, of Valley View Farm in Midway, Ky. “It was a real honor, a real validation for him, and for my owners who agreed to buy him three years ago and take a chance on him.”

Sound Prospect, who’s nickname is Sounder, came off the track at Emerald Downs in 2005 and started Eventing with one of Knowles’s friends. With keen interest, Knowles watched as the handsome bay started to climb the competitive ranks, up through Young Riders and onto the cross-country fields. “What I noticed about Sounder is that no matter what happened on competition, he was never effected by it. He could be pulled off a fence, come back around, and jump it. He never pulled himself off a fence; he was always game.”

Knowles and Sounder finished 16th at Rolex, and plan to come back in 2017 to climb even higher!

Knowles and Sounder finished 16th at Rolex, and plan to come back in 2017 to climb even higher! Photo by and courtesy Sherry Stewart

Then three years ago, Knowles’s friend asked the four-star rider to take over Sounder’s education, and soon after, Knowles and her sponsors agreed to take a chance.

“I ride with Buck Davidson and when I asked what he thought about Sounder, he said yeah, it’s a no-brainer. I have a few owners and we decided to go for it,” she says.

Their rise up the ranks was built on trust. It did not come easy.

“We had intermittent problems at the beginning. Specifically, he was terrified of corners on cross country,” she says. “I could literally feel his whole body start panicking when we approached one. I had to do a lot of work getting it into his mind that he needed to jump between the flags, and to help him trust that I’d be there for him, I wouldn’t abandon him.”

Their first year together was sporadic, she says. The pair would finish at the top one-day, and become flustered with rails down and random stops on another, she adds.

The turning point came shortly after they went to Rolex two years ago. Knowing her horse was firing on all cylinders, they hit the four-star course in a driving rainstorm, tearing across sodden earth. They pulled up after they had a run out before a jump, and Knowles made the decision to quit while they were ahead, she says.

After that, they tackled Jersey Fresh, and have been setting the world on fire ever since.

“After Jersey, we never finished out of the top 10,” she says, noting that his second run at Rolex landed them 16th among the world’s top riders.

As Rounder begins a winter rest, started early after the horse sustained a very mild injury, Knowles is looking ahead with high aspirations, and plans to tackle Rolex again in the spring.

And with gratification for her OTTB, her owners, and all who encouraged her, Knowles says her lightly raced Thoroughbred has done more for her than she could have predicted.

“’The award from Rood & Riddle was a real honor, and great validation for him,” she says. “He has given so much to me, in my riding, and in my confidence. Although he doesn’t know he got this award, it means so much to me, to my owners, students and sponsors. This operation is not run by me, but by my entire team. And we’re all so proud of Sounder.”

Secretariat’s giant shoe replica on display in Va.

Secretariat's great-great grandson ATM Machine poses next to the giant replica of the Triple Crown winner's shoe.

Secretariat’s great-great grandson ATM Machine poses next to the giant replica of the Triple Crown winner’s shoe.

Secretariat left some big shoes behind.

Including a six-foot tall exact replica of the great Triple Crown winner’s shoe so gargantuan that it holds the Guinness Book world record as the largest horseshoe ever made.

The shoe, which ordinarily resides at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, has been trucked to Secretariat’s famous birthplace, The Meadow, and will be on display from Sept. 23 through to spring 2017.

The 610-pound object, crafted from aircraft aluminum by Eagle Sign & Designs, Inc., of Louisville, evokes the impact of a horse who electrified a nation, and brought hope and joy as he accomplished what few believed could be done. Like the big shoe itself, Secretariat’s legacy was larger than life, states Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner, in a press release.

“The enormity of this shoe symbolizes the impact of Secretariat on Thoroughbred racing and horse lovers everywhere,” Chenery said. “I am delighted that the World’s Largest Horseshoe will be on display at Secretariat’s birthplace in Virginia during the 80th anniversary of Meadow Stable.”

Chenery’s father, Christopher T. Chenery, founded Meadow Stable in 1936.

And since the great red racehorse swept the Triple Crown in 1973, the fabled birthplace has attracted fans and tourists from around the globe.

As an added inducement this year, the horseshoe will commemorate the annual “Salute to Secretariat” tribute during the State Fair, which runs from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.

In addition to the shoe, festivities include meet and greet with local Secretariat descendants on September 24-25 and October 1-2, as well as tours of Meadow Hall with its historic galleries, says Leeanne Ladin, Secretariat Tourism Manager of The Meadow.

A life-size poster of the famous champion will be on hand for “Selfies with Secretariat” opportunities, and tours of the original barn, now listed on the state and national historic registers, will be offered.

For more information on the Fair, see StateFairVa.org. For more information on the Secretariat tourism program, see MeadowEventPark.com.