Boy saves doomed T’bred with birthday cash

Brandon, 9, of Ontario donated his birthday cash to save doomed Thoroughbred Karazan from slaughter.

Brandon, 9, of Ontario donated his birthday cash to save doomed Thoroughbred Karazan from slaughter.

A freckle-faced boy with a shock of red hair pledged his birthday money last August to save a doomed chestnut Thoroughbred from the Canadian slaughter pipeline when nobody else would.

Brandon, 9, of Ontario says he couldn’t bear the thought of the pretty ex-racehorse, whose looks reminded him of his own, going to slaughter. So after his mother MJ Allen explained to him that 17-year-old mare Karazan has been purchased by a meat buyer and would likely go to the slaughterhouse, he asked her to spend his birthday money to save her instead.

“I did it because nobody else was going to buy her,” Brandon says. “And I saw her hair was the same, exact color as my hair. And I wanted to save her because I love horses.”

His offer floored his mother, who was so proud of her son’s generosity and compassion that she cobbled together $650 with the help of some friends and purchased the mare from an online site that offers horses who have already been sold to a meat seller, a last chance to go to a willing buyer.

Sire: Kayrawan
Dam: Regents Glory
Foal date: April 1, 1998
Allen explains: “I recently found out about this website, Need You Now Equine, and I was watching this mare Karazan because nobody seemed interested in her. My son noticed and asked what I was doing, and when I explained it to him, that’s when he said, ‘Mummy, my birthday’s coming up. Just give my birthday money to them. I don’t want the horse to die.’ ”

A few days later, the Ontario mother announced she had a surprise for Brandon. “I thought I was in trouble,” says Brandon. But, the news was much better: Karazan had been saved from slaughter. And better still, the horse was now his!

Brandon noticed the horse was the same color as his hair!

Brandon noticed the horse was the same color as his hair!

“When I told him the horse had found a home he started jumping up and down,” Allen says. “And then I said, ‘She’s yours!’ and he went nuts.

In late August, a couple of weeks before he turned 9, the best birthday present of his life rolled down the driveway.

After years of begging for a horse of his own Brandon got his wish on Aug. 22, and Karazan got hers, too.

“Karazan’s already spoiled,” says Allen, who notes that she has given her son beautiful rides on their small horse farm, where Brandon and Karazan will create lifelong memories.

“She’s his best friend. He’s always out grooming her and whenever he feels down, he walks out into the field with carrots in his hand to talk to his new buddy,” Allen says. “They’re a perfect match; She was meant to be with him.” — Originally published on March 2, 2015.

‘Busted’ the racehorse has all the right moves

Filibustered took 5th at HITS Culpeper in August 2015.

Filibustered took 5th at HITS Culpeper in August 2015.

On the track, Filibustered had a reputation for getting into so much mischief that by the time he left racing he’d earned the nickname “Busted.”

He’d been caught so often doing things a well-mannered racehorse just shouldn’t be doing.

Though stories of his racetrack antics were forgotten, his unusual shenanigans continued to create a buzz and backstory about a horse who raised a few eyebrows on his way to becoming a show jumping star who did things “his way.”

Like the time he became annoyed with something only he could fathom, then pulled to a stop and proceeded to lie down with his rider sitting dumbfounded on his back.

Show name: House Rules
Barn name: Jake
Sire: Housebuster
Dam: Unscathed, by Explosive Wagon
Foal date: June 12, 2004
“Before I rode him, this girl had him, and nobody could figure out why, but he would lie down, groan, get back up and act like nothing had happened,” says Michigan equestrian Kassidy DiPierro who rides and trains the chestnut OTTB for owner Tracie Taylor. “He seemed to do it after she’d been away traveling.”

By the time DiPierro hitched up her truck and trailer in 2010 and drove to New Jersey to try the much-discussed horse for herself, she was a woman on a mission to find a project horse, but she also had her eyes open.

“He’s not everybody’s ride,” DiPierro admits. “But, after I tried him and took him over a few jumps, I knew I had to have him. I’ve had so many friends ask me what I’m doing with this horse because he still has his quirks, but there’s just something about him that I love. I was looking for a project … I was also hoping for an upper level horse.”

She got what she wished for. And some of what she didn’t.

Filibustered, pictured at HITS Ocala 2015, has proven to be a skilled and beautiful jumper at the trot. Photo by ESI Photography and courtesy DiPierro

Filibustered, pictured at HITS Ocala 2015, has proven to be a skilled and beautiful jumper at the trot. Photo by ESI Photography and courtesy DiPierro

Shortly after starting with Filibustered in the fall of 2010, the struggle began.

Early on, she had trouble keeping the weight on him, and his attitude occasionally dissolved into temperamental outbursts, which included head shaking and bucking. And forget about trying to catch him in his field. For their first several months, catching Filibustered was like trying to catch a gazelle.

“It was very frustrating in the beginning. Early on I wanted to Event him and spent about a year and a half trying to do that. He did well in the cross country and the show jumping, but the dressage was difficult, and this is when he’d shake his head and buck,” she says. “This is when I learned I had to choose my battles and learn to play to his strengths.”

But while dressage work was too strenuous, jumping turned out to be his strong suit.

So she ditched her Eventing goals, began training with Grand Prix Show Jumper Ian Silitch, and has learned how to channel the power of a horse so sensitive and so aware, that he would notice if the show-ring flower boxes were moved from their usual spot.

The most important lesson learned from the top rider was to embrace her horse’s quirks, and to trust the animal’s judgment. Even if it meant letting him do things his way.

Filibustered pictured with breeder Joan Lewis. Photo courtesy DiPierro

Filibustered pictured with breeder Joan Lewis. Photo courtesy DiPierro

Nowhere was this approach more evident as it was in the highly competitive jumper world of the 1.30-meter fences.

While all the top-dollar, Warmblood show horses are cantering their fences in their musically rhythmic gait, DiPierro’s OTTB tackles many fences at the trot.

That’s right. The trot.

“When I first started training with Ian and I explained that he liked to trot the fences, he was like, let him do it, if he does it well. As much as my heart stops a little bit, and always clears them, and he jumps beautifully,” she says. “I think he needs the extra time to look at things and to size up the jump. I’ve learned to channel that, and let him be who he is.”

And in return, Filibustered has returned her trust in spades. In the show ring, he “busts a move,” finishing in the top 10 against strong competition. This past winter in Ocala, he took 9th in the 1.30 meters, and finished 5th in the 1.30 meter HITS Culpeper Show.

Though it can be a little scary approaching a jump at the trot— “Sometimes I just grab mane and hope for the best,” she says— the rewards have far outweighed the struggle.

“In the beginning, he was a hard keeper. I used to have trouble keeping weight on him. But as soon as we started show jumping, he put on weight and now I have trouble keeping his weight down. He loves his work,” she says. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I have to let my horse be who he is, even if that means trotting the fences.” — This story was originally published on Nov. 6, 2015.

In Brief: Efforts underway to help OTTBs

Hay oatsHay, Oats & Spaghetti dinner set for Saratoga

SARATOGA, N.Y.— The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Fourth Annual “Hay, Oats & Spaghetti” dinner on Monday, July 25will be held at Bravo! Restaurant, 3246 Rt. 9, Saratoga Springs, from 6 to 9 PM.

This year’s celebration will be bigger than ever so the perennial hosts Giuseppe and Lauren Grisio will be closing the entire restaurant for the event.

“We started at one dining room at Mama Mia’s,” said TRF Board member, Suzie O’Cain. “Last year, we had the lounge at Bravo! This year, Giuseppe and Lauren have given us the entire restaurant, as well as all the food, beer and wine. To think that one business would devote an entire evening during track season for a good cause is almost unimaginable. The TRF is so grateful to the Grisios, who have been beyond generous in their support for the TRF.”

Tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the door, and this year, limited reserved seating is available. Ticket prices include beer, wine and a sumptuous Italian buffet that will be served from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Additionally; there will be a raffle of select signature items. All proceeds will benefit the Saratoga Springs-based TRF, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that is the world’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred rescue organization.

“Hay, Oats & Spaghetti” is the ideal way to get in stride for the season and to help racing’s biggest stars, the horses. For more details, to reserve tickets and for additional information, please call (518) 226-0028 or visit

The TCA awards over $535,000 in grants

Logo-no-lettersLEXINGTON, Ky. – Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) announced today grants totaling $535,851 have been awarded to 71 Thoroughbred industry-related non-profits that work to uphold TCA’s mission. Grant recipients from the last three years can be found on

TCA distributes grants to several categories of Thoroughbred related nonprofits including retirement, rehabilitation and rehoming organizations; backstretch and farm employee programs; equine-assisted therapy programs, and research organizations. Grants are provided to organizations that successfully meet the criteria set forth in TCA’s annual grant application. Grant applications for the 2017 grant cycle will be available in early January.

“We are grateful to our donors who make our grants possible,” said TCA president Mike McMahon. “We employ an extensive application review process because we strongly believe in being outstanding stewards of the funds entrusted to us. We are thrilled to support so many organizations doing outstanding work on behalf of Thoroughbreds and those who care for them.”

TCA’s mission is to provide a better life for Thoroughbreds, both during and after their racing careers, by supporting qualified repurposing and retirement organizations and by helping the people who care for them. TCA distributes grants to several categories of Thoroughbred-related nonprofits including rehabilitation, retraining, rehoming and retirement organizations; backstretch and farm employee programs; equine-assisted therapy programs; and research organizations.  Since its inception in 1990, TCA has granted over $21 million to more than 200 charities. TCA administers the Horses First Fund, a fund recently started by LNJ Foxwoods to assist a horse rescue operation in Mercer County, Kentucky as well as provide emergency aid for horses in need in the future. From 2000-2015, more than 95% of TCA’s expenditures were allocated to program services including direct grants. TCA is the charitable arm of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).