45-horse charity seeks help as it transitions

A volunteer works with Slewy at Second Chance Ranch in Washington. Photo courtesy Second Chance Ranch

A volunteer works with Slewy at Second Chance Ranch in Washington. Photo courtesy Second Chance Ranch

Second Chance Ranch, a Washington state charity with 45 horses, is struggling to meet its obligations as the 20-year-old organization transitions away from horse rescue, according to founder and president Katie Merwick.

After announcing in January a plan to “wind down” the rescue side of her certified 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, which has responsibly re-homed an estimated 1,500, Merwick says donations to her charity have evaporated, and she is struggling.

“I announced in January that we were planning to wind down the horse rescue by May 2015. The problem right now is that we have no budget, we’re $30,000 in debt, and people are fronting us hay,” Merwick says. “We held a fundraiser event earlier this year, and we didn’t even cover our costs.”

Merwick, 51, cites the changing landscape of horse rescue, which has seen a sharp increase in the number of charities competing for funding, as a factor in the growing financial strain that began for her charity in the late 2000s.

“There’s so many charities popping up, and this makes grant funding more competitive,” she says, noting that larger charities tend to attract the greatest amount of funds.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

In the next year, Merwick will actively work to re-home all but five Washington champion racehorses, while she personally shifts gears to parlay her decades of experience in the horse world into an educational outreach effort, in which she will self-publish educational books and material, and host seminars and clinics.

Her goal will be to help horse owners fix broken relationships with their Thoroughbreds, a subject she has deep experience with, as she works to use her expertise in a proactive way.

Second Chance Ranch will not dissolve its 501 (c) 3 status, and the herd of 45 will remain with her until she can get them re-homed. Although her goal is to complete the transition by May 2015, horses yet to be re-homed will remain with her until she can find them suitable homes, she says. Horses remaining with her in permanent sanctuary are: The Great Face, No Giveaway, Flying Notes, Chickasaw Park, and a Warmblood named Konig.

Second Chance Ranch has operated for 20 years and has re-homed approximately 1,500 horses.

Second Chance Ranch has operated for 20 years and has re-homed approximately 1,500 horses. Photo courtesy Second Chance Ranch

In the meantime, Merwick hopes to lend her expertise to other nonprofits, teaching them best practices for matching the right horse with the ideal new owner, and to teach seminars to horsemen helping to address and correct bad behavior. “I want to be a resource for people, and to teach them how to fix relationships with their horses,” she says. “So many people have been calling on me for my expertise, and I would like to do more of this.”

She has decades of experience to fall back on. Prior to founding Second Chance Ranch 20 years ago, she worked as a private horse trainer. She reaped financial success by training clients and their horses, and by re-training and selling Thoroughbreds off the track.

As Merwick looks ahead to this next phase of her life with horses, she will continue to work hard to ensure the best care for her herd of 45. Those interested in donating to their care are invited to do so at http://www.secondchanceranch.org. ♥

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The story of two Gradys, of fame & mystery

Grady has always been the center of attention, even when he doesn't try.

Grady has always been the center of attention, even when he doesn’t try.

“Grady is a horse who was always getting attention, even when he wasn’t trying to,” says longtime Maryland horseman Andi Puckett with a chuckle.

And when Off-Track Thoroughbreds erroneously reported a few weeks ago that her well-known racehorse, who aggressively battled his way through 104 lifetime starts to earn $785,436, had turned up on Craig’s list, and was purchased by an Ohio woman, Puckett said she knew immediately what had happened.

“I’ve been in the horse business for a long time, and I’ve seen horses being misidentified before,” Puckett says. “I once met someone who insisted they had Two Punch, the famous stallion. I told them they might have a Two Punch, the son or grandson of the Two Punch, but that they didn’t have Two Punch.”

Grady
Sire: Prospectors Gamble
Dam: Petadear
Foal date: Jan. 10,1995
Earnings: $785,436, 104 starts
So when a well-meaning friend notified Puckett that her quirky and beloved ex-racehorse Grady, long retired on the Maryland farm she owns with her husband Dwight, appeared to be living a double life in Ohio, Puckett, with merriment and graciousness reassured her friends and concerned horse fans that it was not her Grady, but rather a different Grady. One purchased three years ago by Joan Jerauld of central Ohio.

Grady the war horse
The famous Grady is now living in his own three-acre pasture—by himself, as he prefers it, and takes occasional hacks with Puckett. In his heyday, he was a mean fighting machine on the racetrack, most notably running down Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet in the 1997 Indian Nations Futurity Cup.

Thinking of her great horse’s life on the track sends Puckett happily down Memory Lane.

On the track, Grady was “the boss” of his own race, she says. You could hit him twice with a crop, but try a third time, and Grady would duck out and quit. He never wanted to run out in the clear. He wanted to be in with all the action, boxed in if possible!

These days, Grady enjoys a light hack with Andi Puckett, and a lot of attention.

These days, Grady enjoys a light hack with Andi Puckett, and a lot of attention.

“He was always one of the first horses out of the gate, but then he’d suck back to last place. He wouldn’t start running until he got to the top of the stretch, and then he’d take off,” Puckett says. “He wanted to be on the inside, in traffic, and he wanted to bump other horses. He wanted that action, that battle.”
Off the track, in retirement on the Puckett farm, Grady had no interest in cantering on the lunge line, or around a riding ring, she says.

“He hated lunging. He’d take two turns around, stop and just look at me like, ‘What are we doing?’ And working in the ring, he was bored. All he wants to do is go for walks. He likes taking trail rides and looking around. He’s very content. He likes to be groomed and fed peppermints.”

Peppermints and an enjoyment of grooming routines are two things both Gradys adore; however, the similarities end there.

Grady of Ohio
Jerauld’s 17.1-hand bay towers over the famous Grady, who is approximately 15.2 hands. And compared to the fierce racehorse, the Ohioan with the same name is a mellow guy happy to give pony rides.

Jerauld purchased Grady after reading his advertisement on Craig’s List.

Grady of Ohio is a 17.1 hand gentle giant. He is owned and loved by Joan Jerauld and her entire family.

Grady of Ohio is a 17.1 hand gentle giant. He is owned and loved by Joan Jerauld and her entire family.

“I saw Grady on Craig’s List and I think it was his story that made me want to go see him,” Jerauld says in an earlier interview with Off-TrackThoroughbreds. She believed the famous war horse was now on Craig’s List, and felt a little sorry for the old gent.

So on an oppressive summer day she drove out to the Ohio location where he was kept and took a test ride. He was perfect for her. She bought him on the spot.

Taking Grady was something she did to help the horse, and herself. Jerauld had survived two physical battles in 2009, first a broken hip sustained when she was knocked over by a horse, and later a diagnosis of B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With the chemotherapy treatment behind her, Jerauld decided her next chapter in life would include the well-mannered 17.1-hand bay with white blaze.

When Jerauld later learned that her Grady was not the famous one, any disappointment or surprise she felt at first was quickly alleviated. After speaking with Puckett at length by phone, and sharing some laughs as they discussed their two horses, Jerauld came away from the experience feeling even more determined to uncover the identity of her Grady.

Estimated to be around 20 years old, Grady’s faded lip-tattoo, which is largely unreadable, was once guessed at by her veterinarian, who wrote the number as: 17350. Plugging in a combination of some of those numbers with a combination of birth years and her horse’s identifying marks, Jerauld has found a handful of horses who seem to match.

Grady photobombs a family shot with Jerauld, her daughter and granddaughter.

Grady photobombs a family shot with Jerauld, her daughter and granddaughter.

Though her Grady did not turn out be the fierce racehorse she thought she had, he did turn out to be the finest one for her family. “After talking with Andi I’ve decided I got the best one!” she says. “I can throw my grandchildren on my horse and trust him with them.”

And Puckett’s Grady, though never one to give pony rides, has won a permanent place in the hearts of the Puckett family. “He’s just a cool horse with a big personality,” she says. “Nothing bad is going to happen to this horse, no yahoo is going to claim this horse, and he’s not going to disappear.”

The story of the two Gradys even made Puckett laugh a little.

“I was talking with the wife of the man Grady was named after (Grady Sanders) and we were saying it’s unbelievable. This horse gets attention, even when he’s not trying!” ♥

T Bred iconAuthor’s note— If you enjoy stories like these, please consider visiting the blog’s new store, Off-Track Products. Proceeds will help sustain this blog in the future, and go to charity.

Surprise foal is Fantastic show horse

My Fantastic Lady. Photo by Lydia Williams

My Fantastic Lady, pictured with trainer/rider Courtney Somers of Woodbrook Farm, has been a surprise from the moment her owners Angie and Sabrina Moore learned her mother was pregnant with her. Photo by Lydia Williams

It has been nothing but surprises since Angie Moore decided to take in a broodmare six years ago.

The first revelation was discovering that Lady With a Kick was in foal to Graded Stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup participant Fantasticat, a Storm Cat son.

“I had no idea the horse was even pregnant, and when I was told how impressive the father was, I started to get really excited that we had a Cinderella on our hands,” Moore says. “Everybody kept telling us we’d have a racehorse on our hands, and I was very excited to race her.”

The next curve ball turned a bit serious when the broodmare had a difficult birth, bleeding excessively as she brought the Cinderella foal, who they named My Fantastic Lady, into the world. The mare’s uterine wall tore during delivery and she bled heavily, nearly losing her life.

My Fantastic Lady
Barn name: Fancy
Sire: Fantasticat
Dam: Lady With a Kick, by Well Decorated
Foal date: Feb. 27, 2008
But mother recovered as her bright bay foal grew up and set the Moore family’s heart to hammering with excitement. “We sent her to train at Bonita Farm in Darlington, Md., with Kevin Boniface and she was funny,” Moore says. “She’d leave the gait real strong, and be out in front. But as soon as another horse kicked dirt in her face, she stopped trying.”

My Fantastic Lady was nothing like her old man in the racing department, and after a few starts on turf the pretty mare was brought home, where she was soon paired with rider Courtney Somers of Woodbrook Farm, in Jarrettsville, Md. It took Somers only five minutes to figure out that within this fantastic lady beat the heart of an exceptional jumper.

“She’s an amazing jumper and a beautiful mover,” Somers says. “She jumps very round, and she always has her knees up and square, and she’s very tight with her front end. The only thing we’re working on is slowing her down so people can appreciate how pretty she is.”

My Fantastic Lady wins the 2014 Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico. Photo by Lydia Williams

My Fantastic Lady wins the 2014 Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico. Photo by Lydia Williams

After just weeks of show training, My Fantastic Lady was the 2014 winner of the Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico!

“We couldn’t believe it,” says her co-owner Sabrina Moore. “We were shocked. Last year I was joking with some friends at Pimlico that we’d bring her here this year and she’d win. But we didn’t really think she would. My mom left early because she didn’t think she would. But she’s truly a fancy horse!”

Her mother agrees.

A source of constant amazement from the moment she announced herself to the Moore family, to now, My Fantastic Lady is keeping her family and trainer on their toes, as she embarks on a future she seems born to.

“I’m just amazed with this horse,” Angie Moore says. “She has been the source of constant surprises. But once she started with Courtney, it’s like she found the thing she loves to do, she found what she really loves, and where she belongs.” ♥

T Bred iconAuthor’s note— If you enjoy stories like these, please consider visiting the blog’s new store, Off-Track Products. Proceeds will help sustain this blog in the future, and go to charity.