About the time that Sandy Seabrook’s life was hitting its stride, a winning racehorse was losing his.
As Seabrook and boyfriend planned to get married her future was full of promise. Her college degree in marketing was nearly complete, and she was beginning to imagine a career for herself that combined her love for horses with her nascent marketing skills.
Miles away, on racetrack in Florida, the future for once-winning racehorse Spite the Devil was becoming less certain as the years rolled away from his mid-2000s heyday; a time filled with dramatic wins, including back-to-back victories in the 2004 and 2005 Belmont Empire Classic.
In total, the gelding won $849,000 in 46 starts, winning eight races and placing in 20.
But, his star had faded by Feb. 28, 2007, the day he ran his last race, a claimer at Gulfstream Park. Put out to pasture with a stifle injury, his victories were forgotten.
“By the time I met him, he was thin and a little cut up from being in the pasture,” Seabrook says. “But I could see he was still a beautiful horse, and I figured he needed a friend.”
And Seabrook was in a perfect position to be that friend.
Spite the Devil
New name: Diego
Sire: Devil His Due
Dam: Samantha D
Foal date: March 20, 2000
Her life was hitting on all cylinders when she traveled to the Kentucky last July to meet Spite the Devil. Recently married, Seabrook now possessed both a marketing degree, and a new full-time position as marketing manager for racehorse adoption agency New Vocations of Marysville, Ohio.
And as luck would have it, Spite the Devil had been taken in by New Vocation’s Kentucky branch weeks earlier, and having been fully vetted and tried under saddle, was deemed well suited for a new career.
Seabrook, who had spent two years volunteering for New Vocations before she was offered a full-time job, knew upon meeting the shy, nicked-up gelding, that the time was right.
“I was at the point in my life, with my job at New Vocations that it was time to open my heart to a horse of my own,” she says.
Nine years earlier, Seabrook’s first horse, a Thoroughbred named Ladoroyale, was euthanized after developing complications from colic. That gelding, who she’d had since she was 15, and who taught her more than she ever taught him, left an indelible mark.
“That horse showed me that the Thoroughbred has a spirit like no other breed,” she says. “They have such a huge heart, and there’s no end to the lengths they’ll go to try to please.”
“I knew after I got Ladoroyale that I’d be sticking with Thoroughbreds.”
The college grad started volunteering with New Vocations in 2008 as a way to get her foot in the door. She worked nearly full-time doing barn chores, feeding and grooming Thoroughbreds at the Marysville, Ohio facility.
Founded by Dot Morgan in 1992, New Vocations has eight facilities in the United States, five dedicated to re-homing Thoroughbreds and three to helping Standardbreds. Morgan’s daughter Anna Ford is program director, and oversees the Thoroughbred operation.
Since its inception, approximately 3,500 horses have found new homes through New Vocations, and last year the organization adopted out 332 horses, 197 of which were Thoroughbreds.
Seabrook is thrilled to have found her professional niche, working to showcase horses so capable of leading successful next careers.
“I pinch myself everyday that I am working promoting horses. Some people land a job that is just a job. This is different. I have a career immersed in the horse world” that I used to dream about.
And right alongside her is Spite the Devil, now called Diego. He underscores and validates her work, and that of New Vocations.
“I think that many people are quite surprised to learn that ex-racehorses can be successful in the dressage ring, as hunter/jumpers, or anything, even nice little trail horses,” she says. “So many times people say they’re hot-headed, crazy, or just not suitable. But once people get to know the breed, they’re won over right away.”
Her goal is to prove the naysayers wrong. Her work with Diego, and before him, her first Thoroughbred, has shown the breed to be deserving of a second chance.
When Diego first came to New Vocations, he showed himself to be a “mellow” and willing horse when tried under saddle in the ring. And since he came home to Ohio with Seabrook, he has proved a fun and willing partner. “He really just has a heart of gold and will do anything for you,” she says. “Many people still don’t know just how versatile ex-racehorses are.”
15 responses to “New vocation for Spite the Devil, and his owner”
Spite the Devil was the 2yo rival to Funny Cide, so I’m glad that he’s doing well.
“….yes, they, the Thoroughbred breed, certainly do have huge hearts and souls to match too! And, as for Diego, just one look at those “kind” eyes tells you volumes! Sandy, here’s to continued success with him and for New Voactions as well!”
This is a great story that starts to tell how wonderful and versatile OTTBs are. Over the years, I’ve had warmblooded and cold-blooded horses, and they just aren’t for me. Give me a TB anytime – they are my favorite breed. My OTTB mare has more sense, manners, and courage than my grand daughter’s 24 year-old pony cross, and she has none of the stubbornness or silliness that the pony has. Plus, TBs can be very affectionate once they bond with you. I can’t say enough good things about a TB! AND, off the track horses come with a lot of good training already on them. They know how to WORK, and they like having a job. I like Steuart Pittman’s comments about retired racehorses- see what he says on http://www.dodonfarm.com under “Retired Racehorses.”
I couldn’t agree with you more about your comparison to warmbloods and your daughter’s pony. I realize that we all have our individual experiences, and that shapes the prism through which we look. That said, I have found that the most patient, loving and willing equine partner I’ve ever worked with is a Thoroughbred mare. You also mentioned Steuart Pittman, and although I have not met him in person, his program sounds great. I wrote about his retired racehorse project several months ago. Thanks for reminding me, maybe I’ll check back and see if there’s a story to follow up on. Best, Sue
I loved this well written story and learning about Sandy’s own experience. Her Diego is very handsome. I am glad to be approved by the same Sandy (?). I check every afternoon to see the next adoptees that have come in to read the descriptions and study the photos and videos for when the right one comes along.
Thanks to New Vocations for all you do.
Thank you for writing to tell me that you enjoyed the article. It’s such a boost to me as I continue on this storytelling journey. Best of all, I’m so happy to hear that you are in the process of adopting one of these nice horses. Please let me know how that works out, because I’d love to write about it! Best, Sue
That was a wonderful article. New Vocations is a wonderful organization. I don’t know what or where so many horses would have been without them. So glad that Sandy has this wonderful horse. I loved the race clip at the end. What a great race, what a great horse! Wonderful success story. These Thoroughbreds are the best!
What a great story! I will always, always be greatful to New Vocations for allowing me to adopt my heart horse from them. They are wonderful!
And Miles is so lucky to have you to watch over him—to make sure he gains weight and has a properly functioning waterer, and is just loved up a storm. Your relationship really shines through your blog Miles on Miles, and it’s one of my favorites. Thanks for writing! 🙂
Our OTTB, Hey Mazel is a wonderful horse. Our youngest daughter picked him for her horse the second she saw him. She was disappointed when someone else adopted him, but exuberant beyond belief when he became available again. When he arrived, we took him off the trailer and moved him into the barn….As Lauren walked around front of him to get a brush, he put his head over her shoulder and drew her back to him and they two stood there …a young lady and her horse…they bonded immediately.
She is away from us (and her horse) right now as she chases her dream of being a trainer…I am not sure she misses us…I KNOW she misses Mazel.
A versatile breed indeed. 🙂
Great story, Susan–and congratulations to Sandra, Diego, and New Vocations. Dreams truly can come true. 🙂
I am so glad to hear your story and to see that you are now promoting the Thoroughbred breed. We too adopted a Thoroughbred from New Vocations and he is every bit the gentleman, mild mannered and loving. They are just a misunderstood breed as my daughter would say and need advocates such as yourself and New Vocations. I would love to see a Thoroughbred club such as the SPHO that we are involved in with our Standardbreds (yes they were adopted from New Vocations as well). There needs to be an outlet for showing these horses so that more people will be interested in owning them. With few venues and having to show against Quarter horses in Ohio, its gets a bit discouraging to go to these shows but right now they are the only ones available. Hopefully your marketing of this beautiful breed will open more opportunities for them to compete for the average rider. Thanks so much for all that you and New Vocations do for these wonderful horses.
First of all, thank you for your considerate and well-written note. It’s so encouraging to hear the good things about ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds; it makes me want to get on a soap box and tell it! Your comment about competing against Quarter Horses is interesting to me, and I think I’d like to write about the lack of showing opportunities.
Congratulations Sandra and Diego! What a wonderful “Happy ending ” story, Susan!! Thank you for including the Belmont race showing the HEART and the talent of Spite the Devil. What an exciting race!!
Now this wonderful, beautiful thoroughbred is proving the value of his breed. Thank you Sandra and Diego for showing the world that the thoroughbred race horse has so much to give off the race track. Thank you Sandra for rescuing him, he deserves every happy moment you share, as do you…….
I love all horses, however the thoroughbred race horse has captured most of my heart for many of the same reasons, Sandra. Good luck to you and Diego with your mission. Your success will help so many, all of which are deserving of a “Happy ending!” Thanks again. 🙂
As always, you write the most supportive notes, and I heartily appreciate it. I thought it was pretty neat that both Sandy and Spite the Devil got their next careers at the same place. Sandy worked in retail before finishing her degree in marketing, and volunteered for two years at New Vocations hoping to find a career that would combine marketing and horses. And as soon as she was able to put it together, she got her horse. Nice. 🙂