As a young filly, Our Mims was racehorse royalty.
At three, she was named the 1977 Eclipse Champion, and by age four, she’d won over $368,000 in her racing career.
By the time she was 22 her many foals carried the bloodlines of superstars such as Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid, and passed great genes along to notable stakes performers including 1997 Breeder’s Cup Sprint winner Elmhurst.
But when she could no longer get in foal, Mims was turned out to pasture among cows, and far from any winner’s circle or breeding shed, grew old trying to forage food to survive.
By the time childhood fan Jeanne Mirabito stumbled across the old mare, her coat was dull, her weight had dropped, and she was unrecognizable to the woman who as a youth had exclaimed that Mims was the “most beautiful horse in the world!”
“She wasn’t bright and shiny anymore. She was an angry horse who stood pawing at the ground and trying to kick my head,” Mirabito says of their first meeting in 1999.
Dam: Sweet Tooth
Foal date: March 8, 1974
Crouching from the flying hooves, Mirabito asked a farm coworker who the horse was, and upon hearing the answer said, “That’s the great Our Mims? She’s a champion!”
After that, Mirabito started bringing Mims a serving of grain everyday. At first the horse pinned her ears and remained aloof, but gradually her demeanor changed. Eventually she started meeting Mirabito at the field’s gate.
Then one day, Mirabito hitched a lead rope to Mims’ halter and led her out. She first brought the horse to a rescue, and when she had purchased a farm in Paris, Ky., Mims came home to live out her remaining years with Mirabito.
“I promised her that she would never want for anything again and that her name would never be forgotten.”
Now Mims’s name is both the title and inspiration for a federal nonprofit, Our Mims Retirement Haven, which Mirabito founded for retired broodmares on her farm.
Before Mims died of colic in 2003 at age 29, she once again lived the proud life of a prized mare. Her health was restored, and her coat grew shiny again. And from time to time, Mims stepped into the spotlight at various events promoting broodmare retirement.
Today, Mims is buried at the Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky., where she was foaled on March 8, 1974. Her remains rest alongside other horses in her family, including sister Sugar and Spice, a broodmare who also lived out her last days at Our Mims Retirement Haven.
Thinking back on the trajectory of the retirement haven, which officially entered federal nonprofit status on Mims’ birthday, March 8, 2004, Mirabito credits both “sisters.” Mims was the inspiration. Sugar and Spice showed that there was always another horse to save.
“After Mims died, I didn’t think I could do it again. I told my husband it was too hard,” she says. “But when Sugar arrived, and I placed her in Mims’ old stall, she helped heal my heart.”
Sugar did not live long. She was a “Hospice case” when she came to the haven, and died just four months later, in September 2004 at age 28.
But in their short time together, Mirabito was deeply moved by the horse she says never ate her food until she first put her head on the chest of whoever was feeding her.
Mims and Sugar; their memory have become the inspiration that Mirabito finds to get up everyday and care for 14 rescued broodmares. Horses she dubs, “the ladies.”
About 60 percent of the horses who come to her, arrive anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds underweight. But with individual dietary and veterinary care needs met, ‘the ladies’ do flourish in idle retirement.
“My ladies are gorgeous,” she says. “I love racehorses, and doing this work is my way of fitting into the industry. I can care for old horses, and I’ve had some greats here. Their fans still remember them and come to visit.”
To Mirabito, the older mares are still stars. And they’ve earned a place in a warm stall.
“One of the hardest things for me to visualize is a mare like Our Mims being left alone in a back field.”