T-bred activist donates show winnings to horses

Dreamer jumps for ribbons, and to help earn money for other needy OTTBs. Photo courtesy Onawa Rock Photography

Dreamer jumps for ribbons, and to help earn money for other needy OTTBs. Photo courtesy Onawa Rock Photography

Fran Burns has been described as a relentless crusader for Thoroughbreds.

Tirelessly, she volunteers for Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue. Often on the phone late into the night, working on nonprofit business, she never loses her energy for championing the cause. And her own off-track Thoroughbred, Dreamer, who raced under the name Token Gesture, is going stride-for-stride right along with her.

As a gifted show horse, Dreamer raises awareness about the virtues of ex-racehorses-turned- Sporthorses, and when he wins, all the horses at Angel Acres win.

This is because whenever Dreamer takes home a blue ribbon, Burns donates to the Dreamer’s Blue Ribbon Fund at Angel Acres, a charity that helps pull ex-racehorses from feedlots, among other noble work.

Earlier this month, Dreamer won several at the first annual MidAtlantic Horse Rescue All Thoroughbred Benefit Show.

In this week’s Q&A, Burns catches us up with her efforts.

Q: Fran, it sounds like Dreamer performed really well at the first annual MidAtlantic Horse Rescue Benefit show this month. How many blue ribbons did he win in the Adult and Schooling Hunter divisions? And, how will those blue ribbons benefit Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue?

Fran and Dreamer enjoy some quiet time after the show.

Fran and Dreamer enjoy some quiet time after the show.

Dreamer (aka racing name is Token Gesture) won 4 blue ribbons at the MidAtlantic Show—two in the Adult Division (2’6”) and two in the Schooling (3 ft) division.

The money will go into his fund and be held there until Angel Acres needs it. It could be to pull a horse out of the kill pen at auction, assist with a neglect case rescue, help ship a horse out of a dangerous situation, or something immediate like that. Often times a very quick decision has to be made by Jo Deibel at Angel Acres.

Q: Can you recap the background of Dreamer’s Blue Ribbon fund? When and how did you decide that each blue ribbon won,  should trigger a donation to horse charities?

I started the fund when I began showing Dreamer about 4 years ago. I strongly believe in “paying it forward” and giving back because I have been so lucky.

Dreamer was too slow to race so he really had no future except slaughter.

As a volunteer at Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue and a Thoroughbred advocate I believe this is a way for a horse lucky enough to have a second career to give back.

For every blue ribbon he wins I donate $20 to the Dreamer Blue Ribbon Fund at Angel Acres. I asked Jo Deibel, Founder and Director of Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, about the idea, and she was all for it.

He has become a poster child for the retrained OTTB in the hunter ring. He is an exceptionally talented horse, but I am more proud of the saves resulting from his wins rather than the ribbons.

Q: How have those donations helped other off-track Thoroughbreds?

We pulled a nice looking chestnut gelding out of the kill pen at New Holland. I asked to name him. I chose “Lucky” because it was his lucky day!

Turns out that he had been a lesson horse originally.

He proved to be a “packer” and could do it all!  I was exceptionally pleased that he was adopted out to a forever home quickly.

In another situation we had a rescue horse rehabbing in Finger Lakes, NY. We needed to get the horse into the rescue in Pa. because the stall was being filled in NY. Dreamer’s funds provided shipping for that horse. He came in, healed and was adopted out. All are normally emergency cases.

Q: With regards to Dreamer’s show career, what have been the highlights, thus far? And, what are you future goals for him?

Dreamer enjoys  his grooming session before a show.

Dreamer enjoys his grooming session before a show.

Wow there have been many highlights!

Last season he was leased and ridden by a 15-year-old, and they were Season Champions in the BCHSA ( Baltimore County Horse Show Association)  in Children’s & Equitation and he has been Champion often with my Trainer Jennifer Radebaugh in the Open Division.

In May, he was Champion at the rated Summer show at McDonogh School  in the TB division.

There was lots of great competition, and my little rescue horse is Champion!

For the future I am carefully picking and choosing my spots with him. I prefer to do the rated shows and will definitely do the MidAtlantic show again.

I am hoping to take him to the Maryland Horse & Pony Show in the fall as they have an awesome TB Division.  Long term my goal is to focus on the Thoroughbred Division and to encourage other horse owners and riders to consider creating their own “Dreamer Fund” to assist other horses that are less fortunate. I believe this is especially important to encourage younger riders to give back.

4 responses to “T-bred activist donates show winnings to horses”

  1. Deborah Ahrns

    Awesome idea. Susan I have a Thoroughbred who last May had EPM he as been treated for it and the area of insult was back left hip/leg. He now as he walks the left goes under his belly instead of forward. He can run trot and is the Alpha horse in the herd the insult has not gotten worse but my husband does not feel we should keep him as I do not have the experience or the resources for rehabilitation ….so he wants to have him put down. I would love to re-home him and get him some intervention he is very strong and has adapted well. Please any ideas or resources would be greatly appreciated. He was rescued from track and was our daughters 4H show horse. Please help

  2. Martha Foster

    Wonderful story, Susan! Love the idea of this “competition for a cause” to “pay it forward!”

  3. Deb B

    Great article. I love the idea and am thankful for places like AAHH. One thing though, what if Lucky was not “a nice looking horse”? Would he have been left there? It is sad that a horse’s looks, while in the kill pen, are so often held against them. Many homely TB’s have blossomed once removed from the jaws of Hell.

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