Editor’s note: Since the Exceller Fund reported rescuing Verifiable, the oldest living Secretariat stallion, it has since come to light that the stallion Country Side is even older! The story has been amended to reflect this information.
A chestnut Thoroughbred identified as one of the oldest living Secretariat stallion was rescued this month from a stall where he had been confined for the past six years of his life.
Verifiable, 27, identified through Jockey Club records as the son of legendary Secretariat, was taken in by The Exceller Fund, a horse-rescue organization, on Oct. 15, after the animals’ owners contacted them seeking help, according to lead volunteer coordinator Nicole Smith.
The lightly raced stallion was reportedly abandoned on the farm of a family not equipped to handle a stallion, according to Smith, who says they had confined him to a large stall, only moving him to an adjacent one so they could clean it.
“The owners contacted me directly and said they had a Secretariat. But at this point, I just knew there was a horse in a situation he needed to get out of, and that was the main concern,” Smith says. “The people who had him were doing the best they could for him —he’d been abandoned by his owner on their property, and they weren’t set up for a stallion— so we did our best to get him out of there.”
Even before his grand lineage was confirmed, people came out of the woodwork to assist with the effort to rescue the horse, and give him a chance at a better life.
Sallee Horse Vans Inc., of Lexington shipped him for free, asking only reimbursement for the cost of gas. And a trained stallion handler volunteered to assist with his transport, Smith says.
Race name: Verifiable
Foal date: April 28, 1985Once loaded onto the trailer, the underweight animal was taken to the famous KESMARC Rehabilitation Facility, a world-class equine sports medicine facility in Kentucky, to receive treatment; again, free of charge.
“Both KESMARC and Salle Vans were fabulous to us!” Smith says.
Once safely ensconced at KESMARC, Smith began researching his bloodlines. After supplying photographs of the careworn animal to the Jockey Club, and through additional research located in a stallion registry, he was positively identified as Verifiable, a lightly raced son of Secretariat who was turned to stud.
“Because he still has enough unique markings, and there were detailed notes about him in old stallion registries, they were able to determine that he was (one of) the oldest living son of Secretariat,” she says.
Though the once fiery progeny of perhaps the world’s greatest racehorse had seen better days, the best was yet to come!
Well-known horsemen Kentucky Jackie and Ercel Ellis officially adopted the horse from Exceller last week, and are keeping him in grand style on their 22-acre property, with a promise to do so until the end of his days.
Now he is gaining weight by consuming a specially formulated pellet feed, which dissolves in his mouth, and allows him to absorb nutrition without having to chew, Jackie Ellis says.
By eating about two and a third quarts daily, he is quickly putting on weight, she says.
“His condition is looking so much better already!” she says. “This old boy is sound, and he jogs around and it’s just wonderful to watch.”
And, he possesses such a calm and agreeable demeanor that she and her husband are able to lead him around with a cotton rope. “
Ercel Ellis, the host of radio show Horse Tales, and an official clocker at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, has a deep and diverse background with Thoroughbred racehorses. The couple bred and trained Thoroughbreds for years, and when they learned of Verifiable’s circumstances from Thoroughbred trainer Lisa Molloy, the agreed right away to give him a new home.
“We just felt sorry for the old horse,” Ercel Ellis says. “Both of us have been in the horse business … and I can’t imagine a horse being confined for six years in a stall. That must have been hard.”
He doesn’t look like his glamorous father, but Ercel Ellis is quick to point out he’s a “very young 27” who gets around very well, and eats everything they put in front of him.
“He’s just a nice, old horse who deserves better,” he says. “I think he’s enjoying life now, and the way he gets around, he may outlive me!”
Off-Track Thoroughbreds thanks the nearly 4,000 readers (so far!) who have followed this story.