Elderly Secretariat stallion rescued

Verifiable in his new home

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
Sire: Secretariat
Dam: Veruccua
Foal date: April 28, 1985
Once 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.

Photo courtesy Exceller Fund

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. 

57 responses to “Elderly Secretariat stallion rescued”

  1. Julie Hertz

    How could someone treat racing royalty like garbage, no horse deserves that. Thanks to all who saved this beautiful old man and giving him a home filled with love. I pray he has many years left.

  2. Lydia Whiteley

    Just a note that Country Side peacefully passed away this year on August 26, 2014 at the age of 29. I got to meet him early 2012. A truly noble, intelligent horse. Built like his sire, but an incredibly beautiful dark bay. His owner told me that he, along with an old mare she’s had since she was a teen, are two of the greatest horses she has ever known. She has offspring from both, so “part of them will go on” as she says. Secretariat sure did make beautiful babies.

    1. Marc Troutman

      Oh, Country Side gone? Rest in peace.

  3. Kathy

    ok with out sounding disrespectful …he is a legacy
    is it not at all possible to get semen from him? since he is still a stallion?? if he’s in good enough shape.. is healthy..strong heart etc
    I’ve never researched the oldest acting stallion but still … if he was in the wild.. would they still not breed til they can’t breed any more??
    isn’t it a natural thing ?? or do they in their minds set ok we can’t do this any longer?? or is it humans that do that for them ??
    just a questions to keep this amazing bloodline going ??

  4. Cheri jackson

    Susan Salk, I was thinking the exact same thing! Please post those photos, Sparks R Flyin! Do you have a FaceBook account? Or email to me, too please!

    As I posted earlier in this thread, my horse, Hollywood Vic is the son of Academy Award who was Secretariats’ son.
    A couple of years ago I attended the World Equestrian Games in Lexington and made a trip to Old Friends Retirement facility to meet Academy Award. Sadly a few weeks before I got there, they had to put him down due to Laminitis. 🙁
    I would love to see those photos!


  5. Sparksrflyin

    I happened to run across this wonderful story. I have a great grandson of Secretariat. I have a news paper clipping of my boy being ridden by one of the top jockeys. Mike Smith. He didn’t win the race n probably came in last. I have a news paper clipping with Mike Smith ridding in the parade. I bought him at 3 yrs old n promised I would be his for ever home. He is the best natured n kind horse. He’s very tall n I’m short. I have to use a step latter to get his saddle on. He just stands there n waits. He looks just like Verifiable. Star on the forehead, but eats like Secretariat. I love reading all about Secretariat. So glad Verifiable found his forever home.

    1. Cheri jackson

      Susan Salk, I was thinking the exact same thing! Please post those photos, Sparks R Flyin! Do you have a FaceBook account? Or email to me, too please!

      As I posted earlier in this thread, my horse, Hollywood Vic is the son of Academy Award who was Secretariats’ son.
      A couple of years ago I attended the World Equestrian Games in Lexington and made a trip to Old Friends Retirement facility to meet Academy Award. Sadly a few weeks before I got there, they had to put him down due to Laminitis. 🙁
      I would love to see those photos!


  6. Jennifer Roberts

    So a friend who boards my horse sent me this article because I own a Secretariat grand-daughter and she thought that this horse’s headshot looked a lot like my horse and thought I’d be interested in the story. The headshot and title of the article were all that showed up on my phone so when I looked and thought that there really was a resemblance, it was before I’d seen the horse’s name. Well, it turns out there’s a very good reason (besides the general Secretariat lineage) for the resemblance. This is my horse’s sire!

    The resemblance is uncanny. My mare is 17 now. She is a nearly identical shade of chestnut and also has a diamond on her forehead. They have the same ears. I really can’t believe how much they look alike – it’s too bad I can’t post a picture here.

    I’m glad this story has a happy ending and that Verifiable has found a great home. I’m happy to hear that he is a spry 27 – my girl definitely thinks that 17 is the new 7 for horses). What an incredible way to start off a Thursday! Frosted Leaf says hello to her dad!

    1. Nicole Smith

      Jennifer, we were thrilled to learn of Frosted Leaf. It is very exciting to hear about a part of Verifiable’s past given a large part of it is unknown. It is even better to know his daughter is in a great home and thriving. We will let Verifiable know his daughter says hello and that she is well (assuming we can get his attention away from the grass or dinner for two seconds!).

  7. melissamaser

    This is incorrect!

  8. Andi Puckett

    As a former jockey, trainer and breeder this story took me through a range of emotions. Thank God this horse was found, and many thanks to those that helped him to a better place. Our oldest broodmare is now a young 28, and our ex racehorses all have a home for life with us. I may have to look Verifiable up on my next trip to Lexington an bring a big bag of carrots to him!

  9. Marc Troutman

    Thanks go to Equibase, the supplier of info for The Jockey Club, Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form and many others. Just type in the horse’s name and their foaling date, racing record, connections, etc appear. And the 5-cross pedigree link is provided by The Jockey Club Information System. Again, thanks to the Exceller Fund for their outstanding work.

  10. Nicole

    We apologize for our inaccurate description of Verifiable. We claimed he was the oldest living stallion by Secretariat to the best of our knowledge. We were aware of Country Side, but while doing our research, unfortunately, gathered incorrect information regarding his age. We have him in our notes as being only 25 years old, which is obviously not the case. We appreciate having the correct information now on file. Thank you very much for offering this correction!

    Regardless of Verifiable’s bloodline, we are thrilled to have him with us. He is growing stronger every day and is a true pleasure. He is enjoying his days in his very own paddock full of grass and visits his new friends across the fence frequently. He never misses the front door opening when his caregivers come out and is sure to greet them (or at least dinner) with a loud whinny each and every time. The only way anyone knows he is a stallion is if they are told… otherwise, they would mistake him for a giant puppy dog. We are grateful he found his way to us.

    Nicole Smith
    Volunteer Executive Director
    The Exceller Fund, Inc.

  11. melissamaser

    Needville Texas is very close to my hometown in Wharton, Tx.

  12. Marc Troutman

    Great story indeed about this rescue of Verifiable and thanks goes out to the Excellar Fund. However, the oldest living stallion of Secretariat is Country Side, pensioned at DoubleJFarms in Needville, Tx, who was foaled on Feb 4, 1985. Verifiable was foaled on April 2, 1985. I just received an email from Joycelyn Kasmir who confirms that Country Side is still living at DoubleJFarms.

    1. M. Troutman

      Correction: DiamondJFarms in Needville, TX.

  13. melissamaser

    Well, I am thinking about one of these retired
    Ones!!!! Great Save!!

  14. Carole J in MN

    This beautiful story, brings such hope to my heart! I’m wondering though… Old Friends has Tinners Way there who also is a son of Secretariat…!! Which one is older??

  15. bunny chretien

    what a sad story .but a happy ending .the person who did this holding him up in a stall for 6 years should get a big fine

  16. melissamaser

    I am so happy he has found a great home. Please let me know of progress.Thank you to all who have helped him..

  17. RiderWriter

    I am thrilled that this grand old son of the Great One has found a proper and loving home. Thank goodness he was rescued in time!

  18. Monica

    It is a beautiful thing when horse people come together from all facets of life to help a horse in dire straits. I wish we could read about more stories like this (doesn’t have to be a horse story; but just good news about special people doing good deeds from anywhere in the world).

    I believe all or most of Secretariat’s offspring were good natured 🙂

    Thank you to the people involved in helping this horse and the authors for sharing the good news.

  19. Karen Triana

    I’m so glad you were able to rescue him. It’s amazing that a horse this famous ended up in this situation but I’m so happy to hear that he is excited and thankful for his new found home.. A horse is a big responsibility, I have always wanted horses but I know better.. I don’t have the correct accommodations, feed, income, veterinarian and most of all TIME… I can barely hang in with my 2 dogs 65 lbs and 75lbs.. I just don’t understand why people take animals they can’t handle… But anyway this is one of the best rescues of heard lately. I’m so glad people are stepping up even when they didn’t plan on getting another animal.. I have a friend has 8 dogs.. But she can handle them they are all happy and its seems families are growing bigger…. !!!!! In every way… Thanks everyone.. For adopting and rescuing our beloved animals!!!!!!! On earth…

  20. Cheri Jackson

    My OTTB, Hollywood Vic is son of Academy Award who was son of Secretariat. My heart went into my throat when I saw that he had been stalled for six years. How do people wind up with a stallion like him? Strange. Anyway I am so happy he is doing well!
    I will tell my Hollywood Vic that his uncle is doing fine! 🙂

  21. Linda

    What an awesome save! I just wish people would treat all horses with respect instead of locking them away. If you don’t know what to do ASK! no one will criticize you for asking for help! Those who have horses have no idea how lucky they are! I would JUMP at the chance to be a caretaker for an old horse or other horses! If anyone has a spot…let me know! Blessings for all those involved in this and many other saves like them…God gave you a heart! I am an older woman but know the magic horses bring! And Sallee Vans are wonderful people. I used to see them up and down the highways in Florida and Georgia all the time! Thanks Sallee! we salute YOU!

  22. Raven Dane

    What a wonderful story but what a shame those people didn’t seek help before six years! Racehorses retrained after retiring from the track make fabulous riding and sports horses. They can be so gentle, well mannered and easy to train.
    I hope this lovely old boy enjoys a long and happy retirement. One of mine, a Thoroughbred/Welsh cross chestnut mare, was still in light work until she was 34 and died peacefully in my arms at 40…a horse in a million!

  23. Anna P.

    I too have a rescue that had been confined to a stall, nailed shut!! He had been there for a yr give or take a few months, no one knows for sure. He is not related, but had the same horrible experience, until the lady I got him from saved him. He was not in a clean stall, he was knee deep in his own mess. He is a gorgeous black overo APHA (paint) stallion. He is wonderful, and is a proven sire of NBHA youth world championship qualifier, Clusive Glow. I love him so much and could not believe anyone could do something so horrible to such a fine animal, or not fine for that matter. Now I see, it happens more than we could possibly imagine!!!! I feel so bad knowing there are God knows how many that are suffering the same fate as we speak (or type)or worse!!!

  24. Christopher Duganberry

    I think that’s awesome. Thank you for saving him and giving him back his dignity.

  25. Hatchery

    Incredible. Thank God that Verifiable can now lead a healthy, happy life. Thank you to all who saved him!

  26. Kim Lucas

    So happy Secretariat’s son was rescued and is now having a good retirement. My horse Smokey is 30 yrs. old and doing well on senior feed.

  27. Shelby Spalding

    Awww, I am so glad that he found a hom tjat he deserves for the rest of his life.
    Secretariat should be proud of his son that is now at a home he deserves.

  28. Natalie Kilpatrick

    Oh I think he is just a spitting image of his dad! What a wonderful story. I hope you will keep us updated on his condition and post more photos for us.

  29. Holly Kiefer

    I’m so glad he got a forever home:) What a proud guy he should be now, regardless of who’s son he is, he deserves better! Secretariat should be proud he left behind such a deserving son:)

  30. J. Hagan Cosgrove

    Yes, indeed, the right thing to do has come to pass! Amen! I too have a gelded great-grandson (foaled 98, Pagliacci (GB) aka Cash, now 14) who is one of the most willing, personable and affectionate horses, I have EVER met. I have owned only OTTB’s and always will, as my small part to end the agonies suffered my these magnificent athletes, who do the bidding of trainers and owners, and then are often subject to the “disposable society” practices – aka the horse slaughter pipeline…My own horse just missed the “kill buyer” by only mere days, as the gal who sold him to me told me I had to beat the “kill buyers price”, at that time $400.00. This horse sold for $175,000.00 as a yearling, so untried, because of his lineage (also a Grandson of Gone West and son of Rahy-Applaud), and to even think he was knocking on the door of a slaughter house, just beguiles and sickens me to no end. It is EXACTLY why I will always make room for an OTTB, and as an example, my current gelding has turned into a sweet, sweet ‘ole chap, hollers for me when I go out of his vision, in contrast to the mishandled, misunderstood and therefore angry and frustrated guy – who first came home to me in 2010. A very long road has been traveled by the two of us, together, consisting of time and patience, time and patience, which just throws out the window the myth that all OTTB’s are crazy, hot tempered, and useless after the track. AND, this is my fifth experience w/ an OTTB…Could I be wrong – 5 times? Hats off to those who could, and did take in a stallion, primarily because he is an OTTB, not just Secretariat’s son…I wish him all the best, and sounds like the angels came for him just in time ~ Amen ~

  31. Belinda

    I have a gelded grand-son of Secretariat (who couldn’t win a race if his life depeneded on it) and am super pleased he found a good, safe resting place. My Star Painter is my friend and confidant. He came to me abused and untrusting and now 6 years later I would lay my life down for him.

  32. Karen

    Thank goodness he was rescued and now has a home that will take care of him. Secretariat is my all time favorite TB and I am always interested in reading about his offspring. Six years in a stall. How terribly sad. At least they did clean the stall though. I have a friend who rescued a stallion who was kept in a stall that was never cleaned! He was knee deep in his on manure! Why oh why are people so cruel to these magnificent animals.

  33. Stephanie

    WONDERFUL! Way to go! Kudos to all the humans involved! And happier days for Verifiable! 🙂

  34. Nancy Babcock

    I can barely breathe after reading this….that poor, poor horse. I pray that he has many days left in his already long life and I thank God he was saved in time to at least have some good ones.

  35. Karen Strawbridge

    Blessings on all who came to the rescue of Verifiable. 6 years in a stall is horrible……..but, he is Now Living the Good Life……….God bless those who are giving him a Forever Home……..I have a decendant of Man O’ War…………she will always have a Forever home…………Loved both Man O’War and Secretariat…….cried like a baby at their graves………..<3

  36. Partnership

    What a wonderful life this boy is now going to have! No horse deserves to be abandoned and confined to a stall for 6 years. Thank you to the Exceller Fund for helping this guy and to his new family.

  37. Jennifer Olsen

    He looks exactly like my 22 year old Elegant Kiss. They came from the same bloodline. Power Ruler Bold Ruler, on and on and on. I wish him lots of love.

  38. L. Melone

    Stalled for 6 years–how horrible. So glad he was rescued and given a home to live out his life.

  39. Pamela Clark

    That is so heart warming! I am so glad Verifiable is now living the happy life!

  40. madelyn Gelfan

    its so great seeing another horse rescued. 🙂 and he even shares the same birthday as my quarterhorse 🙂

  41. Miranda and Blue Blue Sea

    Amazing story! Am so glad that this beautiful horse has been given this opportunity. Thank you for bringinghis story to light. 🙂

  42. Nicole

    The Exceller Fund is thrilled to be a part of this ole boy’s story. He is truly something special, as are the folks fostering him. We could not be more delighted to have them on our team. We are paying a small stipend to help out, but at $5/day, it hardly puts a dent in his expenses. Therefore, we started The Golden Years Fund to assist with his care along with other geriatric horses in our program. We realize the dedication and expense it often takes to care for older horses and since we do offer a lifetime commitment to horses in our program, many of them stay with us into their “Golden Years”. http://www.excellerfund.org/goldenyears.html.

  43. Bev Dee

    What a great story! We have a gelded son of Secretariat, Fast Market, born on 2.4.86. Glad to see another of his sons will spend the rest of his years in comfort.

  44. Tara

    This is such a heart warming story! In a stall for 6 yrs??? Poor guy, a Secretariat or not, I’m so happy he’s still alive and now is going to have a wonder ‘rest of days’…I hope he lives another happy 10 yrs!! Thank you to all involved in helping this wonderful lad!

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