Her face held tightly in check with a bridle cinched over a drab halter, the aging broodmare carried the burly stranger on her bare back in the last indignity of her life.
Curling her lip against the pressure of his strong hands, which pulled a little too tightly on the reins, Mintsonthepillow kept her composure as she walked and trotted for the man at the feedlot who would help ship her to slaughter as thoughtlessly as he rode her on the blacktop of a Pennsylvania feedlot.
And in that darkest hour, when it seemed nobody cared what happened to a racehorse who ran 44 times before being vanned off her final race at Philadelphia Park, somebody raised their hand and said, “We can take one more.”
Barn name: Blessed
Sire: Bates Motel
Foal date: March 6, 1997
Earnings: $81,940, 44 starts“I happened to see a post by (Thoroughbred advocate) Mindy Lovell about Mintsonthepillow … it was on the 28th of March, and on March 30 I found out who to send the money to, we found someone to transport her, and we got her to a quarantine farm,” says Bev Dee, executive director of Bright Futures Farm in Pennsylvania.
As the mare was waiting in quarantine at Stone Hollow Farms under the watchful care of Brittany St. Clair, word got around about the mare’s backstory, and pretty soon nobody called her by her race name. She was nicknamed Blessed for all she had been through, for her breakdown at the track, for the five foals she had given birth to, and eventually, the funny way life worked out for her.
“It took two days for me to secure her safety and I was beginning to think I’d never talk to the right person to get this mare out of that mess. But we did it. And I named her Blessed right after that. And the name really suited her, because before she even got to my farm (from quarantine) she was adopted by a lady who fell in love with her.”
A lady and a professional pastor!
Elizabeth “Eli” Hess, a woman of the cloth and a riding student where Mintsonthepillow was laying up, says she saw the beautiful bay grazing out in the field one day and asked, “Who’s that?” She adds, “They told me she was a Bright Futures Farm rescue horse and that her name was Blessed. I thought that was perfect because I’m a pastor.”
In no time the two became friends and then one fortuitous day, Hess was offered an opportunity to take the rescue mare out for a trail ride. “I fell in love with her from the moment I started tacking her up. She nickered to me, and she was just so happy to be loved.”
The self-described timid rider clicked so perfectly with the rescue mare that on April 29, as a birthday present to herself, she offered to adopt her. And on June 6 passed papers to complete to process. A few weeks later the pair had wings as they took 2nd and 3rd place in walk/trot classes at the Thoroughbred Alliance Horse Show Series (TASS) shows, offered by the Washington Horse Council.
“She was incredible!” Hess says. “In our very first show, we got a 2nd for the model mare class and a 3rd in the walk/trot/ground poles. Here she is, an 18-year-old broodmare, and she acts like she’s been doing this her whole life. It’s like she’s rewarding us.”
“The thing that amazes me in the time she’s been in our life is that she has no lameness, no health issues, nothing,” Hess says. “People are skeptical when they hear about an older horse who was raced 44 times, and was also a broodmare, and then dumped in a kill pen. They want to know what’s wrong with her. I can tell you, this mare has never taken a bad step … this mare has a beautiful soul, and she’s the love of my life.”