Sir Prize Birthday, 35, the oldest retired racehorse in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) herd of 900, has rallied after a rough winter.
After enduring the harsh, cold, snowy winter and battling a mild bout of colic, the elder statesmen has had a “real good summer,” says Jim Tremper, program manager at the TRF’s Walkill, N.Y., facility. “He had a pretty rough winter, and I wasn’t sure he was going to make it,” Tremper says. “But then he just blossomed.”
Birthday has become like Buddha on the upstate New York property of the Walkill Correctional Facility. Grown wise, thin and gray since retiring from the track after 206 starts, he’s a horse who takes no guff, Tremper explains in an earlier article about the Thoroughbred. Birthday plays a role in the unique Second Chances program, which pairs inmates with ex-racehorses; Inmates learn marketable horsemanship skills while caring for retired racehorses.
“What makes Sir Prize special is his intolerance of aggression,” he says. “The best story I remember about Birthday is that we had a fellow who was in for manslaughter, and he had an extremely short fuse. I mean, he was ready to fly off the handle yelling at people and was just very aggressive and impatient.
“He started working with Birthday, and Birthday didn’t respond very well to that. The inmate didn’t get what he wanted from Birthday, and I told him he needed to take it easy and be calm, and that then the horse would work with him.
“And it changed his whole attitude. He started talking with people, which he never used to do, and his hand movements slowed down, his whole demeanor slowed down. Even though he was convicted of this terrible crime, he became a decent individual.”
And for all he has done for all the people in his life, on the track, and afterwards, Birthday has earned some pretty special perks.
“We bring him in separately to eat extra rations of grain,” he says, noting that everyday, Birthday gets 24 pounds of it.
And in his grassy paddock he has all the free grazing he could want, and piles of hay too. “He eats a tremendous amount!” Tremper says. “We’ve also got him on a joint supplement because he had a little bout with arthritis, and he’s on a good senior feed. His days are pretty much spent eating and interacting with people.
In this recent photo, the elder horse lifts his head up from the grass just long enough for someone to snap his picture. An image of a horse grown quite old, living each day as he should.
“It’s just a pleasure to see him still going, and enjoying life,” Tremper says.