Category Archives: Retirement Options

Finding Curragh Mon

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa) is one of my favorite Thoroughbred rehoming and rehabbing groups. Working directly with Tampa Bay Downs, they have helped many, many Thoroughbreds find new homes, whether it’s a life-time of pasture or a new showing career.

They’ve even been there for Bon Appeal’s half-brother, Mambo Appeal, who shares her squiggle of a stripe and sleek build.

When a couple of my friends from TROT reached out to me about Curragh Mon, it really touched my heart. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to write about OTTBs these days; I am spending most of my time in my cave of an office, writing fiction, and the racetrack in New York is a very expensive train ride away. I’m busy, and it’s hard to keep up. But when someone needs help, I hope I can say I’ve been there for them. Or him. Curragh Mon.

Curragh Mon’s story is living proof that it can happen to anyone (I’m starting to think it does happen to everyone at some point in their fifteen to forty years on the planet — horses just don’t have good luck in our society). It can even happen to tall, well-bred dapple grays: the ones that people are supposed to swoon for, the ones that are supposed to be the most desirable. We all of us, at one point in our horse-crazy lives, have day-dreamed about a tall dapple gray. You have, and I have, and that’s just how it is. There’s something about them.

But that something, and all those daydreams, aren’t enough when the horse is in the wrong hands and falling off the radar. And it’s so, so easy for a horse to fall off the radar. There’s no vetting process for horse owners, or even for horse trainers. Should there be? I’m really starting to think so.

This is Curragh Mon’s story. He was lost, and he’s been found. It took hard work and it took dedication and it took love and compassion. Thanks to TROT for telling me about it and linking me to this impressive press release. Take a read, and take a think, and hug your horse, and if you can share this story, or throw a few bucks Curragh Mon’s way, do so. And maybe, down the road, let’s talk about how we’re going to stop horses from falling off the radar.

The following is a press release from Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa (TROT):

Curragh Mon is rescued and brought back to TROT



Arriving with just a halter fit for a pony, this 17 hand Thoroughbred was on his way to a better life. The only memory of his racing days is the one front shoe that remains on his overgrown hooves.  The transport driver said, “He just wants someone to love him”, and he was right.  On Curragh Mon’s first leg of his long, bumpy road to retirement, this gray gelding seems to know his life was worth saving.

Now, Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc. (also known as TROT) is appealing to horse lovers and racing fans to assist in funding Curragh Mon’s transition to life away from the track.

Curragh Mon’s racing career began full of promise, when he rallied to finish second in a Tampa Bay Downs maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds in his January 2009 debut. He broke his maiden eleven months later at Tampa Bay Downs and went on to win three more times. The striking gray/roan son of Maria’s Mon — sire of Kentucky Derby winners Monarchos and Super Saver — appeared to have an extremely bright future.

However, the trips to the winner’s circle were few and far between and he changed owners seven times over four years of racing. His last three starts were in March and April of this year at Fonner Park in Grand Island Nebraska. After that, he fell off the radar.

Fortunately for Curragh Mon, organizations such as TROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe retirement from racing, retraining and rehoming of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds, have taken the lead in an effort to ensure that Thoroughbreds have a chance to lead happy and productive lives after their racing careers are over.

After locating Curragh Mon through painstaking diligence, TROT is bringing him back to the Tampa Bay area to begin his well-deserved retirement.

The horse’s former owners contacted TROT board member Vanessa Nye as they were concerned about what happened to the horse. Nye, a Tampa attorney who owns and operates Voodoomon Stable, is a strong advocate of safe retirement and aftercare for Thoroughbreds.

“I believe, and always have, that retiring these horses properly, transitioning them into other careers and supporting the aftercare of these great animals is paramount for the racing industry’s future.”

Nye made scores of telephone calls in her quest, enlisting the aid of numerous horsemen. On May 9, she found out that his last racing owner had given Curragh Mon away. It took another five weeks to finally locate the horse, which had changed hands and for possible use in unregulated match racing.

Finally, they were able to contact the individual possessing Curragh Mon, who agreed to sell him for $2,500, an amount Nye agreed to pay along with shipping costs. Nye said Steve Breen helped with coordinating his return home and the horse’s former owners are chipping in to cover the expenses.

No one can say for certain what Curragh Mon’s fate would have been had not Nye and her contacts put in the hours and diligence to launch the process of tracking him down. “It took me eight weeks and about 400 phone calls, but I was very determined,” she added.

Curragh Mon is scheduled to return by van to TROT’s foster facility in Myakka City in the next few weeks. “Really, TROT is full to capacity, but we don’t want to turn away a horse that has raced at Tampa Bay Downs. We (racing owners) all have to become more conscientious and investigate who we give these horses away to,” Nye said.

TROT estimates it will take at least a month for Curragh Mon to wind down from racing before starting retraining and being available for adoption. TROT is seeking donations to support him and the other fourteen horses currently in the program and available for new careers or as loving companions.

Please consider making a donation to Curragh Mon’s rehabilitation, or to help the other fourteen horses in the program. Use this link to access the PayPal donation link –

Check out TROT on Facebook at  or visit their website at


Filed under Media Coverage, OTTB Stories, Retirement Options

Horses Painting — Meet Metro

I mean, why wouldn’t you teach a retired racehorse to paint?

Paintings by OTTBs are the newest hot item in the art world, after all. Everyone wants a Moneigh, with their maximum star power: original works of art by celebrity equines like Zenyatta or Curlin, and proceeds benefiting ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption. I’m personally a big fan of this current work by Ken McPeek trainee Rogue Romance:

Rogue Romance Moneigh

Available at eBay through 6 PM on 2/13/2013!

Of course if you just want to settle for a painting by any old painting horse, you can type “Paintings By Horses” into Google, which, believe me, is not the most weird thing anyone has typed into Google in the past five minutes, and you will get plenty of results. Justin The Painting Horse has actually made the Huffington Post (who helpfully point out that Justin’s mouth is, indeed, “horse-sized”). And if you try to cut out the middleman and just type “” you will find that the owner of this domain has actually retired her horses from the life of an artist, but offers instruction on bringing the da Vinci out of your horse.

But this is Retired Racehorse Blog, and we are not interested in paintings by any old gelding with dreams of gallery grandeur. We require “proper harses, T’orobred harses,” as an Irish jockey once described them to me. Proper harses like… Metro!

Metro has been making the news rounds, but I haven’t been paying attention to the news, or I would have been all over this adorable bay gelding from very close to my home county in Western Maryland. Metro paints with purpose. Metro paints for a cause. Metro apparently really loves to paint.

Metro the painting horse

“Excuse me sir, I am working here.” – from

Type “Metro the painting horse” into Google and you’ll get results from D.C. television affiliates, Business Insider, even gossip site Deadspin. (The Deadspin article includes a really fabulous lapse of grammar with the line: “Ron Krajewski of Gettysburg, Pa., who adopted Metro along with his wife, Wendy…”) But here is the basic story:

A solid allowance horse with a couple stakes placings, Metro had dropped down into the cheap claimers, had several knee surgeries under his belt, and was looking for a retirement home. Krajewski and his wife, who were members of the racing partnership who owned him, adopted him in hopes of having a fun first horse to learn to ride on.

Of course, Metro had been running long enough, and with enough problems, that he wasn’t exactly novice riding material. And the vet report was very grim: floating knee chips, arthritis, ulcers, the works. But Krajewski took on the project of not just getting the horse sound, but sound enough for trail riding.

And then Metro’s knees really took a turn for the worse. He wasn’t going to be heading out on the trails anymore. Krajewski looked for a new way to spend time with his buddy. He describes the process of teaching his horse to be a painter on his website, Painted by Metro.

The first thing was to teach him to target the canvas. Every time he would touch the canvas with his nose, I would reward him with a treat. Then came the brush. I would hand him the brush, and every time he would hold it in his mouth, I would take it from him and reward him with a treat. Now came the test. I didn’t have a back up plan if he didn’t paint once I put the two together. But luckily when faced with a canvas and brush in his mouth, he learned to stroke the canvas all on his own.

I honestly don’t know why we aren’t all doing this with our horses. This sounds like crazy fun.

Metro’s artwork goes for big bucks, but it serves a purpose. Krajewski was initially hoping that the paintings would fund the painting horse’s veterinary bills as his knees continue to worsen. But as he grew in popularity, Krajewski found that they could help other horses in need, too, and to date he has raised more than $3,000 for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.

Perusing one of the numerous news stories about Metro, I read this particular line and was struck by an idea:

Rather than just standing in a pasture looking pretty for the remainder of his life, Ron taught him how to hold a paintbrush and Metro embarked on a new career as an equine artist.

It’s very difficult to keep a pasture pet, especially one with high costs associated with upkeep. But Krajewski found a way for Metro to not only keep his brain engaged with a job, something most of us agree is very important to the happiness of a Thoroughbred, but to help pay his way in his retirement. I wonder how many more unconventional roles chronically unsound OTTBs could play, not just the common ones our brains immediately turn to, like therapy or companion horses, but completely out-of-the-box ideas like… like painting.

Many thanks to Ron Krajewski for emailing me about his wonderful horse, Metro.



Filed under Media Coverage, Retirement Options

Cheltenham, Kauto Star, and Dressage

Who will win the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year? I’m sure it will be an exciting time betting at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival!

I have my eye on Long Run, but that’s only because the former star and fan favorite, Kauto Star, who won the Gold Cup twice during his epic career as a champion National Hunt horse, is busy learning dressage!

The big horse took the Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009, becoming the first horse to win the cup, lose the cup, and then win it back again.

Kauto Star

Kauto Star in flight…

Just because they took steeplechasing out of eventing doesn’t mean we have to take stop taking eventers out of steeplechasing, and Kauto Star is proving to be no exception to that rule — like so many big bold Thoroughbreds before him, he’s learning to move in a new way, respond to his rider in new ways, and use all his bravery and style to get through a dressage round and, someday, get round a cross-country course.

Kauto Star is with Laura Collett, a leading British eventer. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Collett talked about the retired racehorse’s attitude about learning dressage:

“He’s definitely taken to this challenge, willing to work with you and not against you,” says Collett.

“When he’s worked something out, he doesn’t forget it.

“What he’s found hardest and what’s going to take him longest is how to do a steady canter because he’s only ever known gallops.

“He’s getting there but finds it quiet hard to hold it because the muscles he uses most in dressage are not those needed to stretch himself in racing.”

Although it’s no stretch to those of us who are Thoroughbred advocates to see a horse like Kauto Star as a successful sporthorse, there has been some backlash to the decision to keep him in work instead of kicking the horse out to pasture. I personally can’t imagine why anyone would want to waste the mind and talents of a sound, young gelding, but apparently not everyone shares my opinion.

Kauto Star’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, had expected the retired horse to stay at his yard for the remainder of his life. But his owner, Clive Smith, had other plans, intent on giving the horse a job. He tells the Telegraph:

“Nobody has Kauto’s best interests more at heart than myself.

“He’s been fantastic for me and if I can’t look after him properly for the rest of his days, then it’s a very poor show. I just want to do right for him.”

Sounds like an ideal owner, to me. We need more of this attitude in racing, National Hunt or flat.

If you want to keep up with Kauto Star’s daily life, Laura Collett has a great Twitter account, @colletteventing, where she posts pictures of horses she works with on a daily basis. Even if you don’t use Twitter, you can visit the link to see the pictures.

I hope Kauto Star is the next Thoroughbred in a long line of poster children for what retired racehorses can do!

Kauto Star out for a hack.

….and out for a hack. Photo: @colletteventing








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Filed under eventing, Media Coverage, OTTB Stories, Retirement Options

Have You Used Thoroughbred Connect?

Thoroughbred Connect

Thoroughbred Connect is an emergency-call-card for racehorses.

In 2011, I wrote here about the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Connect, a web site that was designed to allow fans (or concerned parties) the ability to attach their contact information to a horse’s registered name. The idea was that if you were watching a horse and wanted to purchase or take some sort of responsibility for him after he was finished racing, the owner or trainer could just log into Thoroughbred Connect, pull up the horse’s name, and pick up the phone and give you a call.

What a great idea!

So, has it worked?

According to this article in the Daily Racing Form:

A year and a half into the project, more than 1,600 people have signed onto Thoroughbred Connect, and more than 400 horses have benefited from the program, according to Kristin Leshney, legal associate with The Jockey Club, who helped develop the platform.

400 horses have benefited from Thoroughbred Connect. Do you know one of those horses?

I had my name down for four different horses, and of those four, I only know where one of them is. I’m always hoping someone will get in touch with me, though. It’s the best way I know to permanently attach my name to their names. It’s like an “in case of emergency” card for a racehorse.

How about you? Have you had luck? Have you been disappointed? Are you still waiting? Are you one of the owners of the 400 Thoroughbred Connect Success Stories? We want to know.

A writer is looking for stories of people who have used Thoroughbred Connect — successfully or unsuccessfully — to be used in a racing publication. Contact her at or DM on Twitter @shuveeIL if you’ve got something to say.

I really, really wanted Thoroughbred Connect to work. I still think it can. So if you have something to share, please do so!


Filed under Jockey Club, Media Coverage, Retirement Options

The Suffolk Showcase 2012 — Your new racehorse is waiting.

This is a reblog from last year, but the main message remains the same. The Suffolk Showcase is upon us, and it is time to get your new retired racehorse — racetrack direct! 

I’m so excited to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennifer Montfort from CANTER New England. She’s going to tell us why the Suffolk Showcase is the coolest thing since, well, Thoroughbreds.

So, by now you’ve read Natalie’s I NEED TO HAVE THEM posts highlighting some of the horses we have for sale through our trainer listings. And you’re of course wondering how you can get your hands on one, or what “Suffolk Showcase” is all about, right?

Don't tell me you don't want to meet Martins Flyin in person.

We at CANTER NE have been working especially hard the past few weeks as we approach the end of the Suffolk Downs meet on November 5. It’s an extremely busy time for us; as trainers make their plans for the winter they need to find new homes for horses that aren’t making it at the track anymore. Each weekend brings more horses for sale, but it also brings news of horses who have found new homes.

As Natalie has shown, there’s a ton of really great prospects available for sale, and the highlight of the end of the season for us is our Suffolk Showcase. This event aims to break down any barriers people may have that are preventing them from coming to the track to purchase a horse. And it also aims to give the trainers at the track one big chance to present their horses for sale.

 If you’re in New England, and at all interested in OTTBs, you should attend. Really. Here’s why:

 Over 80 horses, all in one place. It’s like the Keeneland sales. Well, sort of. We DO provide you with a catalog with information on each horse including basic information, a brief description, and trainer contact info. We also bring each horse out individually to a showing area where they will be presented and jogged. We DON’T have hip numbers, an auctioneer, or bidding wars. So you don’t have to worry about itching your nose and ending up spending $100K on a horse, we promise.

CANTER volunteers are there to help you. See a horse you like? Not sure what the next steps are? Ask a volunteer! We’ll be there and available to answer any questions you have to help demystify the process. We’re also happy to go see a horse or two (or 20!) with you. We’re like personal shoppers for Thoroughbreds. Who doesn’t love a personal shopper?

Meet the horses you’ve been admiring online. All those pictures of horses you’ve drooled over on our trainer listings page? Those pictures don’t do them justice. Really. We certainly try our best to get great photos, but they will never compare to seeing that horse right in front of you. You’ll see them move, you’ll see their personality, you’ll see how they handle a group full of people staring at them. And you’ll get to hear great stories from the people who work with them every day.

There is a horse for everyone.  No, really. There is a horse for everyone. Pasture pals, trail horses, family pleasure mounts, polo ponies, hunters, dressage mounts, and eventers. Bay, chestnut, grey, black. Flashy and plain, big and small. It’s like the jumbo mega Crayola box of horses.

Just showing up supports Thoroughbred retirement. Even if you don’t purchase a horse (why wouldn’t you!?) it’s a great day to enjoy with a bunch of people who all believe that these horses deserve great lives once it is time for them to hang up their racing shoes. And it helps us show trainers that there IS a market for their horses, which in turn helps more horses find homes. You’re paying it forward. Awesome.

All good reasons, right? So bring your trailer and come on out and see what Showcase is all about, this Sunday, October 14, from 8:30 am – noon on the Suffolk Downs backstretch.

If you have questions you can contact us at 617-207-1238 or at And join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@canterne) for all the newest updates. And if you can’t come, please share our posts, blogs, etc. with all your horsey friends. There are open stalls everywhere!

There you have it. And as Jennifer says, please share and share and share! I’m going to sweeten the pot…

Link Sharing Contest!

Reblog, retweet, or share this post on Facebook. Make sure you mention why you think Thoroughbreds are the greatest horse on the planet. In the comments, either here or at the Facebook page for Retired Racehorse Blog, post links to your shares. For every ten links posted, I’ll give away an ebook of my horse racing novel, The Head and Not The Heart. For every twenty links, I’ll give away a paperback copy!


Filed under Racing, Retirement Options

Dashboard Drummer: a Top Bunk racehorse’s retirement

This blog post comes to us from Stacy Ferris, who is a Thoroughbred Farm Manager in Ocala, Florida for Allen Iwinski. Says Stacy: “I am very passionate about horses, due to the fact that as a young child I couldn’t be around animals of any kind, period! I was allergic to them. My uncle had horses and it upset me that I couldn’t even pat them. I walked my first horse, Unreal Turn, at Belmont and from there my passion for Thoroughbreds grew. I’ve moved up from Hotwalker to Groom to Assistant Trainer and now to Farm Manager of a small family-run breeding farm. To watch them be born, to raising them to go off and race, there are no other words to describe the feeling you have: they make you proud. This has brought home to me the importance of following as many horses that I have raised as possible, and try to follow their careers to keep them safe.”

Dashboard Drummer, grade 1 sapling stakes

Dash wins the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes in 2003

Dashboard Drummer [Equibase profile] won stakes races from New York to Florida and earned more than $500,000 in purse money, while making lots of fans along the way. He ran his last race at Turf Paradise, finishing 3rd, and retired at age 9. He now resides at Equine Encore Foundation, a retirement farm in Arizona.

Dash was an truly amazing horse early on in his career. At this time I didn’t work for Allen Iwinski, whom trained Dashboard Drummer, as I had left to go on to further my career. (I now am his Farm Manager in Ocala, Florida.) But I followed this horse’s career the whole time. He won the Grade III Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park, and from there I said: Wow, this is a great horse with a lot of heart!

As the years went by he of course declined, got claimed, and eventually turned up at Turf Paradise in Arizona, running on the bottom level in claiming races for $3000. Dash ran 5 times at Turf Paradise, and from the third start I knew I had to do something to get him retired safely.

I reached out to Maggie Moss, the most amazing owner I have ever known for taking care of their horses. I remembered that Maggie was instrumental in claiming a horse named US Gold, a horse that I had taken care of in my grooming years for Frank Passero Jr. Maggie said she would put up the money to claim him, but I was responsible for reaching out to the public to raise donations so that she could be paid back.

Dashboard Drummer at Saratoga

Dash goes to post in the Grade 1 Champagne S. at Saratoga; he would place third.

I set out to the Alex Brown Racing forum and posted Dash’s Story. I got a lot of response, and he was considered a Top Bunk horse. [From Alex Brown Racing: “The Top Bunk List is a list of horses, still racing, that have made more than $500,000 and are running for $5,000 or less. We are tracking these horses, thanks to Daily Racing Form’s horse watch program. We are trying to retire these horses before they get into a more serious situation. At any given time, there are anywhere between 6 – 10 horses on this list.”]

Judith Smith offered to help find transport and a place to keep him. Beverly Strauss from MidAtlantic Horse Rescue offered to accept the donations for Dash so the people willing to donate would be able to receive a tax receipt for their donation. It took about a week to raise the $3,000 we needed after his race. I remember the day he was entered to run: March 28, 2010. That morning I had pins and needles in my stomach, and I couldn’t eat at all.

All I could think about was what if he got hurt, what if he broke down, what if there was more than one claim in the race.

We all watched together on Alex Brown Racing Forum, talking the whole day while we were waiting for Dash to run. Then the call came: we got him!

Dashboard Drummer's Ohio Derby Win

Time to celebrate: Ferris and the boss dig out Dash's memorabilia and party after they knew they'd won the claim.

That was Dash’s last race, and he wouldn’t ever have to run again.

Pattie Shirley from Equine Encore Foundation picked him up the next day, and he now resides with her in Arizona. They are a non-profit organization and rely on donations for the 60+ horses they have.

Retiring Dash was a very big accomplishment for me in horse rescue and I hope for many more to come. I have so many people to thank: First and foremost Maggie Moss. She truly is a great owner and horse advocate, and without her it would not have been possible to claim Dash. Also my thanks to Pattie Shirley for taking Dash into her program and providing the retirement he deserves, Judith Smith for helping me put this all together, Bev Strauss for reaching out to me to help with the donations, Alex Brown as without his forum this would not have been that easy, and for every single person who donated funds to save Dash, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without you it would not have been possible, and as you can see with the pic below of his accomplishments who knows what would have become of him if he continued to race.

He proved himself at his career until age nine and deserved his retirement.

Dashboard Drummer retired Thoroughbred

Dash in his retirement



Filed under Fundraising, Racing, Retirement Options, Success Stories

Thanks for all the broken toys

I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

It’s a famously liberal, tree-hugging sort of community, where anyone who is anybody dutifully works their shift at the Food Co-Op in exchange for membership (I am not anyone) and there are still placards in the windows of million-dollar brownstones that say HOPE and CHANGE and SAVE DARFUR. There are tables set up on the street so that you can stop and change your electricity over to sustainable up-state wind-farms while you’re on your way to enjoy some locally farmed veg and eat a chicken who probably had a name and came when he was called. Yes, I live in Portlandia.

One of the fun things about Park Slope is the “All the streets are my Good-Will” mentality. If you have something you don’t want anymore, you put it out on the sidewalk, or your stoop, or hang it over the fence around your little garden. I’ve gotten many great books this way, including, interestingly, a hardcover of A Horse Around the House and a tattered paperback of Sam Savitt’s Vicki and the Black Horse, which will eventually be chopped up and used to decorate my already horse-centric apartment.

People put out everything. Clothes (I do not take clothes), furniture (I have a great book-case in my kitchen serving as a pantry/baker’s rack), and toys. Usually baby toys, but every now and then there are things a little more interesting, that catch the eye of my eight year old and myself…

We brought home Mouse Trap one night last summer. We were so excited. I told Calvin “Don’t bother playing the game part, just build the Mouse Trap. That’s the fun part!”

And it turned out, of course, that the Mouse Trap game was missing one piece. Just one piece, but a necessary one. The Mouse Trap wouldn’t work without it.

Thanks, I thought. Thanks for your sweet broken toy.


Every day, broken horses are put out on the virtual stoop.

They’re listed on Craigslist, they’re posted on Facebook, they’re put onto free classifieds ad sites. One thing they have in common? Their listings are always free. No use putting money into these broken toys.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’m tired of seeing horses offered cheaply, or for adoption, or for free, when they’ve been broken by someone else. Horses do not fall apart without warning signs; bodies do not give up without symptoms of stress. Horses speak up, but are frequently ignored. Things that should never be thought, but are anyway: Just jump one more course, just run one more race, just get through one more season.

Okay, says the horse. I will try.

And that’s the part that doesn’t break, the piece that never goes missing. The try. That’s the thing about these broken toys: when they’re put back together, they’re just as wonderful as when they were new.

Luckily, there are good people out there who can’t help but pick up a broken toy. There is something in them that makes them want to fix it. There is something in them that helps them see what else the toy can do.

Maybe it can’t be Mouse Trap anymore, but maybe it can be something else, and we can all still have a good time.

So hey, all you dealers and dumpers and shady traders and low-life trainers, from every discipline and every walk of a horse’s life: You’ll get yours.

But in the meantime…

Thanks for all the broken toys.

Rillo jumping, Canterbury

My first broken toy.


Filed under Retirement Options, Selling Horses, slaughter