The Maker's Mark Secretariat Center is a non profit facility located in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. We are dedicated to reschooling, and showcasing the athleticism of the off track Thoroughbred so that they can go on and become ambassadors for the breed in second careers. We are also committed to educating the public about these wonderful horses: We welcome visitors of all ages, interns, and volunters . This blog publicizes unofficial updates on our horses and our programs. For more information, visit www, or

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Love, the greatest of all
Nowhere to Hide
A special horse
Nowhere To Hide arrive at the MMSC in February
From the very first, I knew Noah would be a project. Given that off the track racehorses are a dime a dozen these days, my decision to take him may have seemed profligate. But I am committed to helping Thoroughbreds that can be ambassadors for the breed in any equestrian sport at any level. All racehorses need some reschooling and some physical therapy. At the MMSC horses receive both. No doubt I could adopt out a lot more horses if I didn’t invest the time to heal them physically and emotionally. Nor does my ethos of transparency make for quick “flips.” But so much of all that is good in my life has come about because of horses, I feel called to be their defender and champion whilst they are in my care.

In the long run, however, taking Noah on made “cents.” He was a lovely horse. He was service and people oriented. He had the support of his former owners. Yes, the expenses of rehab and reschooling would add up over the six to nine months it might take to ready him for a new career and home. But at eight years old, he was still a relatively young horse. He could live another twenty years or more. To retire him for life might cost, conservatively between five and seven grand annually. That could be $100,000 to $140,000 of accumulated costs for one retired horse! The argument that five to six thousand dollars spent now with the hope that this expenditure would get him off the pay roll and happily placed in a new home with a different job, seemed fiscally sound. I am very lucky that Noah’s owners agreed with me. I wish there were more owners who would support reschooling efforts not just because it is a noble thing to do, but because it is ultimately cost effective. And it would foster a treasure trove of popular good will, undermining the sensationalist value of druggie/neglect/slaughterhouse tales that threaten to ultimately alienate popular interest in racing. 

Besides most Thoroughbreds enjoy work. 

Noah certainly did. He liked to train. He loved to run. And he did so successfully for a long time. It made sense to me that he might thrive in a new career. 

It was a chilly, gray day in February when Noah arrived at the MMSC. Ribby, shaggy, and dull coated, he was, but his eyes shone with eagerness and kindness. It was touching. I didn’t know what the next few months would bring, but I was certain that this horse was special.

The first task was to address his physical state and assess his soundness. I called Dr. True and asked him to evaluate Noah with flexions and X-rays. I wanted fecal count and CBC (complete blood count) baselines.  I called our feed specialist from Nutrena, Rob Martin and asked him to give an opinion on Noah’s weight and condition and to recommend a feeding/supplement protocol. Appointments with the dentist, the farrier and the equine chiropractor/acupuncturist were scheduled.

None of the reports were earth shattering: Noah had been severely stressed and he needed time and TLC to bring him around. I had worried most about what the flexions and the x-rays would reveal. They too, held no big surprises. A few inconsequential chips in ankles, sore hocks, uneven on the right hind. Given the amount and intensity of his racing, his joints were surprisingly clean.

“Go on with him, Susanna.” Dr. True said. “He’ll tell you want he can and cannot do.” 

The chiropractor adjusted his poll, his neck, his withers, back and pelvis, and released the strain of lots of constricted muscles. “He has a spleen deficiency,” she added after finishing his acupuncture treatment. “That’s why his coat is so dull.” She prescribed Chinese herbs and put him on her schedule for regular check ups throughout the spring.

Within two months, Noah started to regain his muscle and his condition.

Within two months, Noah started coming around physically. His coat started to shed out and a silky undercoat appeared. His belly started to slim down and tuck up. His flanks and neck showed outlines of musculature in the making. I worried that he couldn’t seem to hold adjustments in his pelvis, that he was somewhat peg-legged in the left stifle. But he seemed happy.

I asked the interns to give him regular laser treatments. I asked his owner to rent him a magnetic blanket. We have a wonderful volunteer who donates her reiki services to the MMSC. She worked on Noah. Dr. True injected his hocks. We added Lubrysin to the joint supplement he was already getting.

We also worked him. From the first snowy morning in early March when we took him out to do natural horsemanship and bomb proofing, Noah was an exemplary student: Willing, smart, level headed. The one problem that we had with Noah was that he tried TOO HARD.  He was the kind of horse that would run on three legs if you asked him. When he first arrived at the MMSC, I thought he would make a lovely “little old lady’s horse.” It was apparent after the first week of riding him that Noah only wanted to do what he did well—
R A C E.  He wasn’t hot by temperament. He was a, noble minded, well mannered,  warrior-athlete. You had to love a horse like Noah.

And loved he was! Nick Zito trained Noah in his early years, and when Zito’s son Alex came to the Horse Park this May to help his mother put on a Thoroughbred Show, Alex made a point of coming up to the MMSC with his wife to see Noah.

“I always really, really liked Nowhere to Hide," Alex said. “He had a great personality. He always tried. The fact that he ran in the Kentucky Derby is pretty wonderful too. He just was a very special horse. I am glad he is here at the MMSC.”

Mr. and Mrs. Alex Zito came to visit old time favorite, Nowhere to Hide in May.

A month earlier, Noah’s former exercise rider had uttered almost identical words. “As an older horse, No Where to Hide moved from Nick Zito’s barn to my boss’ barn, where I am Assistant Trainer, said Stuart. He had a really big heart and a great personality. He was tricky to exercise because he always tried too hard. We would do two or three mile trot sets  and gallops the wrong way around the track to keep him fit. That’s because when you galloped him the right way, he was REAL strong. He’d give you his all. He was willing to run every time he set foot on the track.

“Not only that he was just such a level headed and kind horse to be around. You never had to worry with him. He’d take care of you. You could always trust him which is more than you can say for many of the horses, especially the older ones! Everyone in the barn loved him. You couldn’t not love him. I know you can lose horses in claimers and therefore I try not to get too attached to them, but when No Where To Hide got claimed in an optional allowance-claiming race. I was really, really angry. I came back to the barn and cried.”

“I couldn’t talk to anyone. My boss knew how upset I was and he assured me that the owners would claim him back. I tried to keep up with him as I could and when one day I didn’t see him showing up on any tracks, I asked the racing manager if he knew what had happened to him. I was told that the owners had gone after him and that he was at the Secretariat Center. As soon as I could, I had to come seehim again.”

I walked Stuart and his wife to Noahs stall. “Here he is.”  I stood back as Stuart slipped through the door.

“Hey Grandpa,” he said, his voice soft and warm, his eyes moist.

Noah pricked his ears, stepped up to him and pushed him gently with his nose.

“You’ve had a hard time, haven’t you Old Man,” Stuart said as he stroked Noah’s neck and kissed him on the cheek.

Noah laid his head on Stuart’s chest as if saying,”Nah, Im ok, Stu! No worries!” 

Why dont you adopt Noah, Stuart?"

Stuart wished he could but he felt that his nomadic life made it impossible.  “I know you’ll take care of him, Susanna.  You’ll find him a good home…right?”

“Yes, Stuart, I will take care of him. And I promise I will let you know when Noah finds his person. And beyond that, I will put you in touch with that person, so you two can be friends and you can go visit Noah in his new home.”

By the time June rolled around, Noah was starting to look respectable. He wasn’t 100 percent sound yet. And he still bolted when cantering to the left in the ring. Trail rides could be hairy—lots of enthusiastic head tossing and jigging sideways or a racy trot threatening a potent outburst of canter at any subsequent moment. Definitely not an old lady or even a gutsy kid horse yet! Noah knew and only wanted to be one thing: A racehorse. And not just  any old racehorse. A warrior/athlete racehorse. A fight to win/do so until your body breaks or your heart bursts racehorse. Push through pain. Make it happen. I dont know if that could ever be completely trained out of him or if you would even want to.

So who would be the right person for this special horse, Alexs, Stuarts and MY special horse? And when, if ever would that person appear?

All I could do was wait, hope, and keep the faith. Loving Noah was the easy part.

Cheery bye,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

LOVE: The Greatest of All      

Nowhere To Hide

There is always one. One special horse, every year, that captures my heart.  Of course, I love all horses of all breeds. And every horse that I have chosen as a MMSC candidate, I care about, and will commit unwaveringly to find it a new job and home. But there is always one that makes me smile whenever I see it; one I can spend time with quietly that restores me when I need sustenance; one that I am tempted to bring home to add to my band. 

There is no rhyme or reason to which horse will turn out to be “Susanna’s favorite.” Over my years at the MMSC, I have fallen for a sprite, a crusader, a diva, and a Confederate. There’s been an Iron Lady and a cynic too. No jocks, though. I like jocks, but I have never been in love with one, yet. 

I had already looked at a bunch of horses when Nowhere to Hide was led out of the barn on a cold day this February.  

“This one ran in the Kentucky Derby!,” the farm manager proudly announced.  

“Ah yes,” I mumbled as I looked at the eight year old gelding its groom was standing up before me. Clearly it had been a while since he had been in Kentucky Derby shape. This was a non-descript 16 hand bay. Shaggy coated. Unkempt mane. Under weight. With rain rot.  

“Tell me about him?”

“He is by Vindicaton who is by Seattle Slew out of  a Seeking the Gold mare.  His owners bought him for $250,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale. He was a good racehorse. Made over $200k. Ran in the Derby in 2009 when Mine that Bird won. He got claimed, much to the owners’ distress.  They went after him and claimed him back and brought him here to retire.”
“Any injuries?”

“In 2010 he suffered a tibia fracture which he had surgery on. He had a tie back operation too. But he had a full recovery and was straight forward to train after that.”

I went over to the gelding and stroked him gently on the neck.  “Hello, you,” I said, edging around in front of him. I looked him up and down. Offset. Slightly knobby ankles. Chips maybe? Decent chest. Then I swept his forelock back.

He looked at me with the most magnanimous hopeful eyes I may have ever seen in a horse.

I knew right then and there despite his condition caused by his claiming experiences and exacerbated by let down during a Polar Vortex winter, he had to come to the MMSC. It didn’t matter when his groom trotted him that his pelvis was sub-luxated, his shoulders were locked and his hocks were sore. He was also stiff, very stiff all over. And his stride was uneven on the right hind. Not surprising for an athlete of his caliber.

I stood back and took a good look. I saw expense dollar signs written all over him.

“I am sure he could make someone happy,” the farm manager said.

“Could be…”

Noah turned his head and locked me in his gaze.

“I’ll take him,” I heard myself say. “But I want to talk to the owners.  This one is going to take time.”

When I talked to the owners I told them that No Where to Hide was a special horse.

“But it is obvious that he has had a hard time after he was claimed from you. The harsh winter has set him back too. He is going to need a program of intensive care: special feed, supplements, alternative therapies, and training. And it is going to take six to eight months to straighten him out. The costs will add up. And there is no certainty that the horse will ever be fully sound.”

The owner explained to me that he should never have been claimed, that they were glad to get him back. He had earned a retirement. Did I think he could be ridden again?

“I never would not have agreed to take him if I didn’t think he had a chance. He is stiff and uneven and in less than ideal condition. We can fix those things. He looks like a horse that would be happier with a person and a job, if we can get him sound enough. But it is going to take time, and I will need your help covering his treatments and supplements.”

“I’d be happy to do that!,” she said.  “I love this horse and he deserves the best!”
Noah arrived at the MMSC in late February.

“I promise you that I will keep you informed every step of the way as to whether he can have a second career or not. I’m going to start this week with a vet exam and a round of X-rays. I’ll let you know what we find and how I think we should proceed based on that.”

“That sounds perfect!”

Ah me! What exemplary owners! Owners who breed and race for the love of the horse, not just for the thrill, entertainment, and spotlight of the sport.  Owners who take care of their horses once their racing days are over. Yes, I know that it is expensive to do this. But it is the morally right thing to do for the horse. 

We turn our heads and say that we can’t make a difference individually. But a cistern is filled one drop at a time. Collectively we can make a difference. We shouldn’t pretend this isn’t a problem. Thank goodness people are joining the aftercare effort every day. Hooray for the industry efforts!  But there is still much to be done and sometimes the challenge seems overwhelming.

I know. My demons tell me that I am kidding myself to think that the handful of horses I take in and rehome each year is important. They tell me that the never ending battles of raising money, or the efforts to raise awareness about the issue and to educate people about the value and versatility of the off track Thoroughbred in new careers are wastes of time. I should be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, a better citizen. Stupid me.

But then, there is always that special horse. The one I seek out during the day no matter what I am doing because it gives me peace beyond understanding. The one that inspires me to be of service to something greater than mere day to day human life. The one that fills me  with that most powerful force of all: Love. 

And this year, that horse is Nowhere to Hide. And in the next few blog entries I am going to tell you Noah’s story. It
s one 
that amazes and uplifts me. From beginning to end, its a tale and a labor of love. Its the reason why reschooling Thoroughbreds is such a joy and a privilege to do.

Cheery bye,


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Photo Album: Sips ’N Saddles #2

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Being an aficionado of the written and spoken word, I beg, sometimes to differ. But when it comes to Sips ’N Saddles #2 it would take many pages to describe this special night, and there simply are no words for the gratitude I have for every guest, sponsor, volunteer, board member, and staff member who came to the party. Thank you all for showing your appreciation of the magnificent Thoroughbred and for your support of the MMSC!

Cheery bye, 


A big THANK YOU to
our sponsor and namesake
Maker’s Mark!
Guests were greeted at the door by valet service and servers with 
Kentucky “champagne”-
Maker’s Mark and sparkling cider.
Delicious sweets (bourbon balls galore!)
and fine Kentucky fare
from Holly Hill Inn 

Kentucky Bluegrass band NEWTOWN


See you at Sips ’N Saddles 2015!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Second Annual Sips ’N Saddles

You haven’t heard from me in two weeks. If you read my last blog you know why: Blitzkrieg! I have only overseen two big parties in my life: My own wedding and the first Sips ’N Saddles last year. Both of those were wonderful and flawed. I had hoped that number three would be the charm. No goofs or glitches. Big crowd. Impressive demo. Amazing food, drink, music. Time to visit with every guest.  Lots of money raised for the cause. In short…perfect.

But like a race horse that stumbles out of the gate, I had had a bad start. The perfect band, booked months before, dropped out three weeks before the party. And two other well established horse themed fundraisers for very worthy causes were being held that same night. We had sent out five hundred invitations already. Who would come to Sips ’N Saddles #2?  Should we cancel? I asked the board.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” came the response. 

Marching orders received, I flung myself into battle. I worked long days for three weeks straight—including Sunday, September 14 when I normally I would have written a blog entry.  The next Sunday, September 21, just 30 hours post party, my spirit was willing to attempt a blog post, the flesh,  however, was hopeless. Instead, I self medicated with a prescription of my mother’s old Russian hairdresser, Zaneida— a  “vwee-spat-sa” order. This prescription calls for the following:
  • A prior declaration to all in your family that to restore your mind, body, and soul, you have to “fill yourself up utterly with sleep.” You are not to be disturbed. But you are to be served should you need something.
  • Sleepwear attire: P.J.s, nightgowns, oversized T shirts, or nothing at all. Your choice. 
  • All day napping alternated with reading. Preferably no TV or talking on the phone.
  • No blog writing.
I highly recommend vwee-spats-ing, generally several times a year, most especially after a blitzkrieg effort (such as Christmas, for example). It works.

My silence thusly explained, let me sum up the party for you:

Angels come in all ages such as beloved
Enid and Tom...
The weather could not have been more spectacular. Mid 70s. Cloudless, cerulean skies. A little breeze. The tent placement, parallel to the arena this year, was ideal. The Holly Hill Inn catering coordinator Donna and her staff worked with the precision and fluidity of a Swiss watch preparing the food and drink, serving it silently and seamlessly. A legion of angels arrived from far flung places, (Minnesota, New York,Virginia, to name a few) to help. They were of all ages (high school students to retirees) and surged to the fore to do anything necessary: setting up tables, stuffing gift bags, grooming horses, vacuuming the office, bundling up carrots for the horses, sorting tickets and more.I was humbled by the outpouring of assistance, but sadly, I didn’t have any time to savor it. Before I knew it, I had to shed my dirty jeans, toss some water on my dust streaked face, slap on some make up, and slip into clean clothes. Show time!
and species! Stanley (and his jockey) brought good cheer
and kisses to all!
Guests were greeted at the door by handsome young valets to park their cars and pretty servers holding trays with bubbling glasses of Kentucky “champagne,” (Makers with apple cider). They streamed through the office, to the outside tent, where the bluegrass band, Newtown, played songs about Kentucky, horses, heartbreak and bourbon. There were games to play, and horses in the barn to visit.
I couldn’t resist getting my picture taken with all the handsome swains of X-Press Valet!
Take your cookies when they are passed! I say!

The demonstration illustrated the facets of the Horse Centered Reschooling Program®.  Horses were good… and bad. Some bucked and shied, as young horses will do. Some had jitters, too. But all behaviors were welcomed as a way of describing what we do and how we do it as well as the issues we face, and the solutions we have to come up with to reschool these horses so they can go on to second careers. We bomb proofed the horses dressing them up in costumes and took them over obstacles.

We showed off a hunter prospect, a dressage prospect, a polo pony prospect, a Western pleasure prospect. A former adopter brought back her horse that she is training for eventing. One seasoned campaigner, Bordeaux Bandit, a nine year old gelding which last raced the May, was ridden bareback, with a rope around his neck.  

Having the Ians--Ian Cole of Darby Dan (left) and my son Ian Thomas (right) and my husband Jim and daughter-in-law Elaine (not pictured) as well as
dear friend and Hall of Fame Jockey Patty Cooksey (right) at Sips N’Saddles 2 were
highlights of the party for me
Bids were made at the silent auction and over 40 items were purchased. The live auction was successful too, raising for us twice as much money as it did last year. At party’s end, gift bags were handed out. Guests left in good cheer.

So all, in all, it was a big success! So many things went well. But perfect?… No. There were glitches and goofs for sure. Just different glitches and goofs from last year. I made notes so 
Board member Louise Riggio (second from left) and friends

we don’t repeat them at Sips ’N Saddles 2015. The next day, I checked in with board members to get their take on things and their suggestions for improvements. I made more notes. So be it. Good. But not perfect. But, as Zaneida, my mother’s Russian hair dresser always says ”Perfection is death.” Zaneida knows her stuff. I need to remember that.

This said, there was an absolutely perfect moment in the day. I was zooming around campus , in the barn out of the barn, to the tent beyond the tent, talking to the caterer, the light men, the volunteers, Tony my Tiger about the arena and the campus, the sound system, Cat-erine about the horses, the demo, the demo props, to office manager Lori about the innumerable unexpected things cropping up at the last minute. Zipping and buzzing, tired I blitzed into the office and almost tripped over a small  bespectacled man in a wheel chair waiting in the foyer.

I stopped and focused on his face. I knew it well. I seen it in newspapers and books a lot. Since 1973, in fact. I had met him twice before. The last time was four years ago at the World Equestrian Games.

“MR. TURCOTTE!!!!,” I exclaimed.  

He looked up at me, smiled, and opened up his arms for a hug.

“I have to be at the Secretariat Festival in Bourbon County tonight.  But I thought I’d come by to check up on you, Susanna, and to wish you luck with your party tonight.”

I was flabbergasted.  Ron Turcotte! Secretariat’s jockey! He remembered me! He made time before the Secretariat Festival in Bourbon County to visit and show his support for the MMSC!

“Oh, THANK YOU!” I said, hugging him. THANK YOU!"

That, my friends, is better than perfect.  

That is GRACE. 

Cheery bye,

Ron Turcotte with the MMSC stature of Secretariat