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,secretariatcenter.org or www.facebook.com/makersmarksecretariatcenter








Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflections 2015

HEEEEELLLLOOOO 2015!!!!

How wonderful is it to start another year!? I don’t know about you, but I am excited. So much to do. So many possibilities. And more horses. I love that part. And, it seems, that you, DEAR READERS, do too!

I say that because I have been elated by the interest in and the growth of the MMSC blog, particularly in the last two years when I decided to author the entries. 

The MMSC blog began in the summer of 2008. My first, and at that time, only intern, was Natalie Voss, a student at the University of Kentucky. Natalie introduced me to Facebook and told me about an odd thing called a “Web log” or “blog.” I was intrigued. I told her to create a presence for the MMSC with both.

When Natalie left the MMSC (and went on after graduation to become a successful equine journalist!), the blog she had started was passed to communications interns as a regular writing assignment. 

I talked to each student about writing in general and blog writing specifically, read their work, gently edited their pieces and basically forgot about their posts. Until the week between Christmas and New Year’s in 2012 when I came down with a chest cold. In my “down time,” I decided to reread the blog from the beginning.  

It was a fun. Illuminating too. In the four and a half years since the blog’s inception, we had had 14,000 visitors! 3,000 plus visits a year! A lightening bolt ricocheted through my brain: Blogs have impact!

I lay in bed thinking about how to use the blog as a tool for the MMSC’s message and mission. Could I learn to wield it? How far could my reach go? Who would read it? I set a goal for myself (I tend to do that—especially around New Year’s resolution time). In one year’s time, I decided I would double the total number of visits we had had since 2008, going from 14,000 to 28,000!

It was hard to find the time and the discipline to write. I’d do it on my day off when I had many other things I should have been doing such as riding my own horses. It was laborious. Writing isn’t easy. At least not for me. But by the end of 2013, I had achieved my goal: 28,000 and change! It seemed it was working. There were people out there interested in what we were doing. So I decided to keep the blog up for another year, and I set myself another benchmark: Double the total visitors again in twelve months from 28,000 visits to 56,000. 

Amazingly, I achieved that goal, too.

As the months passed in 2014, I became riveted to the blog’s stats page with bated breath, watching the numbers grow, looking for patterns of readership. At what time and on what days did readers open the blog? And from where? I was dumbfounded and humbled to see as the year progressed how the audience expanded beyond the United States, spreading to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. My largest weekly audience besides the US was, of all places, the Ukraine! Why was that? Do Ukrainians love racing? Or Thoroughbreds? Or America?  

What about the readers in Egypt, Romania, Manila, Moldova, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela? Or the places that would pop up on the stats page, small republics that I had never heard of and which I had to Google to see where in the world they were located. How did these people find the blog? Why were they reading it?

Obviously, it was because of the horses. The Thoroughbreds. That run fast. That capture hearts with their speed, beauty, and mystique. 

And perhaps too, it was propelled by the curiosity in what happens to them when their when the glory days are over, when the last race is run? Are former racehorses overlooked, misunderstood, and discarded? Do they have a chance at redemption?

Yes. No. Maybe. The outcomes are many, and different, and nuanced.

Thus begins another year, and I have seen that there are people across the globe who enjoy hearing about some of these horses and their outcomes. And I can also see from the stats, that some people are intrigued by the challenges of running a non for profit in the aftercare industry, and want to read about how we fit in and how we  are trying to influence the bigger picture.

Every one of you out there, thank you for reading and for caring. Because of you, I will continue to labor away at my writing on my day off. And, of course, I have set myself that same blasted goal: DOUBLE THE TOTAL VISITS IN ONE YEAR.  That means by the end of 2015, the MMSC blog will have had 112,000 visits!

OYE! Alright DEAR READERS, this is where you come in. I need your help to share this blog with all whom you know, not once, not twice, but regularly. Let’s make this happen. Let’s spread the word. Concentric circles, remember? Together, let’s spread the word about the value and versatility of Thoroughbred horses in athletic endeavors.

But I will make it fun to do so. Those who know me, know that I am in love with the English language. I marvel at its breadth and malleability, its power and poignancy. I am in awe of anyone alive or dead who can wield it with dexterity. Those who can are mighty and mesmerizing. I try, as I can, to emulate them. Which can be confusing for my interns. I always know when talking to them when I have obfuscated them with a word (swaddled them in a clueless fog). Their eyes and faces go blank. As they are at the MMSC to learn not just about horses, but how to go forth in life, I challenge them on the spot:

“That’s the Word of the Day. Come back to me tomorrow with its definition and use it properly in a sentence.”

It’s a bit daunting for them at first, but in no time, they fall into step, and very shortly, they learn to appreciate the weighty import of the King’s English. Like baby birds fluttering fledgling wings, they begin to banter and spar verbally with one another. They giggle and delight with their new found verbal arms. By internship’s end, they know how to fly (and where to fly to if they can’t figure out a word!), and they are grateful for my antics.

It’s fun. Ask any of my interns, current or past. So in 2015, let’s spread that fun across the globe to all who are interested in the MMSC. In doing so, you’ll help me reach my goal of 112,000. You will also be in the running for a prize! Read the rules below. And now, ONWARDS towards a great 2015 full of adventures, stories and WORDS!

Cheery bye,

Susanna


MMSC Blog Word of the Day Contest Details


You can be a part of helping us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry

  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity.
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas at the MMSC, 
                              the office was quiet, the paddocks were free,
              the horses had left as our season had ended,
                after the year’s full court press, a rest would be splendid!

It started in January with a great artic chill,
so pipes were left dripping—we all know the drill,
but there was one pesky faucet we completely forgot.
 When we arrived in the morning, we were very distraught!

The office was flooded, our files were afloat,
had we come any later, we’d have needed a boat.
The water was gushing full force from the ceiling,
The carpets were ruined, the wall paint was peeling.

So we shut down the main and donned tall rubber boots, 
and went sopping and mopping with the vengeance of brutes.
Three months in one room we all huddled together                      
awaiting repairs and a change in the weather.

But the days remained nippy, the ground covered with snow,the footing was terrible and our training was slow,
people were hesitant to come try what we had,
which set back our total adoptions a tad.

When spring finally came
 a month or more late,
we opened all cylinders and took off at full spate,
our interns, our volunteers, our hardworking board,
helped us to get rolling ’til our telephones roared.


With visitors, adopters, horse lovers and guests,
making appointments to see what we love and do best:
reschooling fine racehorses both lovely and clever
as breed ambassadors in all new endeavors.

As eventers and hunters and jumpers and more,
with such talented horses, it’s hard to keep score!
We gave tours, demonstrations, and created connections
with aftercare colleagues to share predilections. 

In July came the titans with an incredible scheme, 
to help one of them, Jeffy, to fulfill a big dream,
to claim as his own the great Nowheretohide,
“He’s too fast,” said Susanna. “Do you know how to ride?”

"Not, yet,” Jeffy said with a big Shrek-like grin,
“But I’m a really good athlete and I know how to win.
I’ll read all the books. I’ll take daily lessons.
I’ll call every Sunday, til he’s in my possession.”

At the MMSC we let all horses choose,
which to some might seem odd, though it’s a practical ruse,
For if you don’t watch a rider, and your eye’s not discerning
there’s a 100% chance that horse is returning!


Noah made his decision and at Sips N Saddles Jeff spoke
of how he felt about his racehorse. It made the crowd choke.
This party’s success and our daily existence
we owe to our angel volunteers’ assistance.

“On Peggy! On Jackie! On Laurie! On Dave!
On Enid! On Tom! On volunteers brave!!
Pull weeds in the front, blow the aisles in the stable,
File the bills, mop the floors, clean the tack if you’ re able.”

“Curry Jake. Water Tidings. Soak Regiment’s foot.
A Theraplate session for Bordeaux would be good.
“To the top of the loft! And be careful, dont fall!
                                                    Lob five bales of alfalfa! Susanna did call.


And so went each month jammed pack to the brink
that December arrived in a breath and a blink!
So we’ll go home for Christmas to our loved ones and guests,
To muse and give thanks for how the Center's been blessed.

We’ll be back after New Year’s with new vigor and vision
to share and impart our  Center's grand mission,
to give racehorses new jobs, broadcasting their worth
as the best equine athletes alive on this Earth!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Susanna

Double Minded, aka “Dublin, here posing as Santa Hoss, last raced in November of this year!
His  second career clearly is in film!!!










Sunday, December 21, 2014

Epi(B)log

I wasn’t going to write another blog this year. I mean, really!? How could I top the Noah/Jeffy tales? But looking over the year’s entries, I noticed a few loose ends in my stories. Those are disconcerting to me, like sentences without periods or meals that don’t end with chocolate. 

So, for my own sense of closure,(and I hope yours as well), here’s a short “epi(B)log” for those of you who have been so loyal and followed this year’s journey with MMSC in toto.

  • Regiment: What happened to him? Did he keep throwing shoes? Did he find his person? Was it a man?
Reggie was one of my problem children this year. Talented, temperamental, tentatively healthy. When I saw him at the track, I thought he’d be snapped up instantly for a new career. He screamed “EVENTER!” And high level one at that.  

Reggie had other plans, however. These involved R&R, arrogant behaviors, and a picky palette for people. He marched (or limped depending on whether or not his shoes stayed on) to the beat of his own drummer. Typey and athletic, he attracted lots of attention and potential adopters. He tested every one of them. If they weren’t to his liking, he would feign lameness. It was like living with a teenager. You love him, yet you grit your teeth in frustration when he displays adolescent antics. He had no intention of going anywhere until he deemed the time right.

I tried all the ususal stuff: Nice mom. Mean mom. Understanding mom. Threatening mom-“I’ll send you back to where you came from, Reggie!” Finally, baffled mom-what do you want, Reggie?…a man?



I’ll admit, I do get a lot of intuitions about horses. I think it harkens back to my childhood growing up in a country where I didn’t speak the language. Survival depends on observation. Somehow one develops the ability to garner facts and extrapolate information without words.  Not that there isn’t a very valid realm of inspiration to tap into. That, and the kindred domain of imagination have spawned some of the world’s greatest discoveries and creations. When I am lucky I am graced with a glimpse into those magical places as well. 

One day, when I was particularly frustrated with Reggie I asked him why he kept throwing his shoes. I suddenly saw in my mind a picture of how his shoes should fit his feet. I picked up his hoof. They didn’t look anything like what I had seen. So I asked our wonderful blacksmith who is much more knowledgeable about farriery than I am if he might shoe the horse differently. He scratched his head, but agreed to give it a go. Reggie kept his shoes on after that…until the day, many weeks later that Mackenzie came.

Mackenzie had come in from out of state. As she in an eventer, she had, of course, an interest in Reggie. And, of course, the morning that she arrived, Reggie came into the barn without a shoe. I wanted to throttle him.

I heaved a sigh of relief when we rode him for her and he  took no uneven steps. Then the moment of truth: What would he do with Mackenzie on his back?

What he did, made our jaws drop! He trotted and cantered around with lightness and poise. He reached for the bit lightly and collected his frame.



He picked up both leads accurately. He jumped like a deer. We had never seen him move so willingly and so well. Clearly, he was putting the moves on Mackenzie. She decided to adopt him.



Out of curiosity, to see if my intuition about a man had been hogwash or something of more import, I asked her if she had a male trainer?  

“Yes!” she told me enthusaistically. He’s amazing!

“Is he fit and wiry, of medium stature and bone, with graying sandy hair and he wears a crest ring?”

‘HE DOES!” She exclaimed. “Do you know him?”

“Nope,”  I said.  “I saw a picture of him once…”

Hmmm. It’s odd where one goes with horses sometimes.

  • Concentric circles:  Did you ever get a group of your own colleagues in aftercare together? If so want did you do?  
Cat people. Dog people. Horse People. Animal people. They all are a bit “touched.” They LOVE their creatures. They live for them and through them. In short, they are passionate, which can be hard to deal with.

Those of us in the equine welfare business have no corner on the market of zealotry. It’s part of the job description. One needs ample stores of iron and fire to face the daily grind and tempering in the fight for the cause. Yet, die-hard demeanors get wearisome at best, and are divisive, at worst. Therefore, as a self professed “hopeless opptimist,”I opt to cling to the idea of communality and maybe even, dare I say, compatablity,within the equine welfare organzations. It’s so easy to be misinformed, judgemental and petty! I can be guilty of all of those things. Knowing my failures, I aspire daily to a magnanimous ideal of connection and communication amongst my colleagues. It’s a picture of a cohesion: a Shangrila aftercare effort for horses. 


For lack of a better acronym, and because I thought it might make people laugh, I dubbed the first fledging outreach efforts that I told you about in an earlier blog: the "TART  group (no, not as in “pie”!)—Thoroughbred Aftercare Round Table. I had been inspired to start these meetings by my colleague, Karen Gustin, Executive Director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center.  In May, she hosted a discussion and luncheon at the Lexington Humane Society for individuals in equine rescue and rehab to come together for an annual exchange of ideas. It was well attended and it was fantastic. I did not want to wait a whole year for another one.

Hence the genesis of the “TART” meetings—described in a more genteel manner  n an earlier blog post as the “Concentric Circle” effort. We met several times this year. We shared our challenges. We discussed solutions. We held two joint tack sale fundraisers together. At year’s end, we communed over a Christmas pot luck lunch.



It was a totally open, honest, and helpful meeting. Fun, too. And inspiring is not the word.  It was ELECTRIFYING!!! Think E=mc2, which means that the energy stored within matter is equal to its volume times the speed of light SQUARED. Unleash the amount of energy stored in each of my colleagues and the possibilities for imploding gridlocked stances in the racing industry are staggering! We could create the greenest of pastures in the aftercare world! United we stand. Divided we fall. We even came up with a good name for ourselves: Equine Allies!

Another “Concentric Circle” effort this year was reaching out to Steuart Pitmann, founder of the Retired Racehorse Project.

“What do you need to further your amazing work?,” I asked him this fall after the Thoroughbred Makeover in October.

“I want to bring the Makeover and Symposium” to the Kentucky Horse Park in 2015,” he said. “On October 24 and 25, the week before Breeder’s Cup which will be held at Churchill Downs.”

“I can help you with that!” I told him cheerfully. I knew I could. After all, the Kentucky Horse Park is my home address. Working with Steuart and his board members and friends, we packed the MMSC’s conference room on November 21 with leaders in the Thoroughbred racing industry. The crowd was riveted to Steuart’s presentation.



They lingered over wine and cheese after it was done. That atmosphere, too, created concentric circles of excitement and good will. It was as if we had thrown a boulder into a body of water! It made my heart sing.


  • Noah: When did he actually go home with Jeff to Minnesota? 
But nothing made my heart sing this year like Noah. I was smitten the moment I lifted his forelock and saw the expression in his eyes, cosmic portals into a realm of magnanimty. It was like looking up at the sky on a dark night, and knowing there is a God. I was very tempted to adopt Noah for  myself. But with a one hour commute each way after a long day at the MMSC  and with older horses on my farm that I can only feed and visit with twice a day in the dark, I had no business adopting Noah.

I dedicate myself to finding good matches for all my horses, but with Noah, I have to admit, I knew for a host of reasons, it had to be a GREAT match. As the months passed, and Noah’s story unfolded, as the people who had loved him in his first career emerged, as he bloomed under the care of a young woman who needed tending just like he did, as Noah grew stronger, and healthier and more communicative, I grew more appreciative of his unique being and more convinced that he would need someone very special.

I was not prepared for Noahs person to be a former NFL football player. Talk about being  tackled! Jeffy sacked me with his size, his will, his passion and his heart. When he said he wanted Noah, I was deadset against it. Insanity!  My Noah???!!!

You know what happened next. It was unbelievable and awe-inspiring. For those you might remember, I had told Jeffy when we first made our deal that he could have Noahs shoe as inspiration for success in his quest for Noah. If you succeed, you get Noah, and I get his shoe back. It was a deal.

But, as always, Jeffy exceeded my expectations. I got the shoe back in a spectacular shadow box that Lauren had made, along with a photo of Jeffy and Noah together on that first day when Noah chose him and Jeffyfavorite football jersey. I was stunned. I got teary.  
Jeffy wrapped me and his big arms and said, “You know, I have never even given my mother a jersey!” which made me all the more choked up, and I hugged him back.

Jeffy had to wait two more weeks after Sips ’N Saddles before bringing Noah home to Minnesota. Noah developed an abscess in his hoof that smelled suspiciously putrid. I was worried about an infection settling in the bone. If it did, I  knew that I could get the best care for Noah and fast. I worried that Jeffy would have fewer options in Minnesota. So I told him  I would call as soon as Noah was ready to travel.

It happened that this fell on the weekend when my husband and I were scattering a family member’s ashes in Louisville. Jeffy and Nick were keen to pick up their horses and wanted to come right then. I didn’t want to inconvenience them.  At the same time, how could I let Wordsworth and Noah leave without a final pat and kiss? To accommodate me, Jeffy took interstate 64 west home to Minnesota instead of I 75. My family gathering ended, I lept back in the car and headed east on I 64 to Lexington.



We met at a truck stop near Shelbyville, Kentucky. Jeffy and Nick’s mother, Betty Jo, was with them, along with Jessy’s young niece. I hugged them all, and told Betty Jo how amazing her sons were and how fond of them I had become. Then I slipped into the trailer to say goodbye to the horses.

“You are such a wonderful, lovely boy, Wordsworth, I told the big gelding as I stroked his neck. "Be good to Nick! And show the rest of the world what fine riding horses Thoroughbreds can be.” Then  I turned to Noah. My heart was in my throat.  I ran my fingers through his forelock and leaned over and kissed him on the check. I couldnt pull myself away from him.

“Thank you for coming into my life, Noah. It’s been a joy to know you..” I rubbed my hand down his neck. “And a privilege to help you.... And you have taught me so much...And..."

Noah nudged my arm, then threw his head up and down stomped his left foot. He looked over at Jeffy standing by the trailer door.

I knew what he meant. No need to linger. I love you, too, Susanna. Now...onwards!

Cheery bye,
Susanna

Sunday, December 14, 2014

MMSC Family


The Minnesota titans did return for Sips n’ Saddles on September 19. They had wanted to come back four days before the event to help. I welcomed that. Over the weeks, I had become really fond of them. I also knew that when the Titans wanted to do something they did it in a BIG way. Extra hands and BIG ones at that would be very welcome. But as fate would have it, Jeffy and Nick’s grandmother died that week.

Jeffy was contrite and said they couldn’t be there early as planned because they needed to attend the service which was two days before our party.

“I am so sorry about your loss!,”I told him which I knew, even though she was very old, was traumatic. “But, tell me Jeffy, do you think will you be able to come at all? I was so hoping that you would tell your and Noah’s story at the event.”

“You BETCHA!,” he boomed in a his endearing way. “We will leave right after the service and drive ’til we get to you.”

I knew Jeff well enough by now that I needn’t worry. He would be there.

Nick, Jeff, and Lauren
stuff goody bags for guests
Stanley Tow-Arnett
And on the morning of the party, bright and early, there they were: Jeffy, Lauren, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Tow-Arnett, and Stanley, their clever, cute cocapoo who sported a green saddle pad with a small jockey aboard. They went right to work: Tieing together bunches of carrots for guests to give to the horses. Lifting tables and setting them up. Stuffing gift bags with the various goodies that we had garnered including bags of hand made horse treats that they had made themselves. The idea and the recipe were Lauren’s, who, although smaller in stature comparatively, is mighty in influence. It was Lauren who had inspired Jeffy, then Nick to get horses. Lauren who had spotted the big gray mare Jess, and who had come back to make sure the fit would be right for Jessy. Now Lauren had comandered the Titans in the baking and packaging of three hundred bags of  “Lulu’s” horse treats named thusly because Lulu was once her nickname.
Lulu’s horse treats



I don’t remember much about the blur of preparations. My attentions were required on so many fronts. Yet I do recall how grateful I felt for my Minnesota team. They certainly knew how to defend their quarterback! I also remember coming into the foyer and bumping into a legend in a wheelchair: Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey, who had come by the MMSC before the party to wish us well. It was an awestruck Nick who rolled Ron out to the Secretariat statue so that we could commemorate the moment. (Jeffy who was running errands for me, was SICK that he missed the visit! But we brought Noah out so that we could get a photograph of Ron and he together.)

“Who’s the big guy?” Ron asked me quietly.

“He’s a retired football player,” I murmured. “Played for the Seattle Sea Hawks, and the Dallas Cowboys.”

“And the girl?”

“That’s his wife. She’s a professional volley ball player."

“Wow!,” said Ron. “That’s something!”

It takes an athlete to appreciate an athlete.

Nick and Jessy with Ron Turcotte

All of a sudden, it was time for everyone to get changed. Jeffy, Lauren, Nick and Jessy disappeared, returning a short while later buffed and beautiful. 

“Are you still ok about speaking to the crowd tonight?” I asked Jeffy as we stood outside Noah’s stall.

“You BETCHA!”  

“Pictures?,” the photographer who was hired to document the party asked.

“Sure!” Jeff replied, slipping beside Noah. It was amazing to watch the two of them together. Their connection was unmistakeable. Not just to me.

“I don’t know much about horses,” the photographer said later, “but there seems to be some kind of special bond between that guy and that horse.”




“It’s because they both have suffered,” Louise, Noah’s owner who had come for Sips ’N Saddles offered. “They understand each other. They are healing each other.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Noah and Jeffy were alike in temperament and in histories: Firey warrior athletes with broken bodies and HUGE hearts, both in need of a new arena.


Jeff, who had not met Louise until now, positively glowed in her presence. For much of the party, he sat next to her. It made me happy to see that.  Louise had taken a big leap for Noah, and an even bigger one for Jeffy. When the time came for his talk, and we led Noah into the tent under the bright lights, Jeff rose from his seat beside and took hold of  Noah’s lead rope.

“This is my guy, Noah, “he began. “He’s a true athlete who always tried his hardest, always gave his best. He made over $200,000! He ran in the Kentucky Derby! He’s had injuries. He’s had hard times. I have too. I made it to the NFL. I wasn’t the best athlete. I knew that. So I had to train more, and I had to work harder on technique. Sure there were others who could run me over in the first quarter, maybe the second, but by the third quarter and definitely the fourth, they were done, and I was still standing.”

Jeff talked about all the things he had done to patch his broken body together: Acupuncture. Herbs. Massage. Surgery. Homeopathy.

“Susanna’s done all that for Noah, too. I can relate! It’s like he and I are the same person! The day I met Noah, there was no question in my mind Noah felt what I was feeling. This was my first encounter with any horse who acted like Noah did. I gave him a hug and he just stuck his face into my chest and didn't move it. He didn't care that other people he'd never seen were around him; he was solely focused on me. After that encounter I wanted Noah to be my horse more than ever. The next day was our big day to see what Noah thought of me and whether or not Susanna would consider giving me a shot. Noah and I had a connection and the rest is history! From the time Noah comes home with me to the day he passes, I’d sell everything I own before the thought would ever creep into my head about us not being together.

I not sure what Noah and I will end up doing, but with our personalities, it will probably be something that people tell us it isn't possible. The MMSC is amazing in the fact that they give ex-racehorses a second chance to prove their worth. Not only that, but they gave me a second chance to prove my worth too. Words cannot express how grateful I am to Louise, to Susanna and to the MMSC who gave me that chance, just like they have done for so many horses. For me, having a horse like Noah is a dream come true. Thank you!”

As he led Noah out of the tent and back to the barn, I looked around the crowd. People were wiping their eyes.

The next morning, the Titans were back. It was Nick’s turn to show me what he had learned. I knew which horse he wanted: My other favorite in the barn: Wordsworth, a horse that I had tracked for six months or more, telling the owners how much I would like to have him should he not make a good racehorse. I inquired about Wordsworth regularly from the moment I saw him on a sleeting day in December of his two year old year. 

“You can’t have him yet, Susanna,” I was told. “He is a half brother to Bernardini * (a stallion that stands for $100k). We are hoping that he is going to be a big racehorse.”

“Well, he is going to be big,” I retorted, which seemed obvious as he stood 16.3 as a two year old. “But, I doubt he’ll be  a racehorse.” He didn’t have the look of a racehorse. His body was ponderous and his eye too gentle.

Seven months later, I squealed with delight when I learned the owners concurred with me. (“The fastest he could run three furlongs was 40 seconds!!!,” I was told—thirty six seconds being a baseline for most horses.) Although unsuccessful at the track, I was expecting this big horse to excel in other arenas. With his good looks, his movement, and his easy going temperament, Wordsworth, I hoped, could be a huge ambassador for the MMSC in a hunter show barn.

From the moment we posted his pictures on our website, the phone rang and the emails poured in. But like all horses, he wasn’t perfect. He had an old capped hock, that would never bother him physically but which was unsightly, nixing him from huter equitation or in hand classes. He did move well but when it came to jumping, he was an oaf. Granted, he was young and had know idea how to lift his big body. Finally, he lacked the temperament for eventing.

What he did have was size (by the time he was three, he was 17 hands), and a kind, docile disposition, both things that Nick, as a big man, and a beginner rider would need. So I chucked my aspirations for “Ambassador Wordsworth,” and decided to let Nick try him. 

Once again, I was floored by the Tow Arnett boys’ athleticism. Nick who is a practitioner and instructor of Escogue sports training and pain relief has remarkable posture and balance. He is totally in tune with his body, knowing every part of it which he can name and control individually. He also knows how to move his body in relation to another body in motion, a skill which is essential in riding.
Nick’s posture on Wordsworth was exemplary.
“That comes from blocking in football, Susanna” he told me. “You have to be able to mirror and/or predict how your opponent moves in order to successfully stop him.”

Wordsworth followed Nick like a puppy after their first ride.
Nick, who had been riding even less time than Jeffy, rode with a military correct seat. He trotted. He steered. He circled he. He stopped. Wordsworth loved him. The adopti0n was a done deal.

“He’s yours,” I said.

Nick gave me a huge smile, and when he dismounted, a high five and a hug.


Jeffy, who was hanging on the rail, opened the gate and patted Nick on the back.

“Jeffy,” I approached him and said, “I am so grateful that all of  you have come into my life. Each one of you is so special. I am really going to miss not seeing you.”

Jeffy gave me his adorable Shrek-like grin and wrapped his arm around my shoulders.

“That means we gotta start planning your trip to Minnesota, eh Susanna?”

I smiled. “I guess,” I replied.

“You gotta come see where Noah and I live, Wordsworth and Miss Jess, too. You can stay with us. After all, we’re family now, right?”

I wrapped my arm around his waist.

Yes, Jeffy. We are, I thought, MMSC family!

Cheery bye,

Susanna

MMSC Family
Left to right:  You Jest and Jessy, Wordsworth and Nick, Noah and Jeffy, Louie and Lauren