Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: An Ambassador for the Breed - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: An Ambassador for the Breed

Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to just get out of the way and let it tell itself. So I'm doing that in this week's Three Chimneys Good News Friday feature.

The following is an email sent to Susanna Thomas, the director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Maker's Mark Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington. It tells of the adoption of the ex-racehorse West End — a gelded son of Gone West who was retired to the Secretariat Center after two starts and expertly retrained for another career. But it also explains in beautiful detail how wonderful that bond between horse and human can be.

Full disclosure: Since 2007, I've been a director of the TRF. the oldest and largest Thoroughbred retirement organization in North America. TRF may be best known as the operation that uses ex-racehorses to help rehabilitate people held in correctional facilities, but it also has several farms around the country that adopt out Thoroughbreds for other purposes, and also funds the Secretariat Center.

Dear Susanna,

Wow – What a year 2010 was!  And in the middle of everything, we met you, visited the Secretariat Center and happily welcomed a new family member – West End – home to Topline Stables at the beautiful Inn at Walden in Aurora, Ohio. That said, Thank you, Susanna.

Things kept me spinning last year – taking on the challenges of a new job – the loss of my mother and father – loss of a horse and the start of a new relationship with a beautiful, young horse.  We brought West End home in June and only now is there a calm moment to write to say thank you and tell you how deeply my husband and I were touched by the whole experience.

My whole family has enjoyed trips to Lexington and Thoroughbred racing for as long as I can remember. The day we met, Susanna, my then 90 year old mother called almost hourly for updates on West End.  She was a great fan of Secretariat's, had met him and had been in touch with Mrs. Chenery at the time of Red's passing.  That a new family member had a bit of Secretariat in him thrilled her and she made sure that she was there to meet West End when Mitchell Goodpaster delivered him.  

When my non-horsey sister who lives in Los Angeles met West End, she burst into tears at the youth, innocence and sheer beauty of him. We stood and watched him effortlessly cover ground in the big field; we all agreed that it was life-affirming. That he dropped into a big mud puddle at the end of his turn-out and rolled joyfully had all in hysterics.  But then they didn't have to clean him up!

There are endless stories about him already.  The woman who is helping me with his training said “He's beautiful, smart, athletic and has a good mind, a good work ethic and looks after his rider – he's brave and charming – We all just love him.  He's a joy to work with – you simply couldn't ask for more.  Do you know how lucky you are?” (Asked of me – to which I answered a resounding YES!).

Add to that the little 5-year-old girl who daily has her father bring her to the barn before dinner to “pet Gabe”.  She wiggles and laughs while Gabe's soft nose breathes his warm hay breath all over her sweet little face.  And there's the memory that had everyone laughing as they watched Gabe doing laps around the field with his pasture mates trip-trapping behind him in luke-warm pursuit.  Very funny.

What needs to be acknowledged is your very good eye for such an athletic horse and the solid foundational training he had with you in the re-schooling program.  He had such a good transition with you and your staff that he approaches everything new with calm and interest – he's brave and learns well and easily.  You chose well when you brought him into your program. He has affirmed that choice with his continued interest in learning and doing.  He is, as a result, unflappable.

This has a very real effect on the trainers in my barn who simply can't believe that he's a Thoroughbred and that he's young. They've expressed interest in your work and in TRF.  Several friends have asked how to go about adopting a horse with you.

So I could go on and on – his former owners are to be commended for the good care they took of him and the good start they gave him. I honor them for bringing him to you and caring about him that much.  I thank you for getting him settled and started in the next chapter of his young life.  You are a great matchmaker and he and I have a very strong bond. I had been unable to see him for a few days several weeks ago; on my next visit he literally wrapped his neck around me and nuzzled my face.  Everyone who looked on said they'd never seen a horse react that way.

SO – having had so much loss last year, I find my heart being healed in the company of a young, smart, athletic, charming, kind Thoroughbred I call Gabriel. I love him dearly and so does everyone who meets him.  He is quite the ambassador for the breed, the industry and for the adoption program you guide so well.

Thank you for this wonderful gift!


Lisa Wheeler Neely

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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be to support the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Three Chimneys will be donating that amount each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.

Another $100 is being donated to these organizations each week by a Paulick Report reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who encourages all of our readers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for this good cause.

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