The Horse Comes 1/ST, Presented By 1/ST Racing: From The Track To The Trail - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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The Horse Comes 1/ST, Presented By 1/ST Racing: From The Track To The Trail

Fu with her new owner Stacey Schoeningh

A former junior rider in the show jumping arena, Emma Gurnick began galloping horses at Golden Gate several years ago. During her time in the show ring, she gravitated towards Thoroughbreds for their athleticism and bravery on the course. Determined to help the equestrian community see the value and performance potential of the Off-the-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB), Emma became the Aftercare Liaison for Golden Gate Fields. In her role, Emma works tirelessly to ensure the horses at Golden Gate Fields find their perfect person. Her unique ability to know the horse inside and out comes from working horses in the morning and some of the horses she has galloped are those that she helps to find second careers for.

Fireitup, affectionately known as “Fu” or “Kung Fu Panda” is one such horse.

Emma met Fireitup when the filly first came to the barn of trainer Quinn Howey, where she is employed as an exercise rider. Exercise riders often get on over a dozen horses each day. They do not get a chance to develop a rapport with a horse unless the horse (and the trainer) like them.

Although a “plain bay,” the 2-year-old horse radiated personality and with Emma and Fu, the rapport was instantaneous, and she quickly became a barn favorite.

Fu was always eager to train and competitive, but it was clear that her heart exceeded her ability. After one win and one second from six starts, Howey decided it was time for Fu, by then a 4-year-old, to find a new career and new person to love her. Emma set out to find her perfect home.

In late July Stacey Schoeningh contacted Emma after seeing her 1/ST Racing business card on the bulletin board at a stable near Golden Gate Fields. Stacey was looking for a forever horse, a partner to go on trail rides with and a companion for many years to come. Fu fit the bill — a brave and steady filly who was never phased by new sights or sounds. Her smooth gaits would make her a comfortable ride up and down hills and her willing and energetic nature was ideal for a trail mount.

Emma sent Stacey a photo of Fu and after the 4-year old filly made an appearance in her dream that night, it was settled — Fu was going home with her. That weekend Fu hopped right up into the trailer without blinking and was on her way to her forever home in the Sonoma valley.

Fu at Golden Gate, Aislinn Finn up

Since Fu was a newly-minted OTTB, Emma volunteered to take her on her first trail ride in her new surroundings. Stacey had spent a few weeks getting acquainted with Fu and introducing to her new stablemates, who were unlike any she had ever met before — two camels who terrified her. Soon she had accepted the two dromedaries as friends.

On a sunny August morning, they set out for a ride with Stacey on a Friesian mare and another friend on a Belgian. The two of them dwarfed little Fu, who had never seen a vineyard before.

The trio trotted through rows of grapes and waved to the workers tending to them. Less than a month prior, Fu had breezed on the track. Now she marched along the trail like she had been born to do it.

Since that day, Fu has gone on several more adventures in Northern California's wine country, proving that the stoicism and athleticism of the Thoroughbred Racehorse transfers from the track to the trail.

Fu is just one of many horses placed through 1/ST Racing's aftercare team, which is comprised of a team of hard-working individuals dedicated to making sure the Thoroughbreds at 1/ST tracks are paired with the best individuals for continued success. Nothing is more rewarding to Emma and the team than seeing an off- track Thoroughbred thriving in their new environment.

Aftercare Facility Spotlight 

In the Sonoma Valley not far from where Fireitup is stabled is Pamela Berg's aftercare facility. Glen Ellen Vocational Academy is home to several dozen retired racehorses and singlehandedly run by Pamela, a former racing steward.

The farm serves as a permanent sanctuary for former racehorses who are unable to thrive in a second career after racing as well as aiding in placement of horses who can go on to new homes.

The farm and its then 34 horses survived the Nuns fire that devastated the valley in 2017. Pamela has remained committed to her animals in the face of in the face of disaster and has come out on top.

If you would like to contribute to Glen Ellen Vocational Academy and provide resources to the horses who call it home, you can donate through their website.

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