Thanks To Inked, Former Racetracker Fadenholz Is Writing A New Story - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Thanks To Inked, Former Racetracker Fadenholz Is Writing A New Story

Kirsten Fadenholz aboard Frankincense, the horse she hopes to take to the 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover

When Kirsten Fada (now Fadenholz) first reunited with Inked, a then-4-year-old gelding she had once galloped on the track, her life was very different. It was spring 2020, and Fadenholz was living near Louisville, Ky., galloping for trainer Brendan Walsh at Churchill Downs in the mornings and working with her own retraining projects in the afternoons.

“I was really tired of moving so much and a little homesick. I've always had the passion for horses more than the sport,” she said. “The sport wasn't what drew me in; the horses drew me in. And where else can you see so many horses in one place?”

“I was working my horses in the afternoon. I loved it. I loved the peacefulness. I enjoyed seeing them learn all these new things. I'd worked on young horses on the track and that's where my passion is, is to see the growth in the horse.”

Finding Inked again reinvigorated Fadenholz. After years of wondering and worrying about where he'd gone after he left her barn, the perfect twist of fate had brought the horse to the very property where she was retraining off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs).

Read our Eclipse Award-winning story about Inked's cross-country journey back to Fadenholz here.

The improbability of it all resonated with Fadenholz and made her reexamine the path she was on.

Just two years later, life looks very different. Fadenholz married and gave birth to a daughter, Josie, earlier this year. She left the racetrack and bought a farm in Wadsworth, Ohio, naming it Yellow Pine Farms. She offers boarding, training, lessons, and sales of sport horses – a few of them are Warmbloods, but her specialty is the off-track Thoroughbred.

“We've become 'the Thoroughbred people,'” she said. “Being in Ohio, it's not Lexington, Kentucky. To be the Thoroughbred people is pretty neat. We know how to feed them, how to care for them. We've had a lot of inquiries and people come to us for help with their Thoroughbreds. Most of the boarders we have are Thoroughbreds. It's nice to take Kentucky home.”

Fadenholz has made it her mission to gather up the horses she had in her string as an assistant to trainer Conor Murphy around the time she had Inked and help connect them with their next careers. So far, she's up to 10 she has tracked down and trained for resale or still has at home.

The most recent of her herd to come “home” was Frankincense, a son of Frankel who is now eight years old. Fadenholz had kept tabs on him while he ran but didn't know where he ended up after finishing seventh in a claiming race at Colonial Downs last summer. She later found him for sale by Sewickley Stables in Lexington, Ky., which like Yellow Pine specializes in selling off-track Thoroughbreds on to new careers.

Fadenholz bought “Frankie” and is taking aim at next year's Thoroughbred Makeover with him.

Her most sentimental reunion was with an Irish import named Emmaus. Murphy used to say the dark bay gelding was “her” horse because she galloped him exclusively when he was in her string. Emmaus showed talent as a stakes winner in England before his import, and was Grade 2-placed for Murphy at Woodbine.

“When you ride a horse like that, the feeling he gives you is incredible,” she said. “You feel like you could go into battle. It's the craziest thing.”

Emmaus suffered a tendon tear at Kentucky Downs in 2020 and Fadenholz knew he had been laid up for an extended period since then. He had nearly recovered when he was turned out and reinjured the same leg. Murphy turned Emmaus over to Fadenholz earlier this year but the leg wasn't progressing as she'd hoped. She later learned that its initial healing had been incomplete and resulted in stiff, inelastic scar tissue in the old tear so he was constantly re-tearing it with normal movement of the leg. After receiving pessimistic prognoses from various consulting veterinarians, she made the difficult decision to put him down. She ended up having to make the appointment with her vet three different times, each one being cancelled due to conflicting schedules for the vet or the equine undertaker.

Kirsten Fadenholz with Emmaus

“The third time, I had the horse on the hill. I'd already cut his tail off,” she said. “He's still lively. He's jumping around. We're on the hill and he's acting a fool. I just called it. I took him back into the barn and said I'm not going to think about this for another month. This horse doesn't want to go.”

With corrective shoeing and careful, targeted exercise, Emmaus is able to enjoy turnout now and runs and plays with friends, although the injured leg still doesn't function normally.

“Will he be anything other than a pasture pet? No,” she said. “Will we have him two years from now? I can't tell you that much. But he's here, and that's what means the world to me. I can provide him a good life, however long that may be.”

It has been a challenge to launch a new business, teach lessons, put training rides on young horses and launch show careers while also caring for a young child, but Fadenholz said she's had incredible support from family. She also believes her pregnancy gave her a new perspective on the athletic transition that horses experience leaving the track. Fadenholz spent most of her pregnancy out of the saddle, and it was a big transition.

“It helps me relate to what they're going through,” she said. “It's hard to be in work and you have a routine and all of a sudden you can't do it. That's how I felt with my pregnancy, and it's maybe how they'd feel if they were at the track and then got injured and they're sitting in a stall somewhere. I totally understand stir crazy. I relate to that.”

One thing that hasn't changed is Inked. He is still Fadenholz's star, and was the horse she trusted for her first ride after she had Josie.

“He's the jack of all trades,” said Fadenholz. “He's my lesson horse. He's my eventing schooling horse; we go schooling every so often and just play. We did go to a show over the summer at 2'6” which was my first time doing that … more than anything it was fun.

“Inked is still my go-to trail horse and pony. He's still my steady eddy. My stepson's nine; right now he rides a pony but in a year or two he'll be able to ride him. When Josie gets a little bigger, she'll be able to ride him, too. He's just the man.”

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He was there for her when she was ready to get back into the saddle after her daughter was born. And he's been there for her husband Mitch, too. Mitch was not, as they say “a horsey person” before he and Kirsten met, but Inked was the horse who guided him through his first Western riding lessons. After watching Fadenholz log many hours in a dressage saddle, Mitch now wants to learn dressage as well and Inked is still his steady, happy teacher.

Inked was the first dream come true on the path to a much bigger dream – looking down her barn aisle at Yellow Pine and seeing many of the same faces she had at Oaklawn.

“The whole crew's here,” she said. “I wonder if they recognize each other.”

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