I can only write what I know. And what I know is that there are good people in this world. I know that decent human beings exist in the horse business. I have heard that there are bad guys out there, but none of them have directly interacted with me. Instead, I have been blessed to surround myself with the good guys.
Quiet, unassuming, not obsessed with the headlines or the fame, these people lie under the thousands of headlines that explode over social media about the break downs, the auctions, and the abuse. The few bad who overtake the good.
But they keep going. Put their head down and plug along, acknowledging that the change that they want the world to see in this industry must first start within their own land. In their own paddocks. In their own foaling stalls.
These small family farms, and the staff that occupy them, are the War Horses of our industry.
Like a true War Horse, these farms like Hinkle strive for the simplest of life’s goals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They don’t complain. They don’t exert excess energy on anything but a smile. They put their head down, and go to work. Day in and day out.
Just like a horse that I know – Hazards of Love.
Years ago, I heard of this horse. This strapping four year old that was out there in the Universe running. We were selling his younger brother in the September sales, and a striking Malibu Moon colt himself, we were hoping that Hazards of Love would add a bump to his mom Spring Rush’s page. I added him to my Virtual Stable, praying to finally see him win a few, or enter a stakes, but he never really took off.
Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in this business of breeding, racing, and owning thoroughbreds – its that if wishes and prayers were nickles and dimes, we’d all be rich.
We sold the yearling, I left my position at Hinkle Farms to return to graduate school, and yet I could never forget about Hazards of Love. Because, although he wasn’t running in G1’s, he was running — and often. My phone would ping often with his name attached. And with each update, I would chuckle – acknowledging that he might not be running with the elite, he was certainly running fast. He almost never finished out of the top three, and just seemed to love his job. He eventually climbed up to the stakes level, and continued on his streak.
Years went by, and my interactions with the family and staff at Hinkle Farms were limited. That is, until I met Tom’s daughter, Anne Archer. We had met occasionally during my tenure on the farm, but had never become close. But one day at the sales, her father reintroduced us, and we began to talk. About life, about school, but mostly about horses. And she brought up this horse, Hazards of Love. This creature who had now run almost 50 times, and just never seemed to want to quit. She asked about the retraining that I had been doing with these ex-racehorses, and showed interest in getting her own. And I nodded my head and encouraged her, letting her know that if she ever got him, I would help. And with that, we became friends.
But we knew he was with the best. His owner, Maggi Moss had become an advocate for the sport, but more importantly an outspoken voice for the horse. And still, Anne Archer reached out to Maggi and let her know that if and when Hazards of Love decided that he was done running, he had a home at his birthplace. One where he could be ridden, used to pony yearlings, babysit weanlings, but most importantly, be treated as the royalty that we had all come to respect him as.
Race after race, year after year, it seemed like this horse would never walk off of the battlefield. A true War Horse to the bone, he continued to win, continued to run, and continued to come out of the races with a sparkle in his eye. And with each update, Anne Archer and I would share a text – acknowledging that this horse was a freak. The exact type of horse that as a breeder, you can only hope to produce.
And then Anne Archer got the call. Maggi thought that Hazards of Love was ready to retire. Within 24 hours, he was sent to Barn 4 of Hinkle Farms. Set on a hill overlooking the foaling barn where he entered this world, he was turned out where he could appraise his kingdom as was only appropriate. Sound. Happy. Still holding that sparkle in his eye.
Hazards of Love retired after 75 starts. Of those 75 starts, he won 26, and hit the board in another 30. He won over a half a million dollars, and was ranked 10th in the country by number of wins in 2013.
He did all of those things because he was surrounded by good people. A sane owner, a great trainer, good hands being ran down his legs, and soft hands on the reins. He did all of those things because of the time, effort, dedication, and knowledge that were put into his mating, his raising, his development.
But most importantly, he did all of those things because of heart. And now, that heart is returned to his kingdom.
Because his home of Hinkle Farm’s might now have G1 winning homebreds, and G1 winning mares. They might have sold million dollar yearlings, and produced runner that command the headlines. But now, now they have their own mascot. A being that symbolizes everything the farm stands for. Just like themselves, who are in it for the love of the sport, who puts their head down and goes to work — the War Horse. No champagne, no pewter, no chandeliers or fancy signs, just sheer heart.
The heart is here.
Welcome home, Hazards of Love.