A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook message.

It was a screen shot of a status itself, and simply a cutout of a comment.  A comment written in a lot of rage.  A comment about me.

The woman commenting was stating that I was a horrible human being due to the fact that I falsely spread stories about thoroughbred breeders and owners who cared.  That I constantly wrote of how aftercare organizations existed.  And that I believed in the programs such as CANTER, RRP, TIP, and others that promoted and supported this breed that I love.

She was saying that I was a horrible person because it was all lies.  She claimed that thoroughbreds are all too often ran until they’re broken and then shipped to an auction house.  She wanted me to retract my comments, and get on board with the facts.  The facts that stated that racing should be banned and outlawed, and that the industry that I loved was full of animal abusers.

She wanted to address the bad, while I wanted to promote the good.

And she is wrong. 

I feel as though this blog finds a good balance between uplifting stories of the good guys, and downtrodden stories admonishing the bad.  I have outed just as many industry insiders or aftercare organizations for neglect as I have showcased the breeders who do whats best.

And I will always keep is that way.

Because there are enough Facebook pages, websites, and organizations which only showcase the bad.  That are so focused on the subpopulation of this industry which is negative that they are unwilling to admit that there is a majority who give a damn.  Who care.  Who do the right thing.

And I will keep telling those stories because they often go unspoken.  Unknown.  And that is due to a variety of things – both because these owners are often very private in their affection for these horses, as well as in their attempt to not burn bridges with the trainers and other owners which may have owned the horse along the way.

But even moreso, I have seen that these stories aren’t told because they don’t become clickbait.  In our current state of affairs, in our current political climate – we love to see the world as glass half empty, and ignore the good in the world.

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But I saw the good this week.

I live on Mt. Brilliant Farm.  A beautiful and historic land, which has raised and nourished so many grandiose equines.  The barn that Man o’ War lived in during his stud career is a stones toss away from my backyard, and Creator was born just across the polo field.  They breed about 20 mares a year for racing, and another 5-10 for polo – as they support both of those equine sports with their efforts.


The girlfriend to the broodmare manager.

And yet I have never worked for this farm.  I am the girlfriend to the broodmare manager, and keep a relative distance as such.  But occasionally, I watch a mare foal or a bandage be changed.  I cheer on their yearlings at the sales and their racehorses at the track.  The attachment and fondness is there, simply because I want my super significant manfriend to succeed.  To do well in this job; on this farm.

But a few months ago he mentioned a horse.  There was a 6 year old gelding that they wanted to retire and retrain, maybe even potentially with my assistance.  The only problem with this amazing plan was that they didn’t still own this horse. In fact – they hadn’t owned him in almost 4 years.

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Shrek as a foal.  Photo by Mathea Kelley

He had been born and raised on the lush Bluegrass that adorns these 700 acres, loved on by all of the staff as well as the owners.  Hutton Goodman said the he had become more of a pet than an entity, and was affectionately nicknamed Shrek due to his massive size and frame.  He was the farm favorite, and was the one that they all loved on for an additional few minutes at the end of the day.

And then when he was almost 2 years old – he was taken to the sales where he sold for $350,000 – a great price as far as everyone was concerned.

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Shrek as a yearling.  Photo by Mathea Kelley

He ran in New York for a while, and then moved out west.  But he ran well, and he ran hard.  He won a few stakes races, and earned almost $350,000 during his long and storied career over 33 starts.

But then he dropped in class. For the last year or so he ran solely in claimers, and this eventually dropped into the lower levels of claiming races.  The farm owner knew that he wanted this horse when we was finished with his career, and reached out to the current connections to let this be known.  He eventually offered some money as incentive, but his phone calls fell on deaf ears.

And so he rerouted.  And last Sunday, he entered a claim on the 6 year old gelding, won it, and shipped the beloved farm favorite halfway across the country to return to the place where he was born.

Shrek arrived yesterday, and the entire farm hopped into their vehicles to meet him at the barn.  It was a reunion that no one ever mentions, and very few see.  A smile was plastered on Hutton’s face as he reached up to pat the massive geldings neck, acknowledging that there was no more worry of where this “pet” would end up.

Because, he was finally home.

I do not know what the future holds for Shrek.  As of now, he is simply going to be a horse.  Have his shoes pulled, his belly let down, and enjoy some time on the same Bluegrass that he was bred on.  That he was born on.  That he was raised on.

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Shrek at home.

These are the stories that are so often untold, or looked over. The good guys doing the right thing, and the horses within their care. We hear of the higher caliber of horse – the colts retiring to stand at stud and the fillies to be bred.  We learn of the first foals for the big race mares through announcements in the TDN or the Bloodhorse.  But we often never hear of the gelding.  The hard knocking horse who ran hard, and ran well, and the farms, owners, trainers, grooms, and managers that backed them.

Those are the stories I will keep telling. I hope you enjoy them.


19 Comments on “The untold stories

  1. Yes very typical attitude of a matures who think they know or understand the industry.it is these sort of people who actually do the damage by buying horses they do not know how to manage or ride!
    Carin Salmon

  2. Impressive ankles on that horse! Huge kudos to the breeders for bringing him home and to you for telling the story 🙂

    • Thank you for your stories and the heartfelt way you tell them.

    • You make my day ever time I read your blog..and put a positive spin on racing..something I have had a passion for all my life..and had to defend constantly! Thank you..and Shrek is a beauty!

  3. Thank you for telling his story. I just lost one of my retired TB’s this week , but I have two more that are retired and can just be horses. Both are racing royalty, and they are amazing now that they have relaxed and can enjoy retirement.

  4. Keep telling your stories. We’re getting far too polarized in our thinking- it’s either good or bad and most of the time it’s bad.

  5. I have a horse bred by Mt Brilliant in my barn right now. I galloped horses at Laurel for his owners, and when he was done running they gave him to me so he could have a second life. He is currently Eventing in MD. 🙂 Happy to send pics and updates if his breeders are interested.

  6. Keep typing Carleigh, and we will keep reading! Your stories are greatly appreciated by many people!

  7. I love this story! I recently bought a 3yo OTTB gelding. He was also sold for 6 figures as a yearling, but in 2 starts in the fall of his 2yo year he lost miserably so was sent to my farrier as a polo prospect which is how I found him. The trainer who had him wanted him to go to a good home. My farrier still jokes that the horse hit the jackpot at my barn. Keep on keeping on! So many of us love these thoroughbred horses!

  8. I just brought home a mare who had been raced too hard, too many times, and then was turned out in a field and forgotten. She is underweight, covered with rain rot and so arthritic I’m not sure if she’ll ever be rideable. My last OTTB was a similar story. Bad things do happen in the racing world and they should be recognized, to raise awareness and motivate people to do something about them.
    However, I love to read stories like this, just to boost my morale. Yes, bad happens, but so does the good and I love to hear about all the other people out there who care about Thoroughbreds. Thank you for writing these stories, and I will be here eagerly reading every one! Rock on!

  9. Keep your stories coming. I’m a breeder/ owner/ trainer in New Zealand. I love my horses and a good TB can not be beaten as an ever after horse once it has finished. We have the nay sayers here as well but for the most part they couldn’t be more wrong they just see what they want to. But I see things as well my horse that has given me everything he or she had to give and in return received the very best care i had to offer quality feeds, regular hoof and dental care, top quality covers, is rehomed and then sold on by people looking for profit. A few years down the road you see that beautiful horse in a paddock skinny as a rake not having seen a farrier for months let alone a feed or cover and people blame the trainer. Bad horsemen are everywhere and i say to that annonymous lady stop picking on the easy target and do something constructive across the entire equine industry because neglect happens just easily wth the teenager that was given a rehomed tb for Christmas but had lost interest by June.

  10. Please keep telling them! I love hearing your perspective on the broad industry trends plus the behind the scenes stories of individual horses.

    PS-hope the dissertation defense went well!

  11. Thank you for sharing ❤️
    Cold Chills as a few tears fell …
    I started in the TB Business in the early 80’s
    And I’ve seen so many honorable memorable moments than one can imagine.

    I feel blessed to read your blogs and be reminded of all of those treasured memories .

    I hope you never let the uneducated and misinformed comments be anything more than “someone’s comment ”

    Thank You For Sharing The Positive

  12. are you familiar with New Vocations in Lexington? I just got a horse from them. What do you think of their OTTB work? Thanks

  13. I recently looked through the race records of my (now 24yro) OTTB. And realized that someone really did care about his well being. He was a late baby, mid April, and you can see in the race dates that they waited until late his 2yro year and only ran him a few times. The bulk of his racing was his 3yro year. Then as a 4yro they tried a few, saw it wasn’t working out, and retired him. I knew from the person I bought him from that he’d gone to do hunters for awhile a little fox hunting too and then dressage with her.

    I’m glad to see the more positive side of racing. I’ve never been a part of it directly, I’ve only loved an OTTB for the last 12 years.

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