Braving the storm – and taking care of their own

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We received this note on Friday night from Susie Hart, who operates Hart Farm in Millwood, Va., with her husband, veterinarian E.C. “Pug” Hart. They’ve been active in many facets of the horse industry, from farms to racetracks to auction pavilions, and have been involved with such top Thoroughbreds as Maria’s Mon and Victory Gallop, among many others.

This isn’t a story of a stakes winner, however, but a familiar one of horses that needed help in finding homes after their racing days were over. It’s a story of how a community of caring people can make a difference in the lives of those horses. – Ray Paulick

By Susie Hart

It’s Friday so usually I look forward to reading the Paulick Report’s Three Chimneys Good News article. Not today, I have too much work to do.  Yesterday I received one of those emails we get all too often these days. Another group of horses were rescued and the person who has them needs some help.

That person is Laurie Calhoun who, for years, has worked behind the national scene and helped find so many horses homes when their racing careers are over. I remember five or six years ago, Laurie called me and said she had a horse on her farm that we had bred.  It had a slab fracture of the knee and she asked if I would consider taking it back. What could I say except, “The van is on its way”?

So when I received the email Thursday, I attached a short note and forwarded it to a few people. Within an hour I had commitments and within the day I had people bringing over blankets, halters, wormers and feed. Tonight we’re loading up the donated articles (matching whatever other people gave) and taking them all to Charles Town, where Charlie Harding, who has a van company, is going to meet us. Charlie will then deliver the feed, blankets and other supplies to Laurie on his way home from the races late in the night.

Some people have sent money to the feed store near Laurie and others have brought feed to us to take to the horses. It will be a long night but I’ll feel so good knowing those Thoroughbreds will have warm blankets and plenty of feed before the pending storm tomorrow.

The large and well-known organizations do so much good, yet this grass roots movement by local horse people is just as vital to the overall success of these rescues.  

It starts with people like Fran Burns, a rescue volunteer and a Thoroughbred advocate. She sent the email yesterday and she does wonderful things for horses.

Then you have Paget Bennett with Fasig-Tipton Midlantic who forwarded my email and has also gotten good response from both show horse and race horse people. This afternoon, Susie Chatfield Taylor (of Morgans Ford Farm) told me that, in addition to the load of hay they are donating, they are also adopting one of the old rescue mares that they bred.  


The very first person to respond was Carol Holden who is the woman behind the West Virginia Breeders Classics races. She actually hauled feed, blankets, halters and wormers to us yesterday in the middle of the high wind advisory just because she wanted to pitch in.

Somehow a small group of horse people banded together to take care of their own. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?

I guess I won’t get to try that new recipe tonight as I’m running out of time. Oh well. If the meat isn’t any good tomorrow night, I’ll feed it to the fox, maybe even inject a little Ivermectin in it.  Thank goodness I’m married to a vet, who happens to be my best friend and always supports whatever I do. Besides, he likes pizza just fine.

Why is it I want Rob Whiteley to read this so he can share this “feel good” moment with me? I look at this group of people and think that we are all so different but there is one common denominator that links us together – the commitment to do good things for the horses.

When we get home tonight I might not wait till New Year’s Eve for that bottle of Moët (another story in itself:  we always drink Moët on New Year’s Eve in memory of Maria’s Mon’s Champagne Stakes win and the Rosenthals, our clients, mentors and good friends).  

Maybe we’ll pop that cork a little early this year.

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  • Pennell Hopkins

    Thank you this message in the midst of irresponsible breeders and profit-only owners and trainers.  Thanks to all of those who helped.

    • RedShoesGirl

      we talk about irresponsible breeding but we don’t talk about what constitutes responsible  TB breeding. Does every colt that comes off the track with a grade 1 race win and some other placement deserve to be a stud? shouldn’t there be some sort of criteria before every halfway successful race horse is touted as a good stud?

  • Pennell Hopkins

    Thank you this message in the midst of irresponsible breeders and profit-only owners and trainers.  Thanks to all of those who helped.

  • Binnie houghton

    i sent a check, but , now that i’ve read your letter, susie,maybe another one will be forthcoming! Keep up the great work

  • Binnie houghton

    i sent a check, but , now that i’ve read your letter, susie,maybe another one will be forthcoming! Keep up the great work

  • http://twitter.com/KrisSBloodstock Kris Stuebs

    Thanks Suzie!  From you…none of this surprises me.  :)  These horses found an angel this Christmas, didn’t they?  

  • http://twitter.com/KrisSBloodstock Kris Stuebs

    Thanks Suzie!  From you…none of this surprises me.  :)  These horses found an angel this Christmas, didn’t they?  

  • Cate Wines, Ph.D.

    More, more, more!  We need to know about these wonderful TB angels much more often.  Thank you, Ray, for publishing this and thank you, all of you.

  • Cate Wines, Ph.D.

    More, more, more!  We need to know about these wonderful TB angels much more often.  Thank you, Ray, for publishing this and thank you, all of you.

  • Roisin

    As with most things in life, there are people who create problems and go on their merry way and then there are the people who try to solve the problems.

    Thank goodness for the latter. I’m so grateful to all the caring people. They truly are the unsung heros of the world.

    I donate as much as I can to rescue groups as well as caring for several retired Thoroughbreds here. However, my small part pales in comparison to what others do.

    The story lifts my spirits.

  • Roisin

    As with most things in life, there are people who create problems and go on their merry way and then there are the people who try to solve the problems.

    Thank goodness for the latter. I’m so grateful to all the caring people. They truly are the unsung heros of the world.

    I donate as much as I can to rescue groups as well as caring for several retired Thoroughbreds here. However, my small part pales in comparison to what others do.

    The story lifts my spirits.

  • Barbara

    What a well written tale of good deeds. Happy New Year. And thank you.

  • Barbara

    What a well written tale of good deeds. Happy New Year. And thank you.

  • Jan Cross

    I knew Pug and Suzy Hart while they owned Hart Farm in Ocala and they were great folks. People still talk about the time that Doc Hart (aka Pug) beat up a mugger at the local convenience store with a twitch!
    It’s the hands on people that truly have their hearts in this business. I wish we could get more owners with the big bucks to help take care of those old mares and race track warriors. They could start by assisting HPAF, Horse Protection Association of Florida, an org that has rescued countless TBs.  Last Chance Corral is also in dire need of funds to care for nurse mare babies, man-made orphans whose dams are nursing TB orphans in KY at major breeding ops. Both have web sited and take VISA, MC.

  • Jan Cross

    I knew Pug and Suzy Hart while they owned Hart Farm in Ocala and they were great folks. People still talk about the time that Doc Hart (aka Pug) beat up a mugger at the local convenience store with a twitch!
    It’s the hands on people that truly have their hearts in this business. I wish we could get more owners with the big bucks to help take care of those old mares and race track warriors. They could start by assisting HPAF, Horse Protection Association of Florida, an org that has rescued countless TBs.  Last Chance Corral is also in dire need of funds to care for nurse mare babies, man-made orphans whose dams are nursing TB orphans in KY at major breeding ops. Both have web sited and take VISA, MC.

  • RedShoesGirl

    we talk about irresponsible breeding but we don’t talk about what constitutes responsible  TB breeding. Does every colt that comes off the track with a grade 1 race win and some other placement deserve to be a stud? shouldn’t there be some sort of criteria before every halfway successful race horse is touted as a good stud?

  • dispute92

      Too bad the others who have bred horses and raced them until they threw them into claimers,as well as, others in this business are not reading this story. Why are their horses in 7000 claimig races and lower? Without an ounce of trying to save them. Some are extremely well bred. So blue bloods are just as much at risk.  I, for one, know all to well how the lower income people can’t do this alone. It is a huge process that many don’t understand.  Thank the lord for Susie, Carol, Laurie,Charlie,Fran,Paget,Rob for all of their countless efforts to give these beautiful animals another chance in life. Come on you who take the lead after a stakes race, they are just as much a part of your operation now as they were then.

    • Princessspiro

      As a novice racing person I would like to understand why are claiming races permitted. This is where horses fall through the cracks and ” disappear”. Is this just  a way to “sell” the horse whereby the owners are guaranteed a set price? Could a nationally created horse racing agency prevent this practice? I understand the rationalization for these races, but can they be discontinued by an organization with real authority by fiat? If the NFL and NBA can have a commission with power and there is really huge money involved, why not horse racing. Very few are going to do the right thing voluntarily, when there is no enforcement authority. nowadays it seems the money overshadows whatever people’s integrity they may have. and quite frankly, the horses do not have a union to speak for them other than the wonderful people about whom this article is written. Since the owners and trainers and especially breeders have turned the sport of kings into an investment business, they should be subjected to regulations with bite. That is the cost of doing business.

      • Roisin

        I could not agree more. Your practical approach is spot on. Claiming races are the downward spiral to Hell. The claiming game is racing’s disposal system, with, of course, money to be made.

        There is a glaring need for a national commission like you said. However, I do believe the principle players in the business do not want one. Why ?

        • Yovankajojo

          not all horse as much as we would like them to be are stakes horses and that’s where the claiming horses come in not because some trainers want to get every last cent that a stakes horse can get them,just like people that want a mercedes but can’t afford one you settle for a good reliable cheap car,and if you look close enough claimers are a good reliable poor mans car

          • Princessspiro

            Okay, then why don’t they simply have smaller purse races for these horses who are not “stakes ” quality and still given the opportunity to run  and participate but take out the claiming aspect, no more claiming.  But all horses entered guaranteed a part of the purse.

        • Black Helen

           Yes, I fullly agree with the need for a National Racing Commissioner.
          I believe that they don’t want to standardise the rules because it would enact some ACCOUNTABILITY!!! and therefore the wonderful demise of the “super trainer”, who can merrily dance his (rarely her) across state lines avoiding penalties, fines and respect along the way.
          STEP UP RACING, DO WHAT IT HONORABLE FOR THE HORSE
          Even Lance Armstrong, who many, many consider a hero for his humanitarian efforts was taken down over DRUGS.
          EVERY HORSE ON DOPE IS BEING ABUSED, call it race day meds,
          call it pixie dust, bottom line is DRUGS ARE RUINING THE INDUSTRY.

      • dispute92

        I understand what you are saying. Claiming races is a place to unload horses that have never moved on after racing in their conditions, were injured and the bandaids are falling apart, or have earned a hefty sum but have lost a step or two and the owners want to recoup some losses hoping this dead weight will be claimed. The purses at tracks with casinos have some nice claiming purses and therefore lure these trainers into those races. Some of these horses have issues and they know it. They just want to unload them. There does need to be regulations but most of these owners could care less and trainers hate losers. As was mentioned by Roisin. People in the article are far and few between.

  • dispute92

      Too bad the others who have bred horses and raced them until they threw them into claimers,as well as, others in this business are not reading this story. Why are their horses in 7000 claimig races and lower? Without an ounce of trying to save them. Some are extremely well bred. So blue bloods are just as much at risk.  I, for one, know all to well how the lower income people can’t do this alone. It is a huge process that many don’t understand.  Thank the lord for Susie, Carol, Laurie,Charlie,Fran,Paget,Rob for all of their countless efforts to give these beautiful animals another chance in life. Come on you who take the lead after a stakes race, they are just as much a part of your operation now as they were then.

  • Mlmartin

    god bless !! and have a good new year.

  • Mlmartin

    god bless !! and have a good new year.

  • tfly

    Thank you to all who assisted these animals-heartwarming!  For the next group of horses that need help, those of us who aren’t on ‘the’ email list need an avenue to assist these local groups. 
    Ray- please consider having a tab where local groups can post such requests for assistance.  I’m sure there are many who would welcome the opportunity to help.

  • tfly

    Thank you to all who assisted these animals-heartwarming!  For the next group of horses that need help, those of us who aren’t on ‘the’ email list need an avenue to assist these local groups. 
    Ray- please consider having a tab where local groups can post such requests for assistance.  I’m sure there are many who would welcome the opportunity to help.

  • Princessspiro

    As a novice racing person I would like to understand why are claiming races permitted. This is where horses fall through the cracks and ” disappear”. Is this just  a way to “sell” the horse whereby the owners are guaranteed a set price? Could a nationally created horse racing agency prevent this practice? I understand the rationalization for these races, but can they be discontinued by an organization with real authority by fiat? If the NFL and NBA can have a commission with power and there is really huge money involved, why not horse racing. Very few are going to do the right thing voluntarily, when there is no enforcement authority. nowadays it seems the money overshadows whatever people’s integrity they may have. and quite frankly, the horses do not have a union to speak for them other than the wonderful people about whom this article is written. Since the owners and trainers and especially breeders have turned the sport of kings into an investment business, they should be subjected to regulations with bite. That is the cost of doing business.

  • Roisin

    I could not agree more. Your practical approach is spot on. Claiming races are the downward spiral to Hell. The claiming game is racing’s disposal system, with, of course, money to be made.

    There is a glaring need for a national commission like you said. However, I do believe the principle players in the business do not want one. Why ?

  • dispute92

    I understand what you are saying. Claiming races is a place to unload horses that have never moved on after racing in their conditions, were injured and the bandaids are falling apart, or have earned a hefty sum but have lost a step or two and the owners want to recoup some losses hoping this dead weight will be claimed. The purses at tracks with casinos have some nice claiming purses and therefore lure these trainers into those races. Some of these horses have issues and they know it. They just want to unload them. There does need to be regulations but most of these owners could care less and trainers hate losers. As was mentioned by Roisin. People in the article are far and few between.

  • giftoffaith

    Thank goodness for the angels. Most horse people are good and bless these who go the extra mile.

  • giftoffaith

    Thank goodness for the angels. Most horse people are good and bless these who go the extra mile.

  • Yovankajojo

    not all horse as much as we would like them to be are stakes horses and that’s where the claiming horses come in not because some trainers want to get every last cent that a stakes horse can get them,just like people that want a mercedes but can’t afford one you settle for a good reliable cheap car,and if you look close enough claimers are a good reliable poor mans car

  • Black Helen

     Yes, I fullly agree with the need for a National Racing Commissioner.
    I believe that they don’t want to standardise the rules because it would enact some ACCOUNTABILITY!!! and therefore the wonderful demise of the “super trainer”, who can merrily dance his (rarely her) across state lines avoiding penalties, fines and respect along the way.
    STEP UP RACING, DO WHAT IT HONORABLE FOR THE HORSE
    Even Lance Armstrong, who many, many consider a hero for his humanitarian efforts was taken down over DRUGS.
    EVERY HORSE ON DOPE IS BEING ABUSED, call it race day meds,
    call it pixie dust, bottom line is DRUGS ARE RUINING THE INDUSTRY.

  • Princessspiro

    Okay, then why don’t they simply have smaller purse races for these horses who are not “stakes ” quality and still given the opportunity to run  and participate but take out the claiming aspect, no more claiming.  But all horses entered guaranteed a part of the purse.

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