For a racehorse owner, hearing that your horse has bowed a tendon is a punch in the gut. Many times, that diagnosis means the end of a horse's career, and in the best-case scenarios, it guarantees a long-term layoff and rehabilitation process.
Things have a funny way of working out though. Owner/breeder Jan Hawthorne and her husband, Jerry, made the best of a bad situation, and now their horse is working toward an appearance at the Pan American Games at the surprisingly young age of seven, with the next Summer Olympics in his crosshairs.
Like many owners, Janice and Jerry got interested in racing for the sport and thrill of competition, but it wasn't until they had horses of their own who came to the ends of their careers that they really thought about the aftercare aspect.
“We knew as owners we had committed to caring for our horses and their well-being beyond just the time they spent at the racetrack, so we started exploring options for our horses post-racing,” said Jan. “Neither of us ride, or ever want to ride. With the help of a conscientious trainer and breeder, we were very fortunate to find wonderful homes for several of our retired horses.”
As the couple got more deeply involved in racing with trainer Gary Mandella and owned more horses under their Double JH Stables, Inc. banner, they decided to take the plunge and purchase a small farm to use as a lay-up facility for their horses who needed time away from the track, and also for their retiring horses who needed either long-term rehabilitation or retirement.
“Our retirees loved it for about three months, and then they started getting bored,” Jan said. “We met some wonderful neighbors who are avid three-day eventers, and they introduced us to Hawley Bennett-Awad.”
Hawley's name might ring a bell to sport horse fans. She is a two-time Canadian Olympian and World Equestrian Game Silver Medalist in the sport of eventing. Hawley and the Hawthornes became fast friends, and developed a mutually beneficial relationship in retraining the Hawthornes' ex-racehorses for eventing.
Bodark is one of the fruits of this partnership.
“His first race, of course, he had no idea what was going on and finished mid-pack, but oh that second race – he had it all figured out and the way he won still gives me chills,” said Jan. “It was like watching a star being born! It broke our hearts when he bowed a tendon while training at Del Mar before he could run another race.”
Like many of their horses, “Bodie,” as they nicknamed him, was a homebred and as per the Hawthornes' protocol, they sent him to their farm for a year off. After time off and a clean bill of health from the vet, Bodie was sent to Hawley for training.
“After training with Hawley for only one year, Bodie has moved up from beginner novice all the way through the ranks to only one level below the sport's Olympic level, which according to everyone I've talked to, is an unheard of and monumental accomplishment.”
Hawley knows a good horse when she sees one. Bodie impressed her enough over the past year that she recently submitted the paperwork for him to represent Canada at the Pan American Games in 2015. If all goes well with Hawley and Bodark at the Pan Am Games, the next major goal for the pair will be the Olympics, and you can bet the Hawthornes will be there every step of the way cheering them on.
“Jan sits on the board for CARMA, and Bodark's story is so encouraging to all the folks out there re- training Thoroughbreds,” said California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) executive director Lucinda Mandella.
The Hawthornes' plan is to continue to cheer their horses on at the races for years to come, and when each horse comes to the end of its racing career, they'll go through the same process Bodie did, retiring to their farm for some rest and relaxation before venturing onto their next vocation.
As Jan's interest in her own racehorses' off-track lives has grown, so too has her interest in making sure other horses enjoy the same positive career transition when their racing days come to an end.
”Lucinda asked me to serve on the CARMA board at just the right time, as it was a fairly new organization and I had a little extra time on my hands, having just sold a company that had kept me very busy,” said Jan. “The mission to aid retired racehorses who weren't getting the care they needed after their racing careers were over was something I really wanted to get involved with. It's so gratifying to be part of CARMA and watch the vision and the program continue to develop and expand, and to see that the organization's focus and funds are always centered squarely on the welfare of horses.”
Name: Bodark (a.k.a. “Bodie”)
Born: March 10, 2007
Color: Dk b/br
Race Record: 2-1-0-0
If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.
Jen Roytz is former marketing and communications director for Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., and also handled the farm's Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011 and is in training as a hunter/jumper. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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