Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: Zenyatta in the Classroom

by | 04.22.2011 | 10:19am

If they had their choice, students in a fifth-grade class in East Liverpool, Ohio, would almost certainly choose the Bluegrass region of Kentucky for their next field trip. That's where their hero, their role model, calls home.

Her name is Zenyatta, and students in Shari Voltz's home room, social studies, and PRIDE classes know all about Jerry and Ann Moss's Thoroughbred champion now residing at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky. They've cheered her victories, suffered through her lone defeat, felt sorrow when she lost her pregnancy, even celebrated her recent birthday.

East Liverpool isn't a hotbed of horse racing, though it's just across the Ohio River from Chester, W. Va., and the old Waterford Park, now known as the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.

Waterford Park is where Voltz , a native of nearby Steubenville, Ohio, was first introduced to horse racing by her father. She's been teaching in East Liverpool for 21 years, and she remembers being a young girl smitten by a big red horse named Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner.

When the “Secretariat” movie came out on DVD earlier this year, Voltz showed it to her class, and told them about Zenyatta, a modern-day racing hero ridden by her favorite jockey, Mike Smith.

“I had pictures in my classroom of Secretariat and Zenyatta, and we had a ‘Secretariat party' when the movie came out,” she said. “ There is something about Zenyatta that just captures you.

“Some of the kids knew about the Breeders' Cup, they knew Zenyatta lost, and we talked about it,” she said. “That's how it all started.”

Voltz, who taught special education classes for many years, saw the opportunity to use Zenyatta as a teaching tool. She began reading from the Zenyatta website managed by Dottie Ingordo, the wife of trainer John Shirreffs and racing manager for the Mosses, and kids learned of the important role horses of all breeds have played throughout history.

“Some of them wanted to know how Zenyatta was able to talk,” she said. “They wanted Zenyatta to visit the school.”

That didn't work out, so instead they sent cards and letters to Zenyatta at Lane's End. “She became a role model for them,” Voltz said. “One boy wrote, ‘I'll never give up, because in your last race, even though you lost, you never stopped trying.'”

Meanwhile, the engagement the kids had with Zenyatta increased their classroom attention.

“As a result of their interest in Zenyatta,” Voltz said, “they've learned about Paul Revere's horse, Brown Beauty, and they know the names of George Washington's three horses. We've researched some of the famous horses throughout history, looked at the different kinds of breeds and compared body types between Thoroughbreds and something like an Andalusian. The kids have learned about gestation in horses.  We even did a chapter on economics, and the kids were building make-believe businesses. Some of them decided to build horse farms and breeding operations.”

One day, Voltz was stunned when a package arrived from Lane's End. It was a large box filled with individually wrapped presents for every one of her students. Each package had the student's name and was signed “Love, Z.” Inside was a Zenyatta Breyer model horse.

Sarah Campion, working with Ann Moss and Dottie Ingordo, had contacted Voltz after Lane's End received all the letters and cards from the East Liverpool kids. “I thought we might get a postcard or something, but what they did was very cool. I told the kids to save everything: the ribbon, the box, everything. And then Ann Moss called me one day. She was so down to earth. She thanked me for being a school teacher.”

Voltz plans to have a Derby party in her classroom next month. “We are going to cheer for Uncle Mo,” she said.

Has the school's administration or any of the parents objected to Voltz bringing horse racing into the classroom?

“Not at all,” she said. “The school has been great, and there's been no complaints from parents. One of them even said to me, ‘I'd rather have my child involved with Zenyatta than with Lindsay Lohan.'

“I'm not trying to turn them into gamblers,” Voltz said. “It's about the love of the horse.”


Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be sent to the East Liverpool Middle School. Three Chimneys will be donating that amount each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.

Another $100 is being donated to these organizations each week by a Paulick Report reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who encourages all of our readers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for this good cause.

  • John McEvoy

    A wonderful, heartening story. Bless them all.

  • caroline

    Very nice, and important – especially the education about the role that horses have played in US history. Kudos to Zenyatta’s connections too on the Breyer models.

    So does the teacher believe that gambling and loving horses are mutually inconsistent?

  • Jan Hortyk

    I was a teacher for 21 years, but I am now subbing due to caring for my friend, Stacy Burton who is a permanently disabled jockey. This story is such a heart-warming statement to me. Stacy had been a teacher for 14 years teaching honors economics & world history. She loved, and still loves horses so much.
    I totally agree with what the teacher is doing in this endeavor. We all need things to cheer for in this world, and if teaching children to continue on even after they have failed doesn’t do something, I will be surprised. Horses are great teachers of persistence, giving your all and loving what you do. I hope Ms. Voltz has a classroom full of excited kids ready to learn!!

  • nicehorsey

    Wonderful. Feel good. Generous of the Zenyatta team, Three Chimmeys and Lanes End

  • Tiznowbaby

    What a great story.

  • Vicky Burnham

    Ok,this whole thing made me cry! What an awesome teacher (on so many levels)! Thank you to Lanes’s End and Team Z for helping this teacher secure a new generation of racing fans and teach them valuable life lessons.

  • I would like to thank Ms Voltz and Ray Paulick for their time in teaching our students at East Liverpool such a wonderful and How amazing Horse racing is. I loved the movie Secretariat and seeing my daughter Erin Taylor light up when she comes home from school telling me all her stories about Zenyatta. My daughter loves her teacher and her school. Thank you Missy Taylor


  • Ray Paulick

    Hey, Jan….

    It is great to hear from you again. Brad Cummings and I had such a great visit with you and Stacy at Turf Paradise. It truly was a highlight of our Breeders’ Cup or Bust Charity drive to California in ’09. Both of you are amazing and inspirational.

    One reason I love writing Good News Friday features (thanks to Rob Whiteley at Liberation Farm and Case Clay and Co. at Three Chimneys for their support of the concept) is to get that inspiration from people doing great things. It’s like free therapy.

    This week I learned that school teachers rock.

    Please give Stacy our best!

  • Kim

    I grew up in the Ohio Valley, so this story literally hits home for me. I was reading sections of it to my mom, and I started crying. Kudos to Team Zenyatta for responding to these young fans in this manner, and thanks to you, Ray, for sharing that story!

  • Just one more example of the far-reaching effects Zenyatta has. She was the best thing to happen to racing in a long time. The current state of racing made my battles with depression worse. Zenyatta was better for me than any medication. What I’d like to know is when/how can we visit her? I’d love to see her in person so I can finally finish a painting of her.

  • Priscilla

    Yesterday a little girl came with her parents to adopt a horse from Tranquility Farm. The girl, about 10 years old, was in a corral with one of the horses they were considering. and when the horse lowered her head behind her back and suprised her. she turned abuptly, bumped into the curious horse and blurted out, “Excuse me!” It was a priceless moment, and all of us, parents, myself and the child, discussed how important it was to treat horses as responsive beings who are worthy of our courtesy and respect. In a world which constantly asks “what can this horse do for me today?”, this was a special moment. These kids who “get it” are the horse’s ticket to a future where they can regain their rightful place as family members and working partners instead of poker chips. I can only hope more teachers will follow Ms. Voltz’s example.

  • This is such a wonderful story. I love it! :)

  • J Smith

    Mr. Paulick, thank you for a wonderful story. I will have to check in every Friday, sure could use the good news. This story restores faith that there are good people out there. Very happy for the class, teacher, school. Oh, and the parents, who doesn’t want their child excited about school.

  • susieQ

    Amazing how this magnificient mare continues to inspire people even in “retirement”. Kudos to the whole Z Team who understand how important is is for people to be able to connect with a horse and understand the lessons we can learn from them. As Pricilla Clark has penned…Zenyatta was (is) transformative. Indeed!

  • Virg and Mallory

    Awesome story Shari!! =D You are not only a good teacher but a great friend!

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