Historic Mereworth Farm Preserved As Equine Sanctuary

by | 04.14.2015 | 1:27pm

Mereworth Farm, a 1,200-acre tract of Bluegrass used for generations as a nursery for over 170 stakes-winning Thoroughbreds, is continuing to make history as a sanctuary for unwanted equines and retired racehorses.

Officially christened in 1924 by Walter J. Salmon Sr., Mereworth Farm became one of the most famous names in the American Thoroughbred industry for two generations under the leadership of Mr. Salmon and his son, Walter J. Salmon, Jr.  Salmon Sr. won the Preakness Stakes three times in the 1920s, with Vigil (1923), Display (1926) and Mr. Freeland (1929), the latter two having been bred by Mereworth Farm.

Some of the most notable Mereworth-breds include U.S. Racing Hall of Famers Battleship and Discovery.

The impact of Mereworth Farm on today's Thoroughbred industry is still being felt; Discovery has left a lasting legacy through his daughters, who produced Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed o'Roses. Without him, there would be no Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, Alydar, Mr. Prospector, Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid.

Mr. Salmon's granddaughter, Susan Salmon Donaldson, acquired Mereworth Farm in 1986 upon her father's death.  Almost immediately thereafter, in 1989, she established the Susan S. Donaldson Foundation to preserve Mereworth after her death as a home for unwanted animals into perpetuity. In explanation of this decision, Donaldson told The Blood-Horse “I've always loved animals. … We need things like this for old racehorses. And I would hate to see Mereworth developed.”

Donaldson passed in 2011, and her Foundation's trustees and farm manager Jimmy Boyd have worked tirelessly with Mereworth staff to restore the farm to its original glory, installing new fence lines, seeding pastures, rehabilitating barns and clearing brush.  With 140 horses on the property, 131 of which are Thoroughbreds, Mereworth is fulfilling Donaldson's mission of providing a safe haven for horses in need.

Elizabeth Hughes, the Lexington-based president of Donaldson's Foundation, says “I was fortunate to know Susan for 20 years.  She loved animals, and particularly horses, with her heart and soul.  She knew she was blessed to have the resources to create something truly unique and desperately needed.  We intend to honor Susan's legacy–and that of her father and grandfather–by creating a world-class equine sanctuary, a place where unwanted horses that cannot be rehabilitated or retrained can spend their golden years.”

To further expand the Foundation's mission, Mereworth Farm has partnered with New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program to house some of the program's ex-racehorses in need of rehabilitation from injuries sustained while racing or training to race. An expansion of this relationship, which will include a retraining facility, will be announced later this month.

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