A foal, born on April 12 in the year 2000, at a very fancy Thoroughbred breeding farm, was probably expected to achieve fame in his lifetime. And with ancestors like War Admiral, Nearctic, Northern Dancer and the top producing stud, Mr. Prospector, just to name a few, I imagine that his early life was one that was befitting of a prince. I also think it's safe to assume that his handlers were hoping that he would be a "contender". And, with impeccable care and careful training, this Breeder's Cup Nominee should have been destined for greatness! However,at some point, after he began to race, his career was mis-managed and as a result, when he failed to produce what was expected, he was sold or claimed. This change in ownership was the beginning of further mis-management as his owners, in succession, failed to see what type of "runner" he was, he was a distance runner rather than a sprinter. However, they continued to race and with a win, places and shows he prevailed, only to eventually find himself being campaigned way beyond what would be considered reasonable for any horse. Sadly, he never lost those kind, soulful eyes or that calm and affectionate manner. Like so many Thoroughbreds, he gave his heart and soul and unfortunately, his final days as a race horse were spent running at what is considered to be a bottom-of-the-line track - the fairgrounds!
As we flash forward, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful folks at Canter USA - New England because had it not been for them, he would have most assuredly met his fate at auction. In the Fall of 2005, Canter - New England planned a massive adoption day at the Northampton, Massachusetts Fairground and when a kind volunteer saw the way this boy allowed a little child to pet him by lowering that handsome head with those kind eyes, he was immediately loaded onto a trailer that would transport him to a beautiful and serene farm in Vermont. And, it was there that he began the much needed time he needed to adjust to "life after the track".
The next photo shows the level of neglect that this guy suffered at the end of his "personal finish line". He is shown here as he spends his first day adjusting to farm life, he was "skin and bones" and unsure what being in a pasture was all about.
Fortunately, under the watchful and loving hand of Canter Volunteer, Fran Recchi, the person that chose to bring this guy home from the fairground race track, he began to blossom. And what you see next is the outcome of several months of allowing this boy to be a horse, to be loved and cared for, to be doted on and most importantly, to never again be pushed beyond his limits or know what it's like to ever again be hungry.
Soon, this boy was ready to go to his forever home and as timing would have it, I recently decided to return to horse ownership after a 17 1/2 year break. It was during that time period when I began to Volunteer for Canter USA - New England and being that I was now older, I didn't want to start a TB right off the track as I had done way back in my younger years. The President of Canter New England, Ellen O'Brien, got wind of the fact that I was looking for an OTTB but one that had his share of "let down" time and some re-training and she quickly thought that Classalwayshows and I might make a great team. She immediately emailed photos and I felt like I was experiencing the true meaning of serendipity, a desirable discovery quite by accident. I immediately went to meet him and as the cliche' goes, it was truly "love at first sight"! And, very soon thereafter, in early Fall 2006, he began the journey to his forever home, here with me in Massachusetts! I had found my equine partner, I knew it immediately and from that day forth this boy, named "Valentino or Valie" for short, has never once disappointed me. He is gentle, kind and patient, he is full of life but is careful with me and almost seems to know that I have a disabled hand, several accidents left me with little-to-no strength in my left hand, my mounting hand, and as many times as I struggle to mount, he patiently waits until I am settled into the saddle and ready to move on and almost as if he knows that this re-rider needed a horse that she could trust. His rendition of a "spook" is turning toward the offending noise or startling object, checking it out and then quietly going back to the business at hand. Am I lucky, "You bet I am", does Class Always Show, "You bet it does", will this boy be with me for the rest of his life, "You bet he will". ....he follows me like a puppy dog and I oblige him in kind, he is my one true equine love and I will go to the ends of the earth to make certain that he always has the best life I can give him.
A great story and a BEAUTIFUL horse! The two of you are a lucky couple!! :) swedishkat