Check out CANTER California’s Online Auction

CANTER California Auction
Great items available on CANTER California’s online auction! And remember, proceeds from a $15 item can feed a horse for a month! Make a difference. Bid now!

CANTER California is excited to announce its third annual online auction to raise money to support its Thoroughbred racehorse aftercare program.

From October 25 – November 4th, CANTER’s online auction will have racing memorabilia, tack and gift items available for sale through Mission Fish on eBay.

View and bid on items here.

The funds raised from this auction will be used for veterinary care, feed and boarding expenses for off-track Thoroughbreds in the adoption program.

“This auction is a great example of how people can come together to support ex-racehorses. Every donation adds up and makes a difference for these horses. Even a $15 item covers grain for one horse for a month” said CANTER California Executive Director, Ali Dacher.

CANTER invites anyone who wants to participate in this auction to donate or collect items to be listed for sale. Participating is simple: anyone can list an item on eBay and donate by selecting CANTER California through EBay Giving Works. CANTER volunteers are also available to receive donated items and list them for sale by contacting us at Items available for auction include: halters worn by Blame, Paynter and Game On Dude, Ice Horse boots, Warriors tickets, tack, OTTB couture, handmade jewelry and more.

2013 Auction Donors So Far… (list is constantly growing!)

Victory Rose Thoroughbreds


Bid on Zenyatta’s halter . . . and benefit CANTER!

You can win Zenyatta's Halter
donated by Lane's End Farm and Mr. and Mrs. Moss and comes with certificate of authenticity .

Own a piece of history . . . find some great deals on tack . . . or win a private polo lesson with polo great Memo Gracida — all while helping retiring racehorses find second careers. The auction begins on May 16th at noon PST and ends on May 22nd at 8 p.m. PST.

I’m a huge supporter of CANTER. This is an all-volunteer organization that does a phenomenal job of helping racehorses find new careers. All the money that is donated to them goes directly to help the horses — no one at CANTER draws a salary.

As many of you know, Freedom was donated to CANTER New England by his owners as they thought the organization would be the best qualified to help him find a new home.

I know from experience that CANTER volunteers work tirelessly at the track and off it to help these horses.

Right now CANTER California is running a fundraising auction. Even if you don’t think you need something, please go and check it out. The horses will thank you!

CANTER Auction

Flying through flying changes

Sometimes when you start teaching flying changes it seems like your horse has four left feet. Illustration by Lesley Bruce (

Freedom is very, well, energetic right now. I took him out yesterday, hacked him over to the ring where the footing is good and I could let him move. Pretty soon I realized that the best thing to do with him was just let him canter. It would stretch his back and help get the kinks out.

When Freedom is feeling good he’s very bouncy. He has a powerful engine and he really steps underneath himself. I was cantering circles and broken lines to keep his interest. To change direction, we came across the diagonal. I had planned to take him around the short side of the ring in counter canter but as we approached the rail, he did a flying change. Okay, I thought. I brought him back across the diagonal and this time I asked. Bingo. He changed. I thought it was a fluke but I asked half a dozen times and he was nailing those changes.

I’ve never trained changes with him. He’s such a balanced horse that when I first got him my biggest challenge was convincing him that leads mattered. He could counter canter on the smallest circle! So mostly I focused on teaching him left from right. With Freedom I had to be very careful about when I asked for a canter depart. A horse needs to start to canter with his outside hind. That means that as a rider you can only influence that departure when the horse is lifting that leg off the ground. Freedom could care less about inside bend, so he simply responded to my leg with whichever hind leg was activated.

Either I’ve gotten better at asking or he’s gotten better at interpreting, but these days we usually end up on the lead I intended. How cool that he’s now figured out how to master flying changes too.

Kudos to the racetrack trainers who rehome their horses.

War Storm is a horse listed for sale on the CANTER New England site. I love his look.
War Storm is a horse listed for sale on the CANTER New England site. I love his look.

Back in November I wrote a post about an inspirational trainer at Suffolk Downs, Lorita Lindemann, known as the Angel of Suffolk Downs. One of the things that struck me was how hard Ms. Lindemann had to campaign with her fellow trainers to encourage them to rehome their horses.

As buyers, let’s not discourage these trainers from working with us, the general public. They may decide it’s easier not to try. In fact some trainers will only sell to dealers; others, sadly ship straight to slaughter.

On the CANTER New England Website there is an excellent page that talks about what NOT to do when you want to buy from a trainer at the track. I’m going paraphrase here, but it’s worth reading in its entirety:

  • Don’t call and make an appointment and then not show up. Anyone who has sold a horse has probably had this happen at least once and it’s incredibly annoying to have someone waste your time like that.
  • Don’t try to tell trainers what their horse is worth or ask them to give you a horse for free. The horses on the CANTER site are being sold because the trainer needs the stall or doesn’t want to feed a non-competitive horse. But that doesn’t mean it’s a giveaway.
  • Don’t ask trainers to ship the horse for free. Or ask if you can trade another horse, tack, hay or anything else for the horse. They don’t need stuff, they need cash for the horse.
  • If you buy a horse, offer to pay the trainer a day rate to feed and care for the horse until you can have it shipped.
  • Don’t ask if you can make payments or take the horse on trial. Be prepared to pay the full purchase price in cash, via wire transfer or with a cashier’s check.
  • If you make an offer, be reasonable. Don’t offer $500 for a horse listed at $2500. Even at the killer market TBs are bringing $650.
  • And finally, don’t assume that because you buy a retiring racehorse that it’s a “rescue”. Most of these horses have been well cared for and loved by their trainers. The effort to find them a new home is another example of how these trainers are committed to finding their horses new jobs.

If  an OTTB does capture your heart. Please do a pre-purchase exam before you finalize the sale. Vets are available at the track or you can bring a vet or an experienced friend or colleague with you to examine the horse. Getting an informed opinion up front can save a lot of heartbreak and hard feelings.

Race horses experience wear and tear that is different from horses of the same age in less strenuous disciplines. Many are sound, others have injuries that may or may not impact their long term use. Often horses coming off the track are body sore and do best if they are turned out to “let down” for several weeks or even months. Know what you’re getting into before you hand over the cash!

Oh yes, and you should know that many OTTBs exhibit some behaviors that don’t always fit into commercial boarding facilities such as cribbing or weaving. Much cribbing behavior can be controlled with a cribbing strap, but if you strongly object to owning a horse that cribs, make sure you are certain that the one you bring home does not! My OTTB cribs AND weaves. He does very well in a barn where he can live out 24/7 but probably wouldn’t thrive in an environment where he was confined to a stall.

Passing the Butterfly Baton

As I mentioned yesterday, when I received the Butterfly Award, part of my responsibility was to choose at least one new recipient.

I read several really cool horse blogs on a regular basis, but they’ve all received numerous awards. I decided to find at least one blog that deserved more recognition and which had not already been showered with accolades. I came up with three:

CANTER Mid-Atlantic’s Dixie Rumble

CANTER Mid-Atlantic’s LooknDowntheBarrel

CANTER Mid-Atlantic’s Calabria Rose

These blogs focus on the retraining of three retired racehorses owned by CANTER Mid Atlantic who are now in training in foster homes.

In an effort to chronicle the ups and downs of Thoroughbred Retraining, we have several people who have volunteered to write about their day-to-day experience with individual horses. This will provide a wonderful learning opportunity for the Thoroughbred-buying public, as well as being an amazing opportunity for our horses. You will read about the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. Our hope is to bring each horse from the racetrack to recognized competition.

Fostering an OTTB is a wonderful experience. If you have an empty stall in your barn and are near one of the CANTER affiliates, you should consider it seriously! Every horse that comes into a CANTER program is there because it needs that extra help to transition to a non-racing career. Some are purchased by CANTER because they are at risk; others were donated by caring owners or trainers. These three horses have landed in great situations because they will have the groundwork instilled in them that will make them far more attractive to the buyer/adopter who might not want a horse that only knows how to gallop and stop!

CANTER is an amazing organization, made even more so by the fact that it is run completely by volunteers. This means that all the money that is donated goes directly to help the horses. With so many rescue scams out there soliciting money, it is good to know that you can contribute to an organization that truly makes a difference and does it completely above board.

I’ve been following the retraining of Dixie Rumble with special interest. My first OTTB was a son of Dixieland Brass (Dixie Rumble’s grand sire) and I have a fondness for the line. My gelding had the absolute best temperament ever but was kept from being competitive (both as a race horse and a competition horse) by a stifle problem. Still, I was able to place him in a non-competition home where his personality was an asset and his stifle could hold up to the job.

Later, I fostered a TB for CANTER New England (of course I adopted him!) and would happily do so again. In the meantime, everyone should be aware of the efforts that CANTER undertakes to help retiring racehorses find their next job. These blogs do an excellent job of chronicling the retraining experience. These foster “moms” and their equine “children” are very cool indeed.

Have you been Checking out Your Local CANTER Websites?

I know how many of you are addicted to that “eye candy”! Even all of us who need another horse like a hole in the head check those sites with religious fervor.

If everyone who clicked on a CANTER site donated just $5 to their local organization, think how much it would benefit OTTBs all across the country! I read a very nice story just today about a TB owner who sold a horse advertised on a CANTER site for $2500. She asked the buyer to send her just $1 and send the remaining $2499 to the local CANTER chapter. What an awesome owner, first for rehoming her race horse and second for supporting CANTER.

Times are tight for equine rescues: cost for just about everything is up, so every dollar helps. Remember, CANTER is an all-volunteer organization, so every dollar you donate goes directly to help the horses. It’s easy to donate: For CANTER New England, click here.

Volunteer Opportunities for the Equine-Minded

Volunteering for a good cause makes you feel better while you’re doing good. For equestrians who want to give back to their sport, there are many opportunities and causes that can benefit from your time, your skill and your donations.

While most charities appreciate cash gifts of any size, not all of us have extra cash lying around to spare. But almost every good cause needs feet on the ground and an extra set of hands. It’s volunteers that keep these groups running.

Frequently I see pleas for help on bulletin boards asking people to donate money to save a particular horse from going to auction. While the causes are generally good, I personally think it’s better to get involved with the charities and rescues that are local. It’s very rewarding to experience first hand the results of your efforts or donations and I guarantee that there’s a rescue near you that could use your help.

About 10 years ago I had a strong urge to get back involved in a “hands on” capacity in a charitable organization and I knew I wanted it to be horse related. I began to volunteer for a therapeutic riding program called Lovelane which focuses on helping children with special needs meet their therapeutic goals. Programs like these frequently need volunteers who are experienced with handling horses. While the instructors are all certified, a volunteer who is comfortable leading a therapy horse or working as a side walker (beside the horse, often with a hand on the leg or back of the child), is a real asset. I was worried before I started helping with the program. Many of the children they help have serious — and sometimes terminal — conditions. I didn’t know how I would feel about it. I loved it. I loved the children and the joy and empowerment they got from riding was an amazingly uplifting experience. I learned so much from them about the therapeutic value of riding and I learned to be grateful for what I have. The instructors were amazing. I was a leader or side walker for about three years and would have continued if my family and business obligations were not so overwhelming. 

Here are some directories to help you find a therapeutic riding program in your area:

More recently, I have done some volunteer work for CANTER New England, which helps thoroughbreds that are ending their racing career find new jobs and new homes. CANTER is an all-volunteer organization; none of the staff are paid which means all the money raised goes to help the horses. My relationship with CANTER NE started when I had an empty stall in my barn. I had just sold a horse and wasn’t sure if I wanted another, but didn’t want to give up the stall. I decided that I would be a foster home for a CANTER owned horse. At the time, a friend of mine was looking for a new horse and we thought that this horse might work for her. Six months later, I adopted him myself! 

Since I am in public relations, I also thought I might be able to help CANTER raise awareness for their efforts. I worked with local television stations to cover the end of the season at Suffolk Downs, when many horses need homes, and arranged for a CANTER owned horse to be profiled on the NPR radio program, Only a Game. I send out press releases and announcements because I have access to online distribution services. I wish I had the time to go to the track and help the volunteers who give up so many of their days, but I do what I can.

Here is a partial list of Thoroughbred rescue organizations. Certainly, there are many more — and many more breeds, and just plain horses, that need rescue, too. 

Usually I try to help out at least one of our local horse shows or events. It may be as simple as helping to set jumps, but I know that there are so many jobs at a show that they can always use an extra set of hands.

More recently, I had a friend who needed to find a home for her pony. It’s tough to give away a horse or pony in today’s economy. Especially a pony that’s 20 years old and just recovering from a founder episode. All the local rescues were full to the brim and in need of help, supplies and money. During this process, I “re-homed” many items that have been sitting around in my tack room (some for years). It’s great to know that bits, bridles, halters and blankets that don’t fit any horses that I still own will get used. Eventually, the pony found a great home at a riding school as a school pony.

I guess the point is that there are a lot of organizations — and people — that need help. Many of them are in your backyard. If you have the time and can lend your hands, your skills or the unused content in your tack box, your efforts will surely be appreciated. And it will make you feel good, too.

A Big Thumbs Up for Suffolk Downs on Anti-Slaughter Policy

On June 27th, Suffolk Downs announced a zero-tolerance policy against selling horses for slaughter by holding trainers responsible for their horses. Trainers who are found to have shipped horses to slaughter will have their stalls revoked and will be denied stall space in the future.

Suffolk Downs
Racing at Suffolk Downs

The track management should be commended for taking this stand and for providing leadership in the movement to end the practice of selling horses to kill buyers right from the track.

An article that details the policy appeared in the Thoroughbred Times.

The plight of retiring racehorses has received a lot of attention thanks to organizations such as CANTER New England and the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund. Their efforts have helped trainers and owners connect with buyers who want to give their horses a second career and — hopefully — a forever home.

Every year racehorses who are no longer competitive “fall through the cracks” and many end up at auctions where they are sold for slaughter, even when their previous owners/trainers had been willing to retire them. In a well-publicized case earlier this year, a horse named “Little Cliff“, a stakes horse that won $202,762 in 27 starts, was found in the direct-to-killer pen at the New Holland (Penn.) auction by Christy Sheidy, co-founder of Another Chance 4 Horses rescue (Bernville, Penn.)

Little Cliff was originally purchased by Robert LaPenta for $250,000 and trained by Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Known for taking care of his horses after their retirement, Zito had a sticker placed on Little Cliff’s Jockey Club papers, that read “If this horse needs a home when he retires, please call.”. Unfortunately, the trainer who consigned him to the kill buyer didn’t even pick up the phone to try to find the horse a better home.

Little Cliff is one of the lucky ones. After his rescue, LaPenta and Zito arranged for him to be shipped to Kentucky where they have provided for his retirement. The hope is that policies such as the one instituted by Suffolk Downs will help other horses from going down the same road, as many of them fall through the safety net.