On December 13, 2003, Stalwart Member powered out of the starting gate at Aqueduct into his 64th race. He stalked the leaders up the backside, and as he neared the top of the stretch, the cheers ticket-holding railbirds and raised fists of fans synced to his stride, urging him to victory. They knew it would be their last chance to cheer on their beloved hometown hero. Stalwart pricked his ears towards the finish line, bore down and shifted gears to take aim at the leader. Though he charged hard, he could not catch the victor, who was six years his junior.
Prior to the race, Stalwart's owner, Sandy Goldfarb, had decided that it was time to send his ten-year-old chestnut warrior on to greener pastures. Simply surviving the Queens oval for eight years was a miraculous feat. He was well-matched to its curves and contours from the start of his career to the very end. In his debut as a 2-year-old, he bested a field of eleven to win by seven lengths on December 21, 1995. Although he had missed bookending his career with a win, his second-place finish tallied his career earnings to $783,807.
The New York Racing Community so adored Stalwart Member that the New York Post headlined his retirement. After the storybook ending of his long career in racing, Stalwart needed a new place to live--someplace to begin the second chapter of his life. Sandy reached out to Susan Kayne. He knew that she had the expertise, patience, and insight to guide Stalwart’s transition off the track. He hoped Stalwart could achieve a freedom like he hadn’t known since romping the fields of Keane Stud as a yearling.
Susan shared her vision with Sandy to develop an organization focused on the specific needs of racehorses leaving the racetrack--a transition period that is critical to securing a good home. Sandy believed in her dream, and generously funded the creation of the Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation. Stalwart was welcomed as the first horse.
Stalwart hung on to his gritty, ears-pinned, food-obsessed racetrack habits for several months. He took to riding well, but his ground manners and stall etiquette required extra tutoring. It took time for him to relax into his new life, slowly shedding the tough attitude that had once been useful. His initial adoption was covered by the Capital Region's News Channel 9. After his off-the-track transition period, he alternated between stays with prospective adopters and at Unbridled a few times before landing his forever person, Erin Looman. Erin adored her “Stally” as a beloved member of the Looman clan. She filled his life with her kindness for five years, until Stalwart passed away at the age of 17.
The fortune and fate of Stalwart Member was--and still is---a rarity. He retired sound. His owner funded his aftercare. He found a safety net organization with a lifetime return policy in Unbridled.
After Stalwart Member, many more retiring racehorses came through Unbridled to prepare for the next chapter in their journey. Some horses leaned in to their new life in as short as six weeks, but most needed six months—we listened to the horses and honored their timetable. We shared stories of our work to showcase the myriad talents of and possibilities for off-the-track Thoroughbreds, and the crucial need for organized aftercare. In the years following our launch, a groundswell of aftercare organizations emerged to meet the needs of retiring horses. Unbridled began to consider what could be done about the pressing issue of equine slaughter.
Most people have no idea that the inspiring Thoroughbreds who grace American racetracks and roam in the bucolic green meadows of breeding farms have a one-in-two chance of being slaughtered before reaching a quarter of their 30+ year natural lifespan. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 purposefully-bred, named, trained, and wholly domesticated Thoroughbreds, just like Stalwart Member, are shuffled every year into livestock trailers and shipped to Canada and Mexico, where they will meet violent deaths at a slaughter plant. The horses we breed and raise as our own certainly deserve better than that.
We use our voice as an organization to bring awareness to both the devastating realities of Thoroughbred slaughter and the incredibly positive opportunities for engagement with Thoroughbreds of all ages. Through direct rescue, advocacy, education, funding, legislation, and hands-on commitment, Unbridled networks to help Thoroughbreds, who are without any say in their own fate, find forever homes.
For redeemed horses in our direct care, we provide the time and the space they need to reclaim their health, dignity, and grace. It is our goal to support each horse in achieving the fullest expression of his or her life. Some recover and move on with adoptive partners, some stay a little closer in foster care, and some never leave.
For those who join a new family through adoption or foster placement, they may ride English or Western, compete for prizes or be a stay-at-home companion. No matter how their future unfolds, Unbridled is their safety net. Our sanctuary herd excels as friends, healers, teachers, and recipients of abundant affection.
In all that we do, we are on a mission to shift society's moral compass towards the consideration of horses as sentient beings. Some of the gentlest horses we know have endured unspeakable suffering, yet they are still willing to trust. To reconnect. Horses who have been hurt by humans can still find a way to be curious and soft towards us–because they recognize our consciousness. It is time that we recognize theirs, and that is why we believe that the true worth of Thoroughbreds far surpasses any amount of money they can earn.
Copyright © 2018 SUSAN KAYNE. All rights reserved.