On December 13, 2003 Stalwart Member burst out of the starting gate at Aqueduct Racetrack in his 64th start. He stalked the leaders, and as he neared the top of the stretch fist-pumping railbirds and fans roared for his victory. They knew it would be the last chance to cheer on their beloved NY-Bred. Stalwart pricked his ears and eyed the finish line as he set down for the drive. He dug in and charged hard, but he couldn’t catch the victor who was six years his junior.
Prior to the race, his owner Sandy Goldfarb decided it was time to send his ten-year-old chestnut warrior on to greener pastures. Stalwart Member survived the Queens oval for eight years. Its curves and contours agreed with him. In his debut as a 2-year-old over the course he bested a field of 11 to win by seven lengths on December 21, 1995. Though he just missed bookending his career with a 19th win, his second-place finish tallied his career earnings to $783,807.
The NY Racing Community so adored Stalwart Member that his retirement headlined in the New York Post. The storybook ending of Stalwart Member’s eight-year race career meant that the feisty racehorse needed a new place to call home which led to Sandy Goldfarb funding the creation of Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation.
Stalwart hung on to his gritty, ears-pinned, food-obsessed racehorse mode for several months. He took to riding well, but his ground manners and stall etiquette required extra tutoring. His initial adoption was covered by News Channel 9. He changed hands and returned to Unbridled a few times before landing his forever person Erin Looman. Erin adored her “Stally” as a beloved member of the Looman clan. She honored his life with her kindness for five years until his last earthly breath at the age of 17.
Unbridled was a forerunner in recognizing the crucial need for organized Thoroughbred Aftercare.
In the early years, Unbridled focused on the specific needs of racehorses leaving the racetrack; a transition period that is critical to securing a good home. This window of time requires patience, expertise and sensitivity to the mental health and physical needs of the Horse. Some Horses will acclimate in as short as six weeks, but most need six months before they are ready to enter the next chapter in their journey. Back then, as in all that we do now – our Horses set the timetable.
The fortune and fate of Stalwart Member is a rarity. He retired sound. His owner funded his aftercare. He had a real safety net in Unbridled. As Unbridled showcased the myriad talents of retiring racehorses, a groundswell of Aftercare Organizations emerged. Absent a home post-racing this void leaves Thoroughbreds at high risk of slaughter.
Most people have no idea that the glorious racehorses who grace American Race Courses, or those who glean and frolic amid 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 and trusting Thoroughbreds just like Stalwart Member are annually shuffled into livestock trailers and shipped to Canada and Mexico, where they will be violently forced to die in a slaughter plant.
We use our voice as an organization to bring awareness to this devastating fact. Through direct rescue, advocacy, education, funding, legislation, and hands-on engagement Unbridled networks to help Thoroughbreds who are without any say in their own fate.
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 the moral compass toward consideration of who horses are as sentient beings. Some of the gentlest horses we know have endured unspeakable suffering, yet they are willing trust. To reconnect. We have witnessed those who have been hurt the most, find a way to be curious and soft, and come forth to nuzzle and comfort us – because that is who horses are, and that is why we believe that the true worth of Thoroughbreds far surpasses any amount of money the can earn.
Copyright © 2018 SUSAN KAYNE. All rights reserved.