Connie Black has been a club member at Wasabi Ventures Stables since July 2018. She also was the very first club member to become a monthly donor to The Horse Fund. I recently interviewed Connie to learn more about her passion for horses.

What is your relationship with thoroughbreds?

My first real connection with thoroughbred was winning a tiny piece of Willie The Whale with Wasabi. We have always owned quarter horses and began racing them in 2014. In addition to some of the Wasabi race horses and broodmares, I now own my own TB broodmare, who has given me two beautiful fillies, born on the same date a year apart.

How long have you been involved?

I’ve personally been involved with horses, in general, since meeting my husband in 1972. He grew up showing western pleasure horses in 4H, boarded others’ horses, then started barrel racing after we got married. Yes, he even got me to barrel race a few times. I think my life passed before my eyes every time I did it!

When did you first learn about thoroughbred aftercare?

I had heard about TB aftercare through trade magazines and social media before ever owning one. Even though I know very little about the RRP (Retired Racehorse Project), I’ve seen a few people working with horses aimed toward that when we visited our trainer, who used to take our quarter horses to Florida in the off-season from our racing in Indiana. They stayed at a training center next to the Florida Horse Park. The proximity to that drew lots of TB folks to stay at the same training center. It was fun to watch them work their horses in events I’d never seen before.

Do you have other involvements with thoroughbred aftercare?

I don’t directly have any involvement in aftercare, other than always trying to help any of our trainer friends try to find new owners/homes for horses they’ve worked with that just aren’t suited for track life.

What made you decide to become a monthly donor?

I’ve always been one to try to help when it comes to animal causes. My Amazon Prime Smile rewards go to a local animal rescue, His Hands Extended. I’ve been a supporter of The Barn Santuary ever since I first saw the TV show. Being able to have a monthly donation automatically made to The Horse Fund is so very easy. It’s become a permanent part of my monthly horse budget. I even gave up my mani-pedis so I could get another horse! I decided it was a better use of my “fun” money. My nails are always a mess after I come in from the barn anyway! 😄

What do you think people need to know about aftercare?

I think many people may not be aware of all the possibilities that exist for horses leaving the race life. Maybe they’ll go to eventing of some kind, a few may make it to the barrel pen, some may be able to transition to a therapy horse, be used for trail riding, become a broodmare, or my favorite, just be a pasture pet.

What else can The Horse Fund do for the horse racing community and/or thoroughbreds?

I’m thrilled The Horse Fund has been able to step in and assist a few horses start their race retirement years when others would have kept pushing them in a career unsuited to them. Setting a good example of what’s right to do for the horse and being a good steward of the funds collected are great ways to show the industry the best way to help horses post-racing. Maybe at some point The Horse Fund can extend far beyond the membership of Wasabi.

Is there anything else you want to share?

It’s been very educational to be part of the Wasabi family. I’m really grateful for all the information shared and so happy knowing I get to be a small part of helping make a better life possible for some horses through The Horse Fund.

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
~Winston Churchill

“Horses do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
~EquestrianCo.com

Many thanks to Connie Black not only for taking the time to answer these questions but also for continuing to be a valued part of our community.

In early August 2022, Wasabi Ventures Stables and Franklin Ave. Equine decided it was time to retire Blue Oyster with Jason and Cristin. She began retirement with two months of stall rest. Thankfully, she healed well and was able to move to a small paddock at the end of September.

Farm life for Blue

I reached out to Jason, who shared the latest on Blue Oyster:

She is doing wonderful.  She has moved out to a large paddock with friends and is enjoying farm life!  You can definitely see it in her face that she knows this is home now and just loves everyone.  She remains so gentle despite her size and loves any treat you are willing to share.  We get a sense from her movement in the paddocks that she should excel in dressage. Blue will begin training at the end of March.

To see more photos of Blue, be sure to follow us on Facebook and check out her album.

To read updates on other WVS horses we follow, click here.

When we assist in the retirement of Wasabi Ventures Stables horses, we place them in good homes with different opportunities. Broodmares, polo ponies, and more are the next careers for these horses. Some may have owners who want a challenge, such as the Retired Racehorse Project’s (RRP)Thoroughbred Makeover.

This year two of our retirees have owners/trainers, who have applied and been accepted into this year’s makeover.

This year’s entrants

first ride

Grace adopted Play (JC Shecanflatoutplay) in August 2022. Retired with an injury, her road to the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover has been slow and steady. Starting with stall rest, working her way up to walking, and eventually riding, Play has been a terrific student.

Katie adopted Gilly (JC Mob Mentality) in October 2022. Leaving the track sound, she had fewer obstacles to overcome. After some downtime while she acclimated to off-track life, Gilly has been training with Katie, as she learns new skills.

The road to the RRP

After applying in January, Grace and Katie received their acceptance emails on February 15th from The RRP. Now the work can begin in earnest, as they determine in which discipline each horse will compete.

We look forward to more updates on Play and Gilly, as they make their way to the Thoroughbred Makeover!

Beauty or “B” (JC Wave Jumper) is “the apple of my eye” and vice versa. We have gone through all kinds of transitions since 11/5/2021 (the day we met).

Injury and recovery

Over last summer, we were just getting going, and she suddenly went lame. Vet x-rays determined a popped splint. That came with an 8-week recovery and no limitations after. So, we did just that: icing and love with much time off with TLC and continuous support. She recovered well.

We slowly came back to work with lots of walk, halt transitions; mostly done bareback. Any chance to work on ground manners is still a win for us. Not because she’s bad, but because we connect over and over, which transfers into new experiences. When she fully recovered, we began more walk, trot. Walk, trot, canter. She has remained safe, willing, and over all wonderful in temperament.

Walk, trot, canter, then. . .

I didn’t document much over the winter but focused on our bonding. As for progress, there was wasn’t much to report. We continued to work on leg response, forwardness, and our journey to taking the bit for collection. My friend and trainer found an excellent neighboring property to practice going off property. We rode with some calm horses who set the vibe. Beauty had lots of opinions but seemed to be having fun and gave me a safe ride from start to finish. We are looking forward to more rides like that as it gets warmer.

To read Beauty’s last update, please click here.

Many thanks to Beauty’s owner and best friend, Samantha, for providing this update!

Here’s the newest update on Play (JC Shecanflatoutplay), as she makes her journey from racehorse to second career, courtesy of her owner and best friend, Grace.

First ride

Play and I had our first ride together on December 29th! I had planned to wait until January 1, however the weather was so perfect I just couldn’t wait another day. We started by lunging her a little in the round pen and then got on her and walked her around in the round pen for about ten minutes. I was so happy with how she handled herself on our first ride. It seemed like she was really happy to finally be doing something other than eating!

Since our first ride, I have ridden her about five time a week, every week. She continues to impress me with her levelheadedness and love of having a job. I am just walking her daily under saddle for 30 days, and in February I will start trotting her under saddle. I have trotted her a few times just to see how she is, and she is everything I knew she would be off the track. Just perfect!

A happy, snack-fueled horse

I am beyond proud of how she is handling everything, especially since we just walk every ride. She doesn’t seem to be bored or get excited, she truly seems happy to be out riding. We have started to walk through a dressage test, so we have something to work on while we walk, which is great for both of us to work on. Play really impresses me daily, she wants to listen and do what I am asking of her, so I can’t wait to see where we are in a few months!

She has also started to love eating Twizzlers in addition to her favorite Pop Tarts. I am loving this time we have riding together and am blessed to have my perfect Play in my life!

To read previous updates on Play, please click here.

Dill (JC Vineyard Harbour) has been living with his BFF, Samyi, for four years. In that time there have been many ups and downs in his journey as an off-track thoroughbred, but these experiences have only strengthened the bond between the two of them.

Samyi shared the following update with us:

Dill is doing amazing and (not jinxing us or anything) Dill officially has his T.I.P number. He is ready to make his official come back this spring. We are currently working on loping the barrel pattern and running many drills. He has mastered the “roll back” in our training.

His barn has a training track, so he loves the days he gets to go condition the most, unless it’s grooming and bath day. He would much prefer that day over others.

We are so excited to be healed, vet cleared, and happy to be making our way to a late start, but our true start. A few years late! But we got here and have formed a bond of trust unbreakable along the way.

We are truly grateful that Dill has such an amazing partner and horseperson in Samyi. This bond is one that really cannot be broken.

To read previous updates on Dill, please click here.

The first full year of operations for The Horse Fund was highly successful on multiple levels. Not only did we facilitate safe and secure retirements for a number of thoroughbreds, we also shared updates on many retirees, as well as surpassed our fundraising goals. Let’s take a moment and look at each of those categories in review.

Retirements

In 2022, we assisted in the retirement of 14 Wasabi Ventures Stables (WVS) horses. Nine of these retirements were initiated by Wasabi. Of those nine, we made charitable donations to five aftercare organizations, with whom the horses were placed. The other four retirements incurred no fees.

In July we made our first private purchase of a former WVS horse, which we then retired. This purchase was followed by four more purchases through the end of the year, making a grand total of five purchases.

Updates

We published 45 articles on our website last year. Of those articles, we had 33 updates on retirements, private purchases, and retirees. We also posted 5 interviews with aftercare organizations. The remainder of our articles were promotional items for The Horse Fund, including upcoming events and other interesting tidbits.

Fundraising

The best way to describe our fundraising in 2022 is amazing! Although our auctions and Shamrock Kid Day celebrations raised slightly less than anticipated, our 12 Days of Giving campaign raised three times the anticipated amount. What played a huge role in this achievement was the generosity of three matching donors with amounts of $3,000, $2,000, and $1,500, as well another donor who gave $100 for each of the 12 days. All three goals were met and exceeded, for a grand total of $13,163.57 raised. This generosity will assist us in continuing to privately purchase former WVS horses who are ready to be retired.

In Review

Last year truly was a success on all levels. In 2023 as we continue to track these horses, both before and after retirement, we hope to make a greater impact in the world of thoroughbred aftercare. We want not only to educate others on the importance of aftercare but also to inspire other horse ownership groups to take a more proactive stance.

To take a peek at the fourteen retirees of 2022, please click here.

Here’s the latest update on Alli, FKA Allied Invasion, from his owner, Claire.

I read an OTTB post a few weeks ago that really captured what Allī has taught me. “Your horse doesn’t wear a watch. So, he’s in no hurry.” Allī has taught me the patience of a walk warm-up. He definitely has an opinion about walking easily for 10 minutes, on a loose rein and a gentle supporting leg before he’s ready to “get to work.” I’ve learned to just let him walk without any pressure first. I might halt softly and then ask for an upward transition a few times during the warm-up. I get much further in my ride if I allow for the lighter touch, rather than demanding he move off my leg immediately. Otherwise, he just resists. (This is new for me because my other OTTB preferred you be strong in the beginning to help him warm up.)

Trust the process

I’ve also learned that he will make great progress and then have a week where he goes backwards. This has also taught me to trust his process, back down a step or two, and let him build his confidence again. Once I accepted this is how he learns, these backward slides are fewer and we move forward again in no time. He is also a horse I have learned to be persistent when he isn’t listening. If I am patient and keep asking, he will acquiesce. If I give in to him, I will be having the same argument with him for a week.

Cold weather interruption

We’ve had some bitterly cold weather here in New Jersey this past week. So, I elected to work on ground work, rather than riding. Expectedly, my first ride back in a week, he was definitely up, but he did well once he allowed himself to relax and move forward. Allī LOVES trot pole configurations. I try to have a different configuration every day. It keeps him fresh, and it’s a great way to engage his mind while we are working in the indoor. Allī also loves lateral work. He has a mean turn on the haunches.

Diet changes

I’ve also treated him for ulcers once more. He was exhibiting signs around Thanksgiving. Upon the vet’s recommendation, I also added Purina Outlast to his diet. It made an immediate difference in both his weight and demeanor. He’s not as mouthy on the ground. It also made his coat gleam even more. I am grateful to Allī every day. He is such a personality, and I am enjoying the partnership.

Many thanks to Claire for this terrific and thorough update. To read Alli’s previous update, please click here.

Bootleggin Posse was claimed by Wasabi Ventures Stables in May 2022 at Canterbury Park. He won on his first time out in their silks, but throughout the meet showed a lack of interest in racing. He was retired in September and moved to a new home with Hannah, where he’s been nicknamed Boots.

Hannah kindly sent this update:

Boots has been off the track since September and is loving his new life! He’s the most spectacular and laid back horse I’ve ever worked with. He’s taken every new thing he’s learned like a perfect gentleman. Currently I’m training him to be a hunter jumper. We started over small cross rails a couple weeks ago, and he proves to love it! Even if he’s free lunging he will often pop over a jump or two, even at the walk.

He also enjoys being outside on the trails on more relaxing days when the weather has been nice. I love him so incredibly much and feel so fortunate that I have him and that he’s remained in good health!

We love happily ever after stories such as this and look forward to sharing more updates on Boots. To read about another WVS retiree, please click here.

Wee Monie Creek was claimed by Wasabi Ventures Stables in May 2018. In her very first race for WVS she was claimed away. More recently, she seemed to be struggling in her races at Mountaineer. Thanks to some connections, I was able to help with her retirement.

It takes a village

As I worked on making connections in the world of aftercare, I began assembling a list of contacts at tracks where former WVS horses run. I messaged one of those contacts on Facebook a month or so ago to ask about Wee Monie Creek. She said she’d let me know if the owner was interested in retiring her. Then in mid-November the owner expressed interest in retiring her, after running one more race. After that he was glad to sell her to me.

Next began the search for an aftercare program to take her. I spoke with a handful of contacts with various amounts of success. One had a waitlist, and one would require a lengthy (and expensive) ship. Then, one was available and willing to take her.

Racing was cancelled the day of her race, so I reached out to ask about how to proceed. Even with the race cancelled, he was willing to sell her. Now, it was time to find a shipper. With the aftercare farm located four hours away, it took a decent amount of searching and connections, but a ride was found.

Happily ever after for Wee Monie Creek

On Thanksgiving afternoon, Wee was picked up at Mountaineer and hauled to Heart of Phoenix in Lesage, West Virginia. When she arrived that evening, she had a stall awaiting her arrival. I have heard from the barn manager that she is settling in nicely. Plus, they find her to be a very sweet girl.

This is the fourth horse we have purchased for retirement this year. I am truly grateful for my connections that have helped to make the transition from racehorse to retiree possible.

To learn more about other WVS retirees, please click here.