Wasabi Ventures Stables acquired Lap of Luxury in the fall of 2019 when she was a foal along with her mare, Littlemissperfect, from Housatonic Bloodstock. As a yearling, WVS decided to keep Lap for their racing program.

Lap ran six times with three wins for WVS before being claimed away in June 2022. At the end of July she raced in a $6,500 claiming race at Monmouth Park. WVS dropped a claim on Lap to retire her, but there was a two-way shake and another owner got her. However, WVS reached out to the new owner, who was more than glad to sell her to them for her claiming price.

Lap of Luxury’s retirement was our second private purchase. Due to the larger pricetag, TK and Michele Kuegler made a generous donation to The Horse Fund to assist with the purchase.

After a few day stay back in the barn of Jesse Cruz, Lap moved to Maryland to start her transition to off-track life with Nicole Martin. Nicole will give Lap time to unwind before preparing her for her forever home and second career.

We look forward to sharing many wonderful updates on Lap of Luxury.

To make a donation in support of our aftercare mission, please click here.

In October, I was lucky enough to acquire Allied Invasion from Wasabi Ventures Stables, Allī for his barn name. Every day, I am so grateful he is in my life. He is incredibly smart and has such a huge personality that I laugh every day. I have been free jumping him and lunging him in open fields to build his confidence before I take that step with me on his back.

In April, I had to change up his training as he got sticky with no longer wanting to be in the ring. Alli loves the trails. With consistency, he got over it. It was a brilliant day when I could physically feel him decide he wasn’t going to pick a fight with me. He also is incredibly brave. Last week I was in the outdoor arena and one of the boxwood bushes started moving like a velociraptor was hiding in it. Nope, it was just a doe ,who popped out into the ring, two feet behind Allī. He didn’t even spook.

We have transitioned to night turnout for the summer. If you are sitting near some wood, please knock on it because he loves night turnout. The first morning, the farm owner looked outside, and Allī was laying down, taking a nap. I was so happy that he felt comfortable enough to do so. It was the first time he has laid down outside since I have owned him. He even conveniently whinnies at 7:50 am every morning to make sure the farm owner is awake for 8:00 am breakfast.

I have been taking his training slowly because I have no need to rush him. Alli is a horse for a lifetime!

Submitted by Claire, All’s forever best friend

To read Alli’s previous update, please click here.

Over the past month, Ria and I have gone back to the basics of training. I’ve done a lot of pure relaxation work with her, as she’s a very anxious horse in general. I am sure that anxiety is where 99% of her issues are stemming from. Some exercises have included simply redirecting her focus back to me when she gets too distracted and anxious about something. I’ve also gotten much better at reading her body language and determining when she’s concerned or stressed. Then I can back off from any requests when something makes her too worried. While we still have a ways to go, Ria has definitely started to become a much more relaxed horse overall. Much of the relaxation and liberty work that we’ve done together has been helping me with my own anxiety. I’ve taken to meditating on a regular basis so that I can be a better owner and trainer to Ria.

Liberty work

We have also started doing some liberty work with the help of an old dressage trainer of mine. After one training session with her, I was able to start doing some join up/hooking on exercises with Ria. She would match steps with me (walking when I walked, stopping when I stopped, and even turning and backing up when I did). We’ve developed a much stronger connection with each other as a result.

Lunging

While I don’t think we’ve quite nailed down lunging yet, we’ve made a ton of progress over the last several weeks thanks to my dressage trainer. We’ve had several sessions where there weren’t any fireworks from Ria, and she’s become much more relaxed. Most recently, I was able to walk, trot, and canter her on the lunge line while relatively relaxed. Once we’re able to lunge consistently without any fireworks, I’ll be hopping back on her. At this point, I’m hopeful that she’ll be comfortable enough with lunging in the next week or two for me to try again. Once I’m back in the saddle, I’m going to continue doing a lot of relaxation exercises with her.

March 3rd officially been 6 months since I first claimed Ria out of her final race at Timonium. While things have definitely been a challenge at times, I’m just so glad to have her in my life.

To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here. To learn more about Lauren, click here.

Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member

We are excited to announce that The Horse Fund is now included in the list of accepted charities at Amazon Smile. When you shop at Amazon, you can make a donation to our charity, at no extra cost to you.

You can take advantage of this donation option with one simple step. Just click this link, and choose “Start shopping”. When you make a purchase, a small donation will be added to The Horse Fund’s account. There are no extra charges or fees for you; the donation comes out of the regular purchase price.

With every purchase you make, you will be helping fund the safe retirement of thoroughbreds, while also getting the items you need. This definitely will make us smile.

With year end accounting work almost complete, it is time to discuss an exciting topic- plans for 2022! Popular events from 2021 will return to the calendar, as well as a new fundraising opportunity.

Returning in 2022

In May, we will hold the third annual Aftercare Auction. Previously it was run under the Wasabi Ventures Stable umbrella, but this year it will be organized by The Horse Fund. For this auction, club members offer items they own, with the condition that at least fifty percent of the final bid has to be donated to aftercare. Historically, ninety-five percent of the members selling items donated the full amount. In the first two years, there has been an interesting assortment of items from books to Derby glasses to ticket stubs and more.

In October, we will schedule the second annual WVS Signature Item Auction. This auction will include an assortment of items that are earned, used, or associated with our horses, trainers, and owners. In the 2021 auction, there were horseshoes worn by Magical Mousse, a keychain made out of Wow Factor’s nameplate, trophies from wins at Monmouth Park, and more. These items are collected from our trainers, as well as TK and Michele Kuegler. The full winning bid is donated to The Horse Fund.

In November, we will celebrate Giving Tuesday. Last year we promoted Giving Tuesday via the Wasabi Ventures Stables Slack channel. During the event, two different club members offered to match donations, which increased the club’s donations by $1,000. Although there were no incentives tied to the donations, the WVS club members gave generously and selflessly.

New in 2022

This March we will hold our first Shamrock Kid Day. As regular readers know, WVS lost Shamrock Kid to a fatal injury during morning training on St. Patrick’s Day in 2021. His passing spurred our club members to donate more generously to aftercare, which in turn inspired Michele Pesula Kuegler to seek non-profit status for The Horse Fund. To help fund our aftercare efforts, we will hold a single day of fundraising on March 17th. Any person who donates $50 or more will receive a collectible Shamrock Kid Day shotglass. We are hopeful that this event is well received.

A Possible Event

Although we currently have the WVS Signature Item Auction scheduled as an annual event to be held in the fall, we are considering holding other mini auctions throughout the year. Our assistant trainer, Grace Smith, has begun collecting items, such as horseshoes. Rather than waiting nine months for the auction, we may hold one-day auctions with a smaller number of items every two to three months. Once we have this plan better formulated, we will be sure to share an update.

We are looking forward to an exciting 2022! We are hopeful that these events help us to raise the funds necessary to secure safe retirements for former WVS horses that are no longer in our barns.

I was able to speak with Kelly at RVR Horse Rescue recently to learn more about this OTTB group in Florida.

1. Where is RVR Horse Rescue based?

RVR Horse Rescue is based in Plant City, Florida, which is east of Tampa.

2. How did your program begin?

Shawn Jayroe, who is the founder and president, grew up on a thousand acre ranch in Texas and is a lifelong horse person. As an adult, she started rescuing horses. She served the most at-risk horses, who were starved, abused, and/or neglected. She would board and rehab the horses on her own.

As this program grew, she knew what she wanted to do. She sold her business, recruited volunteers, and got more barns. In 2011 RVR became a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

One of the vets who worked at RVR was also a track vet at Tampa Bay Downs. This vet asked if they’d be interested in taking injured thoroughbreds who needed to retire. The answer was yes.

3. What happens when a horse is accepted into your program?

RVR gets a call from Tampa Bay Downs, whether it be a trainer, owner, or contact at the track. RVR puts their vet in touch with the vet at the track to confirm the diagnosis and make sure they can handle the horse with space and manpower. 

Once the horse is brought to RVR it gets a full physical. The vet sets out a rehab plan and follows up with regular checks. As healing takes place, the horse will get a slightly bigger stall. Next, the horse will go out by itself to a larger place (but not big enough to run). This continues until the horse is fully healed, and then the horse joins the herd. The new horse will have seen these horses already over fence lines. 

Once physically cleared by a vet, a trainer evaluates the horse for temperament, discipline, and level of rider the horse will need. Then applicants work with the adoption coordinator. Each applicant needs to spend a minimum of thirty days as a sponsor to adopt. The applicant comes out to make a bond with the horse. He or she needs to ride the horse with trainers (RVR or own). RVR makes sure it’s a good match for the horse. After 30 days, the RVR executive board discusses the adoption and approves or disapproves.

4. How big is the property where your farm is located? 

The farm is twenty-five acres with two barns. Not all of the land is in use currently, as there is a major fencing project in the future. They have been at this location since January 2020.

5. Do you require new owners to do reporting?

New owners must sign an adoption contract. RVR regularly checks in for the first few years. They want to be sure the horse is receiving vaccines, dental, etc. RVR can visit the horse’s new home to see the horse. There also is a visit to this property before the adoption to see the accommodations (e.g. make sure there is no barbed wire). Owners are not allowed to transfer the horse to anyone else. It must be surrendered to RVR if the current owner cannot keep the horse.

6. How many horses have gone through your program?

Approximately 400 horses have gone through the program with 46 of them being off-track thoroughbreds.

7. How does RVR receive funding?

The primary source of funding is individual donors, including monthly subscriptions.They also hold fundraisers, such as a major one in the spring that is an open house with live music, food, and raffles. They also have people who sponsor horses in rehab. Additionally, they apply for one or two grants each year. Finally, they have a store from which they sell donated items, as well as their own branded merchandise.

8. Do you have a story about a horse that we can share with our readers?

One of the first rescues from the track was ItsGonnaBeAllRight, who was given the barn name Hollywood. He was an expensive horse, and in one of his first races he blew out his suspensory ligament. The vets weren’t sure if he would be able to be sound after the traumatic injury. His owners wanted to give rehab a shot. He was in rehab for 1-1/2 years. His personality never soured; he was never difficult. To the contrary he was the first to react and interact with humans at the barn. He eventually was adopted out as a pasture pal. He is very loved and gets to be a prince in a pasture. 

9. If people want to help your program, what can they do?

If interested people are local, they would love to have volunteers. The program is 100% volunteer. There are feeding shifts, daily chores, maintenance projects, administrative activities. They also run a large animal rescue team that responds to situations, such as a horse stuck in the mud or in an accident and trapped in a trailer. RVR hosts training classes in the spring.

Anyone is also welcome to support RVR financially. You can make a donation through their website or shop at their tack store.

We have written many other interviews for OTTB groups. You can learn about MidAtlantic Horse Rescue here.

*Photo courtesy of Marji Lexton.

Recently, I wrote about my Master Sheet for Wasabi Ventures Stables, where I keep information on every horse we have ever owned. The sheet includes data for owner, trainer, timed works, and race results. All of that information is easily acquired via Equibase. Once the horse retires, it is an entirely different issue.

Leaving the track

If WV Stables owns a horse at the time of its retirement, tracking is easy. I usually participate in the rehoming of our horses. Whether we work with an aftercare organization or rehome with a private individual, I receive information about the horse’s new home. I also receive contact information, in order to get future updates and photos.

If the horse has a different owner, as it was claimed away or sold privately, determining its location is much trickier. I won’t know that a horse has been retired until it has been out of training and/or racing for at least three months. Then I need to contact former owners or trainers for any updates.

Why the delay?

These former WVS horses are tracked on my master sheet. Every entry, result, and timed work are recorded. At least twice a month I review this spreadsheet to check on activity. Any horse that has no activity for three months is highlighted. I chose three months as the demarcation, as that is a reasonable amount of time for a horse to heal from a procedure or been given time on a farm. After three months, it is more likely that the horse is no longer running.

At four months, I search for contact information for the trainer and/or owner. I call or email to inquire about the horse’s status. Was it retired though an organization? Is it being used as a stable pony? Can they send any updates or photos for me to share with the club? Although I have contacted only a handful of people, the response rate is about 75%. Additionally, there are trainers and owners with no contact info, bringing my post-racing updates to about 50% of our horses.

Why aren’t we tracking retired racehorses?

For an industry that very much wants to show how well cared for and loved these animals are, I wonder why there isn’t more accountability. Couldn’t there be a system similar to Equibase that owners are required to update with the status of their retired horses? Think about it; there is little chance that a thoroughbred ends up in an unseemly situation if there is a requirement to share the horse’s whereabouts.

I know it’s not as simple as building a website, but it also isn’t an insurmountable problem. With tracking, there would be far fewer thoroughbreds found in slaughter auctions. On the positive side, think about how much joy it would bring to former owners and trainers when they see the new lives these horses are living.

More than a dream

I really would like to see this idea of tracking retired racehorses become more than just a thought. It seems if the right people came together, we could make this into a reality.

Timber, who was formerly known as Intrepid Forest, ran for Wasabi Ventures Stables in 2019. After an unsuccessful attempt to start her career as a broodmare, she transitioned from racing to second career with Abbie Fischer. Abbie found Timber’s forever home with Brooke.

Timber’s new best friend, Brooke, has been busy teaching her new roles. Timber and Brooke have moved up in the jumper competitions. Timber also has started trying hunters. Additionally, they competed in their first ever derby in September.

Timber jumping

Timber and Brooke are finding some success in the ring. They were the itty bitty series champions out of more than thirty competitors at The Ridge.

This is just another reason why we love following our WVS horses after they retire from racing. It is so rewarding to see that Timber has found a friend with whom she can learn new skills and enjoy her forever home.

Crazy Bernice was a member of Wasabi Ventures Stables barns in the spring of 2018. WVS claimed her at the end of March, and in her very next race she was claimed away at the end of May. Her stay may have been short, but with a name such as hers, she was quite memorable.

Near the end of 2019 I created a spreadsheet that contained every single horse WVS had owned and noted the status of each: actively racing, broodmare, retired, and unknown. Dear Bernice fell into the unknown category. Her final race in April 2019 was listed as a DNF, did not finish. I feared that she might have had fatal breakdown and that she would forever be an unknown.

Cue this year’s Retired Racehorse Project’s Mega Makeover and the alert eyes of a club member. In our Former WVS Horses Slack channel that club member posted that Bernice was competing. Using that information and social media, I reached out to Jazz Napravnik.

I explained my role and asked for any possible updates she could share. I was pleased to receive the following update from Jazz:

She’s brilliant!!! Crazy Bernice had a pretty bad suspensory injury, but she rehabbed well and now she is my dressage horse. She was a bit nervous here at the TB Makeover, but she has exciting things on the horizon. She loves to do her musical freestyles.

It is wonderful to see Bernice participating in a new event. What makes it even more wonderful is to see how loved she is in her new home. We wish Bernice and Jazz all the best!

To learn about another WVS horse, Sevilla Sangria, who now has a monthly column, click here.

In February 2019, trainer Jesse Cruz dropped a claim slip for Midnight Shine at Oaklawn Park for Wasabi Ventures Stables. It wasn’t a great race for Midnight Shine, but Wasabi did win the claim.

Unfortunately, shortly after Midnight Shine joined Jesse’s barn, some health issues were discovered. While he could have been rehabilitated to race again, it was decided that the best choice for this then eight year old gelding was to be retired.

Working with New Vocations, Midnight Shine was transitioned from being a racehorse to being ready for adoption. In October 2019 he found his forever home with Madison Myers. Now known as Sully, he’s been training as a hunter/jumper and has competed in the baby green division, placing well in a few divisions.

According to Madison, Sully “has the sweetest puppy dog disposition.” She also says that they could not have gotten luckier with him.

We are so grateful for this happily ever after story for Madison and Sully.