By Margaret Ransom
Texas-based veterinarian Dr. Jaqueline Rich keeps close tabs on the horses she’s been responsible for bringing into the world. Her always busy cell phone gets some added activity when any of the horses she raised with her husband, longtime horseman Gerald Rich, either breeze, are entered in a race or run.
In the large paddocks located on the Riches’ 100-plus acre Deer Haven Farm in Lott, Texas, just outside Waco, are some former runners, pensioned broodmares, weanlings, yearlings and various strays representing other breeds. Dr. Rich and her husband breed a few thoroughbreds a year, selling some and keeping others.
As supporters of the thoroughbred racing and breeding it is important to them to also promote the Texas-bred program in their home state.
“Initially when pari-mutuel racing came to Texas there were tremendous opportunities for breeders and owner to participate,” Dr. Rich explained. “The purses were high, the weather was good and the breeders’ associations like the TTA (Texas Thoroughbred Association) had tremendous incentives. The situation reversed some over the last several years, but now thanks to HB 2463 (https://texasmonitor.org/house-set-to-consider-horse-racing-bailout/) the equine industry, not just racing, was given a much-needed boost.”
Even from a distance Rich can tell you which horse is which, where they ran – if they ran — and how much they earned and who they produced. The Riches also board and foal several other broodmares for outside clients, so their spring paddocks are loaded with happy mares and their Texas-bred babies, as well as yearlings ready for sales prep.
And one thing that has always been a priority to the Riches is to make sure their horses end up in secure forever homes or that the horses they’ve bred return to Deer Haven, where they are either re-trained and re-homed or are turned out with the other permanent residents and breeding pensioners for as much time as they have left.
“I am especially grateful and always aware that I am in a position to provide a safe landing spot for the horses I’ve been responsible for bringing into this world,” Dr. Rich said. “At the end of their careers if they don’t have future careers to go to, I know they can come here.”
So a few weeks ago when Dr. Rich received notice that one of her homebreds, sold as a yearling for $9,000 at Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky three years ago, was back in the entry box at Mountaineer Park and then finished last after a series of significantly poor efforts and layoffs, she reached out for some help.
Tizm is a handsome 4-year-old son of the multiple Grade 1 winner and Turkey-based stallion Tizway and the Riches’ good producing Valid Expectations mare Good Granny.
The gelding, who was entered for a $4,000 claiming tag on Sept. 13, hadn’t won in 12 starts since breaking his maiden 18 months earlier and was rarely even competitive. His earnings in three starts in 2020 totaled $198. It was clear to Dr. Rich that Tizm wasn’t interested in racing anymore and his best option was retirement, either to a permanent non-racing home or back to her and the Texas farm where he was foaled and raised.
“I asked for help and I’m lucky I have people who will help,” Dr. Rich said. “And thankfully for these situations there are aftercare organizations who will help.”
Making the Deal
Through an intermediary, Brandy Frost and her non-profit rescue, Impact Equine (https://impactequine.org/) in Leonard, Michigan, was asked to help. Dr. Rich has a wide assortment of connections in the horse racing business and previously had reached out to offer a forever home for Tizm without success, so bringing in a rescue for help seemed like a no-brainer.
Since establishing Impact Equine, a registered 501 c(3) non-profit, more than two years ago, Frost has rescued a number of thoroughbreds from all over, including a couple directly off the track and others in kill pens and auction lots. She is also active in finding horses in need at the draft horse sales located near her home, and she happens to follow thoroughbred horse racing closely. But the most significant thing about Frost is that when it comes to a horse in need she holds nothing back and will do whatever it takes to make sure they’re safe.
After looking up Tizm’s race record, she agreed he was probably done with racing. She collected all the details she needed and immediately went to work.
“I didn’t know who wanted him or where he’d go but I agreed that it looked like he didn’t want to be a racehorse anymore and that I’d help,” Frost said. “When they’re done, they tell you they’re done. There initially was some talk about him coming (to her Impact Equine in Michigan) which was fine, but I needed to get him secure first.
“I called the trainer, Louis DePasquale, and he was reluctant to let go of him at first. He said he thought Tizm didn’t run so badly in his last race despite the fact he was last and said he thought he might run him again. I think he knew, though, that Tizm was probably done. He also said he’d sell him to me for $1,500 and told me he’d get back to me the next day. So I waited.”
The next day, with an agreement from Dr. Rich for the $1,500 purchase price, Frost waited for a call and when she hadn’t heard back from DePasquale, she contacted him again. She was stunned at what he told her. He said he’d sold the horse already to someone else for $1,200.
“I was shocked,” Frost remembered. “He told me the guy hadn’t paid for him yet and if he didn’t by the end of the day he’d sell him to me. Thankfully that guy never paid for him, so I did and the deal was done.”
Once money was exchanged, the intermediary who contacted Frost informed her that Tizm was ultimately headed back to Texas, where he might be retrained and possibly rehomed, but that he’d have a happy retirement regardless what direction his life would go in. But the first order of business was to find Tizm a ride, either directly to Texas or to Lexington, Kentucky, where Dr. Rich and her husband were attending the Keeneland yearling sales.
“I started contacting everyone I could,” Frost said. “I looked for someone at Mountaineer to keep him for a few days. I looked for anyone who had room on a load, or someone who was going there to run a horse. I even looked for haulers to bring him to me in Michigan where he could stay until we figured out how to get him home.”
Through Facebook, Frost found MG Transport (https://mghorsetransport.com/) out of Kentucky, who quoted her a price of $500 to get Tizm to Lexington in two days.
“Once they gave me the quote, I got on the phone right away because I knew it was a great price and the timing to get him to Lexington was perfect.”
A day and a half later, thanks to a donation from USRacing.com to cover the cost of shipping, Tizm was loaded onto the MG Transportation trailer and headed for his forever retirement.
“We had a load going anyway, but we were happy to help (with transporting a retiree),” Mervin Glick of MG Horse Transport said. “I’m glad we could help.”
‘If Everyone Cared About Their Horses’
One thing that has stuck with Frost was how much DePasquale actually did care for Tizm. No, the horse didn’t make him any money and no, he probably wouldn’t ever make him any money, but the horse’s well-being was a priority to DePasquale and the gelding never missed a meal.
“Louis (trainer DePasquale) was funny,” Frost said. “He told me all about Tizm’s idiosyncrasies and his favorite snacks. He told me he’d had all of his vaccinations – not just the ones required – but all of them. And he told me he’d had his teeth floated in April. And he asked, ‘They’re not going to let him go off to the killers, are they?’ and I assured him they would not. So as much as I think Louis would have liked to keep him, I know he was happy for Tizm. He even put bandages on him for the ride to Kentucky.
“I keep thinking that if everyone cared about their horses the way his trainer and his breeder did, and that if more people worked harder to insure their horses’ safety and that they don’t end up in this predicament we’d win at least half the battle of doing the right thing. It really is a bit of a double-edged sword, some like Tizm are so lucky and some aren’t so lucky. But it’s up to their people to make sure more are lucky. And it literally cost less than $2,000 to do the right thing.”
Tizm arrived safely in Lexington, three days after Frost was initially contacted. Less than 24 hours later he was in Dr. Rich’s own trailer, bound for Deer Haven Farm in Texas. He was in good shape and well-fed, and has since had his shoes pulled and been turned out with a retired Percheron named Tony and a thoroughbred yearling, though now a ladies’ man in retirement he prefers to spend his time nickering at the younger girls in the neighboring paddock between bites of grass.
“Tizm really likes his grass,” Dr. Rich said. “I think he’s happy to be home. It took him a day or two to get familiar with Tony, but he’s doing great and I could not be happier about all of it. He came in good shape, but he’s put on about 218 pounds and we’ve had him saddled and driven him. I think he’s going to make a great horse for someone in his second career.”
Just do the right thing
The thoroughbred industry is the only equine industry which allocates funds from various sources – handle, breakage, charitable donations – for aftercare and because of this, fewer and fewer OTTBs are showing up in kill pens. Rich and her husband are proudly members of the Paddock Foundation (https://paddockfoundation.com/), which is a branch of the TTA designed to transition horses from racing careers to other careers.
“It’s a great way to keep lines of communication open (between racing and non-racing entities),” Dr. Rich said. “At the end of every thoroughbred meeting the racing trainers meet in the paddock with the people from the outside horse world and they bring the horses who will be retired from the backside for people to see. All kinds of other disciplines come, the hunter and jumper people and the polo people. It’s a very successful program and I’m pleased to be part of it.”
Despite the Riches’ commitment to provide a safe landing to their homebreds, overall it’s mostly been rescues and aftercare organizations who have been largely responsible for taking in and rehoming former runners, but more and more breeders like them are stepping up. Dr. Rich agrees, though, that there’s still much to do. It took just $1,800 to safely retire Tizm, a figure that Dr. Rich hopes encourages other breeders to do the right thing for the horses they bring into the world.
“As a breeder it is our responsibility,” Dr. Rich said. “If they can’t be racehorses then they deserve another job they love and another person who will love them. It isn’t hard and we should all care where they end up. I know not everyone has 120 acres to retire a horse to, but asking for help is always a good place to start.”