Running Free

A very nice horse joined Tranquility Farm's retirees over the summer.Running Free had a tremendous racing career with 41 starts, and earnings of $533,424. He could be found throughout his long career competing with the best in California. Running Free both won and placed in the Quicken Tree Stakes and the Kahled Stakes,and he ran a close second in the Cal Cup Mile. He was a gritty competitor that could mix it up with the big boys and he held his own with horses like Lava Man, Geronimo, Epic Power,Springhouse and Stormin Away.

Running Free winning the Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park, photo courtesy of Kristin Mulhall.

During his career Running Free made several comebacks after long lay-offs, and the last of these found him far from the glamour of the California stakes circuit and running in the claiming ranks at Emerald Downs. His last races were run there in the spring of 2009 where he came second twice but did not win a race. In a last gallant effort he "chased and held" to come second in a 5,000 claimer, when a fractured ankle finally ended his long career.

Now before you quickly navigate away from this blog or run from the room, I must tell you that Running Free is not another eleventh-hour rescue story! He had the extrodinary luck to belong to a trainer with a heart. Soon after his injury we received a call to inquire about retiring him at Tranquility Farm, and arrangements were quickly made to send us Running Free. We are very grateful to Neil Knapp and Joan Holmes for sponsoring his rehabilitation, and for allowing us to give this great campaigner the chance to find a second career or just take life easy and smell the roses at Tranquility Farm.


Moonlit Moment is coming home.

Sadly, a marvelous horse that we adopted out some years ago must come home to TF. Moonlit Moment will soon be here because his owner has developed health problems that make it impossible for her to continue to care for him. This has been a tremendously difficult decision for her, but it would appear that the best option is for him is to return to Tranquility Farm to wait for his next forever home.

The photo link is Moonlight Moment while he was still in training at Tranquility Farm in 2004. When he was here and we wanted to shoot any “how to” photos for ex-racehorses he was always our favorite subject because he could be counted upon to be patient and co-operative no matter how long we took with our project. He was a wonderful horse to be around.

Moonlit Moment is now twelve. He is a stout 16.2 hand gelding that has been living for the past five years as an all- around pleasure horse for a large and loving family. His adopter says that he is excellent with children, other horses, and all types of pets. Look for more updates and a current photo when he returns to TF next week.


Snowy's Mark 2009 filly

Yesterday at Del Mar, the last race was won by a chestnut colt named Warren's Doc Gus. Ironically, the dam of this colt,Snowy's Mark, was among the mares that Tranquility Farm rescued from a feedlot last year. This is Snowy, stressed and exhausted, on the day she was rescued.

This lovely little chestnut filly, who is a a half-sister to Warren's Doc Gus, is Snowy's Mark's 2009 filly. As I planned to introduce all of our weanlings individually, I'll begin with her. Snowy's filly is the first to come up for pets in the field, and she is totally confident and affectinate with people. I'm sure that when adopters come to meet these weanlings she will be among the first choosen for her sunny disposition and golden good looks.
Snowy's filly is a little talisman that reminds me that all Thoroughbreds that are racing or used for commercial breeding are walking the razor's edge between "wanted" and "unwanted". "Unwanted" has become the cliche invented to mask the despicable dumping of horses that is taking place all over our country. As if being "unwanted" by some unknown party at some particular moment in time excuses their betrayal.

There are still people who believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with "rescued" horses, and that there is a rationale for the slaughter of 120,000 American horses every year because they are "unwanted". Take a good look at Snowy's Mark and her filly; lost but for the grace of God.


Candy is Quicker, Adoption Preview

Candy is Quicker is another of our horses who is now finishing up his rehab time and will soon have his final vet check before being offered for adoption this fall. Candy is a gorgeous 16.2 hand gelding who was injured last September as a two-year- old making his very first career start at Santa Anita. It is doubtful that he can go on to a career in jumping but he will make a beautiful dressage or pleasure horse. Potential adopters can make inquiries at any time.

Candy has been brave little soldier. Try to imagine how hard it would be for a two-year-old colt in the prime of his youth to suddenly have to spend all his time in a box stall with only hand walking. Candy remained well-behaved and despite his confinement he never grew resentful during his rehab. Now that he is healthy and a gelding he will make someone a wonderful horse. Tranquility Farm thanks Mr. Stephen B. Weismann for sponsoring Candy is Quicker's rehabilitation


Weaning Day.

In the cool of early morning we lead the mares and foals out of the barn into a paddock we have prepared especially for weaning. It was wet down well to control dust because they will run for quite a while until they realize there is no way to reach their mothers. We have adjoining paddocks that make it as safe as possible for both the mares and foals because they are only separated by a six foot aisle way and some shade trees.
The foals first response of panic is quickly over as they learn that they can see and easily communicate with their mothers. The foals paddock is the smaller of the two, to prevent them from running full speed when their mother is taken away. Despite the best of preparations the separation is always a shock, and a brief period of chaos ensues.

All other work is suspended and I stay with the foals for most of the morning, hoping their relationship with me will fill a bit of the void they feel without their mothers. It was very gratifying whenever they suspended their crying to tell me their troubles. Phase one went very well.
This group of mares is being particularly helpful with the weaning project. I don’t know if it is due to their previous experience or the bond we developed when I rescued them from a living hell in Arizona, but they are wonderfully wise and perceived in an instant what needed to be done to restore calm.

It is tragic that their maternal skills are no longer needed in this world, but we have to face the facts. The planet is warming to the extent that food and water will become increasingly scarce; people in our country are economically stressed in a way none of us would have believed possible; and we need far less horses to worry about feeding. They simply cannot have more foals for the forseeable future.
By mid-day things have calmed down considerably. The mare’s food and water is arranged along the fence by the weanlings so they don’t have to leave them alone for any reason. The foals are realizing that they are secure and that their mothers are not leaving them even if they can't get to them.It is going well.

By evening we see the loveliest sight possible on weaning day. The foals are calmly sharing their meal while the mares are steadfastly standing by, and none of them seems particularly worried.
At ten o’clock I walked to the paddock and three of the foals were sleeping in the big pile of shavings. The other two came up to be petted,and all was quiet beneath the waning moon.Our summer has ended.


Capricho is ready to leave us.

Capricho’s mother, Fit Lady, was 21-years-old when she came to Tranquility Farm. She was a gracious grey with a beautiful eye and a neck like a swan. Her owner was an elderly man who was forced to suddenly disperse his horses, and like so many from small breeders, she would have been completely overlooked in a commercial sale. There were very few options for an aged mare like Fit Lady.

Fit Lady was in foal to a gigantic stallion named Madraar,a son of Mr. Prospector who went to stud in the US after racing in Dubai. Naturally my fantasy was that Fit Lady would produce a gorgeous grey filly that would be a larger replica of her. (Note to self: horse breeding is not an exact science.) On a freezing night in April 2007, Fit Lady delivered an incredibly tall bay colt who immediately got up and hopped about like a giant jackrabbit.

Watching Capricho grow into himself has been a real delight. I see his mother’s sweet nature paired with his sire’s scope and athleticism. As a late two year old we feel he is finally mature enough to begin basic training.
Tranquility Farm is now offering Capricho to serious riders that can continue to nurture him and let him develop into the outstanding eventer or hunter that he was born to be. Good things take time.


Margaret's Native and Princess of Honey

These two might as well be called Crackers and Cheese or Bread and Butter. However you choose to describe a perfect pairing, add Margaret and Princess. Never were two horses happier together. They are retired matrons in our Old Ladies Collection, which due to the farm’s predilection for rescuing pregnant mares, is now unfortunately quite extensive. A happy exception to the rescued multitudes,Margaret's Native and Princess of Honey were sponsored into our retirement program by their owners, Larry and Sheila Ullmann, and they have been well-supported as they so deserve.

Princess is perfectly named because after living with her for several years I know why she was a much better broodmare than a racehorse. Her daughter, Amber Hills,had 5 wins including the Bay Meadows Oaks, California Oaks, the Black Swan and the CTBA Marion Stakes. Princess on the other hand, has issues. Sometimes it’s the halter; no can do. Or fine. Sometimes fly spray is the devil's own body odor, or not. On it goes. Yet a better mother you will never find, and she has always been perfectly cooperative with caretakers of her foal. For anyone who still believes that horses are not the brightest, come out here and spend a day with Princess. Take notes, it will be enlightening.

Margaret on the other hand is a laid-back high achiever. She raced 30 times with nine wins including two stakes and retired with earnings of $139,695. She excelled as a brodmare with three black type winners including Market Garden, Hadl, and Mango Marquerita. Her last foal is a 2 year-old filly by Skimming that Tranquility Farm is currently offering as an eventing prospect, and she has all her mother's charm and good looks.

Whatever their differences, this happy couple will be found at any time eating side by side, dozing in the sun, or walking up in lockstep up for a visit. Margaret will be delighted, and as for Princess……we will be informed shortly if she can pencil us in for some time today.


Lese Majeste, he did what!

There are moments when the world just stops. It stopped for Fistylee in 1997 when a prudent jockey pulled him up and jumped off in his seventy-ninth start in a $3,200 claimer at the Bay Meadows Fair. Fistylee already had an ankle the size of a grapefruit, and he may very well owe his life to that unknown rider. For a jockey in his situation, discretion was surely the better part of valor. God speed.

Fistylee at age 21.
But in telling the story of Lese Majeste, the mind simply reels. On a cold and dismal March afternoon in 2001 an ailing sportswriter named Tim Sullivan decided to go to Suffolk Downs to cheer himself up. He loved the horses and he loved betting them, but his heart and health were broken by the recent death of his beloved wife. Tim came to the track that day with eyes made raw from grief and loss. Possibly, for the very first time, he saw the horses paraded before him as fellow creatures that also bore the pain of their existence. And out walked Lese Majeste, about to make his one-hundred and ninety-first start.

At first Tim thought it was a typo; everyone thinks it is a typo, but truly, this quiet, generous horse was about to run in his one hundred and ninety- first race. If you know Lese Majeste this is not a stretch of the imagination. He simply loves everyone he meets, and it would never occur to him to cause a fuss or refuse a request. It’s not in his nature. I don’t know where they make horses like this, but if you do, please let me know.

Tim Sullivan said that he literally had an out-of-body experience walking backside to offer the trainer of Lese Majeste whatever price he saw fit to retire this horse. He had no intention to do this when he left for the track that day, nor had it ever occurred to him in hundreds of days at the races. Whatever forces were in play that day remains a mystery, but a deal was stuck, and Tim designated Tranquility Farm as Lese Majeste’s retirement destination.

Lese Majeste at age 19.

Suffolk Downs held a very nice farewell ceremony in Les Majeste's honor, and TVG picked up the story that ran with great response. Fast forward and we see that Suffolk Downs has today become a leader in enforcing an anti-slaughter policy at their racetrack, and that they have also initiated a very progressive funding program for retiring horses. Some refer to Suffolk Downs as “ the racetrack with a heart.” I have to believe that in some small way Tim Sullivan’s very spontaneous, and very public rescue of Lese Majeste, helped to awaken there a force for change.


Weaning our 2009 foals.

As I mentioned yesterday we are beginning the process of weaning our 2009 foals. Process is the idea, because the simple act of separating a mare and foal is often the cause of so much stress for both. Here at Tranquility Farm we have the luxury of time. The mares are never bred back, and due to the surplus of horses everywhere, this is probably the last foal they will ever have. We can let them savor their days together and we allow our foals to stay a bit longer with their mothers as nature intends so that they become very well-socialized in the ways of the herd.

The wisdom of their mothers, and the way they relate to the world, is something that each foal carries with them for their entire life. As humans, we can surely relate to the value of early education. Before weaning, we also want to be sure that our foals have every confidence that humans are their friends.

Earlier in the year the mares and foals were put in the barn every night because of cold weather and the possibility of a passing mountain lion. Later in the summer, when the foals are strong and the weather is warm, we let them stay outside in the pasture at night. Now it is late summer, and soon it will be fall at our altitude. Before we separate the foals from their mothers we once again accustom them to being indoors. Prior to weaning we bring them in for a few evenings with their mothers, so they once again see the barn as place of comfort and security.
Today went very well, all the mares settled in perfectly and we gave lots of carrots and individual attention to them and their foals to make the barn a good experience. Weaning is less about separating the foals from their mothers than it is about bonding them with humans as their source of affection and guidance. This is how we make the transition with the least stress. The mares and foals will be in this pattern for a couple of days, and we will update their progress.


Born at Tranquility Farm?

Today we will begin to wean our 2009 foals, and before very long they will be ready to be offered for adoption. I'm always surprised that visitors to Tranquility Farm are amazed to see our broodmares, and they are very curious as to why they are here. It is a fair question.

When we first moved to the farm in March of 1998 we brought with us six pregnant mares that were rescued from the Barretts sale. This was before the $1,000 minimum bid rule, and slaughter buyers combed the sales for heavy horses. These were dark days. After the minimum bid rule we hoped the number of unwanted mares would decrease, but the market began to contract, and this most vulnerable group of horses still suffered.

Now they were being sold cheaply after the sale, or simply given away. Little changed, so we kept rescuing them as best we could. We have had six to eight pregnant mares here every year, and over twelve years that adds up to a lot of babies that have called Tranquility Farm their first home.

The recession has been especially unkind to broodmares. The costs at the farms have skyrocketed; the market has dropped like a rock; and to make matters worse many people who own breeding stock are at the age where they are retiring and dispersing their horses. All this at a time when buyers are scarce. It has been a perfect storm,and Tranquility Farm has offered one small haven where each year a few can make it to safety.
This year the Jockey Club reports that in 2010 the smallest foal crop is expected since 1977. It may be too soon to celebrate the possibility that there will be less pregnant broodmares ending up in the "unwanted horse" ranks, but perhaps we can breathe one small sigh of relief.
The beneficiaries of our hard work to raise all these foals have been the adopters who get the opportunity to take home a beautiful young Thoroughbred that has been raised with a lot of love. It always brings a smile how many of them end up getting named "Lucky".



Just a few days ago the Gr. 3 Longacres Mile was run at Emerald Downs, and it seems like an appropriate time to honor our retiree Snipledo,who is probably the oldest living winner of that race. Snipledo won the Longacres Mile in 1990 as a four-year-old and went on to become Washington Horse of the Year. He had a fantastic career with 45 starts, 17 wins, and he retired with career earnings of $409,905.

Snipledo was originally retired by his former owner, but when he passed away in 2001 he left his horse without resources. He was saved from going to the auction by a wonderful elderly woman named Marie Monroe who had boarded him for many years. The heirs no longer wished to support Snipledo, so Marie moved heaven and earth to get him safely to Tranquility Farm. I guess the lesson here is that if you love your horses to be sure to leave them a trust.

Snipledo is sort of the John Henry of Tranquility Farm. His nickname is “The Old Curmudgeon” because he is a quirky old horse that loves his few chosen people but he does not care for visitors, kids, dogs or other horses, not necessarily in that order. He resembles his grandsire Seattle Slew in more ways than one. Whatever his quirks, we love him, but when you visit Tranquility Farm Snipledo probably won’t be on the tour.


Invited Guest

In January of 2009 an e mail circulated that someone had advertised a 25-year-old graded stakes winning mare on Craigslist as a “free kid’s horse.” As unlikely as this sounded we had to check this story out, and, lo and behold, we found Invited Guest.

At twenty- five she was no longer useful for breeding, and it seemed she might be in eminent danger of slipping through the cracks and into the hands of the sharks that comb even the internet in their insatiable quest for horse meat. Beware.

Invited Guest arrived here very thin and looking like she had spent far too much of the winter out in the weather for her advanced age. But with a couple of months of stall care and daily pampering she bounced back to good health and happily went out to pasture with our other old retired ladies who treat her like the queen she is.

These are the highlights of her racing career, with US earnings of $505,469:
1st Candelabra S. Gr.3 (GB) Fillies Mile Gr.3 (GB), Prix de Psyche (Fr-G3), San Gorgino H. Gr.2 (USA), Golden Poppy H. Gr.3 (USA), Dahlia H. Gr.3 (USA).
2nd Apple Blossom H. Gr.1 (USA), Milady H. Gr.1 (USA).
3rd Apple Blossom H. Gr.1
Not bad for free on Craigslist!



Today they will run the Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar, and among our retired horses is a winner of that race, the mighty
Geronimo. Geronimo was bred in Chile and he was already a stakes winning racehorse when he made his entrance on the California racing scene as a four-year-old in 2003.

Geronimo quickly became the golden boy of the California turf, a flaxen-maned comet that held his own against the likes of Singletary, Inesperado, and Lennyfromalibu. In addition to the Green Flash Handicap Geronimo won the Gr.3 Morvich Hcp and placed in two consecutive runnings of the Gr.3 Hollywood Turf Express. His total record, after his racing career in Chile, was 42 starts, 11 wins, and earnings of $463,750.

Geronimo’s brilliant career came to a sudden end in a claiming race at Del Mar on July19, 2006, when he suffered a catastrophic fracture. And here his story grows dark, and we see a blindness of the soul that is sickeningly familiar to all who follow the fortunes of good racehorses. After a gallant career and winning nearly half a million dollars Geronimo was simply cast aside, and it was only by chance that a friend connected him with Tranquility Farm. How many horses of Geronimo’s caliber will we have to see ending up as a discarded ward of charity or worse until racing collectively says “Enough!”

I wish I knew. Geronimo’s care at Tranquility Farm has depended entirely upon the kindness of strangers. He has done his part. After a year of rehabilitation in which he remained ever cheerful and kind, he was moved into a private retirement paddock where he happily watches the world go by. If you would like to become one of his benefactors, please Donate. Geronimo and all the horses thank you!



In a meeting of Thoroughbred retirement organizations early this spring Karin Wagner of Neigh Savers brought to everyone’s attention the dire situation of a beautiful little filly named Fabuloso. She had sustained a fracture that required surgery, and she was stranded at the racetrack. Her owners intended to have her put down if no-one from the retirement community stepped forward to come to her immediate rescue. Fortunately for Fabuloso, there were angels listening in the sad silence that followed Karin’s plea for help.

With the aid of sponsors who prefer to remain anonymous, Fabuloso had surgery and came to Tranquility Farm for her rehabilitation. She is still in our rehab barn at the moment, but by fall we have every expectation that she will be fully recovered and ready to go to a permanent home.

There are certain horses that come to the farm who simply make me happy every time I go into the stall. Fabuloso is one of these. She is a touchstone that offsets all the times the responsibility for so many horses seems too hard, or becomes discouraging. Her sweet little face reminds me every day that there are truly angels among us.


Fire Lookout: Sneak preview!

Fire Lookout is an incredibly handsome young gelding who is just now finishing his rehab at Tranquility Farm for a minor fracture. He will soon have his final vet check, but interested adopters may inquire at any time. Fire Lookout is a son of the great champion mare Riboletta and it might be his bloodlines or just a happy coincidence, but he is one of those horses who is always looking on the sunny side and a true pleasure to be around.

Tranquility Farm is grateful to Aaron and Marie Jones for sponsoring Fire Lookout's rehabilitation, and for the opportunity to offer such a fabulous horse for a second career.



Karazi has to be one of the most beautiful and engaging horses we have ever offered for adoption at Tranquility Farm. Two short years ago found Karazi competing in the Gr.2 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar. The very moment that race was won yesterday by Meteore’s nose, Karazi was having a very serious adoption interview that may soon find him competing again, only this time it will be in dressage. His floating stride and effortless transitions are simply stunning.

A son of Champion Arazi, Karazi began his life in Switzerland and has acquired a bit more sophistication than most horses because of his extensive travels. His lovely grey coloring is the gift of his mother, the Irish mare Karapucha, granddaughter of the famous Caro, who has produced so many lines of Thoroughbreds that also excel as sport horses. Karazi raced in the colors of his former owner Edmund Gann, who generously sponsored his stay at Tranquility Farm to prepare for his second career.

Next year I hope to revisit Karazi again on La Jolla day, and perhaps we will find him elegantly presented with his new education in dressage. Somehow, I think he will still be tossing his wild mane and flashing his eyes at all the mares as if to say,“Be dazzled!"


Tranquility Farm Launches Blog.

Today, Aug. 15, 2009, marks the one year anniversary of Tranquility Farm’s rescue of 40 pregnant broodmares from a horse killer’s feedlot in Phoenix, AZ. This was a landmark event in our mission to save Thoroughbreds from neglect and slaughter. Reflecting on this day I can still hear the voices of grave concern from the hundreds of people who called to offer their help. As I reflect back I am still in awe of the incredible outpouring of generosity that it took to bring all those mares to safety.

Communication was the key. Because of the efforts of Jack Shinar of The Blood-Horse, who faithfully chronicled our struggle to save the mares, horse lovers everywhere were given an intimate account of this massive rescue effort. Today seems an auspicious day to launch this blog, and to once again invite horse lovers to share in the daily life of a Thoroughbred retirement farm with all the challenges that must be met to rescue and rehab former racehorses.

Here you will learn about Tranquility Farm’s famous retirees, and how they navigated the perils of life after racing to find safety of our pastures. Here you will meet the injured horses in our rehab barn and take with them the many small steps towards making them whole. Here you will see the beautiful young Thoroughbreds that are being raised for adoption at Tranquility Farm. They are all the offspring of the rescued mares that are so plentiful of late.

Visit often,and you will see their faces and learn their stories.

Here are foals of Baby Bountiful, Now My Precious, and Snowy's Mark; all rescued Aug. 15, 2008.