What does a horse see? Does he only see with his eye or does he see with his mind’s eye as well? What does he think about when he looks out on the pasture from his stall? Does he remember times long past?
Like most little girls, I have always loved horses. I was a city girl, however, so I was never able to spend time with them. In recent years I became very concerned with the plight of former racehorses and last summer I found a way to become involved with them and help them.
I had a meeting with someone in regard to a program for my therapy dog, Tug, and she told me about an organization, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, that was a sanctuary for retired racehorses. The local chapter, James River Horses, is located in Goochland County, VA, on prison grounds. The location is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills, pastures and meadows, a lake, trees scattered here and there. You would never know it was a prison facility except for the signs.
The inmates care for the horses and the program gives a second chance to the men as well as to the horses. The inmates must earn the privilege of caring for the horses and they learn skills that, hopefully, will lead to jobs upon their release. These men often think of themselves as throw away people and they regain their self esteem through the love of the horses. They now have something that depends on them and requires their care and concern.
As soon as I heard about this program I knew that I wanted to get involved and sponsor a horse. As soon as we got to the facility on Barn Day I saw a poster with a picture of “Multiple Choice”, a big bay gelding with a small white star on his forehead. We bonded right away and I knew he was the one. Choice was a big moneymaker back in the day and I can not understand how the owners of a horse who makes them money can fail to provide them with a comfortable retirement when their career has ended.
I visit with Choice about once a month and when I go I take a large canvas bag filled with apples and carrots for all the horses and something for the men as well. Choice always seems glad to see me and when I said something to my husband about his reaction he said, “You can see the smile in his eyes.” I give him hugs, petting and massages and he hugs me back. I hope I am making a difference for him. Choice can no longer be ridden due to arthritis from a racing injury so he is a pasture companion. That is fine with me because I’m afraid my riding days are behind me.
I wonder if Choice remembers and thinks about the excitement and energy of the track? Does he miss those days? Did he have someone that loved him and brought him treats? Most of his past is a mystery to me and he is keeping his secrets. For now it is enough to know that he is comfortable and happy and he can run and play in the pasture.