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Thoroughbred Aftercare Spotlight Riders Up!

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Every Tuesday, Horse Racing Radar will share a story about a Thoroughbred Aftercare group that is making a difference in the racing industry and their community. These organizations work behind the scenes to ensure that horses from the bottom level of claimers to the top level of retired stakes winners receive the care they need after the racetrack. 

In the small town of Yantis, Texas, population 390ish, retired racehorses are making a big impact on the community. Lake Fork Stables became a nonprofit in 2019 after discovering a need in the East Texas area that was not being met - affordable extracurricular activities for low income families as well as equine therapy within a reasonable distance for autistic families. At the same time, they had a love and desire to spread awareness for Thoroughbred aftercare. Little did they know that shortly after becoming a 501c3, they would be starting a charity in the midst of a pandemic. But, nevertheless, they persevered on. 

The Riders Up! program at Lake Fork Stables provides free and reduced rate riding lessons for low income, autistic, military and foster kids. Being in a rural area, children that require specialized care or therapy often have to drive up to two hours to receive that care. Lake Fork Stables provides a convenient and free option for families, reducing that need to travel. They are certified in the Horse Boy Method and are the only organization within a four hour radius offering this type of equine assisted therapy targeted to individuals on the autism spectrum. 

For families that are located an hour or more outside of the area, they also offer Horse Sense Equine Therapy Retreats. These retreats allow a family to come for the weekend, receive up to four hours of equine therapy with accommodations included. 

Due to the nature of their services, their horses must love kids and must be dependable. They have found that the retired racehorse often fits that bill perfectly. Thoroughbreds are "people horses." They are raised in a much more hands on nature than many other breeds as they are pampered and prepped from day one to be champions. They interact with people on a daily basis at the track, they are used to having a job and they have seen and heard more than most horses. Because these horses must be safe enough for children, Lake Fork Stables takes a particular interest in the senior, retired racehorses. Their top two lesson horses are SCENAROID and DELAWARE PUNCH, 23 and 24 years old respectively. 

SCENAROID, aka Mistic, is a 23 year old gray Iowa-bred gelding. To say he was a bad racehorse is kind of an understatement. With a whopping $411 and never placing better than fifth at Prarie Meadows. He went on to be a schooling show hunter/jumper but found his calling as a therapy horse. Going slow is his jam. 

DELAWARE PUNCH, aka Jackson, is a 24 year old bay Texas-bred gelding. He retired after winning his maiden at Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but had 12 starts prior to that. He finished in the money a few times and ended up with $11,028 in career earnings. He raced at Lone Star, Sam Houston, Retama, and the old Blue Ribbon Downs. He then went on to be a great show horse and eventer. As he has aged, jumping has taken a bit of a toll on his body, so he is perfectly content to pack around little kids. 

Lake Fork Stables helps with rescues where they can as well, believing that every racehorse deserves a soft landing. In February, they helped rescue an older broodmare, TILODI, from a Kansas kill pen. The mare, by E DUBAI, had a decent career as a claimer running everywhere from Churchill Downs to Fair Grounds. She retired with a record of 5-0-1 out of 10 starts and $67,944 in earnings. As a broodmare, she had a filly sell at the Iowa October sale for $10,000. The mare arrived in poor condition, not quite starving, but not doing so great either. Her body was riddled in abscesses and infections. The decision was made to put her to rest and ensuring she passed away knowing that she was loved and safe. 

Another rescue they helped with was ZIBETH. The four year old was found at an auction near Houston and was purchased by a Carthage, Texas kill buyer. Thoroughbred Athletes, a rescue in Guthrie, Oklahoma, had already stepped up to take her if they could raise the funds and get her to Oklahoma. Lake Fork Stables offered her a place to stay on the route to Guthrie. She stayed for two nights until transportation to Oklahoma could be arrnaged and a few months later, Thoroughbred Athletes offered her to the Riders Up! program. She now has a permanent home with Lake Fork Stables. The bay filly by SUNDAY SUNRISE is a Texas-bred with one start at Delta Downs. She showed no speed in competition. 

Lake Fork Stables is just one of many small nonprofits around the country that don't get the recognition that many of their larger counterparts receive. They aren't featured in top publications around the country and there aren't any races bearing their name for fundraising purposes. They depend on generous individual donors and local support. You can learn more about the organization and the work they are doing at www.ridersup.org


 

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