07/15/2014 10:12AM

Jerardi: Schramm helps provide valuable Charles Town aftercare resource

Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo
Ben's Cat wins the Parx Dash on Saturday, taking the race for the third consecutive year.

Susie Schramm got up one day three years ago to find a citation from local animal-control officials on her door saying that her dog had bitten someone. Horrified, she immediately drove to animal control, and it quickly became clear that there had been a mistake and her dog had not bitten anyone.

Animal-control officials, Schramm said, quickly got to the bottom of what had happened and corrected the mistake. She was so impressed with how they handled it that she told them to call her if she could ever help them.

A few months later, Schramm, who lives on her horse farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., got a call from animal control explaining that it had a horse who was in really bad shape. The official asked if she could pick up the horse and take him to a veterinarian for evaluation. She agreed to get the horse and possibly try to rehabilitate him.

“They did a bunch of blood work on the stop back to my farm when we were at the vets,” Schramm said. “They said the horse had liver and kidney failure.”

They eventually had to euthanize the horse.

“The horse had raced at Charles Town seven months before this,” Schramm said.

She discovered that the horse was not the only one in the area with a similar background. She was so moved by the experience that she decided to get more involved. Fast forward to 2014, and Schramm is now the executive director of Equine Encore Performance at Charles Town.

“We are determined to serve as a network and resource for people who need to place horses into new roles from the racetrack,” Schramm said. “In our area, there have been so many horses that could no longer race, and people simply had no idea what to do with them. They ended up giving them away to someone who really had no business having them.”

EEP at Charles Town is not a rescue. It does not have a farm to which it can send horses. It simply acts as a resource to get ex-racehorses to owners who can care for them in retirement.

Owners at Charles Town have pledged a fee of $2 per start to help fund EEP. In a typical year, that would raise $30,000 – not enough for the entire budget but definitely helpful.

“Our goal is to educate the responsible party, whether it’s the owner or the trainer, help them evaluate the animal, and then try to help them make the appropriate placement,” Schramm said. “We have a small budget that can help with transportation.”

The start fees have been collected for a while, so when EEP got up and running, it had a decent nest egg. Thus far in 2014, Schramm said EEP has placed 50 horses.

“We don’t take ownership of the horses,” Schramm said. “I like to call this we’re getting people a leg up.”

The light bulb went on for Schramm when she got that call from animal control about the horse in trouble.

“The most perilous time in an animal’s life is when it quits racing,” Schramm said. “The people who have been involved up until that day no longer, for the most part, have any use for the horse whatsoever.”

Schramm saw a need, came up with a plan, and now helps partner otherwise-unwanted horses with people who want them and can care for them.

The incredible Ben’s Cat

I watched last Saturday’s Parx Dash from Delaware Park, awaiting the Delaware Handicap. I have watched Ben’s Cat so many times that I do not ever count him out, but when he was last on the backstretch, in no man’s land on the turn, and still several lengths back with 200 yards to go, I did wonder if he would get there.

Why wonder? Ben’s Cat got up in the last few strides to win by a nose. Of course he did. Twenty times, the amazing 8-year-old has been involved in finishes of one length or less. He has won 14 of them.

Ben’s Cat’s trainer, King Leatherbury, never had a $1 million earner. He still doesn’t. He now has a $2 million earner, and Ben’s Cat certainly does not look like he is finished after winning the Dash for the third straight year. No doubt, he will be back at Parx on Sept. 2 for the Turf Monster, a race he won in 2011 and 2012 before finishing third last year.

When Ben’s Cat got up at the finish, Parx announcer Keith Jones called the gelding a “horse of a lifetime,” about as good a description as any.

Parx Racing started a Hall of Fame three years ago. A horse does not have to be stabled there to gain admission. He just has to run there and make an impact there. Reserve a spot for Ben’s Cat.