01/19/2017 12:20PM

Maker's Mark aftercare facility has record-breaking 2016

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An aftercare facility named for a record-breaking Thoroughbred celebrated a record-breaking year in 2016.

The Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, which operates from the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, placed 62 retired Thoroughbreds in new homes in 2016 – a facility record. The MMSC, founded in 2004, is a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited nonprofit that retrains and showcases adoptable Thoroughbreds for a variety of disciplines.

“Thoroughbreds are timeless,” MMSC director Susanna Thomas said. “They have reigned supreme in equestrian sports. They are smart, athletic, and big-hearted. As people are recognizing the magnificence of this beautiful breed, the demand for Thoroughbreds has skyrocketed. Giving these horses a second chance and helping them transition into a new career is a lot of work, but watching as they are adopted into new families is the most rewarding feeling.”

The MMSC retraining program is a unique system developed by Thomas, a lifelong horsewoman, to address all aspects of the individual horse, both mentally and physically. The trademarked “Horse Centered ReSchooling Program” is designed to not only match each individual horse with a suitable adopter but to give the horse a foundation that an amateur can build on in future training.

“Our goal is to figure out who a horse is inherently, what its ‘horsenality’ is like, to strengthen its weaknesses, to heal its wounds – whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual – to ‘find out what the horse wants to be when it grows up,’ and then to find the perfect person to adopt it,” Thomas said.

After arriving at the MMSC, the horse is evaluated by a team of experts, including a veterinarian, farrier, dentist, nutrition specialist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist, to ensure that the horse is having all its physical needs met from the outset. From there, horses are assessed for temperament and learning style in a round pen, using natural horsemanship techniques; early training also includes desensitization exercises borrowed from the early training of police horses.

Training then progresses through ground work and under-saddle work for various disciplines. When horses are ready to graduate from the training program, potential adopters must come to the facility to meet and interact with the horse to ensure a good match between their personalities.

Among the record number of adopters in 2016 was Ruth Goethals, who made the winning Candy Ride gelding Bow Tie Boss – or “Bowie” – her new partner.

“I adopted Bowie after initially meeting him two weeks prior during a trip to Kentucky for the [Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover show] that my husband and I were attending,” Goethals said. “I spent a couple of days with Bowie, and during that time I found the entire staff welcoming, informative, and extremely accommodating. The experience was amazing. Our trainer has often commented that the Secretariat Center hit a home run in matching Bowie and I.”

The MMSC has a number of prominent supporters in the racing industry, including retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, an avid event rider. Napravnik showcased the MMSC resident Dare Me, who has since been successfully adopted, in the eventing division at the 2015 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover.

“They do everything right, from the horse care, to the horses’ new starts, to the staff’s amazing ability to find new homes for them,” Napravnik said. “The MMSC is all about excellence, honesty, and the horse.”

TAA partners with Eclipse Awards

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has been selected as the official aftercare partner of Saturday’s Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park.

The TAA was to be the beneficiary of a cocktail reception held Friday night in Gulfstream’s walking ring. Proceeds from the event will go toward assisting the TAA’s 64 accredited organizations, which support 180 aftercare facilities.

“We are crowning the best of the best during the Eclipse Awards, but it is important to make sure all of our Thoroughbred athletes are well cared for when their racing days are behind them,” NTRA president and chief executive Alex Waldrop said.