The Maker's Mark Secretariat Center is a non profit facility located in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. We are dedicated to reschooling, and showcasing the athleticism of the off track Thoroughbred so that they can go on and become ambassadors for the breed in second careers. We are also committed to educating the public about these wonderful horses: We welcome visitors of all ages, interns, and volunters . This blog publicizes unofficial updates on our horses and our programs. For more information, visit www, or

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sips 'N Saddles 2015

Because of the conflict of dates we experienced last year, we moved Sips 'N Sadles to June this year. As always, it was lots of fun, a wonderful party, and we’re grateful for all our guests, our sponsors, our board, our volunteers, our staff, and our many friends who contributed as they could from where they could. We had exceptional music talents this year with Mark Wills and Templeton Thompson, mouth-watering foods from Red State Barbeque, home-made ice cream from Mad Scoops Ice Cream, excellent donated wines, and a special bourbon concoction, The American Pharoah, courtesy of Maker’s Mark. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so we will be brief and let you enjoy the party with your own eyes. 

Cheery bye and we'll see you at Sips 'N Saddles next year!


Rosie Napravnik with Dorothy Crowell aboard Dare Me

Country music star Mark Wills with Susanna

Susanna with Timothy Capps (left) of the University of Louisville
and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron (right)

Templeton Thompson performed her new song
in honor of American Pharoah

The happy winners of American Pharoah's halter, with included
autographs from jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert

Thanks to all of our Sips 'N Saddles Sponsors!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thank You!

Thank you to all who attended Sips 'N Saddles this year! And a huge thank you to all our sponsors, volunteers, interns, board members, and staff for making Sips 'N Saddles happen. It was a wonderful night and it wouldn't have been possible without all of you.

Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look at Sips 'N Saddles in next week's blog, complete with a myriad of photos!

Cheery bye,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Truth Is... Following The Heart

There are many great things about working at the MMSC, but the most rewarding of all is matching the perfect horse to the perfect adopter.  Herein follows is an example submitted by Lauren G. about her forever horse, Truth Is, that she adopted from the MMSC last November. Enjoy!  Cheery bye, Susanna 

I paid my first visit to the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC) in September 2014 during a trip to watch my friend Nikki compete at the Jump Start Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park (“KHP”). I had competed in the event myself as a junior rider over ten years ago.  After taking a break from riding to attend law school and become an attorney, I realized horses still held a special place in my heart. I had to come back to the KHP not only to watch Nikki compete but to revive an old love.  

To be honest I hadn’t heard of the MMSC before. When Nikki convinced me and both of our husbands to run up to the Center in between her dressage and show jumping events, I thought we were visiting a KHP exhibit commemorating the great Secretariat. (My non-horsey husband probably thought we were going to a whiskey bar!) So we both eagerly hopped in our rented golf cart and headed out to the MMSC. My original guess proved (somewhat) correct. Driving up the MMSC’s long driveway, we glimpsed a majestic statute of Secretariat framed on either side by seemingly endless Kentucky paddocks full of bluegrass. The beautiful horses in the paddocks following our cart as we drove up the drive were a pleasant surprise.

Nikki explained the horses were off-the-track thoroughbreds (OTTBs) being reschooled for new careers. I was immediately intrigued because as a teenager I had owned and retrained an OTTB, Dewey, for eventing.

Lauren and Dewey

I was interested in getting a new horse, but not right away. I was a brand new attorney. Still, the prospect of looking for a new horse was exciting, so I picked up a brochure of the MMSC’s horses available for adoption. Each was unique in its own way but all shared the same Thoroughbred glow. One horse in particular caught my eye: A 17hh bay gelding named Wordsworth. I kept him in mind as we spoke with the MMSC Director, Susanna Thomas.

Susanna was incredibly kind and welcoming. I felt a bit out of place in my shorts and tank top—if I had had any idea that I would be looking at horses and meeting new people, I would have traded my grungy horse-show-groom-on-a-hot-day outfit for something more respectable. Susanna was never judgmental or condescending. In the process of telling us about her Horse Centered Reschooling Program she went out of her way to learn more about us and seemed genuinely interested in our backgrounds. I immediately felt comfortable.

Despite the fact that we hadn’t made an appointment, we were invited to observe a horse free-lunging in the arena and were shown around the barns. We met a number of horses in the barn; Nikki took the golf cart back to the KHP stables to get ready for her stadium event while Brandon, my husband Colin, and I took Susanna’s suggestion (and apples) to visit the other horses in the pastures.

We passed two women who had arrived at the Center around the same time as we who had made a beeline to Wordsworth. I heard them muttering something about his capped hock. My ears pricked up: My first OTTB, Dewey, had had a hind leg injury that caused many to doubt him. In spite of multiple missed shows and countless suggestions to sell him, he and I built strength through months of dressage training. Within a year, we began a successful eventing career which lasted until I sold him to attend college. 

Wordsworth was just as friendly as Dewey—so much so that my husband got a little jealous and jokingly used his iPhone to play sappy love music while we were bonding. The horse quickly captured my heart. Could Wordsworth be my new Dewey? Sadly it wasn’t meant to be—Susanna indicated Wordsworth had already found a perfect forever home.

Far from deterred, we left the MMSC with an unwavering commitment to find my new Dewey at some point in the future. Moreover, Susanna and Wordsworth convinced me that I could find him at the MMSC. Susanna’s astute eye for OTTBs suitable for new careers coupled with her Horse Centered Reschooling Program made the MMSC the most “logical” place to adopt a new horse. As Nikki had taken the golf cart, Susanna drove us back to the show grounds. We thanked her and said we would be back. Little did I know just how soon our return would be!

Back in Ohio, I “liked” the MMSC on Facebook so I could keep track of what the MMSC was doing. Less than two months later, a 17hh chestnut named Flashy Dresser (“Flashy”) popped up on my newsfeed in early NovemberI was taken by his good looks, kind eye, and potential for eventing. He also happened to be a chestnut with chrome just like my former OTTB Dewey! Flashy also bore a striking resemblance to California Chrome, last year’s Triple Crown hopeful. I had to meet this horse. He could be “the ONE!” Like Wordsworth, Flashy captured my heart at first sight.

I sent in my adoption application, got approved, set up an appointment to try him mid-November, and booked a hotel room. I would occasionally check the MMSC website to look at pictures and videos of Flashy as motivation to get through the challenges of my job. One day before my visit, I saw that Flashy was listed as “ADOPTION PENDING." I picked up the phone and spoke with Program Coordinator Catherine Flowers. She told me that Flashy had just been readopted by his original owners. My heart sank. Later, I got a more detailed explanation about what had happened from Susanna.

Flashy’s former owners had had a change a heart. He suffered from anhydrosis and after talking about it as a family, they felt that their son and daughter-in-laws farm in Canada is where they wanted him to be.

I understand  your disappointment," Susanna told me over the phone. "And I apologize, but I do want to honor the donors wishes. They love Flashy. He was a really good racehorse for them. Most importantly, light work and cool weather is by far the best thing for him. And to be truly Horse Centered, we have to keep his best interests at the heart of all we do. I hope you can understand my reasoning. 

"But, why dont you come to Kentucky anyway?” she suggested. "Enjoy the time with your husband? See if any other horse else appeals to you? After all, finding the right horse can take time. Why not start the process now? Just for fun. There is no need to get serious about anything."

I am not sure.... I said. I really had my mind set on Flashy.

I can appreciate that, she replied. But truth is, it has to be a heart not just a mind thing. Why dont you sleep on it, and let me know in the morning if you want to come by?"

My heart and mind raced that evening: Why was I being so stubborn and childish? Why did I care so much about a horse I hadn’t even met? Did I have a desire to nurse him back to health like Dewey? Was all of this happening for a reason? Am I meant to adopt another horse at the MMSC this weekend? Or should I stay in Ohio and work instead? Unfortunately none of these questions yielded answers overnight. In my profession, we are strongly discouraged from making “gut” decisions: instead we back up all of our arguments with logic and precedent. Here I had neither. When I got home from work I looked to my husband for guidance. We both had had draining weeks—both physically and mentally. If nothing else, a trip to Kentucky would be nice. I let Susanna know we be coming. She couldn’t have been more excited.

When we pulled up to the MMSC parking lot, Flashy was in the front pasture. My heart skipped a beat. I wished he wouldn’t come over to see us, but he eagerly walked up likely looking for treats. We couldn’t resist his charm, so we obliged. After that we went into the office where Susanna greeted us. She asked me questions about what I was looking for in a horse to determine which horses I should ride. Then she turned to my husband and inquired about my personality. After a few minutes, she indicated she had a good idea of which horses would be best for me. However, she wouldnt tell me.  She wanted me to go to the barn to pick them myself. 

A volunteer took me to the barn where I met Double Minded (“Dublin”), Jazz Fest (“Jay Z”), Truth Is (“Truth”) and Meteor Shot (“Shooter”). I was most drawn to Dublin, a bay gelding who had just finished racing the weekend prior. He was about Dewey’s size and was incredibly sweet. I told Susanna he was first horse I wanted to try. She seemed a bit surprised. Clearly she had another horse in mind.

Just a week or so off the track, Dublin was tense and very much in “racetrack mode.” After taking six years off of riding for school, I was equally tense and unsure of myself. 

Susanna suggested that I try Truth Is, an athletic dark bay Thoroughbred with a “bleeding heart” marking on his handsome forhead.  I had seen his video online. I was hesitant about his habit of sticking his tongue out to the side. Like many Thoroughbreds, Truth’s tongue had been tied down to his lower jaw before a race to keep from swallowing his tongue while racing which many horses will do at high speeds. This habit was a vestige from his racing days.   Although I found Truth’s protruding floppy tongue amusing, I knew dressage judges did not. Nevertheless, I agreed to try him.  

I was amazed, however, when it became apparent to me that Truth had more natural talent than any horse I had ever ridden.  Despite my being rusty, he understood when I asked him to bend and to be “on the bit.”  He also had a big, lofty canter and was able to lengthen and shorten his strides with ease. Not that he was perfect:  He stuck out his tongue and was a bit stubborn when jumping fences for the first time. However, I reminded myself that he had only been ridden a handful of times since his last race in August.  Susanna, who pays very close attention to how the horses act when any potential adopter rides, was pleased with the fit. Truth, like many Thoroughbreds was, picky about his riders.  He went really well for me, forward, relaxed, and not fussy with his head or sticky off my leg. I had felt that. Deep down I knew that we had something special.
It was evident on their first ride that Truth and Lauren had a connection.

Over lunch, my husband and I sent videos to my friend, Nikki, who had introduced me to the MMSC. She agreed that Truth was talented. We went back to the MMSC and tried Jay Z. He was handsome and athletic, but the fit wasn’t quite right.  But did that mean Truth was the horse for me?  I wasn’t ready to make a choice just yet.

After mulling over the decision for a few days, my husband and I loaded the videos from our visit to the MMSC on our TV screen and had a “movie night.” Despite Colinlack of experience with horses, he noticed  that Truth and I had a compatibility and connection that I didn’t have with the other horses I had tried. At that point we mutually agreed that Truth was “the one." I called Susanna the next day with the good news: Truth had captured my heart.

Because I couldn’t leave work mid-week, Nikki and her husband, Brandon, made a generous offer to pick him up for me.  They endured Ohio traffic and my frequent texts asking for updates to bring him home to our farm in Northeast Ohio.  After work that day I drove hurriedly to the farm, ran into the barn (without changing out of my work suit and heels) and gave Truth a huge hug.  He was mine and I couldn’t be happier!  

Winter was long and at times brutal yet Truth and I managed to fine tune some basic dressage, do a little gymnastic schooling here and there and ride out in the country as we could. I was trilled with his intelligence and willingness to please. 
Colin, Truth Is, and Lauren
He even corrected me when our signals crossed.  I knew we had something special.  We had no intention of competing early in the year, but Truth continued to improve so much into the spring and seemed to be telling  me he was ready to try something.
  So In May, we attended our first show—a USEA-recognized event and a hunter pace.  We placed seventh at the event and second at the hunter pace!  I was thrilled beyond belief and was so happy with and for Truth!  We've received a number of complements about him and I was proud to tell everyone I adopted Truth from the MMSC.  Unbelieveably we are planning on coming back to the Kentucky Horse Park this fall to compete ourselves in the Jump Start Trials!  Talk about coming full circle in a year!  

But it is not just the shows that inspire me and bring me pleasure. Truth has taught me so much about myself in our short time together, the most important lesson of which has been follow your heart, rather than what you perceive is logical. I recently made the difficult decision to leave my job at an international law firm for a position that more closely aligns with my interests and allows me to spend more time with Truth. Thanks to the MMSC, I have found, I firmly believe, the horse of a lifetime! I want to spend as much time with him as possible. If the first few months have been any indication, Truth has so much more to give.  I am truly fortunate to own a horse with such a big heart—and I am not just talking about the one on his forehead!

Lauren G.

Why is vestige highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Triple Crown 2015!

It has happened. It’s been such a long wait.  37 years. Many thought it would never happen again. That’s what the wizened little guy at the bar at Ramsey’s restaurant told me last night when I went to pick up my “to go” dinner order.

He was downing a beer staring at the TV racing coverage overhead.

“Do you think American Pharoah will win?” I asked him as I waited for my order.

He took a deep swig. “Nah,” he answered, scoffing. 

He had the face, parched and cracked like drought stricken earth, of a race-tracker. Could be. After all Keeneland, the race course, was only a mile or two down the road. He was a small man. Stubby fingers with calloused knuckles encirled his beer glass.

“Why not?” I asked.

“They never do any more. It’s too hard.” He shrugged. 

American Pharoah winning the Kentucky Derby
“Sure is," I replied. “But I think he’s going to win. He’s a remarkable horse. Besides, I am a hopeless optimist, I told him, smiling.

My meal appeared so I wished him goodnight and I was back in my car in a flash trying to get home before the last race of the day at the Belmont Racetrack in New York, the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown refers to a trio of races for three year old Thoroughbreds: The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes that take place between May and June every year. It was first won by Sir Barton in 1919 but wasn’t popularized as a concept until 1930 when it was won by a horse named Gallant Fox. In 1950 a special trophy was designed to go along with the title. Until yesterday, only 11 horses had won the Triple Crown. The last one, Affirmed, did so in 1978. In the ensuing years 13 horses had captured the first two jewels of the crown only to lose the coveted third, the mile and a half Belmont Stakes. I had watched every attempt over almost four decades now. Each time I came away saddened, my sense of resignation growing larger each time. 

But as I said, I am a hopeless optimist. This year, as in other years past, I mustered support and enthusiasm for the Triple Crown contender. I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered if American Pharoah had had two heads and one eye, I would be rooting for him to win the third and final leg of this elusive prize. With a declining fan base, a tsunami of shocking press about racing’s drugs and thugs, the harrowing breakdowns on the track, the glut of mediocre horses that have no where to go after the racetrack, the fighting and biting amongst the racing jurisdictions, not to mention the naysayers within and beyond the sport, racing needed a Triple Crown winner. 

I needed a Triple Crown winner too. To work for a non-profit you have to have passion for your cause. To work for a non-profit of used luxury items, i.e. former racehorses, you need optimism. Ask not what your racehorse can do for you but what you do for your racehorse, is not a widespread motto in the racing world. This is not to say that owners and breeders across the board don’t care about the horses! Many do and there are responsible people out there doing what they can for the horses that they have bred, owned, and trained. But there are plenty of others who pay lip service to caring about their horses, who don’t put their money where their mouths are, who do too little to create meaningful change, who aren’t willing to pay for their horses continuously or at all once their racing days are done. And how about those people who do nothing but go to the races, bet on the races, dress up for the races, have fun at the races and all the while think nothing about the needs of the sentient beings that are entertaining them? Aren’t these people as complicit as the others directly involved in the industry? It’s not good when I linger on these kinds of thoughts. They deflate me. Finding the emotional wherewithal to sustain the constant drive to raise awareness and money and concern about retired racehorses in a way that inspires people can be waring. When I fail to garner support and interest I get discouraged.

And then I see a horse like American Pharoah, a horse with eyes that gleam with intelligence and a staggering ground covering stride and turn of foot so quick and so light he glides. This is a horse born and bred to run. A star to dazzle all who love the sport. An inspiration to all who care for the ones of lesser talent but which also deserve our attention.

I got home from the MMSC yesterday just as the horses were being led into the paddock at Belmont for the race.  I saw the riders thrown up and the parade onto the track.  I watched the horses load into the starting gate; I held my breath, and then THEY WERE OFF!  My heart skipped a beat when I saw American Pharoah lurch backwards in the starting gate and then lunge forward. Would he be okay? Would it set him back? No! Unphased, he surged forward, into first place. And then, I watched in frozen fascination as he surged down the backstretch. For every stride he took, others seemed to take a half or a full stride more. He was relaxed and commanding. Time seemed to stand still. I knew right then, even though there was so much more to go, that he was going to do it, and I was savoring every footfall.

He came around the turn and my husband and I jumped up from our seats and stepped to within two feet of the television. We could hear the rising roar of the crowd at Belmont. We joined in, hopping up and down, throwing our arms around in the air, flailing. We screamed American Pharoah on, calling out his name along with endearments and encouragement as if he could hear, as if he were ours. 

We knew he had done it even before he crossed the finish line. When he did so, we burst into tears and embraced one another. It was joy. It was disbelief. It was the clearing of years of disappointment. It was inspiration. Like the many thousands at Belmont, we stood tall as American Pharoah paraded before the crowd, giving him the ovation he so richly deserved. We were spellbound. It was a magical moment. 

American Pharoah, you make me proud of Thoroughbreds. You make me marvel at the sport of racing. You make me grateful for what I do at the MMSC every day.  You have given of yourself in a way that is an inspiration to so many. 

With all my heart, THANK YOU!