Saving Lives One Step at a Time

While there will always be stories of corrupt dealers, cheaters, and dishonest people in the Thoroughbred industry, we must remember there are also plenty of selfless, charitable, and good-natured souls. It’s these people—like Trish Regard of Occidental Farm—whose stories we should hold on to.

Regard, who owns and operates Occidental near Paris, Ky. with her husband, Andre and other family members, told me how she was inspired to climb mountains by her mother, who died of an aggressive form of breast cancer while she was in her 40s.

Hoping to raise money in a way that would reflect what her mom and others must endure in the fight against the disease, Regard discovered an event called the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, benefiting the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

In the midst of her duties at Occidental in addition raising four children, Regard somehow found the time to raise more than $3,500 for the Hutchinson Center, after which she drove out to Washington State last summer to climb her first mountain, Mt. Baker (10,781 feet), with a team of several others supporting the breast cancer cause.

Regard with her team, climbing Mt. Baker in 2009

Regard’s training included running up and down the stairs in a 30-story building in Lexington five times a week for a full year prior to the climb. And this year, she was back for more. After raising more than $5,000 for the Hutchinson Center in 2010, Regard set off for Mt. Rainier (14,411 feet) in Spokane, Wash. in July. Unfortunately, she became ill before the climb, however, and was unable to complete her mission.

Regard quickly shook off the disappointment from not being able to summit the mountain with plans to simply re-raise the $5,000 and go back next year. Her long-term goals include summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in Tanzania, Africa with her son in 2012.

“Mountaineering is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Regard. “It’s one of those struggles where you start, and then 15 hours later, you make it to the summit, and it’s one of the grueling things you’ll ever do.

Regard on her way to the summit of Mt. Baker

“I’ve run marathons and other things, but this definitely symbolized to me the struggle of climbing the ‘mountain’ to try and survive breast cancer,” she continued. “So I put those two things together, and with my background in rock climbing, it just made sense.”

Regard with her team at the summit of Mt. Baker

One of the most encouraging aspects of Regard’s journey was how supportive and generous the Thoroughbred community was toward her cause. Regard garnered several corporate sponsors, from bloodstock agencies to equine real estate companies.

“I had a great response from the industry—a lot of people came forward,” said Regard.

Mountains have always been close to Regard’s heart, as she did a lot of rock climbing in college in Tennessee and in Kentucky at Red River Gorge, and later in Rockville, Md., where she moved with her family while her mother was sick. Before Regard's mother died, her family operated a Thoroughbred farm in Ocala, and then in Maryland.

Regard moved to Kentucky with her extended family around 12 years ago and started Occidental as a team effort. She has since had four children—Michael, 12; Peter, 10; John Paul, 8; and Kate, 5.

Occidental, which currently boards around 30-35 mares, is now under an entity called Larkspur Farm. While operation serves mainly as a bloodstock advisory business and manages breeding stock for other clients, in 2009, Occidental was represented as breeders of Well Monied, winner of that year’s Honeymoon Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park. The operation is also currently campaigning a stakes-placed filly named Gatorize.

Persisting in the industry in spite of the struggling economy, Regard has learned to do things differently, and has retained more horses than usual this year to race instead of selling them at auction.

Regard was able to make a parallel between mountaineering and her plight in the horse industry.

“The way I look at mountaineering…you’re in it for the long haul—you have to deal with the weather and 12- to 15-hour days carrying 40 pounds of weight," she said. "Every step you take, it seems like it’s an impossible journey. But if you can just take one step at a time, and put one foot in front of the other, nine times out of 10, you’ll make it to the summit.

Regard at the summit of Mt. Baker

“That’s kind of what I’m doing in the horse industry right now—I’m taking it one step at a time, and it’s going to be a long journey, but if you love something and you work hard enough, and if you put one foot in front of the other, and keep your mind focused on that, the odds are that you will make it.”

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