Our Mims Retirement Haven is a pretty incredible place that is bursting at the seams with retired mares that have excelled either on the track, as broodmares, or simply with their shining personalities. I thought it was definitely time that I highlight some of these ladies' stories as well as the selfless and dedicated organization which they call home.
Located near Paris, Ky., Our Mims was started around 10 years ago by Jeanne Mirabito, who named the organization after the 1977 champion 3-year-old mare, a half sister to grade I victor Alydar. Our Mims had always been Mirabito’s favorite horse growing up, and by chance (or fate), she came into contact with the mare after she had retired, adopted her, and restored her back to health in her old age.
“(Our Mims) is a magic place, and it doesn’t have anything to do with me,” said Mirabito of the organization, which gained non-profit status in 2006. “It’s the mares—each of them are so colorful and unique, and they’ve seen and done so much...some of them have done really well on the track or in the breeding shed. Some haven’t done either, but their personalities are such that they have created their own fan base.”
Our Mims is currently home to 14 retired mares and has more than 40 additional horses on a waiting list. “More than 50% of our mares come to us between 200-400 pounds underweight,” noted Mirabito. “Sometimes the only thing we can do is restore their dignity.”
In Mirabito's opinion, the biggest problem with the Thoroughbred industry is that there’s no "horsey 401K."
"There should be, because they’ve earned the money," she said. "One percent of (each horse's) earnings should go into a retirement fund for them."
Our Mims boards several stars on its premises, one of the most eccentric of which is 27-year-old grade I victor Lotka. The mare is also the dam of three stakes winners, including Japanese multi millionaire Mambo Twist.
After Lotka’s owner could no longer support her, Mirabito decided to take the mare in, even though she hardly had any extra room left at Our Mims.
“She’s a tiny little dynamo, and yet she’s very opinionated,” said Mirabito, who has kept Lotka at Our Mims since 2007. “She’s a handful…it was a year before I let any of the volunteers handle her. She can be adorably sweet, but you can do something like use the brushes in the wrong order, or touch her hind leg, and she’ll just kick. She reminds me of how Our Mims was.”
Mirabito was concerned when Lotka wasn’t the first horse to the barn for dinner a few weeks ago, and promptly called her veterinarian. Sure enough, Lotka was suffering from an infection and was placed on antibiotics.
“I knew she was better when she trotted out into her pasture, then trotted back into the barn and circled me twice, and bolted out of barn like it was the starting gate. Then I said, ‘Yay, she’s better!’ I was worried because when older horses get the littlest thing wrong, they may not recover.”
Here’s a look at some of the other residents at Our Mims and their stories, as told by Mirabito:
“She won more than $92,000 on the track, was stakes-placed, had 15 foals, and then raised orphan foals. She’s over 16 hands, weighs 1,200 pounds, and her hair is really wooly. She loves children; she’s so careful and so gentle with kids--the smaller, the better. A stray cat had a litter of kittens in her stall, and she tucked the straw around those kittens every evening and took care of them.
“It’s a wonderful thing to watch (the mares) and allow their personalities to emerge and to express themselves.”
“She won more than $860,000 on the track, mostly against the boys on turf. I’m told they once called her ‘Queen of the Hill’ at Santa Anita.”
“She raced a lot, had six babies, and all of them were big winners. Two of them were stakes winners Mount Intrepid and Stalwart Member.”
“She’s the boss mare at the barn. She raced 38 times and won more than $100,000. She’s the granddam of Bourbon Belle, and the great granddam of Not Bourbon, who won the Queen’s Plate in Canada. She’s dappled out…you would think she’s 10 years old by looking at her. She’s pretty incredible.”
“She’s 29 years old. We got her through a rescue that had contacted the Exceller Fund. She was hours from going to slaughter. They got her out of the kill pen and called me. She was in Washington, and I said, 'If you can get her to me, I’ll take her.' She spent time in quarantine and traveled cross country in 2005. There were storms across the country, and she was in a stock trailer. The driver said at one point they had to pull under an underpass during a tornado.
“She’s extremely sweet and loving with big, sad eyes. She sucks people in and captures hearts so fast. Years after we had her, we discovered she was once owned by Jerry Moss. Eventually, he found out Hana was with us. He sent us a nice note thanking us for saving her with a generous donation. It was really neat, because here he has Zenyatta, but he took the time to send us a hand written note and a check--he didn’t have to do that.
"It turns out that while Hana’s family line is not producing race horses, they kick butt in dressage; her sister produced champion dressage horses."
“She’s from Australia, and paparazzi were waiting for her to be born. She’s out of a champion and by a leading sire (Bletchingly). She was the highest price filly to go through the Easter sale. She sold twice in Kentucky, and eventually ended up in Indiana, where a vet out bid a kill buyer for her for $400. She stayed with him for a couple years, and then they called me. She went from the highest price to the lowest price.”
To learn more about Our Mims or find out how you can help this organization, visit http://www.ourmims.org/