Retired Racehorse Spotlight: Felicity and Windy

Jackie Cross of Maryland wrote me a few weeks ago to tell me about her 14-year-old cousin, Gabby Gordon, who recently adopted a retired Thoroughbred racehorse named Felicity. The 9-year-old daughter of Tarakam, who raced under the name Susies Cameo Girl, made 48 starts on the Texas circuit, winning seven times, with seven seconds, and six thirds.

Throughout her four-year career, Felicity consistently hit the board, always tried, and deserved to have a dignified retirement after the hard work she had put during her time on the track. Unfortunately, Felicity, a granddaughter of Seattle Slew, ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was slated to go to slaughter. In her final hours before being transported to her fate, however, Felicity was rescued by a couple from Maryland, who sent her to trainer Michelle Kowalick at Camelot Farms near Keedysville, Md.

Gordon had been taking riding lessons at Camelot Farms, where Kowalick has retrained and resold many retired racehorses. Kowalick had heard about Felicity’s situation from her friends that had rescued the mare, and welcomed her to stay at her stable until finding a new home.   

“I didn’t find (Felicity) on purpose,” Gordon wrote in an email. “I wasn’t even looking for a new horse. I rode her and from the very second I slipped the halter on her head and brought her into the barn, I knew that I would fall in love with her.

“She is the sweetest mare,” continued Gordon, who adopted Felicity after discovering she was fit and to be retrained as a hunter jumper horse. “She used to never eat treats, but now she begs for them. She has the kindest eyes, and from the first night I met her, I knew by the way she looked at me, she knew I was trying to help her. She also fits my riding style perfect. I am a hunter jumper and she had the good movement and great form over fences. She likes to jump too.”

Gabby Gordon and Felicity

An added bonus to the story is that Gordon’s aunt, Jackie Cross, also has a retired Thoroughbred, which is why Gordon’s situation was so close to her heart. Cross met her horse, Windy Jim, around six years ago by accident.

“I hadn’t been around horses in 20 years and had no plans to adopt or even ride again,” said Cross, 46. “I guess maybe you could say it was fate (that I found Windy).  From the first moment I was introduced to him, he chose me and there was no way he was going to let me forget about him, so I really had no choice. There was an instant bond.”

Jackie Cross and Windy Jim

Windy, a 15-year-old gelding by Feel the Power, was given to Cross by her childhood riding instructor, Pat, who she hadn’t seen or talked to for several years.

“She called one day out of the blue and said she’d like to get together and talk about old times, but little did I know, she was a desperate woman with a plan,” remembered Cross. “Pat had left West Virginia in the late 1970s and ended up in Ocala working as an exercise rider at the track for more than 20 years. She returned to West Virginia sometime in 2001, and that’s when a former friend and exercise rider from Pimlico had rescued Windy and gave him to her. (The horse failed to find the winner’s circle in six starts and was retired after his 3-year-old season due to a bowed tendon in his right front ankle).

“By the time 2005 rolled around, Pat had fallen on hard times and was unable to keep Windy. She was like a second mother to me growing up, so she knew me well and felt I’d be the perfect fit for Windy.  She knew I hadn’t ridden in years, but she was hoping it would be love at first sight, and it was!  I had no idea that Pat had a plan when she called me that day, but I’m forever grateful that she did.”

Cross lives in Bridgeport, W.V. and now boards Windy at a stable about a mile from her home. Since the facility doesn’t provide full care, however, Cross travels there twice a day, seven days a week, to provide for Windy’s needs. She also often takes the gelding on trail rides across the hills of West Virginia.

“He's one of the gorgeous horses I've ever seen and his pedigree is full of class and quality,” Cross said. “If it weren't for his ankle, he could've been an amazing hunter jumper horse.”

Cross wasn’t a fan of horseracing until Windy came along. But now she is an avid reader of the Blood-Horse, studies pedigrees, and is a regular racetrack attendee.

“It’s all so fascinating to me and now I’m hooked,” said Cross. “So the racing world has Windy to thank for giving them a new fan.”

When asked what advice she would give to others that are considering adopting a retired Thoroughbred, Cross said, “Find one that you can make a connection with. When you put the right horse with the right person, it’s a beautiful thing. Also, patience is very important. Windy had been off the track for a few years before he came to me, but I’ve helped a couple friends with horses fresh off the track and it’s a process that takes time and patience.”

It was interesting to hear Cross talk about Windy’s personality traits and quickly became clear to me that she has a true bond with this horse, and that to her, he wasn’t just any horse, but the horse (in the words of Blue Blue Sea’s owner).

“The first time I met Windy he was pulling my ponytail and gently grabbing my belt buckle," said Cross. "He’s the most inquisitive horse I know. When I tried to turn him out in the pasture after our first visit, he wouldn’t leave my side. Finally, he’d take a few steps and turn around and look at me and then take a few more steps and turn around and look again. It was as if he was saying, ‘Please take me with you, I want to be yours!’

“Windy absolutely loves to be in the woods and trail riding is my passion these days, so we’re a perfect match. He loves peppermints and will stop whatever he’s doing in a split second if he hears a peppermint wrapper anywhere close by. There are 18 horses in the pasture where I keep him and he’s the only one that will come running at a dead gallop if he hears me call his name. 

"I once tied another horse next to his stall and a few minutes later the horse was walking loose in the barn with his halter still hanging from the lead rope on the wall. I caught the horse, put the halter back on, and tied him up again. As soon as I turned my back Windy reached for his buddies halter and unhooked it again. This went on 4 times in a row and he always waited for me to turn my back to do the deed. Everyone in the barn laughed since they could see what he was doing but I couldn’t. He also knows how to take grazing muzzles off of the two fat ponies in the field.

“Windy came along at a low point in my life and somehow he made everything alright. Sometimes I think that he’s the one that saved me!”

Thank you, Jackie and Gabby for sharing your stories and beautiful photos with me. They were truly heartwarming and inspiring!

41 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Fran Loszynski

As always Bloodhorse you outdo yourself! How heartwarming a story.  God Bless these wonderful people that save these beautiful animals. I always love the line from the movie "Seabiscuit" from the trainer: They may be a little beat-up but that's no reason to throw a life away. Speaking of Seabiscuit "Rich In Dallas" portrayed that touching scene through the Fall woods where he was allowed to "just be a racehorse again" and now the young boys at the Tulsa Boys' Home Equine Program have adopted Rich In Dallas where I'm sure he'll teach them "just to be boys again". God Bless all of you.

08 Mar 2011 12:36 PM
Blue Blue Sea

A delightful story. I am so glad to have read it here!

08 Mar 2011 2:00 PM
the maui cowgirl

Thank you Bloodhorse for sharing this story.  I wish so many more of these horses were able to receive a chance for a 2nd career, and to be able to go on and bring joy to another owner.  So many are wonderful athletes with more to offer. My own sister has one of her smaller TBs running in Louisiana at the moment, and at the end of this racing year, he will go on into barrel racing training to run at the futurities, another field in which some of these horses would be able to continue to excel and win money for their owners.

08 Mar 2011 2:11 PM
Mary P

I think a lot of Thoroughbreds find and claim their people.  I've had some that moved on after picking their new owners to great lives.  I love this story and hope it inspired more people to for love in all the right places.......a Thoroughbreds heart.

08 Mar 2011 3:35 PM
needler in Virginia

And, Fran, Popcorn Deelites, another of the Seabiscuit doubles, resides at Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky doing what all horses seem to do the best: be they old and creaky, young and full of it, middle-aged and sensible, fat and lazy, elegant and statuesque, lean like a Greyhound...they ALL make the best pasture ornaments ever, and deserve that, at the VERY least.

Because this is such double warm fuzzy story, I'm not gonna rant about too many horse being bred; I'm just going to enjoy how good this column makes me feel.

Cheers and safe trips, especially to Windy and Felicity.

08 Mar 2011 3:38 PM
easy goer

Thank you for these wonderful stories! Please keep up the good work! A horse should never be thrown away just because he/she is not "useful" anymore. All horses have a purpose and value even if their destiny changes over time. The Thoroughbred industry should always remember that the horses are the stars of the sport, and many people can never support an industry that treats their stars like used up garbage when their careers are over. I commend the Bloodhorse for telling these stories, and I urge the industry to recognize that it is imperative to take care of the horses when they are done racing.

08 Mar 2011 4:04 PM
Anja

What a wonderful story! Windy seems to be indeed special as so many retired Thoroughbreds when given a second chance.

He's a gorgeous horse and seems to have a kind and intelligent eye.

Thanks for sharing the pictures and story!

08 Mar 2011 4:23 PM
Carmel

Great stories! I can relate because I have my own 2 retired Thoroughbreds, one is now 27 and I've had her since she was 5.  The other is now 7 and I bought her at the age of 5 as well. The right horse with the right person is indeed the most wonderful thing you can imagine!  These horses are so much more than racing machines, they have personalities and have so much to give.  

08 Mar 2011 4:44 PM
RacingFan

Oh, how cool... I recently moved my horse to the barn where Felicity is now boarded. I always admired her and I'm glad I know her story now! Both horses have great tales, thanks for sharing them. :)

08 Mar 2011 5:40 PM
Rachel

Lovely story. Gabby's right, she has the kindest eyes.

PS I miss the "old days" when a reporter would never have called a young person the age of Gabby "Gordon", instead would have used the familiar "Gabby" or the more formal "Miss Gordon", I miss the politeness of a time that will probably never come back.

08 Mar 2011 5:41 PM
Boxwood

What a terrific story! My horse Dustin's Dreamer found me also. He was at Pimlico, a 3 yr old , training and was too slow to race. He was headed to slaughter..until his exercise rider stepped up... and today ..well here is his story.. please watch and love those thoroughbreds.. they are the best!!!!!..www.youtube.com/watch

08 Mar 2011 6:18 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for a beautiful story, actually two such tales - Felicity and Windy, but you made me cry.  At least these are misty eyes from learning about the love these horses found.  Thank you.  Needler, I agree.

08 Mar 2011 6:21 PM
uncle mo lover amy!

oooooo!!!!! thats great im glad people will care for these horses even if they were not stars on the track! thanks for putting this on bloodhorse THANK YOU!!

08 Mar 2011 6:29 PM
anita

many years ago when I was a young teen, my grandmother's neighbor had a thoroughbred gelding. That horsr and I had a love affair that lasted for years-until the owner sold him. I might see hime only 3 times a year but he knew me when I came. The owner let me ride him in the paddock one time, another time I took him out in to an open field to let him graze. The owner made him in to a jumper/hunter. When I found out that my horse was gone I never went back.

  And I do believe that Finger Lakes Racetrack in western New York was the first track to start an adoption program for their thoroughbreds.

08 Mar 2011 6:57 PM
Freetex

A wonderful story about amazing horses and their people.

If only there was more accountability in racing, the sport would grow immensely.  

Every horse should be so fortunate as the ones we read about on this blog.

Thank you.

08 Mar 2011 7:29 PM
CJ

Tears in my eyes here!  How wonderful when Thoroughbreds find the right people to give their great hearts to!

08 Mar 2011 8:29 PM
hrsahlc

wonderful story :) I currently have 2 thoroughbreds that were heading to slaughter, and helped my 2 neices get their two thoroughbreds also slated for slaughter...3 of the 4 have raced, 1 never made it to the track and while untattooed amazingly still had her papers with her.

The first I saved was Dutch Creek, a 2007 Friends Lake x Dutch Maid. He's now a gelding, ran through the auction at a body score of 1, still intact. He now is my 10 yr old neice's pride and joy, and soon as they get to a point where they both know enough (and she gets used to his height, she's used to 14.3 hand arabs, and he's 17hands...lol). Some day they will grace the show ring together.

The next was Bad Girl Bianca....a 1989 mare by Rock of Cashel out of Jo's Bianca...She was appearantly a broodmare that didn't catch in 2010 and was dumped in the sale pen soon as her foal was weaned...She has no registered thoroughbred foals, so I assume she was used to breed qh's or other sporthorses....she can be a grumpy girl until my 3 yr old neice is around, then she's sweet as pie and takes her job as protector of my neice very seriously...she has now even adopted my nephew's donkey as her "foal" lol

The first of my personal horses saved is Smarten Princess, a 1998 Smarten mare out of Lakota Princess. She ran through the sale and ended up in the killpen with her papers and a letter from a vet stating she was pregnant with a single fetus...through some research from my vet, I found out she was in foal to a 12.2 hand welsh pony on a AI cover...she has had foals before and I have a feeling she was dumped because her foals were out growing large pony hunter size.  I'm awaiting her foal with bated breath (she's due april 26th), and plan to breed her to point Given in the future.

Most recent is Redneck Affair...her papers were a shock to me...I bailed her because I saw great potentual, and she was one of the last ones with only 1/2 hour left...when she arrived at the quarenteen barn, papers were turned over...turned out she was a 2006 filly by Black Tie Affair out of a Personal Affair mare...I plan to show her and then breed race horses with her also.

OTTB's have got to be the most under appreciated horses, they have so much t give and just want a person to bound with...My old gelding Rare Menace made me a confirmed thoroughbred fan! I will miss him forever, but like to think he's proud of me for saving some of his "brothers and sisters" and giving them the love he had.

08 Mar 2011 9:29 PM
anna

windy deserves a lot more than being struck in a field that has a strand of barbed wire around the top fence board where he will stretch his neck over, as many horses do to be greeted and i sincerely hope his owner will have the devilish thing removed soon, because horses and barbed wire is never a good mix, ever.

09 Mar 2011 12:09 AM
Patricia G

Thank you for bringing in the stories of race horses that are being "retired to slaughter" God, that gives me chills. The stories

here have happy endings. The more stories, the more happy endings.

Patricia Guthrie, author

09 Mar 2011 1:24 AM
KarenNYC

Thank you bloodhorse for such a beautiful story. The only way to make a difference in the lives of our retired warriors is to highlight these real life stories

of successful retirement. The more that is known about the subject will educate more people to act on their behalf. I hope in the future we will see more Rehabilation farms set up . To have that we need funding . It needs to be subsidized by the racetracks for it to be hugely successful. A percentage of the profits needs to be secured for their health and wellbeing after racing. It is the right thing to do. I hope and pray every day that it becomes a reality. Education and information is the driver for it. Thank You bloodhorse for posting this story.

09 Mar 2011 7:18 AM
barry aksarben

i wish i had the means to adopt a horse and feel the people who do are earning a very special place in heaven. And I am not a relious man but when you hear these stories the true humanity these people exhibit is amazing.

09 Mar 2011 8:33 AM
Zen4Zen

What great stories and photos about those wonderful horses and what great people to adopt them!  I hope readers will send a copy or a link to every thoroughbred adoption place they know as this story would be great for fundraising purposes, even if it's not a story of those places' particular horses and owners!  Thanks so much!

09 Mar 2011 8:59 AM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

A superb wonderful heartwarming story that is so inspiring.  Thank God that some horses are fortunate enough to find a forever loving home when their racing careers are over. Wishing them the best.

Prayers, Love & Blessings to all the horses that are in need of their forever homes!

09 Mar 2011 9:25 AM
Lori Douglass

Hello,

This story made me cry.  Very touching and maybe because Jackie Cross is my sister and I have watched this whole process through the years.  I work in the Thoroughbred industry selling barn and fence paint and my boss, the owner of Thorworks Industries has  a location in Lexington KY.called FARMPAINT on Philipps Lane off of Old Frankfort Pike. I also sell a synthetic surface called ThorTurf that many of the farms are using in their exercisers and arenas at this time. I never had the appreciation for Thoroughbreds like my sister.  I own Arabians and love their beauty and spirit but my sister has made me a believer and I am now a racing fan as well.  She keeps me updated on a daily basis with Bloodhorse.  She also sends me a link every week of the TCI video, which I love watching!!!!!!  Very small world out there, my daughter Kaitlynn Douglass who is a freshman at UK is the TCI correspondent for the WinStar Dream Big momement.  She is having the time of her life and loves all the people that she is working with.  Funny how things work out in life.  My sister is really good at pedigrees and is usually bang on at calling the first three places in all the races.  She rarely makes a mistake.  After watching the prep races for the KY Derby I often send my sister Jackie Cross a text message saying "Some day you and I are going to own a race horse together and take it to the Winners Circle" that will be our DREAM BIG MOMENT. Guess I better sell alot of fence paint this year...Once again, I so enjoyed the story and you did a great job with it Bloodhorse. Thank you, Lori Douglass.

09 Mar 2011 9:42 AM
HRFan4Life

I agree with Anna!  That barbwire was the 1st thing I noticed.  How vets don't educate horse owners on how dangerous and lethal barbwire is to horses I have no idea.  Even smooth high tensil wire is dangerous.  I hope the barbwire is removed from his fence as soon as possible.

09 Mar 2011 9:51 AM
Jackie Cross

About the Barbwire:

I wasn't going to reply to these comments but since there was more than one, I guess I need to.  Windy is at boarding facility  (the only one close by in my area)and I have absolutely no control over the fencing that the property owner choses to use.  I don't like it either, but I didn't have a choice. Windy's current pasture is like  "Hollywood" compared to where he came from.  My boyfriend has a 27 acre farm and we are getting ready to start building a new barn and new wood board fence.  So Windy will be away from the one strand of barbwire as soon as I can make it happen. I really do appreciate the concern.

09 Mar 2011 11:05 AM
Deb

Best horse I ever had or knew was off the race track in the '60's.

He was left on a farm to waste away and when I saw him, all thin and full of burrs, I knew he was mine. My mom was sure he would die before we got him home but he lived and became the best trail horse with after burners that ever lived.  You will not find a kinder smarter trying horse than a thoroughbred. 'nuff said!

09 Mar 2011 11:21 AM
anna

which sure barbed wire is fine around cattle, because their stupid, nonflightly animals only good for three things, to be shown, milked or be eaten.

horses on the other hand are different and i worked with someone a few yrs back, and long before i knew her, she had brought a old cattle ranch and she set about taking down most of the barbed wire fencing and the sections she couldn't reach, she made sure that there was a wooden fence keeping it several ft away from her horses and the only place she kept it close to horses was simply she had built a big enough area for the horses that they had plenty of acres to graze without ever seeing the barbed wire on the other side of the fence boards.

09 Mar 2011 11:38 AM
pflaherty@mncee.org

I am looking for a former racehorse that raced at el comendate ractrack in puerto rico years ago,  called I love you.  I don't know anything about the horse other than that it won and I won a lot of money on it.  Can someone tell me what happened to it?

09 Mar 2011 2:30 PM
Kathy Kimber

Thank you for your kind hearts you may not know it but you have added stars to your heavenly crown.  Bless you

09 Mar 2011 6:28 PM
Mike Relva

ANNA

FYI I've know several individuals that are "stupid" also.

09 Mar 2011 6:42 PM
MIchelle

Felicity was one of the very lucky few that escape the fate of slaughter after a racing career has ended! Gabby you have a huge heart! Last month I managed to save two more and give them away to forever homes. But, so many dont get saved and if people really knew the dirty side of racing and what goes on when the career of a race horse is over would truly break your heart! I have seen things that would bring tears to your eyes! We have saved many through the years but, because trainers would rather sell them for a couple hundred dollars to slaughter they wont give a throughtbred away for a second chance. I would rather pay a few hundred dollars and save a wonderful horse from slaughter and be able to sleep at night than turn my back as so many do in this business! Hopefully this article will inspire more people to give these beautiful animals a second well deserved chance at life!

09 Mar 2011 7:24 PM
Shannon

I LOVE YOU GABI! <3

and Michelle :)

09 Mar 2011 8:21 PM
Linda in Texas

Jackie Cross - thank you for your love and care of Windy. Where he is now is no comparison to what would have happened to him if it were not for you.

Please do not let one or two comments darken the lovely story of companionship the two of you share.

He is truly a beautiful horse. Very

regal looking. This should be how every 'used up and tossed away' horse should spend the rest of their lives.

There are thousands of us working on that issue and have been for years. At least no slaughter houses in the U.S. so that was a start. Still more pending legislation along the same lines.

Thank you and peppermints forever for Windy!

Felicity is blessed with her grand father's soft big dark eyes. Seattle Slew is my all time favorite fella. Anyone who knows me knows that is the truth!

Two very nice endings and thank you Esther for their beautiful stories.

09 Mar 2011 8:37 PM
Fran Loszynski

Thank you needler in Virginia, I'm glad all the horses in Seabiscuit are happy. It was a movie I will not forget. I have to say reading all the people here that adopted or helped racehorses-as a fan of horseracing since I was 16;

YOU ARE AWESOME. I'm sure your hearts are in the shape of a horsehoe.

10 Mar 2011 7:53 AM
horseracinglover

Oh I wish all stories ended that way. Most don't. Probably just guessing 8 out 10 land on the slaughter truck. If it can happen to Exceller it can happen to anyone. Please support your local rescue or one of the many OTTB rescues. Japan, France,Belgium all eat horsemeat. Mustang is considered a high price delicacy. I can only hope the horses sold to Japan don't end up on the dinner plate. I think it was Ferdinan that ended up like that because he didn't produce enough winners. The cold hearted people say it is a recycling of animals for useful ends. That just doesn't work wirh me. Please support the rescues. There are several with Facebook pages. Be sure and check them out because there are some people asking for donations but the horse never sees the benefit. Or if donating a horse make sure they are legit cause they still can end up in the killer pen.

10 Mar 2011 12:39 PM
Jackie Cross

Linda in Texas - thank you for your kind words and support!

Also, to my cousin Gabby - Thank you for touching my heart so dearly with your letter to Grandma & Poppy about Felicity.  It took me back to when I was your age with my first thoroughbred.

This is a quote from Gabby's letter.......

"The first night I rode her it was dark out when I went into the field and got her. It took me 10 minutes to catch her because she was so scared of everyone! I sang to her that night in the dark and relaxed my muscles and held my hand out.....she let me catch her."

Thank you Gabby!!

10 Mar 2011 1:02 PM
Robin from Maryland

Good read!!!  Nice to find a "warm and fuzzy" article especially since it's DARK and GLOOMY and WET here in MD. Everytime I read something like this, it greatly restores my faith in the Human race. To everyone who has ever adopted one of these TB's - my hat is off to you.  Stand up and give yourselves a BIG pat on the back.  God Bless each and every one of you.  

10 Mar 2011 5:19 PM
Julie Foley

Let me tell you......I too have had some inside information on this story.  I met Jackie & Windy 9 months ago when I came to the "board barn".  I thought that Windy was the most beautiful horse that I had ever seen and that was before I knew his story.  Then when I saw Jackie & Windy interact, I thought "it can't get any better than this".  I was wrong.  Then I met Dave (Jackie's boyfriend).  Dave was a cowhand now converted to the most horseloving person you ever wanted to meet.....compliments of Jackie.  They are perfect for each other.  Dave is in the process of building a new barn for Windy and the horse that he now ownes.

As for those of you worried about the 1 strand of barb wire.....Jackie's love for Windy runs deeper than that wire could ever cut.

11 Mar 2011 12:29 PM
Richie

Thank you for these wonderful stories. For many years I have wanted to get a farm and operate a horse rescue but sad to say the money has never been there and looks like it never will. I volunteer at a rescue farm and just love being around these amazing animals. To those who don't have a farm and can't afford the expense of a horse it's a great way to go. A huge hi-five to anyone that saves an OTTB.

17 Mar 2011 9:12 PM
lespedeeza

Windy is in the right place with the right person, barbed wire or not.  He is fat, ( no body score of 1 there!) he is loved, and most importantly he has a job appropriate for the 'jewelry' he brought with him from the track. I too have OTTB's. Wouldn't have anything else. We can save them all, one horse at a time, if everyone involved in racing who can, takes one horse at a time.

06 Apr 2011 5:01 PM

Recent Posts

More Blogs

Archives