Thoroughbred Retirement Spotlight: Renassaince Rescue

Many may wonder what possessed Barb Hutchison to make Thoroughbred rescue her life mission, having not grown up around the industry. But for her, all it took was one look into the eyes of a slaughter-bound Thoroughbred at Fairmount Park to turn her whole world upside down.

Renaissance Rescue, a 75-acre facility located south of St. Louis in Farmington, Mo., was founded by Hutchinson shortly after that encounter and has truly been a labor of love during its four years of existence. Hutchinson and her husband fund the majority of the facility out of their own pockets, as well as provide primary care for its 62 residents.

Horse crazy as a young girl, Hutchinson rode Thoroughbreds on the show circuit for many years and was first exposed to racing as an adolescent during visits to Del Mar racetrack in California with her mother.

She didn’t come into contact with the ugly side of the sport, however, until becoming friends with Ginny Wood, a groom at Fairmount who gave her a behind-the-scenes glimpse of racetrack life.

The slaughter-bound horse she met on the backstretch in 2007, eerily named Theresnogoodbye, had a slab fracture in his knee, and Hutchinson offered to buy him from his owners for $300, the same amount they had planned to receive from the “kill buyer.”

After getting Theresnogoodbye’s knee surgically repaired, Hutchinson decided to board him at her ranch, where he still resides today. She then told Wood to put the word out at Fairmount that she would pay owners a fee to rescue their horses from similar situations. Four years later, Hutchinson’s farm has nearly reached capacity with 62 residents.

While Renaissance Rescue does have a few faithful volunteers, including Wood and Pat Maria Antonowitsch, who cleans stalls and helps with fundraising for the facility, Hutchinson performs most of the daily duties on her own. This leaves very little time for advertising horses for adoption, developing a website, or garnering funds to support the facility. In the future, Hutchinson hopes to gain more helping hands in order to ease her load.

A couple years after Hutchinson founded Renaissance Rescue, Fairmount started a policy to ban any owner or trainer who knowingly sells to slaughterhouse buyers. The track has supported finding homes for horses through the Racehorse Alternative Choice Environment program. Most of the Renaissance Rescue horses have come from Fairmount, although some have been sent to the farm from other states such as Kentucky and New York.

Hutchinson said she has always preferred Thoroughbreds to other breeds because of their intelligence and spirited personalities. While some of the Renaissance Rescue horses will live the rest of their days at the farm due to injuries, Hutchinson is in the process of retraining several others to have second careers as hunter/jumpers, trail horses, and pleasure horses. Many are available for adoption upon inquiry.

Airship, an ex-racer on the Midwest circuit, enjoying his retirement at Renaissance Rescue

“Most people I know that are Thoroughbred lovers would not have anything else,” she said. “They’re so smart, sensitive, and loving. I’ve ridden a few Warmbloods, but I’ve found they don’t have the response a Thoroughbred has. Now with the number I have, it’s just reinforced my high opinion of them.”

Hutchinson said to her knowledge, Renaissance Rescue is the only other Thoroughbred retirement facility besides Old Friends near Midway, Ky. that accepts stallions. Hutchinson currently has one stallion, True Monarch, at the farm. She acquired the son of Maria’s Mon off the track at Fairmount after he had made 73 starts and earned more than $150,000.

“He was having a little trouble breathing, was a little arthritic, and his owners wanted to retire him,” Hutchinson said. “They came and saw the ranch and asked if I could take him…they assured me he was very docile. He’s great; we don’t have any troubles with him."

One of Hutchinson’s other farm favorites is Costello, a blind Thoroughbred ex-show horse that she used to ride in competitions. He now resides in a paddock alongside a blind Thoroughbred mare named Phyllis McKee who has become his lifelong companion.

Hutchinson aboard Costello during his show horse days

Costello's companion, Phyllis McKee, a veteran ex-racer at Fairmount

“You’d probably think my racetrack rescues are all high strung and uncooperative, but they’re absolutely the opposite—they’re all loving, all appreciative,” said Hutchison. “Maybe they have a sense that they’re rescued or that they have a second chance, but I’m lucky—I don’t have one mean horse on my ranch.”

To learn more about Renaissance Rescue, visit its facebook page. For more information on how you can volunteer at Renaissance Rescue or to send a donation, email

renaissancerescue@yahoo.com (Barb) or bettylou76w@aol.com (Ginny) or call 1.314.479.8858.

Renaissance Rescue horses sharing a community meal

17 Comments

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backside sweetie

Dear Barb and Renaissance Rescue,I truly admire your efforts to save these very special horses.My thoughts and prayers are with you,if I lived closer I would be a dedicated volunteer.God Bless you,I believe there is a very special place for you in heaven !!!

27 Jun 2011 7:30 PM
Linda in Texas

Esther, this is my passion and i work each day for those no longer able to pay their way on the racetracks, not in as big a way as Barb but nonetheless i try to do what i can.

So heartfelt thank yous to Renaissance Rescue and especially Barb Hutchinson. The admiration and love the rescued ex race horses feel toward their caregivers cannot be measured nor is there a word that truly expresses the depth of it all.

It is such an humbling and rewarding experience to be a part of and there is never an end to the needs of so many.

Thank you Esther for your article on a subject that is not always one that ends happily, but for these and many it did and does.

27 Jun 2011 9:45 PM
kate

Where can I send a small monthly contribution?  A small amount every month is all I can afford, but what the Hutchinsons and Renaissance Rescue do is humane and important.  It shows the better side of our natures.

27 Jun 2011 9:59 PM
oso7

Thank you for this beautifully written story about Barb Hutchison and her devotion to saving thoroughbreds.  This type of story occasionally gets some media coverage, but all too rarely.  The fact thoroughbreds are still sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico is a ugly, terrible secret within the racing industry,

Thank you Ms. Hutchison for your kindness and work to save these animals from a terrible fate.

Kate Harper

28 Jun 2011 5:50 AM
Rachel NH

For a website tell Ms Hutcheson to go to a local college for some talented free or low cost help from their graphics department. Many students would love to help a non-profit!

28 Jun 2011 6:09 AM
carmncj

Wonderful story!  A big thanks to Ms. Hutcheson for what she does to help these gallant horses.  I too am a "TB person" and can't imagine why anyone would want any other breed!  Mine are the most loving, want to please horses you can could ever find.  All the best to Renaissance Rescue!

28 Jun 2011 10:25 AM
Esther Marr

Hey guys, thanks for your comments! If you want more information on how you can volunteer at Renaissance Rescue or to send a donation, email

renaissancerescue@yahoo.com (Barb) or bettylou76w@aol.com (Ginny)

Phone 1.314.479.8858

28 Jun 2011 11:20 AM
A Horsey Canuck

Another great article, Esther. I'm going to leave a little bit of US money behind in Canada while I'm in Kentucky. Thanks to you, I know where I can send some of it. I wish I didn't live so far away. I'd volunteer at Barb's in a heartbeat! See you next Thursday at Old Friends.

28 Jun 2011 4:49 PM
frenchykatz

Thank you for caring for these beautiful creatures that have given so much and expect only a little kindness in return.

28 Jun 2011 7:10 PM
A Horsey Canuck

I couldn't help but add...this is such a well-written article about such an extremely important subject - why do more readers/ viewers NOT tune in? As a Canadian, I am deeply ashamed that my country accepts horses from the US (and probably elsewhere) for slaughter! C'mon Canada, get with it and stop those horrible trucks filled with beautiful horses from crossing the border. OR, let them in and get them into a rescue facility here, no matter what it takes! OR, make it illegal and arrest the b&^%$#@s who are driving and making money off one of the most beautiful creatures on our earth! There..that's my 2 cents worth!!!!

29 Jun 2011 6:09 AM
Linda in Texas

A Horsey Canuck - perfectly stated.

My location is near a highway that leads to the slaughter town in Mexico and to a killer buyer's property in Muleshoe, TX where he

fattens the thin ones then takes them across the border to their death.

There is a bill in congress sponsored by Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and co sponsored by many that if passed will disallow horses to be transported on Federal Highways funded by taxpayers if their ultimate destination is for human consumption. There are states near the Canadian Border fighting this bill. Others say closing the 3 U. S. Foreign owned Slaughter plants has hurt the horse population because ranchers have no place to send their unwanted horses. To that end i say, no horse should reach the place where they are unwanted. Their care starts before they are born, and responsibility for that animal begins at their foaling for sure. My own Representative feels "that a horse is the property of the owner and he should not lose his right to dispose of his property as he wishes." Not unlike a rusty old car

which is a machine, a horse is a living animal.

I dare say Barbs horse Phyllis McKee had she lived on the wrong ranch would have long ago been shipped to Canada or Mexico. It is for all the Phyllis McKee's that we need to continue to champion the cause.

A Horsey Canuck - it starts with  elected officials in your own home town. I know those horrible trucks filled with beautiful and sometimes old and sick horses. I know your pain. Conversely I also see the beautiful horse trailers taking many pampered and wanted horses to be raced in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, those are the lucky ones for the time being as long as they race and win.

It is a subject that is not spoken about enough. It is a dirty little secret that too many look the other way rather than confront for a humane solution.

29 Jun 2011 10:52 AM
Deborah Biediger

I sometimes feel guilty about my love of horse racing because I know what happens to so many when they can no longer race. This story gives me hope. Thank you so much for this article. It really lifted my spirits.

29 Jun 2011 1:53 PM
Linda in Texas

Esther, just this morning after i submitted my post, i received an email from Wayne Pucelle of The Humane Society of The U. S. He was asking interested people to contact their senators in all the states and ask them to co sponsor The American Horse Slaughter Act, S1176.

Polite calls and emails to your senators would be terrifically beneficial.

Thank you Esther, you timed your article perfectly.

29 Jun 2011 2:50 PM
Linda in Texas

Esther, the wording may be misleading. Contact your United States Senators in Washington, D. C.

Not the State Senators. Sorry about that.

Thank you.

29 Jun 2011 3:20 PM
Dawn in MN

Esther, Barb,

First, bless you and thank you Barb on behalf of every horse you saved.  I have been thinking about this article ever since it first appeared on Bloodhorse.  

For the past year I have been grooming and riding a couple of horses a few times a week.  Their owners allowed me to do this for free because they didn't have a lot of time to spend with their horses.  Due to the cost of boarding the horses in town my horse friends will be moving out of town this month.  I would devote my life to the rescue of Thoroughbreds if I knew how to do that and still keep a roof over my head.  Heck, I'd live at a barn and donate my mortgage payment if it would help.  

I don't think there are any Thoroughbred rescues in Minnesota.  I have heard of one, but I have the impression that they don't have more than a few horses.  I bought a book on how to start and run a rescue.  After reading it, I concluded that I am not in that tax bracket, if ya know what I mean.  

I was captivated by the photos of Airship, Costello, and Phyllis McKee!  Beautiful horses, beautiful photos.  I especially like the picture of Phyllis.  

I actively supported the bill to close the slaughter houses in the U.S., mistakenly thinking that it would stop the bleeding of horses to slaughter.  Unfortunately it just made the trip to the plant longer, and worse.  

I receive regular calls to action from the Humane Society, and I place frequent calls, write email and even send the occasional hand-written letters to my senators.

I love Thoroughbred horse racing.  The slaughter issue often leads me to thoughts that I should turn my back on the sport I love.  No horse should end up in a slaughter house.  Especially Thoroughbreds!  I wish there was something more that I could do.  I donate to a horse rescue in my state, but they only take the occasional Thoroughbred.

Other than $ which is in short supply for most households what can we do?  I don't want to smear racing and I am afraid that campaigns to raise awareness of the slaughter issue have contributed to the sport's demise.

30 Jun 2011 5:59 AM
Esther Marr

Dawn in MN, I think you are doing a great job of putting to action what you believe. Even though you may feel like you're not making a difference, you're contributing in every way that you possibly can, plus you're spreading the word to others about a cause you're close to. If everyone that was involved with horses or was a horseracing fan contributed like you are doing, think about what a difference that would make! Keep up the fight and hopefully others will follow your lead!

30 Jun 2011 2:21 PM
Grande Fan

This is the compassion we need for every TB. I live near a horse rescue and have visited with a beautiful 27 yo mare: Spanish Lady. She raced 83 times, winning over 150K -- only 2 were stakes races, so we know she worked hard for that money. Her owners abandoned her when she became too old to work or breed. Apparently, they were able to find a use for her purse monies as they supplied no financial support when they left her. I can only hope in another life these owners will be living in a very warm climate - perhaps rooming with the man who shattered Alydar's leg. Let's hope for less rescue and more retirement for our TBs.

01 Jul 2011 2:50 AM

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