When life dealt Carmel Heitzman a near-fatal blow, she turned her adversity into something positive for the horse industry.
Heitzman was badly injured at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots last February when kicked by a horse in front of the winner’s circle after her husband, trainer Eric Heitzman's horse won a race. Her condition required immediate surgery and removal of 24 inches of her intestine.
Instead of being bitter toward the animal that caused her injury, however, Heiztmann’s love for horses grew stronger.
Carmel and Eric Heitzman with their gelding, Carrigallen
Following several months of recovery and leaning on the support of her loved ones, Heitzman not only made it back on her feet, but she began training to run a race with a special goal in mind.
Heitzman decided to obtain sponsorships to run the March 4 New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and donate all the proceeds to Remember Me Rescue.
Founded and operated by Donna Keen, wife of Fair Grounds-based trainer Dallas Keen, Remember Me Rescue was one of several groups that helped in a 60-horse seizure at Ol’ Home Place Farm near Many, La., in January.
The owner of the property, Thoroughbred owner/breeder Charles Ray Ford, was charged with multiple accounts of animal cruelty for the abuse and starvation of the animals. More than 25 were found dead on the property.
Over the last several months, Remember Me Rescue has been involved in the rehabilitation, retraining, and rehoming of many of the horses along with the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association.
Heitzman was touched by the situation and decided to try and make a difference by running the Mardi Gras Marathon in honor of the victimized horses and Remember Me Rescue.
“It was just horrendous—I saw photos of the condition the horses were in,” said Heitzman. “My husband and I own lots of Thoroughbreds ourselves and we know how expensive it is to care for them. I was just trying to find a way to raise money to help these horses have a better life and a second chance at life."
Heitzman ran her heart out March 4, finishing the 26.1-mile race in four hours, 32 minutes, and 39 seconds. The time, which is an average of around 10 minutes per mile, was actually a little better than Heitzman was anticipating.
“It was great—I really felt good,” said Heitzman, a native of England who works seven days a week as an assistant to her husband at Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs. “The 21-mile marker was probably the most grueling one. But once I passed that, it was home sailing and I felt good and knew I was going to get to the finish line.”
Heitzman’s race finish time is especially impressive considering she had major surgery just a year ago. Through her fundraising efforts, she raised more than $8,500 for Remember Me, which will be used to aid in the horses’ daily needs.
Even though Heitzman has completed the marathon, there is still time to join her team and raise support for the needy horses at Remember Me Rescue!
Visit the Remember Me Rescue page here to make a donation in Heitzman’s honor for completing her goal.
What better way to support off the track Thoroughbreds than this!
All photos courtesy of Carmel Heitzman