By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
Ten Tequilas is just the kind of horse Barbara Luna has a soft spot for.
The former program administrator for Turning for Home—a program at Parx Racing that helps retiring horses find a place to land off the track—founded War Horses at Rose Bower in 2013 to assist retiring "war horses." Luna specifically looks to help horses that are 7 years old and up with at least 70 starts. While he doesn't exactly fit those specifications, Ten Tequilas is another kind of war horse that piqued her interest.
The 8-year-old son of Ten Most Wanted ran 66 times, but earned only $52,693. Bred in California, he started his racing career in the Golden State and then moved east to Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort and Mahoning Valley Race Course before ending up in Puerto Rico in 2016. The gelding made 25 starts in claiming races at Hipodromo Camarero in 2016 and 2017. He never won in Puerto Rico, but he placed 11 times.
Camarero and its equine population was especially affected after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the U.S. territory Sept. 20. The non-profit group Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare stepped in to help the horses at the track, including Ten Tequilas.
Looking for a safe spot in the U.S. mainland for some of the retiring Thoroughbreds at Camarero, the CTA sought out a few farm owners, former connections, and Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited organizations to help.
"I read about the plight of the horses in Puerto Rico as it happened," Luna said. "And Shelley (Blodgett of the CTA) got a hold of me and said they were looking for an accredited program to take this horse.
"When they asked if I would take him, I said I would help any way that I could."
So Ten Tequilas made one more long-distance journey, going from Puerto Rico to Florida and then arriving at Luna's facility near Appomattox, Va. in January.
"I love his personality," Luna said of the gelding. "I feel no insecurity about going in the stall with him, walking behind him, attaching the buckles off his blankets. I think what you see is what you get and he's just a really, really nice horse."
Ten Tequilas in a paddock at War Horses at Rose Bower
Luna's original plan was to get Ten Tequilas ready to compete at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. But that was derailed when Ten Tequilas' old suspensory injury started to flare up after he arrived in Virginia.
"This is what you get for planning something with a horse, because when you plan stuff with horses (they do) the opposite of what you want to do. But he's going to be fine," she said.
"The right thing to do is to wait. If they have the same kind of eligibility rules that they have in 2019 that they had this year, he's still eligible. My vet said his bones were clean, no arthritis, his joints were clean. It was just body soreness and he was lame in his suspensory. He has gained a lot of weight (since he arrived). He looks good."
While Luna knows Ten Tequilas will never be an upper-level competition horse, she thinks there are many options for a new career for him.
"The good thing about RRP is that they have divisions for everything," she said. "He doesn't have to be a jumper, he could do low-level dressage, trail. We don't have to go there and say he's this, that, or the other—they have something for everybody. I think we're going to wait and see what he tells us. We don't want to push him."
In the meantime, Ten Tequilas will still play an important role in horse-human therapy programs at War Horses at Rose Bower.
"I'm going to try to use him as much as I can with my women's group that comes in and works with the horses," Luna said. "And keep taking pictures of him, because I don't want people to lose track of him."
According to the CTA, After The Finish line financed Ten Tequilas’ quarantine and flight to the United States, while Randy and Karen Hickman housed the gelding at their Stone Ridge Farm near Ocala, Fla. before he shipped to Virginia.