Lights on Broadway at his new home; photo from Donna Keen's blog
This story is a "must share" best-case scenario of what can happen when the stars line up in the sky. Thanks to a chance encounter, a horse's life was saved, and I hope that this story will inspire others to reach out and find ways to help retired racehorses who, regardless of their histories, often find themselves headed to Canada or Mexico...on a one-way trip.
A good place to start this story is to announce that Lights on Broadway--winner of well over half a million dollars, the 2001 Texas Horse of the Year, and an annual favorite at Lone Star Park--has retired from racing at age 11, after running in more than 80 horses. This is his second retirement; his latest comeback at tracks in the Midwest came after being purchased off a truck headed for a Canadian slaughterhouse a few months ago.
Oklahoma-based Quarter Horse trainer Gregg Sanders was talking to the driver of a truck one day this spring. Attached to the truck was a big gooseneck stock trailer with about 40 horses crammed inside. The driver showed Sanders some Jockey Club papers chronicling an impressive race record and said the horse was on board. Sanders was stunned to see the familiar name and asked the driver to pull Lights off the trailer.
The sorrel gelding was thin and lame but Sanders immediately purchased him. The price? $200, for a horse that had won over a half million dollars for his former owners. His new owner brought him to a deeply bedded stall at his own 30-horse racing stable in Henryetta, Oklahoma. Lights on Broadway, who Sanders calls "one of the kindest and gentlest horses I have ever seen", spent most of the next three days stretching out in the comfort of that stall.
The trainer began a feeding regimen to bring Lights' weight back up and immediately had his veterinarian and farrier deal with the injury causing Lights' lameness, which is now completely healed. Sanders started the gelding back into training.
Meanwhile, journalist and anti-slaughter advocate Alex Brown continually tracks high-earning horses that are running for low claiming prices around the country . Alex's ears went up when his Daily Racing Form "Horse Watch" account notified him that Lights had been entered to run on July 13 for a claiming price of $2,500 at the Anthony Downs Fair in Kansas.
Alex and a large group of the gelding's fans began working to find Lights a new home for his retirement. These included Texas fans who spread word throughout the state's racing industry, an anonymous Texas OTTB owner who made a generous donation and Alex's friends at "Fans of Barbaro", a horse welfare group that provided both financial and logistical support.
Alex is happy to report that Lights on Broadway retired August 30 to a farm owned by trainer Dallas Keen and his wife Donna, who will give the gelding plenty of time to rest, then learn a new job. He will become an ambassador for the virtually unlimited potential of the off-the-track Thoroughbred (known in most horse circles as the "OTTB"), the realities of horse slaughter, and the need for the racing industry to develop good alternatives for re-homing former racehorses.
Both Lights on Broadway's breeder and the retirement group LOPE Texas offered Lights a home, but when the Keens made a generous donation of funds and a commitment to work with Lights in his new life, he shipped to them.
"We cannot wait to have him home and give him some well deserved time off," writes Donna Keen on her blog. "He will be turned out with a couple of other geldings in a big paddock with a nice size pond. When he is ready, we will start retraining him for a new life. Whether it be a racetrack pony, a dressage horse or just a plain ol' trail buddy, he will be loved and cherished by all the wonderful people that worked so hard to make this happen."
Donna promises to chronicle Lights on Broadway's new life and has already posted lots of photos of him on her blog. His story is definitely not over yet.
Thanks to Alex Brown and Donna Keen for background used for this post.