By Kimberly Godwin Clark
From the first moment I saw a horse, I wanted to be near them. My mother would plan routes to my grandparents’ house, or the mall, expressly to avoid Sagamore Farm, where there were many Thoroughbreds grazing in the fields. She would choose a longer route because it wasn’t worth dealing with my campaign to have a horse, which would begin as soon as I saw the horses at Sagamore, and continue sometimes for the duration of the entire trip. I can remember reacting this way as early as age five. Aside from very few precious riding lessons for my sixth birthday, and some uneducated riding in my teens, I would not have the relationship I craved with horses until I reached my twenties. I didn’t know it at the time, but Thoroughbreds would become my life.
At eighteen years old, when I was in college, I found myself around someone who had horses. My insatiable attraction to them was reignited. I thought I was too old to be a good rider, but now I had the chance to be around horses and at least learn the basics of riding. It wasn’t long before I was cleaning stalls to pay for my own horse’s board. Then, I found someone to teach me to gallop racehorses. What could be better? However, everyone I talked to told me I was too old. They said I wouldn’t have the heart for it. They didn’t know horses were in my DNA. I had never been more certain about wanting to do anything. I ignored the naysayers and began cleaning stalls, and doing anything I could, to get my new connections—John Bosley and Ann Merryman—to teach me to gallop racehorses, and they did! On a farm in Monkton, galloping the most magnificent creatures on earth, my dream became a reality. I was where I had always wanted to be. Racehorses gave me a wonderful life through my forties and beyond, as a rider, trainer, and owner. They took me to Florida, where I galloped for several winters, and back to Sagamore, where I operated a business starting young horses. During this time, my love and appreciation for the Thoroughbred never waned- it only grew.
When I turned 39 years old, I met a man willing to put up with my commitment to horses. Upon our marriage, my mother’s advice to him was, “Whatever you do, don’t try to get between her and the horses.” He didn’t. Instead, he enabled me to start helping them find new lives, once their race careers ended. This wonderful man, who had never owned a horse, was all in for helping them, and still is.
In order to help the horses coming off the track, I needed to learn about riding show horses. While most people learn to ride as a child or teen, I had learned in my twenties. Now, I was in my forties and learning dressage and jumping. I didn’t have any time to waste at my age, so I enlisted the help of James C. Wofford to learn to jump. I evented, participated in dressage shows, and found good homes for over a thousand retired racehorses along the way.
I did this by founding Thoroughbred Placement Resources, Inc. (TPR), a 501(c)(3) charity, and working very hard to become a proficient rider. My goal has always been to showcase the incredible talent and generosity of the Thoroughbred, and especially retired racehorses. TPR has produced talented athletes like Constant Star, winner of the Breeder’s Bridge to High Performance Contest for Grand Prix jumping potential. This contest was held by John and Beezie Madden and open to all breeds. Star now belongs to Olympic gold medalist Tad Coffin. Rocky Times, who Katie Ruppel has developed into a four-star eventer, is another TPR graduate.
We continue to expand our reach, in finding good homes for this wonderful breed, by participating in the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. I consider it an honor to be accepted as a trainer for this year’s Makeover, and I know it will be a special year for us because we already have two potential horses for the dressage division. Choosing one for the Makeover is going to be very difficult, but fortunately we have until August to decide. As horses often do, they will probably decide for us! Both horses came to us from an owner who is a credit to racing, Al Gold. Al operates a successful racing stable. What makes him special is his commitment to finding a home for each of his horses, upon their retirement fromYa learning dressage racing or breeding. Al sent us our Makeover prospects in the fall of 2017. One is a five-year-old gelding named Ya, who retired sound from racing in September. He has already begun training and is wonderful. The other, Scatjack, is a three-year-old who arrived with an injury. Because of Al’s commitment to his horses, he received the time and care he needed to heal. He is about to begin training, with an excellent prognosis for a problem-free future.
Besides working with these two talented horses, I am also training Mystical Harbor, or “Fellow” as we call him. We are competing successfully in dressage, at Third Level, under the tutelage of Linda Zang and Patrick Tigchelaar. In 2017, I earned my USDF Bronze Medal on this amazing horse—a horse I have trained since the beginning of his career. By developing these and other breed ambassadors, we hope to increase the popularity and value of Thoroughbreds. We believe this is the best way to help all retired racehorses and the people who love them.