Rapid Red: A Story of Adjustment

by Betty Jones,
VP Warhorse Legacy Foundation

In early 2020, I received a call from an anonymous friend… who knows I am a sucker for thoroughbreds. This friend called during the spring meet at Oaklawn to tell me that a horse “I really needed” was being retired. Although we were already overstocked with retired thoroughbreds at our Kingston location, the then-new Warhorse Ranch had none. So I heard myself saying, “Sure, if you can deliver him here.” We were deep in the throes of construction and had not way to get him ourselves. After a few conversations with the horse’s track veterinarian, Dr. Hamby, we agreed that if they would arrange transport, we would add him to our herd at Warhorse Ranch.

The horse’s name is Rapid Red and his previous owner, Jerry Hollendorfer, has a farm in Washington (Down the Stretch) where they focus on equine therapy for veterans. We felt that since we shared the desire to serve veterans, it was a natural placement with a much easier trip to retirement pastures.
Well, what seemed like the perfect situation become unpredictably delayed and complicated. The rains of last winter and spring had degraded our one-mile road just off the interstate and the horse van could not travel an extra day out of the way just to deliver one horse. Dr. Linda Rawlings at Step Ahead Farm in Hot Springs helped to make other arrangements with well-known trainer Norm Ashour to drop off the horse on his way to a track in Oklahoma.

After being transferred from the track to Step Ahead and waiting almost a month, Rapid Red arrived at Warhorse Ranch! A very interesting adjustment period ensued.

Red’s racing career started at two years old after being purchased in a yearling sale for $42,000 and ended at a 9 years old with career winnings of $210,503. That may sound like a lot of money, but when compared to his sire and grandsires that won over $5,000,000 collectively… it was only a respectable sum. Very few horses on the track pay for their own keep much less make any extra to help keep their stable mates fed. Nevertheless, Red was loved dearly for his great heart and determination and probably would have fared much better if he hadn’t injured an ankle that had to have surgery when he was a four-year-old. He is impeccably well bred and well mannered, a kind and gentle horse who will be a great ride for many veterans… but no jumping in his future.

Having lived in stalls most of his life, Red found it challenging to transform to a routine of being a barefoot pasture animal. A lot of his transition time was spent on the move away from horseshoes. It took about four months to make Red comfortable without shoes – but with many applications of HoofArmor (a product I’ve used for more than 20 years) and the help of our great veteran farrier Chuck Hicks, we finally got there!

Probably the biggest challenge for Red has been learning to drink water, pee and poop outside of his stall. For that reason, we made sure that he had access to the stall 24-7. At this writing he is spending nights in the pasture with his buddy Spanky (last month’s featured horse) and they come in together in the mornings and spend the day with access to the stall.

We have been touched by several veterans who’ve told us that they relate to Red’s adjustment challenges settling down from a highly structured and fast-paced, adrenaline pumping atmosphere. I am still hoping to see Red drink from our pond – not yet, though. He still isn’t used to being rained on, but he found our sand pile and loves to roll in it. He’s adjusting to not being bathed every day and finds the flies lighting on his body quite bothersome. I know Red misses training and competing with his fellow athletes – the camaraderie of track life. Our veterans often report feeling those same things. It’s tough to acclimate to a new life… but that’s why Warhorse Legacy Foundation exists! We believe in helping as many veterans as we can in their adjustment back to civilian life.