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Taking the Scenic Way Home

Taking the Scenic Way Home

The inspiring story of bringing two ex-racehorses home from Puerto Rico! 

By Chelsey Burris

Just two days after the 2012 Kentucky Derby, which saw the flashy chestnut colt I’ll Have Another triumph over a packed field of 20 horses, another chestnut Thoroughbred was just beginning his life.  DoubleTheThunder was foaled May 7, 2012 in Indiana, and while not as regally bred as the Derby horses from that year, Thunder did have some famous names in his bloodline, including Alydar & Buckpasser.

At the 2015 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company (OBS) winter mixed sale, Thunder was sold to new connections and was ready to start his life as a racehorse.  He began his racing career at Gulfstream Park in Florida, and in his second race, he was claimed by a new owner & shipped to Puerto Rico.

Indiana-bred DoubleTheThunder in Puerto Rico.

Thunder wasn’t very fast, but he made up for it with his toughness. For the next two years, Thunder made regular appearances at Hipódromo Camarero in Puerto Rico, but his only on-the-board finish was one third place in a field of 4.  Still, he danced every dance.

Also on the island at that time was Vindication Alley (aka Vinny).  Vinny has a similar story to Thunder. Both were raced on the mainland before being claimed and sent to Puerto Rico to race.  Vinny had found a little more success on the track, with 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 4 thirds.  However, both faced the same dilemma now.  After 30+ race careers, they didn’t have a place to go.

Vindication Alley is a laid-back dude, going bareback just a few rides after being retired from the track.

There aren’t many options in Puerto Rico for a racehorse who’s done racing.  Sadly, many are put down or abandoned.  The finances needed to get a horse off the island, and back to the mainland where they have good prospects of having a second career, are very high and unfortunately, many horses never make it home.

That’s where Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, Inc. (CTA) stepped in.  This non-profit recognizes the plight of horses at the end of their careers on the islands.  They plucked Thunder up. While he was at their facility, getting some much needed rest and pampering, he met Vinny and they became best friends.

When CTA reached out to mainland organizations for help, Friends of Ferdinand, Inc. answered the call.  Using social media as a fundraising tool for the now dubbed #PoniesOfTheCaribbean, in addition to grants, like the ASPCA Hoof It Home grant, the funds needed to bring both boys home was reached! 

Thunder & Vinny were sent to quarantine together.  A delay with the plane caused them to stay longer than expected, but both of them handled it with class and patience.  Finally, they loaded up onto a crate which was carefully hoisted onto the airplane and off they went.  Once in Miami, they said goodbye to their friends from CTA who were heading across the country to other organizations.  After a quick layup in Florida, they were trailered north to Indiana.

Thunder & Vinny being loaded onto their plane

What to expect when getting off the trailer?  Would they be racing here now?  Instead of a racetrack, the boys were greeted by excited Friends of Ferdinand volunteers who showered them with love, peppermints, & brand new blankets!  They are currently at Horse & Hound Veterinary Clinic getting cared for and fully vetted after their long journey.  We are thrilled to welcome them to our program, and more importantly, to welcome them home!  Indiana may not be able to offer them ocean waves or palm trees, but we can give them their best chance to have long, happy careers beyond the racetrack because Thunder and Vinny are retired from racing, not from life. 

It truly takes a village!  We want to extend our special thanks – to Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare for saving these two lovely boys, to ASPCA and their Hoof it Home Grant for travel expenses, to Jayne Whitton and Lockie McNeish for their layup and care while in Florida, to Crossroads Equine Transport for donating transportation from Florida to Indiana, to Horse & Hound Veterinary Clinic for their care for these two horses, to Centaur Equine Specialty Hospital who will help us with their wear and tear for their mileage, to Owl Manor for so willingly providing Pro Stride to help them bounce into successful second careers, to Farmvet for donating blankets to help them acclimate to the drastic change in temperature, to all who helped, groomed, loaded, did paperwork, & worked with these horses, and of course, to all our donors who came together to help us raise the funds needed to bring them home safe and sound!

Thunder & Vinny arrive home and are ready for their next adventure.

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