Unwanted Racehorse Finds Bright Future at William Woods

By Allie Layos ‘09

His former name was Freddie, and at just 4 years old he has come to William Woods University to teach the equestrian students lessons that perhaps no other could impart. These include lessons on both the best and worst sides of the horse industry, for he has seen both.

He is a horse—a 15-hand dark bay gelding to be exact—now known around the barn as Trader, stemming from his registered name “Future’s Trader.” With the help of sophomore Marissa Parenti of Hooksett, N.H., Trader was adopted by WWU this summer. He came from the New England Thoroughbred Retirement Center (NETRC) after a failed career as a racehorse.

NETRC “fosters” horses from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, a national organization that was founded two decades ago with a straightforward mission: to save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter. Trader was one of the lucky ones who was taken into the program, and given a foster home at Watchtower Farm in Deerfield, N.H.—the farm from which the NETRC operates.

Parenti serves as assistant executive director of the NETRC, and when she got the chance to work with Trader during the summer, she fell in love with him.

“I just thought his personality was great for our setting at school,” said Parenti.

“He loves his job, he jumps and he is very safe. He is gentle and quiet for a racehorse and I also thought it would be good for people to see that racehorses can do other things even after they’ve been retired.”

Parenti worked directly with Diana Pikulski, executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, to find Trader his new home.

“I kind of acted as the liaison….in order for this whole process to happen. They were very skeptical at first at letting him go to a college because they have had many problems with that in the past. But since she knew I was enrolled in the school, and she really liked talking to Linda she decided to give it another shot,” said Parenti.

Dr. Linda McClaren, associate professor of equestrian science and hunt seat instructor at WWU, felt that adopting Trader would be beneficial to her students.

“This adventure with Trader,” McClaren said, “will provide our students with great learning opportunities regarding an aspect of the industry that we have yet to address at WWU: the details of creating a sustainable business by pairing horse retirement centers with therapeutic horsemanship to do good for all.”

Parenti said, “I liked him, so I had a video made, called Linda and sent the video to her. She said she trusted my judgment, and said to figure out the trucking.”

And so Parenti tackled the next challenge: getting him to Missouri.

“It was a $1,500 trailer ride. Henry P. Welch Trucking donated the trucking for Trader to come out here for free…and to Missouri he went,” said Parenti.

Trader arrived on Aug. 14, and according to Parenti, has “adjusted very well and loves being in a stall.”

After just one start on the race track—he was deemed “too slow”—he will need much re-training to become a well-polished show horse.

“He’s learning how to bend and use himself correctly. He is very green, but he is very willing and wants to learn…he picks up on new things very quickly,” said Parenti, who has ridden him multiple times since his arrival.

Parenti feels that with consistent schooling, Trader will make an excellent hunter mount.

Besides training, one of the challenges facing the WWU community is conditioning, or getting Trader into show horse shape. At the moment, Parenti is trying to build up more of Trader’s muscle.

From all reports, Trader has been taking it all in stride.

“He is a very level-headed horse, with a great personality,” said Parenti.

This great personality will be an asset for many equestrian students who come through WWU’s program.

“I think that students will learn that even though a horse is an ex-racehorse they can still serve a purpose and may excel in other areas,” said Parenti.

Since Trader has been officially adopted by WWU, if for some reason the arrangement doesn’t work out for him or the school, he must return to the Retirement Center.

However, it seems a small possibility, as Trader is well on his way to becoming a valued and contributing member of the William Woods team.

CUTLINE: Marissa Parenti of Hooksett, N.H., rides “Trader,” a former racehorse now helping to teach equestrian students at William Woods University.