My first thought was “oh I like him…”

When my husband, Craig, and I left for the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park, I thought I’d come home with some great memories and maybe a pair of new breeches from the trade fair. I never expected to leave Lexington the proud new owner of a four year-old off the track Thoroughbred.

Since Craig was serving as the US Equestrian Team physician, we arrived a day before the Games began and that afternoon we had a chance to walk across the grounds watching the vendors and exhibitors set up their booths. One of them was the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, an ex-racehorse adoption facility we discovered was tucked away in a far corner of the Horse Park. When I picked up their brochure, I saw one of the horses featured on the cover was a big rose gray. My first thought was “oh, I like him.”

At the end of the day, all the officials and team members were instructed to leave through a gate at the back of the Park. As it turned out, the road leading to that back gate took us right by ….. the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. Of course, we stopped and asked to be introduced to Petromom (aka “Monty”). We were told he’d raced three times as a three year-old (earning a win, a place and a show), but when he’d returned to training the next year, his leg had blown up and his 90 year-old breeder had decided to give him to the Center in the hopes that he could find a new career.

I visited Monty any chance I had during WEG and just before the Games ended, I was finally able to get on for a short ride. His butt was too high and I knew he didn’t have a clue how to jump, but he had the softest mouth and was so balanced and quiet. I fell in love despite his gangliness. Several other people were interested in adopting Monty, but Craig was absolutely determined that this was the horse for me and successfully championed our case to the Center manager. Two weeks later, Monty arrived at our farm outside Nashville.

I’ve competed in Amateur Owner and Adult Amateur Hunters for more than 25 years and Monty is the best horse I’ve ever had or will have. Even when he’s bad he’s wonderful. Monty’s just beginning in show in Baby Green — we’re taking it slow because I’m too old and he’s too good to rush and we’re both enjoying the process.

My trainer, Jim Williams, liked Monty from the start. “This is such a special horse,” he told me, “and I’m certain Monty was given to you for a reason. We don’t know what that reason is but I’m sure we’ll find out someday.”

This May, Craig unexpectedly passed away. The next morning, I went down to the barn and saw Monty stretching his big gray head out of the stall to greet me. And I knew what his purpose was — it was to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and go on doing what I love and what Craig loved to do.

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