Volunteer Spotlight: Deena Jordan of Birmingham, AL

This month's volunteer spotlight is high school student Deena Jordan of Birmingham, AL. Born into a horse-loving family, Deena has been taking riding lessons since she was five years old and began riding competitively in local horse shows as a seven-year-old. Deena's love for off-track thoroughbreds sprang from her relationship with her first horse, a now retired auction-bound thoroughbred rescued by her parents.

Deena and her sister began riding with Changing Leads trainer and Board Member Kirstin Murphy and her husband, Pete Murphy, about three years ago - just as Changing Leads was taking root at Longview Farm near Birmingham. Deena first volunteered hacking Asunder, who also happened to be the very first horse in the Changing Leads program.  She also helped with another popular program graduate, Zetterholm, during his time at Longview Farm.

"Seeing Asunder go on to a loving home was extremely rewarding for me," say Deena.    "It's easy to get attached to these horses, and while it is difficult when the horses I volunteer with graduate from the program, it's awesome seeing them go on and make people just as happy as my OTTB made me.  It's reassuring knowing these people will ensure their happiness and appreciate them as much as I have."  Deena says the highlight of her volunteer time was when Asunder's new owner personally called her to thank her for helping turn him into the horse he is today.

Deena's dream is to eventually become a trainer and an Olympic rider, although she would also settle for winning the Washington International.  Outside of horses, Deena enjoys assisting her high school athletic trainer.  She hopes to one day become either an army medic or a physical therapist.  Ideally she would love to practice physical therapy on horses, focusing primarily on off-track thoroughbreds.

Thank you, Deena, for your dedication to seeing our Changing Leads graduates succeed in second careers!

 Deena with her favorite program graduate, Asunder.

Deena with her favorite program graduate, Asunder.

Volunteer Spotlight: Samantha Cason of Pelzer, SC

A student of Cross-Country Farm's owner and instructor, Sherry Traynham, for the last five years, January's volunteer spotlight is 21-year-old Samantha Cason of Pelzer, SC.  In 2016, Changing Leads began partnering with Cross-Country Farm to provide a relaxed environment where retired racehorses can rehabilitate injuries prior to beginning retraining.  With a savvy group of young volunteers like Samantha, some of the more laid-back prospects in the program are also brought along in their second career training with volunteers like her.

While Samantha came from a family who knew nothing about horses, she was drawn to the equestrian lifestyle at the young age of seven. With the support of her father, she began riding lessons in the hunter and jumper disciplines.  About five years ago she discovered the sport of eventing and began bringing along her own Appendix gelding, Joey, as an eventer.  Samantha and Joey also enjoy hunter paces and trail riding together.

When Changing Leads expanded operations to Cross-Country Farm near Greenville, SC, Samantha jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.  Boarding her own horse at the same facility, she has happily put in extra time at the farm to work a Changing Leads horse or two whenever she goes out to the barn.

Samantha says, "Though it's sad to see some of my favorite horses come and go from Cross-Country Farm where I can interact with them regularly, it's so rewarding to be a part of helping these horses on their way to successful second careers.  Each horse seems to have something a little different to teach me, helping me grow as a rider.  Thank you, Changing Leads, for this amazing opportunity!"

  Samantha Cason with one of her favorite Changing Leads horses, Dig Alittle Deeper.

Samantha Cason with one of her favorite Changing Leads horses, Dig Alittle Deeper.

  Samantha competing in a local combined training horse show with her own mount, Joey, a 16-year-old Appendix gelding.

Samantha competing in a local combined training horse show with her own mount, Joey, a 16-year-old Appendix gelding.

  Samantha gives her horse, Joey, a scratch after a lovely dressage test at a local horse show.

Samantha gives her horse, Joey, a scratch after a lovely dressage test at a local horse show.

Samantha aspires to one day run her own barn, become a professional trainer, and rescue horses in need. Until then, she enjoys working at Planet Fitness helping people along their fitness journeys.  Outside of riding, she also enjoy dancing and is a licensed cosmetologist, practicing since 2014.

Thank you, Samantha, for your dedication to our program and for loving on and caring for the Changing Leads horses at Cross-Country Farm!

Changing Leads Partners with the Palmer Home for Children's “Hope Reins” Riding Program

 Shalane, sporting her new red Christmas halter, perked up quickly when the children came to welcome her home. 

Shalane, sporting her new red Christmas halter, perked up quickly when the children came to welcome her home. 

This week Changing Leads made a surprise delivery to a few very special children just in time for Christmas; graduates Shalane and Leondardtown are the newest members of the Hope Reins program at the Palmer Home for Children!   The young equestrians who live at the Home will use them for riding lessons, and the more advanced students will even have the opportunity to compete in local horse shows with them.  It’s going to be a unforgettable Christmas for one group of young horse lovers, and we were so excited to surprise the children with such a special delivery this week.

Based in Columbus and Hernando, Mississippi, the Palmer Home for Children is a Christian-based organization that provides a home, family, and community to children who don’t have them. Their comprehensive approach to working with needy and homeless children recognizes and addresses the multi-dimensional aspects of their lives: physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual. One of the programs they use to help their children grow in these ways is Hope Reins.

The Hope Reins program offers therapeutic riding that encourages mental and physical development through equine-assisted activities. Working with horses helps the children overcome fears, build self-esteem, stimulate intellectual function, and inspires confidence. Riding also increases mobility, posture, and balance, and helps to stimulate compassion in Palmer Home children, linking the bond with horses to the ever-present love of Christ. The children in the Hope Reins program learn the ins and outs of horsemanship, take regular riding lessons, and often go on to compete in local hunter and jumper competitions. Having access to horses with the ability to walk/trot/canter in a ring and jump courses is essential for these students to continue their horsemanship education.

Board member Kirstin Murphy, also president of the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association, introduced the rest of the Changing Leads Board of Directors to the folks at the Palmer Home and is an advocate for the Hope Reins program.  She has particular interest in helping make horse showing possible for the students who are interested in continuing their horsemanship education, working with horse show organizers throughout the Southeast to help reduce the costs of showing for the Palmer children.  Kirstin also donated show clothing and tack to the program this week to help these young riders get a head start on the show world. 

While not all retired racehorses who come through Changing Leads are suitable for this type of environment, we are so happy to have had two come through our program this year who we feel will thrive with these budding equestrians.  Both Leonardtown and Shalane settled in quickly upon arrival at the Palmer Home, and the young equestrians beamed with excitement and eagerness to get acquainted with their new partners.  Check out the slideshow below from our special Christmas delivery this week.

2016 Changing Leads Newsletter

It has been an incredible year of growth and development for Changing Leads Thoroughbred Retraining Project!  Among other accomplishments, we received our very first grant this year, added to the Board, expanded operations into new areas of the country, and most importantly, we rehabilitated, retrained, and rehomed almost 20 retired racehorses.  This brings our total to 50 horses since beginning operations in 2014!  Read President Ali Goodrich's opening letter below, and continue reading the 2016 newsletter here.

Click back to the homepage and scroll down to sign up to receive Changing Leads newsletters directly to your inbox!

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Farris of Denver, CO

Sara Farris of Denver, CO volunteers as a groom and rider for the Changing Leads branch at Hobby Horse Farm in Firestone, CO with trainer and Board member, Angelika Beutel.  Here is her story!

"I had the fortune of growing up around horses my entire life. We always had family riding horses on our small farm, and my dad bred and raised Thoroughbreds for racing as a side hobby. I began my formal training as a rider in the hunter/jumper world under trainer Kathleen Zins, showing in my first walk-trot class before the age of five. When I was a teenager, our barn evolved into an eventing barn, and I showed my Thoroughbred, Monty, up to training level before I went off to college and took a break from the competition world. 

 Sara competing on her first event horse, a thoroughbred called Monty.

Sara competing on her first event horse, a thoroughbred called Monty.

To have grown up in a small town in East Texas, we were very fortunate to have had such a knowledgeable and talented trainer who gave us all a great foundation and helped us achieve our goals. Some of my fellow barn mates would go on to ride at the top levels of eventing and even make the Olympic hopefuls list, but I wasn't that ambitious and was a bit of a timid rider in my younger years. It wasn't until I played polo at Texas A&M that I really got over my timidness and learned to be more assertive in my riding. 

After college, I eventually retired my horse, Monty (he's now 35+ years old and enjoying the green pastures on our farm and flirting with our broodmares). While living in Houston, I decided to take on the training of one of our home-bred Thoroughbreds who had recovered from an injury that sidelined him from racing. That was my first experience with retraining an OTTB. Going from riding a made horse that I had ridden for 20 years to sitting atop a 4-year-old green horse was quite the change for me. I thought I was a decent rider, but Little O exposed every weakness and ounce of inexperience I had. He was my first guinea pig, and in hindsight, I owe him a lot of treats and apologies for my lack of patience and knowledge at times. I've since had other OTTBs that I've taken on, retrained and sold to good homes as sporthorses. With each project horse, I got a little better as a rider and quasi trainer, and I started to enjoy the rewards that come from working with a young horse.

When I moved to Colorado, I decided to sell my current young OTTB to a friend and took a break from riding for a couple of years until I joined up with my current trainer and Changing Leads Board member, Angelika Beutel. When I started riding with Angelika at Hobby Horse Farms, I was just hoping to take some lessons and get my seat back and potentially connect with people who might need a catch rider from time to time. Soon after arriving, though, I got the opportunity to ride a couple of the Changing Leads horses that were at the barn. The very first horse I rode I fell in love with from the time I led him down the barn aisle. I've always been a "bay horse" girl, but there was something about the little chestnut, Jack, that touched me. Little did I know at the time how that horse would later become a part of my future.

Over the course of the following months, I got to ride several of the horses from Changing Leads, and it really affirmed my desire to continue working with young horses. Winning ribbons or awards and competing at a top level aren't really things that motivate me anymore, but getting to see a horse rise to its potential and playing a hand in that is where I get my fulfillment.

 Sara and her Changing Leads graduate, David Jack, trail riding in the Rocky Mountains.

Sara and her Changing Leads graduate, David Jack, trail riding in the Rocky Mountains.

While all of the horses that come from Changing Leads have different strengths and abilities, they all come with a good demeanor and foundation, which goes a long way in my book. With every ride and with the encouragement and helpful guidance of my trainer, I learn more about each horse and how to tailor my ride to their needs and abilities. While I hope I am benefiting the horses and helping them realize their potential, I undoubtedly benefit as much if not more from what they teach me as a rider and a person. That's the beauty that comes with being a volunteer. Whatever you put into volunteering, you always get more out of it.

I cried the day the first Changing Leads horse I rode left for his new home. I knew then that these horses weren't just another project or ride for me, but they were an important cause for me to support and advocate for. I was fortunate that the first horse came back to our barn after the owner realized he wasn't the right fit for her because he happened to be the perfect fit for me. Now, Jack has a permanent home at Hobby Horse Farms and in my heart, and we continue to build our partnership together. While Jack gets a lot of my attention these days, I still enjoy working with the other horses from Changing Leads because they all have their own forever homes to find, and hopefully I can help be a part of that process."

When Sara isn't at the barn, she is working as a public information officer for her local fire department, handling communications, public relations, and community outreach.   She also enjoys traveling, snow and water skiing, hiking, cooking, golf, college football, and live music.  Thank you, Sara, for so generously donating time to the Changing Leads horses at Hobby Horse Farm!

Take a Tour of Longview Farm

Changing Leads' began in 2014 near Birmingham, AL out of Longview Farm, a boarding, training, and lesson facility owned by jumper trainer, former Olympian, and Pan American Team Gold Medalist Dennis Murphy.  On staff are married couple Dennis Murphy, Jr. (Pete) and Board member Kirstin Murphy.  Sitting on 500 gently rolling and wooded acres, the facility consists of a large sand jumping arena, a 44 stall barn, clubhouse, round pen and many acres of turnout and trail riding.  In addition to training and bringing along many of the Changing Leads program horses, the team also produces top quality hunters and jumpers and they show nearly year-around on the local and national level.  Check out the Longview website here.

Jennifer Stover with Jennifer Stover Photography out of Charlotte, NC recently visited Longview Farm for a Changing Leads photoshoot.  Here are a few of our favorites.


Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Callaway of Birmingham, AL

 Karen with her favorite Changing Leads horse, Zetterholm, at a horse show in Conyers, GA earlier this year.

Karen with her favorite Changing Leads horse, Zetterholm, at a horse show in Conyers, GA earlier this year.

The people who volunteer with Changing Leads are drawn to the organization for different reasons, from different backgrounds, and they end up helping out in different ways.  Karen Callaway of Birmingham, AL has played a unique role in the development of the program from the very beginning -- she's President and Co-founder Ali Goodrich's mother!  It's safe to say none of this could have happened without her.  Now a freelance writer, Karen has worked in publishing for most of her life.  Here is her story in her own words. 

"The first memory I have of riding horses was when a fired-up pony-with-an-attitude took off down the road with me hanging onto his mane for dear life. I never knew anything with legs (that short) could run so fast.  My love for thoroughbreds goes back a bit further to when my daddy and I watched the great Bill Shoemaker ride Tomy Lee to victory in the 1959 Kentucky Derby.  After that, I watched every race I could. Secretariat won the Derby my senior year in high school, and my daddy gave me a huge poster of “Big Red” that I still have. I attended my first Derby in 1991 and took Ali the next year. Loving thoroughbreds is just one of the many things we’ve bonded over.

I have really enjoyed watching Ali’s love of thoroughbreds and racing grow through the years, and when she became a racehorse owner, I felt like she was fulfilling dreams for both of us. And when she founded Changing Leads, I thought I would bust my buttons with pride! Her dedication is truly inspiring, and it was only natural that I would want to be a part of this endeavor. Since most racetrack horses love peppermints, I make sure that every OTTB arriving in Alabama is welcomed with plenty of them. I tell myself it helps their transition, but the truth is, I’m bribing them. They know when I walk in the barn, they’re getting treats, so of course, they like me. Feeding peppermints and petting noses just makes my day.

Though I really don’t ride any more, I love being around the barn. There is no such thing as a bad day at the barn.  It’s fun to watch Kirstin and Pete train the Changing Leads horses and see their progress. I fell madly in love with Zetterholm from the moment he arrived, and seeing him make a splash in a whole new world has been such a thrill.

Representing Changing Leads at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in Lexington, KY this year was an honor and a pleasure, and it just reaffirmed the important work Changing Leads is doing. Every horse matters, whether it’s a Grade I winner or a claimer, and volunteering for an organization that cares so deeply for these incredible equines means the world to me."

The Photo Gallery: 2016 RRP Thoroughbred Makeover

The Changing Leads Board of Directors and a wonderful group of volunteers were so excited to attend the 2016 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY last weekend.  Not just a vendor this year, we also had several representatives in the competition. 

Throckmorton and Pete Murphy competed in the hunter and jumper divisions, finishing a very respectable 11th out of 61 entries in the jumper division, and 23rd out of 60+ in the hunter division.  Leonardtown and Board member Kirstin Murphy also competed in the hunter and jumper divisions, finishing in the top third in both.  Check out Kirstin and Lenny's jumper round here.  Graduate Capitan Futuro and Hillery Head also competed in the competitive trail riding division.  Thoroughbreds find success in all types of second careers, and this event was truly a testament to that.

Photographer Jennifer Stover with Jennifer Stover Photography of Charlotte, NC attended the first day of the competition.  Here are a few of our favorite moments from the weekend.


Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Wessinger of Clemson, SC

 Emily riding graduate PURE ATTITUDE in a Changing Leads photoshoot earlier this year

Emily riding graduate PURE ATTITUDE in a Changing Leads photoshoot earlier this year

This month's volunteer spotlight is Emily Wessinger, a sophomore in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences program at Clemson University.  Originally from Gray Court, SC, Emily grew up riding with Sherry Traynham, the owner of Cross-Country Farm near Greenville, SC where Changing Leads sends many of the horses who require significant turnout time for rehabilitation.  While home over the summer, Emily began volunteering with Changing Leads at Cross-Country Farm, lunging, riding, holding horses for the farrier, and helping with general maintenance around the farm.

Emily began three-day-eventing under Traynham's instruction as an eight-year-old and continued riding and competing through high school. Now she enjoys working with green horses especially, and she plans to continue volunteering a few days per week through the Fall as her class schedule allows.

"Working with Changing Leads has been an awesome experience for me personally and professionally as I learn more about the veterinary profession.  I love helping prepare these horses for second careers and being part of the rehabilitation phase.  Learning how Changing Leads approaches retraining with each horse given a variety of backgrounds, racing injuries, and original experiences in the racing industry has been very educational."

Emily plans to graduate from Clemson in the spring of 2019 and hopes to attend veterinary school at the University of Georgia to ultimately become an equine veterinarian, perhaps specializing in racehorses. 

Thank you, Emily, for all your help over the last few months!  Our Changing Leads volunteers are crucial to helping prepare our horses for successful second careers - we are so thankful for each and every one.



Changing Leads Receives Remy Fund Grant

Earlier this year, Changing Leads applied for a Remy Fund Grant from the Community of Greater Birmingham, and after careful consideration and a visit to Longview Farm near Birmingham, Alabama, with Board members Ali Goodrich and Kirstin Murphy, Changing Leads was awarded our very first grant.  The Remy Fund for Pets and Animal Services awards grants every year to companion animal-focused nonprofit organizations in the Greater Birmingham area.
Changing Leads President Ali Goodrich says, “On behalf of the Board of Directors for Changing Leads Thoroughbred Retraining Project, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s recognition, encouragement, and support.  We’re excited and honored to be among the 2016 grant recipients.”

Preparing for and applying for grants is a significant step in the growth and development of the Changing Leads program.  Over the last year, Changing Leads has been gearing up to apply for the aftercare industry’s large scale grants with Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) in addition to the Remy Fund and other local and national animal services grants.  Among other requirements, aftercare organizations are required to have been operating for at least three years in order to apply TAA and TCA accreditation and grants.  Changing Leads accepted and began retraining our first mount in February of 2014, making 2017 three years in operation and our first year eligible to apply.  The Board believes receiving the Remy Grant is a first and very important step in this greater process.

Ken Jackson established the Remy Fund, a special Field of Interest Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, named for his late dog, Remy, in 2010.  Ken, who is an active member of the grant committee says, “These grants change the lives of countless companion animals, and the humans they touch.” This year the Remy Fund announced a record $50,000 in grants awarded to 11 companion animal focused nonprofit organizations. This is the largest amount of grants awarded to date by the fund. In the past six years the fund has granted nearly $200,000 to animal agencies serving Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties in the state of Alabama.

Volunteer Spotlight: Abbie Preston of Denver, CO

Growing up down the street from a horse boarding facility in Murfreesboro, TN, Colorado-based volunteer Abbie Preston began loving horses at a very early age.  At the age of nine, she started taking riding lessons at Hunters Court Stables in Murfreesboro and continued riding there until college. Through high school Abbie also worked for a local racehorse trainer as a groom and exercise rider, traveling to Keeneland with the trainer for the summer months. The race track was where Abbie learned to appreciate the drive, passion, and spirit of thoroughbreds.   After high school she went on to Middle Tennessee State University where she rode on the equestrian team.

Abbie and her husband, Kurt, moved to Colorado in 2014 for a career opportunity.   Soon after, she shipped her appendix gelding, Spider, to Hobby Horse Farm near Denver, CO, where she met Board Member Angelika Beutel and began grooming and riding for her.  

Abbie says, "Grooming for Angelika has taught me so much, and when Changing Leads begin retraining some retired racehorses at Hobby Horse Farm, I was given the opportunity to groom and ride them. This reignited the spark I had for thoroughbreds in high school working at Keeneland. I enjoy learning from each individual horse and seeing their eagerness to please and passion for their job. Angelika is a fabulous trainer for horses and riders, and knowing that I am able to play a small part in helping her find second careers for these horses is such an honor.  I look forward to continuing working with Changing Leads and helping this great organization any way I can."

Abbie finds grooming and working with the Changing Leads horses in Colorado very rewarding and fulfilling.  She loves seeing the horses ultimately find their forever homes and bond with their new owners, and she looks forward to continuing working with them and Angelika's other retraining projects in the future. 

Changing Leads is so thankful for Abbie and all the other volunteers who help make second careers possible for our retired racehorses.  Thank you, Abbie!

 Abbie competing at a dressage show in Colorado with her appendix gelding, Spider.

Abbie competing at a dressage show in Colorado with her appendix gelding, Spider.

Changing Leads Welcomes Angelika Beutel to the Board

Changing Leads is excited to welcome Angelika Beutel of Frederick, Colorado, to the Board.  Beutel has played a significant role in the growth of the program over the last year, having successfully retrained and placed a half-dozen Changing Leads Thoroughbreds within her network in the state of Colorado. 

Angelika has experience teaching and training to 4th level dressage and the FEI CIC* level in three-day eventing.  Originally from Munich, Germany, she began riding at age seven, and grew up competing in dressage, show jumping, and combined-training disciples.  In 2001, Angelika earned her FN Silver medal, a national test combining 1.20m show jumping and 3rd level dressage.  She completed her instructor/trainer certification at the Hanoverian Riding School in Verden, Germany in 2003.  She has trained with many accomplished riders throughout Germany and the US, including Karen O'Connor, Brian Sabo, John Williams, Christoph Hess, and Eric Smiley to name a few.  Angelika has a special passion for the process of starting and bringing along young horses. 

In 2004, Angelika moved across the pond to Boulder, Colorado, to attend the University of Colorado, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.  While in Boulder, she built her horse training and teaching business, Summit Equestrian, LLC, from the ground up.  A former gymnast, she also enjoyed vaulting on horseback as a youngster, and she still takes occasional vaulting lessons.  When not busy teaching clients or working with horses, Angelika loves spending time with her husband, Bret, and son Brandon. 

We look forward to the expertise Angelika will bring to the program, and we're excited to extend our professional relationship with her.

Volunteer Spotlight: Millie Herndon of Montgomery, Alabama

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller

Changing Leads is ever grateful to the people who so graciously dedicate their time, energy, and resources to ensure our retired racehorses succeed in second careers.  As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we rely heavily on them--the behind-the-scenes people who fill water buckets, deliver “cookies,” and love on the horses. We all (horses included) are so thankful for them each and every day!

Today’s volunteer spotlight is on 16-year-old Millie Herndon of Montgomery, Alabama.  Millie was introduced to the Changing Leads program through her instructors, Pete and Kirstin Murphy of Longview Farm in 2014.  She pitches in to help care for and ride the Changing Leads horses at Longview during the summer months.  Since wrapping-up the school year, Millie has been working with Zetterholm, including schooling him during his most recent show at Tryon International Equestrian Center (pictured here). 

Millie’s family has always had an interest in horse racing, watching the Triple Crown races together religiously every year.  A fierce competitor herself, Millie has always admired the strength, athleticism, and competitive heart of Thoroughbreds, so when Changing Leads was founded, stepping in to play a role in the career journey for these “sport stars” was a no-brainer.

“These racehorses give so much of themselves over the course of their racing careers," says Millie.  "I love seeing them pampered in the rehabilitation phase and then starting on healthy, positive paths to second careers after retiring from racing."  Since she has long admired the Thoroughbred breed from afar, Millie considers it a special honor to be involved close-up through Changing Leads.

As an aspiring Grand Prix jumper rider, Millie knows that hard work and dedication are essential to the success of horse and rider. Her recent wins on the "A" circuit, including winning classes at Tryon in the 1.10 meter Children's Jumpers and a 3rd place in the Washington International Jumper Phase Equitation class, have only highlighted her desire to help these horses find their own future partners with which to star. 

Changing Leads is so appreciative of Millie’s help with our retired racehorses at Longview Farm, and we look forward to watching her continued growth and development as a horsewoman in the years to come. Thank you, Millie!

 Millie Herndon schools Zetterholm at the Tryon International Equestrian Center under trainer and board member Kirstin Murphy's watchful eye.

Millie Herndon schools Zetterholm at the Tryon International Equestrian Center under trainer and board member Kirstin Murphy's watchful eye.

The Great Gonzo Graduates to Changing Leads' Rehabilitation Facility

As of June 1, 2016 The Great Gonzo is an official graduate of the Changing Leads program.  Always a gentle yet firm companion for program newcomers since retiring from racing and entering the Changing Leads program in May of 2014, Gonzo will have a new job helping to introduce newly rehabbing horses to life at Cross-Country Farm in Gray Court, South Carolina, where most Changing Leads horses will rehab prior to beginning retraining in the future.  Gonzo will also be lightly used in walk/trot/canter lessons at the farm as long as he is sound and enjoying that part of his job.  Jessica Prescott - Board member and resident "barn mom" to the Changing Leads horses in South Carolina - started arena work with Gonzo upon arrival back in the winter.  Several months later, Gonzo seems to have the mind and work ethic to be useful in farm owner Sherry Traynham's lesson program with intermediate dressage students. 

The Great Gonzo came to Changing Leads after a career-ending injury that very well could have also ended his life.  With a completely displaced condylar fracture and displaced sesamoid fracture in his right hind, Gonzo underwent surgery in May of 2014.  Read on to learn more about Gonzo's journey with Changing Leads through a letter to The Great Gonzo, written by Changing Leads President, Ali Goodrich.


Dear Gonzo,

It has been two years since you entered our program and our lives. It has been two years since you abruptly took us for that pivotal ride through joy and dejection, fear and despondency, determination and prayer, relief and gratitude, pride and admiration, and, ultimately, inspiration and overwhelming love. You taught us that, as a group, we are powerful. You embody the timeless adage “where there’s a will there’s a way,” the truism that we embrace when we’re feeling powerless. Because of you, we know that we will always be most proud of the selfless decisions that we make—and that we should not be afraid to make them. For two years, you have been our steadfast reminder that every life is significant, precious, and beautiful.

For nearly two years, we have sought the perfect home for you. You are too fragile for many disciplines and too exuberant for many others. We knew there would be challenges in finding the right place for you, but we failed to foresee the quiet burden of guilt that we would carry. With each setback, our hearts have broken a little more because, for two years, we have been ever mindful that we didn’t save you only to fail you in the end.

Well, sweet Gonz, we finally realize that we are your people. We will give you a most wonderful life! You get a big South Carolina field to frolic in, retired racehorse buddies to romp with, and all of the love and attention imaginable. Although you are now a graduate of Changing Leads, to us, you will always be Changing Leads—as a mascot, as a big brother, and as our inspiration to stay hopeful and always see the amazing possibilities. Looking back at the past two years, we can’t believe we didn’t recognize this sooner. Silly us—you were always meant to be ours.


Ali, Kirstin, and Jessica



Changing Leads Internship Program Kicks Off Summer 2016

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Changing Leads relies heavily on the time and resource donations of our Board and the individuals in our network who so graciously support our cause.  When we spotted an opportunity to give back to one such individual with more than just a tax receipt, we created the Changing Leads Internship Program.

 Amy with The Great Gonzo at Cross-Country Farm near Greenville, South Carolina

Amy with The Great Gonzo at Cross-Country Farm near Greenville, South Carolina

Amy Harrison is a marketing communications student at Greenville Technical College in Greenville, South Carolina.  An equine enthusiast with plenty of her own experience retraining horses, she jumped at the opportunity to earn class credit, combining her passion for horses with professional, real-world marketing experience. This summer, she will work with Director of Marketing, Jessica Prescott, on Changing Leads' fundraising strategy and execution.

A Greer, South Carolina, native, Amy began riding as a ten-year-old and quickly fell in love with eventing and dressage.  Her first horse was a four-year-old paint/thoroughbred cross who instilled a life-long interest in training young horses, retraining "problem" horses, and rehabilitating off-the-track thoroughbreds.

Amy says, "Interning with Changing Leads is an opportunity to give back to the equine community in a way I never imagined possible.  As an eventer, I saw firsthand time and time again how thoroughbreds can succeed in second careers with proper retraining, and I always dreamed of being involved with a racing aftercare organization.  It is exciting to see that dream come to fruition while expanding my professional experience in the marketing communications field."

Prior to beginning her marketing internship with Changing Leads, Amy completed a marketing and fundraising internship with another 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Fountain Inn Museum in Fountain Inn, South Carolina.  She gained experience in event planning, fundraising, and grant writing through this opportunity, which will serve her well this summer.

When asked why she wants to complete a marketing internship with Changing Leads, Amy said, "While I enjoy all aspects of marketing, my favorite area is marketing strategy.  Working with Jessica to develop marketing and fundraising strategies for Changing Leads will allow me to gain applicable experience in this area, building achievable goals and measuring the results in order to help people and animals alike."

When Amy isn't working with horses or attending classes, she's performing or recording at her studio, DeepRoots Family Records and Productions, where she also manages all marketing communication efforts.  A lifelong musician, the singer plans to release her own full album by the end of 2016.  Amy lives in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, with her family--her fiance, three dogs, a cat, and her current horse project and personal mount, Rugar, a paint/thoroughbred cross.

Murphys Selected to Compete Changing Leads Horses at 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover

Congratulations to Board Member and Co-founder Kirstin Murphy and her husband, Pete Murphy, on being selected to compete in the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover on Changing Leads mounts. The Makeover is in October at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. 

Kirstin Murphy says, "As lifelong lovers of the thoroughbred horse, Pete and I couldn't be more pleased to be accepted for the makeover.  We have shown and trained thoroughbreds all our lives and often lamented the move away from this versatile and athletic breed in our disciplines (hunters and jumpers). We want the opportunity to showcase the versatility of these great horses off of the track--to provide a visible demonstration of their suitability to our compatriots at regular member shows. It is a fantastic event--cleverly arranged, well run, wonderfully sponsored and supported by such a diverse group of great horse people. It is an honor to be chosen from the roster of fantastic riders and committed horse folk. We hope the success of this event will encourage more such shows and we look forward to riding in them for many years to come."

The Murphys will declare their mounts and begin training for the Makeover in the coming weeks.

All ten of the discipline winners from last year’s Makeover will return to defend their titles, along with seventy-three other Makeover alumni on new horses. The remaining group of nearly 400, including the Murphys, is doing this for the first time. This may be the most diverse group of accomplished horse trainers ever to gather in one place.

Watch the video and then read the full story at http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/…/1191-100-000-thoro… and see the full list of trainers at http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/viewpublic


Changing Leads Inaugural Newsletter

Dear Equine Enthusiast,

Welcome to our inaugural Changing Leads newsletter. We are so grateful and humbled by everyone’s support for the program and cannot thank each of you nearly enough.  Just like our organization, this newsletter is a combination of work from each of our four board members. Each quarter we will try to have a communication from someone different so that you can get to know everyone.

We are excited by the retraining progress of many of our horses this year and hope you enjoy a window into their development. We recently decided to initiate this quarterly newsletter in order to share with you the horse updates, photos and happenings from our program.

Click here to continue reading this newsletter.

Scroll to the bottom of this page and sign up to receive future newsletters directly to your email.

Stakes-Placed Runner Retired to Changing Leads Thoroughbred Retraining Project


Last week, prominent Thoroughbred racehorse owners Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel and Bradley Weisbord partnered with emerging aftercare organization Changing Leads Thoroughbred Retraining Project to claim and retire Dig Alittle Deeper. The 4-year-old gelding, was stakes-placed in Canada as a juvenile but, failed to hit the board in six claiming races this year. The group contacted friend and fellow racehorse owner Ali Goodrich, who is founder and president of Changing Leads, to make arrangements for Dig Alittle Deeper’s aftercare and retraining. 

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Pure Attitude & Jessica Prescott Participate in Denver Show Jumping Clinic with Olympian Anne Kursinski

 Pure Attitude earned over $420,000 on the track.

Pure Attitude earned over $420,000 on the track.

Changing Leads most often acquires horses that board members have personally known and horses that have been referred by trustworthy acquaintances in the racing industry. Relying on our network in this way helps to ensure our program horses have a willing attitude well-suited to retraining and the mental capacity to be a safe riding horse in a second career.

Pure Attitude, a 9-year-old son of Aptitude with 64 starts under his belt, was recommended to Megan Jones by notable racetrack veterinarian Dr. Heather Craven as being a fantastic horse and deserving of a proper retirement and transition to a second career.

Dr. Craven already owned two off-track Thoroughbreds and could not take on another, so she asked if Changing Leads could help the horse for her. After Pure Attitude was dropped in for $5,000 in a claiming race at Monmouth, he became only the third horse to be acquired by Changing Leads sight unseen.

The organization’s faith in Heather’s recommendation and request has certainly since been rewarded. The old warrior, referred to around the barn as “Paddy,” was turned out in Maryland to let down and then spent months trail riding at Fair Hill and in South Carolina before beginning a more formal education.

With only two months of serious documented training under his belt and rider Jessica Prescott less than a year off having her first baby, some might say they were bold to sign up for an Anne Kursinski clinic. However, “I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn under her,” Prescott detailed, “so even though Paddy was green and still has a real tendency to be quite hollow to his right, I wanted to give it a go. At the end of the day clinics are about learning, not showing, and I really wanted the chance to capitalize on what Anne had to offer as I didn’t know when we would be in the same area as her again.”

Much of the clinic focused on suppling exercises for the horse, precision, awareness and position of the rider, and traveling straight and balanced after the jumps, an incredible exercise for a horse like Pure Attitude coming off the track. Kursinski is a well-documented admirer of Thoroughbreds for jumping, and her own famous Olympic partner Eros was an Australian off-track Thoroughbred. In a 2013 article by Molly Sorge in the Chronicle of the Horse, Anne was quoted as saying, “There’s nothing like a Thoroughbred. They’re so light on their feet and smart.”

We certainly agree with Anne and so greatly appreciate her helpful and patient instruction with Pure Attitude during her visit to Colorado.

Former Preakness 4th and Aqueduct Specialist Zetterholm Competes in First Horse Show at Louisiana Fall Classic and Takes 3 out of 4 Classes, Division Champion

  Zetterholm prior to the 2012 Preakness

Zetterholm prior to the 2012 Preakness

  In the hunter ring with rider/trainer Dennis Murphy, Jr.

In the hunter ring with rider/trainer Dennis Murphy, Jr.

Many racing fans will remember the white-faced Zetterholm for his succession of wins at Aqueduct in the spring of 2012, which he parlayed into a very respectable 4th-place finish behind I'll Have Another in the Preakness Stakes for his owner/breeder, Tony Grey, before going on the shelf after the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes and never quite finding his old form again.

Zetterholm the horse was named after Amanda Zetterholm the human, who is currently Aga Khan Studs' Nominations and Client Relations manager, and also a close friend of Changing Leads board member Megan Jones. For this reason, the New York-bred gelding had been on Jones' radar for some time. Changing Leads President Ali Goodrich was a huge fan of the racehorse himself and was immediately game to pursue a private purchase of the horse when his racing form slipped in mid-2014.

It took the flashy racehorse some time to slow things down in his retraining at Longview Farms. In the early days, he often rushed his fences, resulting in many rails during his first several months learning to jump. However, after a year of many repetitive exercises under the patient and admirable tutelage of Longview trainer Dennis Murphy, Jr., Zetterholm finally began to understand his new career. His flatwork became more balanced, and, in natural progression, his jumping soon became much more careful and precise.

In September of 2015, Zetterholm attended his first horse show, the Louisiana Fall Classic at Amen Corner Farm in Folsom, LA.  He was a star pupil, winning three of his four classes and jumping his way to Champion of the 2'3" open hunter division.

We are looking forward to an active show year throughout the Southeast with Zetterholm in 2016.