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."