- From December 2022 Issue
- Written by Maggie Kimmitt
Picture this. Retired Thoroughbreds researching retirement communities and planning their golden years. After Googling "OTTB", "Foxhunting", "Amenities", "Five-Star Care", "Mid-Atlantic", they hit the mother lode. Oh yeah, this is it–they're going to Jeff and Michelle Rosenkilde's Hunting Fields Farm in Monkton, Md.
The story here is not that the stakes-winning Breeders’ Cup champion gets to retire at Happy Acres. The story is your good-to-average, unremarkable horse goes on to have a remarkable after-story.”
As the founder and director of The Foxie G Foundation, Laurie Calhoun is accustomed to receiving “those” calls. You know the ones – alerts from fellow rescuers who come upon a registered Thoroughbred while flipping lips at auctions. The rallying cries indicate that a horse is in the slaughter pipeline and the clock is ticking. In her role, Calhoun has seen and heard more than most horsemen can imagine. But five years ago, one call stopped her in her tracks.
His Jockey Club name comes from sire Iron and dam Miss List, but whoever christened Ironfist, now 29, could not have been more prophetic. Bred by Gordie Keys’ Oatland Farm, he was foaled in Maryland May 5, 1993, and aimed straight for a steeplechase career.
“He/she doesn’t owe us anything.”
It’s an oft-repeated declaration among owners of retired Thoroughbreds. A stallion who became the cornerstone of a successful breeding farm. A blue-hen mare whose offspring consistently overachieved. A trusted family foxhunter; a gifted show jumper; an event horse who steadily climbed the ranks to the sport’s loftiest level. Or, as in the case of Side by Side, a 30-year-old non-winner of a race whose owner has never sat on his back.
You can’t go for long in the Mid-Atlantic without encountering an off-track Thoroughbred who spent time in the care of Ann Merryman and Holly Robinson. The veteran Maryland trainers crafted a strong network with a steady pipeline filtering retirees into solid second careers with devoted owners.