A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jill and Dundee, a story with a happy ending for racehorse looking for new meaning in life

 (Photo provided)

(Photo provided)


By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor

When the right rider meets the right horse, something magical happens. And when the right horse is one looking to make its way into a new life, the story becomes a real-life fairy tale.

Meet Jill Stowe of Lexington and Dundee, a retired Thoroughbred racehorse adopted in 2010 through New Vocations, a nonprofit devoted to repurposing lackluster runners for their next life.

Jill and Dundee recently received a wildcard invitation to the U.S. Dressage Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park based on their performance in the regional trials. The pair are part of the New Vocations Thoroughbred Ambassador Program and actively promote retired racehorses in second careers while out showing across the Midwest.

“New Vocations decided to sponsor Jill and Dundee at the dressage finals,” said Anna Ford, director of New Vocations, “because it was a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the athleticism, heart and versatility of off-track Thoroughbreds.”

Dundee is a 2007 gelding with high-class paternal parentage. His sire is the multiple graded stakes winner Medaglia d’Oro. But he had only four starts on the track, earning $875 without ever placing and was retired in October, 2010. He was donated to New Vocations in the hopes he’d find success in a second career.

A month later, he was on his way home with Jill Stowe and the two have been hard at work ever since, competing in both dressage and eventing.

Jill, an associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, is director of University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs. She is also the Dickson Professor Of Equine Science and Management. It’s safe to say she knows her way around horses. And that she also knows them from the saddle, too.

Anna Ford, whose mom started New Vocations in 1992, manages several New Vocation facilities and is an accomplished rider herself. She grew up in 4H, is a World Champion Equestrian, has studied and instructed internationally, and is Masters Certified through the Certified Horsemanship Association. She has written an award-winning book, Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred From Racehorse to Riding Horse.

1 thing

“Dundee’s story is what we hope and wish for every one of our horses,” she says. “He and Jill are a true success story and proof that with time, patiences, and persistence retired racehorses can truly excel in second careers. They make such a great team.”

Jill got an early start in riding – and developing a special relationship with horses – as a 4-year-old growing up in New Mexico. She started out with Quarterhorses and spent some time on the local show circuit, the moves to the hunter/jumper world and competed in combined training. She competed in her first Novice event at 9 and first Training event at 11, moving to dressage at 13. She eared her firt USDF Bronze Medal at 15.

During high school and college, her schedule demanded a break from horse showing. But when she and her husband and children moved to Lexington, she had the opportunity to ride again at Masterson Station Park which she calls a “gem.”

“I was reminded just how much I love riding and how much joy I receive from being around horses,” she said.

From there, of course, came her search for the horse of her dreams.

Enter Dundee, the gelding who couldn’t run fast enough for a job at the track.

Q: What made you choose Dundee?

A: There are a few things that were really important to me. First, the horse needed to have a great mind. My husband is not horsey and my kids were small, and I wanted a horse they could be around safely. Also, I wanted a horse that didn’t need to be ridden daily. Being nearly 6-foot-2, I also needed a big-bodied horse – I wanted to look somewhat normal on a horse. I also wanted a sound horse. I wasn’t really sure how serious I would get about competing, but I wanted that opportunity if it presented itself. So, I wanted a versatile horse. Although I consider dressage my primary discipline, I wanted to be able to trail ride, jump, throw a western saddle and my husband on, have my kids ride – Wow…that’s a pretty tall order!

Q:  What makes him special?

Dundee is such a great fella. He is usually pretty mellow and most scary things bother him very little. We were on a trail ride and he stepped on an empty plastic water bottle hiding in the grass – it sounded like a gun went off right underneath him. He barely flinched. On a few occasions (the first accidentally), we met a herd of cattle in a field and worked them a bit (in an English saddle no less!) On a trail ride recently at Masterson Station Park, he wasn’t bothered by a big carnival (full of inflatables and lots of running, screaming children), soccer games (full of flying balls and flags and lots more running, screaming children), or even a drone camera that hovered all around us. He can get a little amped at shows, but this (usually) adds positive energy to our tests.

Dundee was a bit of an introvert when I brought him home, but he just needed his own person. He’s such a jokester. He’s like a giant toddler – always has to have something in his mouth, always picking on someone…he’s a lot of fun. He’s also an equal-opportunity equine friend. His mule, his chicken, the cats – he loves them all.

He loves having a job and loves to work. Even though he can be a bit lazy sometimes, he wants to please me. It’s been a real privilege developing a partnership with this horse.

1 thing2

New Vocations

A growing list of prominent owners and trainers are stepping up to the plate to support New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program is getting support from a growing list of prominent owners and trainers who are pledging a percentage of their purse earnings from the 2014 Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

In the past five years the Pledge has raised nearly $220,000.

“For several years New Vocations has given me piece of mind by providing a safe haven for some of my horses at the conclusion of their racing days,” said owner Michael Dubb. 

Trainers who committed this year include Bob Baffert, Graham Motion, Eddie Plesa, Todd Pletcher, and Kathy Ritvo. Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing LLC with Breeders Cup Classic contender Shared Belief and Micheal Dubb with Breeders’ Cup Distaff contender Belle Gallantey lead the long list of owners, who also include Al Shaqab Racing, Jake Ballis, Bradley Thoroughbreds, Conquest Stables, Donegal Racing, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Jerry Frankel, Ronald Frankel, Jim and Susan Hill, Jay Em Ess Stable, Steve Laymon, Let’s Go Stable, Loooch Racing Stable, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Siena Farm, Treadway Racing Stable, Stonestreet Stables, West Point Thoroughbreds, and WinStar Farm. 

New Vocations first opened its doors to retired racehorses looking for new careers in 1992. Starting with a single farm in Dayton, Ohio the program has grown to six facilities in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  Serving over 40 racetracks, New Vocations works directly with owners and trainers in need of an aftercare program for horses leaving the track. Currently, the program leads the nation in racehorse adoptions, taking in over 400 horses a year. The program has a sound adoption system in place that is proven to move a large number of horses in a rather short period of time. The focus is on adoption verses retirement to address the large number of horses leaving the track each year.  Through education and adoption each horse gets a purpose and a home.

To donate a horse:

Go to NewVocations.org and or download a “donor form,” fill out the horse’s information and fax or email it.  New Vocations will contact you with further details. Owners are responsible for shipping the horse to the designated facility.  Donor updates are provided once the horse has found a good home.

What New Vocations is looking for:

New Vocations takes Thoroughbreds or Standardbreds coming directly off the track or from a layup facility.  Since it is an adoption program rather than a retirement program, the group only take horses that currently are riding sound or have an injury that once rehabbed will become riding sound.

Thanks to New Vocations for contributing to this story

Related Posts

Leave a Comment