By Diana Pikulski
Kim Smith grew up in Prospect, KY and has ridden horses her whole life. Her already wide network in the Thoroughbred industry grew considerably while she was managing the stable at the Kentucky Derby Museum and exercising the resident Thoroughbred on the track at Churchill Downs.
Smith founded Second Stride, Inc. in 2005 with the goal of helping horses and people in racing by building on those relationships. The Crestwood, KY nonprofit usually maintains 15-20 horses at a time and is located at Moserwood Farm, a full-service boarding and training facility. Smith works hard at making retirement to Second Stride easy for trainers and owners. They even have an agency form so that owners need not do the transfer paperwork themselves. There is no mandatory monetary donation if a horse is accepted and Second Stride takes horses on short notice.
“I've been there on the owning and training side,” said Smith. “So, I know that the time it takes donate a horse matters. It's not because racing people are insensitive or indifferent to the horse, it's just a factor of the business and how important stalls and timing of the meet goes.”
“Our goal is to help as many horses as possible and so we make it easy to do the right thing,” said Smith. “We don't require a donation with a horse, but most owners and trainers will offer one. My goal is to build a relationship so that if I take a horse with a tendon that will need a lot of work, I will also be offered the horse that is perfectly sound and ready-to-go.”
Smith accepts stallions and gelds them, broodmares and horses that may need time and extensive rehabilitation before they can be ridden or re-trained. Second Stride excels in getting horses placed with show horse trainers and adopters quickly and efficiently. Smith accomplishes this in no small part because of the many exercise riders and other racetrack connections who work or volunteer for Second Stride. Since 2005, over 1000 Thoroughbreds have been adopted through the program.
“Our riders are gallop riders or the people who go around and break Thoroughbreds for the farms,” said Smith. “So, we are able to get the horses retrained and ready to move on pretty quickly.”
On the adoption side, the Second Stride application is long but potential adopters are appointed an adoption coordinator who knows, and has probably ridden all of the available horses.
“Making the right match requires someone who really knows the horses and can sometimes convince people to try a horse that may not fit the original profile of what they are looking for,” said Smith. “Our return rate is extremely low and I credit the personal care we put into making the match. Many of the adopted horses that are returned, are well-trained and donated back for us to adopt out again for another fee.”
“We hit our stride in 2012 and on average, we adopt out about 100 horses per year,” said Smith. “This year, however we are already at 96 through August so, it is going to be a banner year.”
She continued, “We see time and time again the versatility of the Thoroughbred. We put Western tack on them, ride them through water, take them to cows and see how they adapt to all situations and disciplines. We have placed them in all over the country in every discipline.”
“One of my favorites is a horse named Capote Cat, by Storm Cat out of a Capote mare,” said Smith. “We tried him in every normal discipline–English and Western, but as soon as things got repetitive, he got naughty. So, we tried a mounted search and rescue in North Carolina and he thrived there. He loves that job.”
Amy Lent, of Ramblen Farm in Versailles, KY adopted Delightfully (Redding Colliery) from Second Stride. Due to an injury, the mare was never a show riding prospect. But, under Lent's expertise, she has excelled in driving and competed in the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover.
Second Stride sends an average of three to six horses a year to the Thoroughbred Makeover and always asks the previous owner to make a donation to cover the entry fee. If they cannot, Second Stride will pay the fee.
“The Thoroughbred Makeover has done an amazing job in its mission to increase the marketability of Thoroughbreds as show horses and as riding horses in general,” said Smith. “I love the sense of camaraderie and cooperation at the competition and how the year of intensive training gives the horses such a solid base.”
“So much is going in the right direction for Thoroughbred aftercare, including the advances of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, but funding and a lack of sound horses in aftercare charities are still an issue,” said Smith. “I wish that more owners and trainers would donate their horses to non-profits, rather than sell them privately. Sound horses that can be adopted for a substantial fee help organizations balance the cost of horses that need long-term care or more rehabilitation before they are rideable.”
For more information about Second Stride, Inc., go to https://secondstride.org/.