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Ace of Hearts

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:22 am
by Debby Thomas
“Ace of Hearts” story at The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River
Text by Jennifer Ernst – adoption coordinator

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) is the oldest and largest equine sanctuary of its kind in the world. It was founded with one purpose in mind -- to save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse, and slaughter. The James River chapter, located in Crozier, Virginia, was founded in 2007 as one of the Second Chances programs where horses live at correctional centers. At James River Work Center offenders care for the horses and become certified in the nationally acclaimed Groom Elite program in the process. The horses here are assured a lifetime of care with the opportunity to be adopted out if suited. Our success stories confirm that our program is horses helping people, people helping horses.

One of the stories is about a beautiful mare that is making a difference in the lives of the men who care for her. Sometimes, hidden in our failures is the seed of successes we could have never imagined. Such is the case for Ace of Hearts.

This 15.1 hand off-track Thoroughbred mare was a decent, but unremarkable racehorse. She won twice in ten starts. Then, when Ace was five, her forward-looking owner decided to donate her to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), where she could find a slower life better suited to her sweet personality. We hope he recognizes what a meaningful decision this came to be.

At TRF’s James River facility, Ace has blossomed into a heart-opening, confidence-restoring powerhouse for the offenders who provide her care. Whether she’s nickering as they walk past her stall or begging for apples with her liquid eyes, Ace seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with her handlers. She’s the type of mare who instantly reminds you why you fell in love with horses in the first place.

With her quiet, calm way, Ace is showing men that have faced many challenges in their lives that there is a better way, and that we all deserve a second chance.

In fact, she’s so pleasant to handle that the Second Chance inmates all want to care for her. Just ask her previous groom, James. He fell under Ace’s spell after only three weeks in the program and calls her “the calmest, coolest horse.”

Re: Ace of Hearts

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:24 am
by Debby Thomas
Today, Ace is looking for an opportunity to plant herself in her forever owner’s heart. While the men in Barn 4 will surely miss her when she’s adopted, they all know that this compact, classically beautiful mare deserves a home filled with the trail rides and personal attention she loves so much. As James says, if people “come down and just look at the way she is, they would adopt her.”

So, if you’re looking for a pleasure horse that is a true pleasure to be around, Ace just may be your girl. After five years with TRF, we’re excited to watch her continue to grow when she captures the only prize she’s hoping for these days — a loving owner.

If adoption is not possible, the next best thing for Ace would be a sponsor. The platinum sponsorship of $2,500 annually provides full care for Ace and trains two men in the “Groom Elite” program. Sponsorship gifts of $250, $500 or more are also welcome. Your gift is a win win for the men and horses, truly providing each a “second chance!”

Please contact us at for more information or visit our web site at

Re: Ace of Hearts

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:27 am
by Debby Thomas
Happy Ending addendum: “Ace of Hearts” now renamed ‘Gidget’ has been adopted!!!

Trainer Katie Gardner and her students will be training her for a new career in the show ring. Many happy tears for the men who work with her and the volunteers!

There are many more waiting for forever homes and sponsorships.

Re: Ace of Hearts

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:26 pm
by Bobbi Jo Seib
Congratulations to Ace of Hearts and her new family. What a wonderful story =)