Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Program helps ex-racehorses

July 25, 2001
Michelle Poe, a volunteer with the racehorse rescue organization CANTER, rebandages Fax —

EATON RAPIDS - Fax, an ex-racehorse, nuzzled up to Eaton Rapids resident Michelle Poe on Monday as she changed his dressings from a knee injury that ended his career.

“He’s nosy and needs to be where the action is,” said Poe, a volunteer with the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses. “Sometimes he decides I need help and he’ll put his nose in the bandages.”

Fax, like other retired racehorses, has had a little help from his friends from CANTER and MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine to find a home.

Jo Anne Normille, the founder of Michigan’s branch of CANTER, said MSU is saving horses’ lives.

“No one has the relationship with a rescue mission like we have with MSU. They’re really in a class by themselves,” Normille said. “MSU has set the benchmark so other universities in the country can follow their lead and give back to the horse-racing community.”

MSU has assisted in operations and aftercare with the horses since 1999. The free operations save CANTER money that can be used to purchase more horses. A $30,000 grant from racehorse charities, a retired MSU veterinarian and the college’s class of 1999 will cover continued expenses.

John A. Stick, chief of staff at the Large Animal Clinic, said he was approached by Normille about the program.

“I knew the students would benefit from this,” Stick said. “It was her enthusiasm and dedication to finding the horses a perfect home that impressed me.”

Veterinarian students in their final year administer the surgeries under supervision, Stick said.

“What’s gratifying is that the students get excited about the surgeries and aftercare,” Stick said.

Stick said some staff and students have adopted horses - or they at least have their favorites.

“The horses each have unique personalities. We had a horse with funny ears we all loved,” Stick said of the animal’s pointy ears.

The program, established by Normille in 1997, has assisted in finding homes for more than 450 horses.

The volunteers and staff earn no salary. Funds come from donations and horse sales. Some volunteers transfer or host horses until they find permanent homes. The program reviews applications to find the best home for each horse.

Poe said the organization is supported by the race community, as some trainers donate retired horses to sell. On average, the horses sell for $500 to $800.

“CANTER gives the racing industry an avenue to market these horses so they can have full lives,” she said.

Poe said the father of her own horse, Odin, won the Kentucky Derby in 1972.

“Odin just didn’t want to run that fast,” Poe joked.

Poe is training Odin for dressage, a formal form of horse-riding competition.

“He was very spirited but difficult,” Poe said. “We had an instant bond.”

Poe said she hopes other horses can find homes.

“I just love these animals,” Poe said. “They give so much back to us.”

Nuzzling up to Aleta Wilson, an Eaton Rapids resident, Fax may have won her and her husband Matt over.

“He’s a beautiful young horse,” Wilson said.

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