"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." - Sir Winston Churchill
Yancyeyville, North Carolina, is an unlikely place to find thoroughbred race horses that have been valued in the hundreds of thousands, but this value come from an industry driven by money, speed and excitement. Yet Elizabeth MacDonald of Yanceyville walks down to her barn every morning to be greeted by cast-offs of a horse racing industry that boasts of purses as large $3 million (Kentucky Derby, 2020) and contributes annually more than $100 billion worth of spending to every level of the economy and in many different sectors as well.
The horses in the barn greeting Elizabeth hardly ever saw any of that money, rather, they are the ones that, for one reason or another, never fared well at the track. It is said that only about 6 percent of racehorses earn their keep, in other words, 94 percent of horses destined for the track need to find a new vocation. After all, they all can’t win.
So people like Elizabeth Macdonald come to the rescue.
Elizabeth has been in love with horses all of her life, so when she and her husband, Holland, purchased the historic home they now have in Yanceyville, she was drawn into adopting an off-track-thoroughbred (OTTB) out of necessity.
Their new home had all the acreage that horses would need, but improvement and restoration left little money to purchase one of the warmbloods that, at the time, seemed to be “the” horse to have.
Elizabeth went online and found an adoption agency, ReRun Thoroughbred adoption group, in New Jersey, that had just the right horse for her at a hugely discounted price. As she had grown up with thoroughbreds and understood them, Elizabeth was ready to adopt, and “Ollie” became hers. (“Ollie” had previously raced under the name of Colonial Times.)
Elizabeth and the founder of ReRun, Laurie Lane, became friends and Laurie soon asked if Elizabeth would take another horse. Thus Elizabeth quickly became involved with helping ReRun find homes in North Carolina for the cast-off racehorses, and more horses were brought down for Elizabeth to pair with prospective new owners. For the next eight years, Macdonald became ReRun’s director for North Carolina, before starting her own non-profit, Blue Bloods Thoroughbred Adoption and Placement, a 501(c)(3).
Blue Bloods was founded in 2013. Filing the paperwork to create a non-profit was daunting, and it took us “eight to 12 months to get everything straightened out,” Elizabeth said. But the need to help these horses, and her love for them, continued to push her until everything was complete.
Fast forward a bunch of years; Elizabeth Macdonald still works on behalf of the OTTBs that come her way. Blue Bloods has found homes for more than 350 horses, horses that once were considered worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, Blue Bloods find homes for these horses at the bargain price of approximately $1,000 to $3,000.
Macdonalds role in the thoroughbred industry is equally important to those looking for a well-bred horse at a discount as for owners that really want the best for the horses that are not suited for the racing life. So many horses don’t have the temperament to race, but are well qualified for other lifestyles. Many OTTB’s are sought after for high-octane equestrian sports such as jumping, polo, or eventing and are athletes that can be developed to the highest levels. Others have very laid-back personalities and may be happyp with a quiet ride through the woods.
Macdonald’s successes come from introducing the right person to the right horse. One such story is about a horse named Meet in Khartoum; a racehorse directly related to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah who could possibly be valued at $100 million dollar horse according to HuffPost. Yet Meet in Khartoum found his own fortune with Denny Emerson, a gold medalist in the 1974 Eventing World Championships. He lives a little more than an hour away in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
Another success story is a recent one. Stephanie Mace was looking for a horse to fox hunt with and decided she wanted an OTTB because of the high quality and excellent value. She met up with Elizabeth just last year to look at some of her horses. A friend to Stephanie, Cricket Morris, working in the equestrian program at Averett University (Danville, Virginia) recommended one such horse that was currently residing at Blue Bloods. His race name was Morally Inflexible, and although “Morrie” had even won races, he has a personality of a laid back type of guy that was just perfect for Mace to take home.
Mace has become involved in helping these horses, and has been instrumental in recruiting Tad Coffin, who won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. Coffin now designs performance saddles and a product called the Thera-Tree which helps relieve back pain, helps performance, relaxation and recovery. Tad has been to Blue Bloods to demonstrate the use of the Thera-Tree and help evaluate horses that are getting ready for adoption. His goal, as well as Macdonald’s is to help these ex racehorses transition to a different lifestyle.
Right now, there are 16 horses to be placed in new homes. Elizabeth can’t to it all herself, so Blue Bloods rely on a volunteer force that is never big enough. Cricket Morris, who helped find Morrie for Stephanie, is still involved and comes once or twice a week to help riders condition and train the horses.
Rajal Stephens, a classically trained dressage rider from a French school, travels from Southern Pines during the week to ride. These horses need capable riders and good trainers so that they can become properly evaluated and moved forward to new lives and new careers.
The racing industry has a long and dramatic history, without it, there would not be the thoroughbred as we know it. It is a sport with good, caring racehorse owners, and a few others that only see the dollar signs in their horse.
Macdonald says you can see how the horse lived by how they act when they are brought to Blue Bloods. There are a few that hide or cower in the corners of their stalls; their life must have been quite fearful. Some come with injuries that may take months to resolve, and sometimes it takes a long time for the horses to acclimate to a new barn because of the intense life of a race horse.
It may take a while just to relax, so the farm offers time and peace in lush pastures just to decompress. When the horses do get back into work they are often ridden 3-4 days a week depending on who is there to help.
Blue Bloods, like many non-profits, is always looking for help and is always grateful for any donations. Currently there are a couple horses looking for their forever homes, and several that maybe just want attention, such as grooming and personal care. And of course, the success stories, from Olympic riders and back yard enthusiasts, help to promote and spread the word of these remarkable equines.
Macdonald welcomes anyone who could help at the facilities as well. With fencing, pasture care, feeding and upkeep, the work never ends and there’s always plenty to do, even if the horses are not directly involved. Donations are tax deductible and Macdonald makes a point to send out a thank-you note to every doner.
Although Yanceyville may seem to be an out-of-the-way place to have a horse haven, Macdonald point out that they are only 45 minutes from Chapel Hill, a bit over an hour from Southern Pines and the NC Horse Park, and close to Averett Equestrian School. Hopefully, Blue Bloods will continue to be able to help foster racehorses and transition them to new lives.
People looking to become involved, or even to find a suitable horse can visit their website at www.bluebloodstb.org/ and be sure to check out the Success Stories. You just might find your next equine partner waiting for you in Yanceyville.