Book Review - Beyond the Homestretch, by Lynn Reardon

What happens to thoroughbred racehorses, once they are no longer fit to race?

Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses, by Lynn Reardon, is a journal of love and learning, even as it traces the development of a retired racehorse rescue program. In her 304-page nonfiction first book, author and equestrian Lynn Reardon shares her own personal transformation from a professional accounting career for a Washington, D.C., non-profit organization to ownership and management of a racehorse adoption ranch in Texas.

Each of the 15 chapters in Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses tells the story of a special ex-racehorse and how that equine arrived at LOPE (LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers). Reardon also details her own on-the-job equine education, as she describes the adjustments and adoptions of former off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses.

Many of Reardon's equine charges arrive with physical or other issues, resulting from their careers at racetracks. Usually, racehorses continue racing as long as they are capable of doing so successfully. Once a racehorse becomes injured or unable to race, that equine's worth to those in the racing industry may be questioned.

"Stall space is limited at the racetracks, and most trainers don't own farms," Reardon explains. "There is no room to give an injured horse time to rest and heal. Most trainers do their best to find homes for their horses - but the options can be limited. And the thread of auction (and 'used-horse' dealers) is never far away."

Reviewer’s Note:
This book reviewer received a complimentary copy of the book described and evaluated here, although the reviewer has no prior or existing relationship (either familial or professional) with the author or publisher.

Reardon describes how off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses reside and recover at her ranch, LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE). Many of these retired racehorses are ultimately adopted as hunters, dressage mounts and pleasure horses. A few horses remain as part of Reardon's own herd. To date, LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) has placed more than 725 off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses for adoption in second careers.

The horses bear stories as intriguing as their names: Bridge Place, Captain Boo, Down to the Wire, EndoftheStorm, Lightning Ball, Nacho Mann, PJ, Prom Queen, Spider, Sugarfoot, Tawakoni, Tulsa Mambo, You're my Baby and Zuper.

Many of these horses come from prime horse racing lines, including Kentucky Derby winners and other thoroughbred stars.

In relating the tales of these colorful equine characters, Reardon tosses in an insider's look at the world of thoroughbred horse racing - from horse trainers to gallop girls, and from racing jockeys to equine veterinarians. Published in hardcover in 2009 and in paperback in 2011,  Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses includes interesting background on thoroughbred horse breeding, equine training, equestrian disciplines (dressage, polo, trail riding and more), veterinary medicine, horse nutrition, stable management, horse trailering and much more.

Reardon's final statement sums up her experience to date with her retired racehorse adoption program. "The subtitle of this book is 'What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses,'" she writes. "But the reality is that the horses saved me - from a dull, ordinary life lacking purpose, adventure and growth. I will always be grateful to them."

With short, animated chapters, humble (and often humorous) tone and animated pace, Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses is a worthy and enjoyable read for anyone who loves horses or horse racing. Best of all, proceeds from book sales help to support LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) and Reardon's efforts to find second careers for off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses.

Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses, by Lynn Reardon,was published by New World Library Publishers (Novato, California).

Book cover / promotional photo / fair use

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