Thursday, November 24, 2011

Inspired by Lights

There are many things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving and my experiences with Remember Me Rescue and Lights on Broadway are some of those things.
Photo: Terri Cage
When you see Lights on Broadway, you see a very tall, narrow chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail and a head that resembles that of an Arabian. He’s a beautiful sight without a doubt, but if it weren’t for the help of true horse lovers, Lights would not be alive.
As a four-year-old in 2001, Lights on Broadway won the Assault Stakes at Lone Star Park, the Chick Lang Jr. Memorial Handicap at Retama Park, and the Star of Texas Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park. With those three stakes wins and many other impressive performances, Lights was crowned 2001 Texas Horse of the Year.
Lights continued competing in stakes and allowance races for several years, until he was entered in his first claiming race in 2004, an allowance optional claiming at Lone Star Park in which he ran for a claiming price of $40,000. Nonetheless, Lights continued to compete in stakes races as well, placing in five stakes races in 2004 and winning the Carter McGregor Jr. Memorial Stakes in 2005.
However, Lights on Broadway’s fourth place finish in the 2006 Carter McGregor Jr. Memorial Stakes was his last start in a race that was not a claimer. In his last two starts at Lone Star Park, where he ended up making over 37% of his starts, Lights ran second in an allowance optional claiming for a claiming price of $20,000 before finishing second in a claiming race for a tag of $18,000.
When Lights was claimed next out at Remington Park for $10,000, he went to the barn of Cody Autrey. Then came a string of disappointing finishes: an eighth, a fifth, a third, a sixth, and a fifth. During that losing streak, Lights was claimed again and sent to Fonner Park in Nebraska. He returned to his winning ways there, crossing the wire in front in a $2,500 claiming race.
It was the last time Lights would stand in the winner’s circle after a race. The winner of six stakes races had found himself in the lowest of lows. He came face to face with a fate he did not deserve: Lights was loaded onto a slaughter truck.
However, Lights had a guardian angel looking out for him. The chestnut caught the attention of Gregg Sanders, a Quarter Horse trainer based in Oklahoma. When Sanders saw the papers that belonged to the horse that had earned $572,445, he realized Lights did not deserve to be on a truck that was headed to a slaughterhouse.
Sanders and his young daughter gave Lights some much needed TLC and the gelding made his return to the races four months after his previous start. Lights on Broadway raced two times before he made his final start on August 3, 2008, finishing seventh in a field of nine.
Meanwhile, Alex Brown, who recently wrote Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy, followed Lights. Through donations and the spread of word, Brown, horse lovers, and the Fans of Barbaro gave Lights on Broadway the retirement he more than deserved.
In stepped two women that would change the life of Lights forever: a racing fan and Donna Keen. Donna could not stop thinking about the horse and eventually she decided she would bring him to the Keens’ farm in Burleson, Texas with a little help from the racing fan. That little help was $3,000.

Lights on Broadway and Donna Keen
Photo: Terri Cage

The Keens helped Lights recuperate, allowing him to become sociable, put on some much-needed weight, and learn how to ride bridleless. Lights had become Donna’s buddy. Lights had inspired Remember Me Rescue, a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation that helps rescue or retire, retrain, and rehome ex-racehorses. Remember Me is where I found possibly the smartest horse I have ever owned, Dexter. If it wasn’t for Lights and the people that worked to save him, many ex-racehorses that now have loving homes would not have such bright futures.
Lights was eventually adopted and sent to a new home. However, two years later, Lights returned to Remember Me Rescue. This time, he was staying with Donna for good.
I met Lights on Broadway in September of this year. I had heard so much about him from Donna and was very excited to meet him. When I first caught sight of the golden chestnut, I was blown away by his beauty. He had the dished face of an Arabian, the eyes of a puppy, and the height of a camel. His coloring was like caramel, almost as if he was a red dun.
That day, though he was a bit antsy, I came to realize just how smart Lights was. As I held his lead rope in my hands and led him around in circles, I couldn't help but think, I’m leading a Horse of the Year. Yet I knew that Lights was more than just a Horse of the Year. He was a survivor, a fighter, and a best friend.
The day before Thanksgiving, I got to visit Lights for the third time. His coat had grown darker since I had first seen him and his muscles were more defined. As Donna rode him around for a bit, I stood watching. Suddenly, she asked me a question that honestly nearly knocked the breath out of me.
“Mary, do you want to ride Lights?”
She really didn’t have to ask. I walked up to the gelding, pulling myself into the Western saddle. Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind: And I thought Dexter was tall. Lights is seventeen hands-high. From aboard him, the ground is a long way down.
I began riding Lights around over the lush, green grass. The first thing I realized, other than the fact that he was gigantic, was that he was very smart and willing. He responded to everything I asked him to do, going where I asked him to go and turning when I asked him to turn. I brought him to a stop every now and then, thinking he would want to rest for a bit, but that wasn’t the case. Lights would stop for about two seconds before letting me know he’d had enough of being still.

Lights and me
Photo: Terri Cage

Riding Lights was similar to when I led him around the first day I met him. I was starstruck…by a horse. It’s happened to me many times before, such as when I met the likes of Smarty Jones, Blind Luck, Zenyatta, and many others. Lights on Broadway is on the list of horses that have left me starstruck.
Yet Lights is more than just a star. He ran eighty-three times, winning over half-a-million dollars, and landed in the lowest of lows after being crowned Texas Horse of the Year. He missed death by an inch but, because of the help of racing fans and horse lovers, he was saved. He’s made it this far and has inspired many horse rescues along the way. He’s inspired me by proving to me that you can get out of the lowest of lows and find your way back on top while helping others along the way. Lights on Broadway isn’t ‘just a horse.’ Lights on Broadway is a source of inspiration.

To read more about Lights and learn how to donate to help Lights on Broadway and other Remember Me Rescue horses, visit this link:

I improved this article and it was published on the Blood-Horse on December 13, 2011. Thank you so much to Esther Marr and all those involved! It really meant a lot to get published on the incredible The link can be found here. 

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  1. @Past the Grandstand: This is a wonderful story and I so needed to hear it today! A beautiful and deserving horse - and a beautiful essay on why we all need to step in and help these awesome animals find second careers and long lives.
    diastu in tempe

  2. Thanks for this great blog. I enjoy your writing so very much. I found you on the Zenyatta website. This story is so touching. May he live a long and safe life. He is very handsome! How great that you got a chance to ride him. Delrene in Carlsbad, Ca