Kentucky’s 225th Anniversary and Re-training Retired Racehorses!

By Joyce West | 5/04/17 9:00 AM

Meet Patrick, the miniature horse with a huge fan base and a rock star lifestyle from Bullitt County. Second Stride in Oldham County retrains retired Thoroughbreds and places them in new homes. Host Doug Flynn tours the expo floor at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville. The year 2017 marks the 225th anniversary of Kentucky’s statehood.

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Patrick the Miniature Horse
A miniature horse named Patrick has a great big fan base: more than 30,000 followers on Instagram and 4,000-plus followers on Facebook. A 22-year-old gelding, Patrick has gained renown as a performance and therapy horse.

His owner and trainer, Sarah Schaaf of Shepherdsville in Bullet County, has grown up with Patrick. It began in 1998, when Sarah’s mother, who raises standardbreds, got her daughter a miniature horse. Patrick came to live with the family when Sarah was almost 2.

“Miniature horses are just big horses made smaller,” she said. “If you didn’t have any size references whatsoever, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a miniature horse and a larger sized horse.”

Patrick is 33 ½ inches tall. When Sarah was a child, the family started showing Patrick in county fairs. “My mom would lead him around while I rode him,” she said. Later, Patrick and Sarah began competing in halter and jumping classes, even costume classes (his first was as a reindeer). “You can just put anything on him and he’ll just stand there, and he doesn’t care,” Sarah explained.

They also take Patrick to local horse shows and the Kentucky State Fair horse show. “But every year there are fewer and fewer miniature horse shows,” Sarah said, adding that the horses are not nearly as popular as they used to be. “I really want to engage more interest in the breed again. I mean, the most common question I get is, what can you do with a miniature horse? And I want to show people what you can do.”

To that end, Sarah made a plan, complete with Super Girl costumes made by her mother for them both. “I came up with a routine for Patrick that would be fun for people to watch. It would show his abilities and the abilities and versatility of the miniature horse breed. He jumps and does tricks, and then we meet with the crowd and answer all of their questions.”

She has shown Patrick at BreyerFest, a model horse show that also includes demonstrations by live horses, the Rolex Kentucky Three-day Event and the national horse show at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Patrick is motivated by treats. “Patrick adores treats. He will do anything for treats,” Sarah said. He easily picked up tricks like rearing up on his hind legs, bowing, and standing on a pedestal. “He’ll just put his feet up on it all by himself—especially if someone has a camera.”

One trick took longer to teach. “It took me five years to teach Patrick to lay down,” Sarah said. “It’s a real act of trust for them to be able to do that because they’re prey animals. They want to run away. And lying down is not exactly a good way to get away.”

People love to meet and pet him, Sarah said. “He adores attention. He’s always been wonderful around people,” she said. In 2014, Patrick and Sarah were registered as a therapy team with Pet Partners, and they visit hospital patients. Patrick has special shoes so he doesn’t slip on hospital floors. Patients are amazed at his gentleness. “He’s just the kindest horse I’ve ever known,” Sarah said.

Patrick makes equine friends too, and when he’s at the horse park he visits Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion. Patrick is also the official mascot of the Secretariat Festival in Paris. Charlie Davis, Secretariat’s exercise rider, always has peppermints for Patrick. “He calls him Little Red, instead of Big Red, [Secretariat’s nickname]” she said.

Sarah has created a children’s book, “Patrick at the Fair,” for his littlest fans. “He has some very loyal fans from all across the world who just adore him,” she said. “It amazes me that he brings that much happiness to other people.”

Sarah and Patrick have grown up together. “He’s taught me so many life lessons. He’s given me so many opportunities and made me a better person.” Time with Patrick is never wasted, she said. “He’s my best friend, and he’s everything a horse should be.”

225th Anniversary of Statehood
Kentucky became the 15th state on June 1, 1792. Kristin Branscum, travel and tourism commissioner for the state, said events are planned all year long to celebrate the 225th anniversary.

The state’s Travel Department created a Kentucky Bucket List, offering 225 suggestions from A-Z: from Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace and the Ale-8-One factory to the “Zip, Paddle and Saddle” package in Pikeville and Hart County’s ZorbKY, the longest known Zorb ball trail in the nation (Zorb balls are giant human hamster balls).
Other suggestions include donating to a Kentucky-based charity, watching a clogging performance, riding on one of the state’s excursion trains, and holding a family reunion. “We’re looking forward to Kentuckians who are outside the state maybe coming back in to the state,” said Branscum.

Many historic places, such as Constitution Square in Danville and Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, are holding events, as well as many of the state’s bourbon distilleries. The Kentucky Horse Park has events this year to mark the 100th anniversary celebration of the racehorse Man O’ War.

More information about the festivities can be found at

National Farm Machinery Show
The largest indoor farm show in the nation draws thousands at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville each February to see the latest in agricultural technology and equipment.

“It offers something for everyone. To spend a day or multiple days – it’s actually hard to cover this show in one day if you try to walk every aisle –but it’s special to the people of Kentucky that we own it,” said Steve Kelly, executive director of expositions for the Kentucky State Fair Board, which oversees the show.

One eye-catching piece of machinery was a John Deere harvester with a corn row head. Beverly Flores, media relations manager for John Deere, said the harvester automates much of the corn harvest. “A lot of times you just look at the food in the grocery store and don’t know what went in to getting it there. And obviously one of the key components is getting it out of the field,” she said.

Another high-tech item farmers are finding useful is the drone, which can be used to scout fields, said Jono Millin, chief of product for Drone Deploy. “What we’re seeing is just this informed decision making. Instead of just randomly walking around and trying to find problems, we can now get the drones to do that scouting for us,” he said. “And when we walk our field we take our samples, we’re saying I see hot spots here, I see cold spots here, I need to go to these specific places, in order to take my measurements and understand what’s happening.”

Carmen Agouridis, Ph.D., extension associate professor at the University of Kentucky, said UK’s exhibits at the National Farm Machinery Show cover everything it offers, from machines to soil and water conversation topics, as well as farm management, and weather. “Kentucky is still a very rural state, and agriculture plays a huge role in our state. It’s a big part of our economy,” she said.

Second Stride
After retirement from racing, most Thoroughbreds will enjoy 15 or more years of life. In Oldham County, Second Stride helps retired racehorses make the transition into successful new careers.

The average racehorse retires between the ages of 3 and 8, according to Kim Smith, the founder of Second Stride. “And these horses are going to live until about 30, a long lifespan ahead of them where they may have one or two jobs along the way.”

Second Stride placed about 150 horses in new homes in 2016. “As a matter of fact, the biggest problem when they come is that they’re spoiled rotten,” she said. “And getting them used to not being bathed and brushed, you know, pampered all day. It’s hard for them to acclimate to regular, daily horse life.”

Trainers often have only days to find a place for a racehorse who’s suffered an injury and must retire. “That’s where our programs can step in and offer a place for those horses to come basically to transition. We can afford them one to three months’ time, or even longer for some.”

The racehorses are used to being ridden every day. Volunteers like Kara Lee help the horses adjust to their new lives. “We usually try to turn them out in the grass and let them kind of decompress and take a breath and realize that life is not going to be a racetrack anymore,” said Lee. “It’s not going to be go, go, go. It’s going to be breathe in, breathe out, and let’s re-evaluate life for a minute.”

“And then I’ll start trying to work with them and teach them things like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to go around this arena five times the same way. We’re going to switch directions,’ which on the track they might switch directions once or twice but it’s not a lot of figure 8s or serpentine or anything like that. Or I might take them through the field, or go down the road and kind of take a little trail ride, because for a lot of the horses, all of this is new to them.”

The horses are desensitized to the sights and sounds of a racetrack, but they may never have seen a drain culvert, Lee said. “That might be a big problem for them,” she said.

Second Stride has a team of volunteers who screen applicants who wish to adopt horses and do reference checks. Then they try to match the applicant with a suitable horse, said Smith. “They’re very expensive and they’re very large. So specialty programs need to be out there to transition these types of pets the same way there are for cats and dogs. Mass euthanasia is not quite an option for horses. There is a home for every horse. We just need to find it.”