by Robin Williams

Graduation of our second class – On January 8, 2009, Reid McLellan of Groom Elite certified four new graduates of our program. This week we are welcoming three new trainees. These men will join three others who have been in the program several months under the direction of Officer Jesse Barker and our graduate teaching assistants. We are finding that each group learns faster than the previous group, thanks to having so many trained professionals in the barn every day. Our next graduation will be in May or June.

Graduates going out on work-release – We have two graduates who are seeking work-release employment, one in Tidewater and one in the Richmond area. We will have others later in the year. TRF-James River herd manager Polly Bauhan has worked closely with these men, and we both feel they are good representatives of the goals of the program. If you know anyone who is looking for trained help, please let us know. There is a tax break associated with hiring these men post-release.

Weathering the cold – During the weekend of Jan. 16-18, when the temperature went as low as five degrees, we had a serious problem keeping the horses watered. With no power in the fields, we can’t put heaters in the troughs. The men went out every few hours to break the ice and rotate the herds so that every horse had periodic access to the one trough with a heater. The horses who have been stall-bound and have thin coats and less body fat also received blankets during the three days of hard freeze. Everyone came through fine.

New pasture, paddocks and classroom – JRWC is fencing a new pasture of 8-10 acres along Route 6. This will enable us to keep about 20 horses and still rotate and “rest” our paddocks. We are doing some re-training for adoption, but we are finding that our labor force and our facilities are especially well-suited for lay-ups and rehabilitation cases. So, additional fencing has been installed near Barn 4 to provide a number of small pens for turning out horses that are coming off of injuries or being let down from racing fitness. In other news, JRWC is building a heated classroom in Barn 4 – a big deal for the volunteers and men who have shivered through classes in the cold open barn. Also be sure to check out our new sign when you drive by the entrance to JRWC.

Adoption and training – Adoption is an important part of our progam. We want to move all the sound horses with good dispositions into second careers to make room for more rescues. Our part-time employee with full-time enthusiasm, Debbie Hamman, has been evaluating the herd and working with Jessica Bowen to initiate a training program for the best adoption prospects. We have five horses being ridden and we are scheduling visits by people interested in acquiring a nice horse ready to be schooled in a new discipline. Pictures and video will be posted at as available.

Wish list – Horse trailer – need not be road-worthy. We would like to have a trailer that we can park permanently in the stable yard and use for practice to train the men (and the horses!) in loading and unloading. Donation is tax deductible, of course. We can pick it up if necessary.

Herd update – We have 17 horses now, but we are hopeful that a couple will be going to new homes shortly. In this economic climate, there is a lot of pressure for all the rescue organizations to accept more horses, and we are preparing to save all that we can. Meanwhile, we don’t want to warehouse attractive, useful horses, so we are actively seeking good homes for our horses who are suitable for adoption. If you want a pasture buddy or a good prospect for trails, hunting or showing, check with us first.

Wild Eyed Dreamer, a handsome bay gelding, came to us with a badly bowed tendon in May and could not walk out of his stall. Will Washington spent months treating him daily with ice and poultices. In October after the tendon was set, the men began hand-walking him.

By Christmas Dreamer was telling us he was going to kick down the barn if he didn’t get a little free time outside. The men set up a small round pen with the sides pushed in at angles to prevent the horse from galloping around, gave him some Ace and turned him out. A grateful Dreamer kicked up his heels a few times but settled down quickly, becoming the happy horse we all knew he was inside. He will be ready to go out with the herd in another month. In six months, we will evaluate this good mover and terrific athlete for a second career.

Patti’s Storm is a sweet chestnut mare who is willing to try anything, including jumping. She is being ridden and has folks lined up to come see her. Dr. Miller is a chestnut gelding with a quiet disposition and a willing manner. A nice mover, he should have a good second career.
Dr. Pamela is our newest member and our first grey or roan. She is five and recuperating from surgery to put screws in her ankle. A very very attractive mare, we expect her to come sound and be a great candidate for a second career after six months of rest and rehabilitation. She raced in the colors of former state Senator Elmon T. Gray, who has made a very generous gift to the TRF in her honor.

Photos: Top – Sean w/ the logo he painted for the program. Middle – Shawn w/ Pro Trader. Bottom – Bruce w/ Dr. Miller.

See more photos at our website,
Keep in touch with us by emailing