Retired thoroughbred racehorses find home in Taneytown, Maryland’s first sanctuary farm

Five retired Thoroughbred racehorses will live out the rest of their years grazing in the green pastures of a Taneytown farm, aptly named Renaissance, teaching the public about horses and how to care for them.

“It’s like a second beginning,” Renaissance Farm owner Stacie Nichols said. “It’s just another place to get started again.”


Stacie and her husband Tom recently brought five horses into the care of their Renaissance Equestrian Foundation through a partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), a national organization devoted to saving thoroughbreds no longer able to race from possible abuse.

Geldings Son of a General, Sonny’s the One, Mighty Tuff, Green Shoots, and Zyxt came to Renaissance Farm in August, making it Maryland’s first TRF sanctuary farm, according to foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Stevens.


The foundation has 17 farms across nine states, nine of which are sanctuary farms like Renaissance, while the other eight are Second Chances farms that allow inmates to care for horses, Stevens wrote in an email.

The Nichols have lived at 4206 Brown Road since 2017, though the farm was built in 1790, Stacie said. Stacie connected with the foundation through her volunteer work at the Second Chances program in Sykesville at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility.

Stacie heard the foundation wanted to establish a sanctuary farm in Maryland and she mentioned her farm and experience with thoroughbreds. She grew up around horses and, in addition to the retired racers, she has four other horses at the farm, one of them a thoroughbred. She got into the breed when her daughter needed a more athletic horse to ride for pony club, Stacie said.

The Nichols’ house overlooks the field where four of the thoroughbreds reside — Zyxt, nicknamed “Roo," is living in the barn temporarily while he adjusts.

The retired thoroughbreds will spend most of their time relaxing in their pasture, but Stacie and Tom hope they’ll become familiar faces to the public.

“Outreach, education is the reason why we have them," Stacie said.

She plans to bring in horse care professionals such as veterinarians, farriers, nutritionists, dentists and others to teach people how to care for thoroughbreds. The five retired racehorses will never be ridden again, as they are retired due to injuries, but they’ll interact with people through horse care lessons, Stacie said.

“I always think they should have a purpose,” Stacie said, “just like people.”

An open barn event is planned for Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. to introduce the horses to the community. The event is free to attend, billed as family-friendly, and aims to educate people on Thoroughbred aftercare. People will be able to give the horses treats. For the humans, there will be snacks and wine, Stacie said.

She plans to reach out to 4-H groups, FFA clubs, scouting groups and more in the future.

Educating the community is Stacie’s ultimate goal, she said, noting that people sometimes get thoroughbreds without really knowing how to care for or train them properly and then people don’t get to fully enjoy them. She described thoroughbreds as an incredibly friendly breed that is also hardworking.

Meet the horses

Roo, for example, is what Stacie calls an “in-your-pocket” horse, meaning he likes to be in people’s business. During an interview, Tom stood next to the stall and Roo pressed his head against him, looking for pats or treats, perhaps.


The 16-year-old was not as successful on the racetrack as some of his neighbors in the pasture. He competed in 16 races in his career, winning once and finishing third once. A spine condition ended his racing career. He came to Renaissance Farm slightly later than the other horses and was hand-fed every day by his previous owner, so Stacie is keeping him in a stall until he gets used to being outside and the weather cools down.

Out in the pasture, 11-year-old Son of a General, or General for short, carries the most impressive record. He competed 47 times, winning nine times, finishing second seven times and third 12 times, earning nearly $353,000, online records show. Stacie said General likes to hang in the back and keeps pretty calm.

Sonny’s the One, called Sonny, loves to eat, Stacie said. Racehorses eat grain to build them up for competition, but now that they’re retired they mostly eat grass, which is better for them, she said. Sonny, now 14, competed in 63 races, winning nine with seven runner-up and 13 third-place finishes, earning about $155,600.

Twelve-year-old Mighty Tuff, also known as Teddy, is the most friendly of the bunch, like a teddy bear. He followed Stacie and Tom around the pasture on a sunny September day, rubbing his head against them and trying to munch on the notes in Stacie’s arms. As a racehorse, Teddy competed in 10 races, winning twice and placing once.

Green Shoots, or Chester as he’s called, is also 12 and sometimes can be a bit of a bully, Stacie said. He competed in two races, winning once.

All of these horses, along with the total Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation herd of 650 retired racehorses, are guaranteed sanctuary through donations made to the nonprofit.

“The opening of this new farm in Maryland is an exciting milestone for the TRF," said Kim Weir, the foundation’s director of major gifts and planned giving, in a release. “The arrival of the horses at Renaissance Farm doubles the size of the TRF herd presence in Maryland, a state with a rich history of racing and tremendous commitment to the Thoroughbred industry.”

Those interested in sponsoring Sonny, Chester, Roo, Teddy and General can do so by visiting www.refottb.org and clicking on the “Meet the Horses” tab.

The Nichols knew when they reached out to the foundation they wanted to give back.

“We knew we wanted to do something,” Tom said.

Added Stacie: “I just wanted to care for them and teach other people about horses.”

They expect to receive five more retired thoroughbreds in the next year or two, according to Tom, as they, too, will have a new beginning.

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