By Francis LaBelle
As all Thoroughbreds born in North America do, Jade Master celebrated his official birthday on January 1. Foaled on February 4, 2010, Jade Master is “a big Teddy Bear” by all accounts. This was No. 12 for the chestnut son of Master Command, and he reached this milestone while part of the herd at TRF’s Second Chances Program at the Lowell Correctional Facility in Ocala, FL.
Jade Master arrived at Lowell last August, while Lowell was in the middle of a big year. Lowell is
TRF’s only Second Chances program run exclusively for women. The program celebrated its 20th
anniversary in 2021 and capped it off with a live stream “Horse Show” in the fall. It featured
the Second Chances’ participants telling their stories of how horses are changing their lives. The
TRF also launched its first Second Chances Youth Program at the Center for Discovery, adjacent
Jade Master was one of seventy-three former racehorses in 2021 that were rescued by the Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare (CTA), a non-profit organization, co-founded by Kelley Stobie and
Shelley Blodgett five years earlier. It has been the CTA’s mission to house these former
racehorses, most of which had been bred and raced in the U.S. and went on to spend their final racing
years competing in Puerto Rico. These are the most horses the CTA had ever accepted in one
Jade Master had originally joined CTA in October 2020, but was returned the following
April. It was his sweet disposition, that was the reason he only lasted seven months after
a Puerto Rican riding school adopted him.
“I got a call from the school, that they wanted to return him because he had gone lame,” said
Stobie from Equi Blu Therapies in Rio Grande, PR. “Right away, I knew that he had been
overused. He is so sweet, especially around children, that he will do whatever you want. He had
a bowed tendon, and they used him so much that it blew up again. We took him back in and after
talking with (TRF Herd Manager Sara Davenport), arrangements were made to send him to
Florida with the TRF.”
As of December 2021, CTA has taken in 226 horses and returned 124 of them to homes
in the U.S. This is not a simple undertaking.
According to Stobie, the COVID-19 pandemic spiked a rise in wagering on Puerto Rican
horse racing in 2021, which in turn sparked the government to encourage the import of more
horses to fill race cards. The growth in the racehorse population also meant a growth in the
number of horses no longer able to race. The lucky ones come to CTA.
“When a horse comes to CTA, we first start to reach out to previous connections – breeders, owners, trainers – to see if anyone may wish to help,” said Blodgett, who lives in Wellington, FL. “We fundraise for every trip, but we don’t always bring in enough funding. Many times, we must take from our reserve emergency funding to get them back to the U.S. mainland. The cost for a full week of USDA quarantine, required blood work and veterinarian paperwork, the flight to Miami and the van ride to the Ocala (FL) area, is $3,094 per horse.”
According to Blodgett, approximately 1,200 U.S. thoroughbreds race in Puerto Rico
annually, and most come from the U.S. mainland. Often, they are transported by cargo ship,
which while it may be cheaper than flying, is also far less desirable. They then race for cheaper
purse, often well beyond their prime.
“There are not enough options for many on this island and there is very little education on how to take care of an off-track Thoroughbred. We have a very high return rate,” added Stobie.
Jade Master is not only fortunate to be with the TRF at Lowell, but he was reunited with
Immortal Wink, the horse that started the CTA. Wink was foaled in Florida on March 6, 2006.
He raced a whopping 142 times, compiled a record of 16-14-27 and earned just over $111,000.
Jade Master made 43 starts with a record of 19-10-5 and earnings of $202,339.
“Wink is the reason there is a CTA,” Stobie said. “Shelley had followed him because of how
many starts he had, and she wanted to make sure he didn’t wind up in a bad place. It was Shelley
that got CTA a 501(c)(3) designation as a nonprofit. She is the brains behind the CTA.”
“Wink is a very special horse because he brought Shelley and I together to move forward
with CTA. Jade Master is also very special to us. As sweet and lovely a horse as he is, Jade
Master was surrendered by his owner with no donation. Jade Master and Wink are both
warhorses, and both so important to the CTA. We are so grateful that when we reached out to
TRF, they welcomed them with open arms.”