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New Approach to an Old Technique

At the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC), in a typical day you may see a farrier drop by, a horse on a lunge line, or a horse draped in a banner of colorful plastic flags. It’s all in a day’s work for the center where all horses are matriculated into the Horse Centered ReSchooling Program® developed by MMSC Director, Susanna Thomas.

Thomas, a lifelong horsewoman, developed the Horse Centered Reschooling Program® a decade ago and applies this holistic interdisciplinary system to every horse at the MMSC. The thought behind the program is to reschool a horse successfully, the horse’s mind, body and spirit must all be attended to. At first review of a new MMSC tenant, the horse is examined by a team of experts to ensure the horse receives a thorough physical check. Next, the horse is examined and tested for temperament and learning style as well as “bomb proofing” (which includes the method of becoming accustomed different distractions, including colored flags). Only from that point will the horse move forward to “traditional” training techniques.

“Our goal,” said Thomas, “is to figure out who a horse is inherently, what its ‘horsenality’ is like, to strengthen its weaknesses, to heal its wounds, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual, to find out what the horse wants to be when it grows up, and then to find the perfect person to adopt it.”

However, with the extensive schooling efforts of MMSC, the costs involved are often more than other rehoming facilities. “Because we are committed to a horse centered approach giving the horse the time and the care that it needs before placing it, our expenses more often than not exceed our adoption fees,” said Thomas. This factor, coupled with the infancy stage of the non-profit (just two years old), creates a bit of a funding gap which is where the TCA grant funds provide assistance. Currently, MMSC hopes to raise enough money through grants and fundraising to purchase new saddles or a Gator.

Thomas mentions the success of MMSC comes daily, big and small for humans and horses. A horse could learn a new skill or an adopter could find their perfect horse, but she cites their biggest success is their survival. Many non-profits struggle to survive on little funding when first opening their doors, but MMSC is happy to be able to move forward with their innovative and holistic approach to reschooling racehorses.

As for the future of MMSC, Thomas notes the growing number of people bringing racehorse reschooling to the forefront and is excited to be part of the positive movement. “I would like very much for the MMSC to be if not a catalyst then most certainly a player in developing a synergistic cohesion of all of us who do this work,” said Thomas.

MMSC is located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.