Photo: Heidi E. Carpenter
Hundreds of miles away from the hope resting upon California
Chrome as he walks the shedrow at Belmont Park, and a stone’s throw from where
blue-blooded mares produce foals that may one day carry the same hope, is Our Mims Retirement Haven. Nestled in the rolling hills north of Paris, Kentucky,
the Haven is home to nine senior Thoroughbreds--eight mares and one gelding.
story of how Our Mims Retirement Haven came to be is an inspired one.
Inspired by the love of a mare that was a
half-sister to the great Alydar, a mare that was once saddled beneath
the grand old elms at Saratoga Race Course, a mare that captured the
Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr. I), Alabama Stakes (Gr. I), and
Delaware Handicap (Gr. I) en route to winning the Eclipse as Champion
3-Year-Old Filly, a mare that was found neglected in a field late in her
Says Jeanne Mirabito, founder of Our Mims
Retirement Haven, "I was 17 when I first saw Our Mims on television. She
had just won a race
and would be 3-year-old filly champion in 1977. I had no
connections to race horses other than watching a few races here and
there; I knew what the Triple Crown was, knew the importance of the
first Saturday in May, and knew the names of several farms but that was
about it. Then I saw her. I vowed out loud to own her someday. My
laughed and I became even more attached to the horse as we had a
connection: I had brothers and she had that brother, Alydar."
years later, Jeanne and her family moved to Kentucky for her husband's
job. After the family settled in a rental house on a horse farm, Jeanne
was offered a job working with mares and foals. It was there that six
months later, she finally came face-to-face with the equine heroine of
"Out in a back pasture, over a mile from my house, Our Mims was waiting. And she tried
to kill me. A co-worker and I had gone to the back of the farm to bring
up another mare, and Our Mims came running up and kicked at my head."
That initial encounter didn't faze Jeanne, however. "I couldn't believe I was meeting her. The glory days were long
gone. She hadn't produced a foal in years and she was not easy to get
along with. She needed help. So I started taking care of her.
Eventually, I got her into a local rescue/adoption program and my
husband and I started looking for our own farm so I could have her."
"Through Our Mims, I learned what can happen to the older
mares. I learned that even the greatest heroes are easily forgotten.
During our four years together we became best friends. I promised her I
would never let her name be forgotten again. I promised I would look for
her descendants and do everything I could to help other older mares."
Our Mims passed away on December 9, 2003, Jeanne kept her word and
founded Our Mims Retirement Haven. Fittingly, the first mare to reside
at the Haven was Sugar and Spice, a half-sister of Our Mims. Jeanne says
of Sugar and Spice, "Sugar gave me the courage to fulfill the promises I
to Our Mims."
(Above & below) The residents of Our Mims Retirement Haven call a large barn painted with colorful murals home.
(Above) Bel's Starlet asks for more cookies, please.
(Above) Exciting Bucket is the Haven's newest resident.
(Above) Dogwood Patty (foaled 1992, age 22): "A very, very smart horse.
She makes her own decisions and sticks to them. She isn't swayed by what
the rest of the herd may be doing. She would never hurt anyone, but if
she does not want to come inside or go outside, there is no moving her.
Patty is kind and seems to know who in the herd needs a friend the most
at any given time."
(Above) Missy White Oak (foaled 1989, age 25): "Someone needs to tell Missy
White Oak to
act her age! Missy does exactly what Missy wants to do. She will rear,
buck, and/or jump straight into the air so the unlucky human at the end
shank is looking at her belly, or she will walk quietly to her
stall--depends on her mood. But once in her stall, she is as docile as a
(Above) Blue Viking (foaled 1986, age 28): "Strong, solid and in
charge, She is very well respected by her herd mates. No one challenges
her quiet authority. Blue used to be a handful but the deaths of her
good friends Lotka, Cruella, and Ms. Stalwart have changed her greatly.
She has become quiet and almost demure."
(Above & below) Princess Royale (foaled 1985, age 29): "Princess Royale makes a single
and keeps that horse close. She is sweet; her feelings get hurt easily
if the others pick on her. The Princess likes to be pampered and
simply adores a soft tone of voice."
(Above) Elmhurst (foaled 1990, age 24): "Elmhurst is the annoying little brother to
the mares. His ego is huge and so is his heart. Elmhurst will be so
rotten that I am about to lose my temper, and then he will do something goofy to
make me laugh. He is such a player; he will nuzzle the back of your neck
making little chortle noises, then he will grab a bra strap and snap
it! He actually gets phone calls from women on his birthday, which
happens to be Valentine's Day."
(Above) Ms. Royal Flagship (foaled 1992, age 22): "Ms. Royal Flagship is
usually extremely sweet and cooperative, except when she isn't. Oh, she
wouldn't bite or kick but there are times when she just says, 'NO. There
will be no human interaction of the sort you are planning. Go away
before you get hurt.' She doesn't ask for much, though, and if I
politely request something she usually agrees--as long as I do not
touch her ears."
(Above) Trail Guide (foaled 1987, age 27): "Kind and considerate of all
living things. She tries so hard to never be a bother. She quietly
goes about her day, comes when called and always has a soft muzzle
nuzzle for her human friends. If I ever just need to breathe quietly and
relish in the quiet soul of a horse, I go to Trail Guide."
(Above) Bel's Starlet (foaled 1987, age 27): "Bel's Starlet is classy and kind. Bel is such a good friend to all the
other mares; always near if someone isn't feeling well. The compassion she shows is amazing."
(Above & below) Exciting Bucket (foaled 1989, age 25): "As our newest resident, Exciting Bucket is just settling
in. She is strong willed and intelligent. She also holds a grudge if she
feels we are being unfair. Or if anyone is being unfair. She does not
allow Elmhurst to pick on the other mares. She insists that he behaves. If he
doesn't, then she doesn't let him hang with the herd. She calmly keeps
walking between him and the ladies, daring him to cross the line.
He gets so mad that he stands in one place and just bucks while pinning his
ears. It's okay though, he needed humbling."
(Above) Exciting Bucket and Bel's Starlet.
(Above) Ms. Royal Flagship, Blue Viking, Dogwood Patty and Elmhurst.
(Above) Elmhurst, Blue Viking and Ms. Royal Flagship.
(Above) Bel's Starlet, Arc Bar Miss (Quarter Horse mare), Ms. Royal Flagship, Trail Guide and Blue Viking.
(Above) The Our Mims Retirement Haven cemetery.
Of the mares that have departed, Jeanne says, "We have had many,
many fine elders here. Each horse brings life lessons and love. They
missed when they leave the earth. Some leave a heavier hoof print on our
hearts. Iza Valentine with her sweet disposition was one of them; she
quietly stole my heart and left it broken. Smokies Love, a retired
jumper, lived with us for so long, I hardly remember a time when she
there to greet me every morning. Timeless Sue, oh my beautiful Sue--she
was indeed timeless.
Even at age 33, she looked like a young horse. The night before she died
she ran wildly around the pasture, her muscles and dapples gleaming in
the fading light. The next morning she was gone. Just like that. I was
stunned. And Lotka--losing her was almost as tough as losing Our Mims.
Over eight months have passed since we said our goodbyes and I am still
"It doesn't get easier. These horses have so much to give so when they are gone, they leave a big hole behind."
I visited the Haven on a cloudy April
morning. The newest resident of the Haven, Exciting Bucket, had just
arrived the day before so there was an undercurrent of anticipation.
Despite the excitement, the "ladies" (as the mares are called) and
Elmhurst, winner of the 1997 Breeder's Cup Sprint and a grandson of Our Mims, were sweetly charming. As they were
released from the barn for their daily turnout, they galloped and
cavorted on the grassy hill in the emerging morning light before
settling down to graze. All was right in their world. And thanks to Jeanne, at Our Mims Retirement Haven these aged Thoroughbreds have a second chance at life--and love.
Visit the official website for Our Mims Retirement Haven here. Visit a tribute website to Our Mims here. View the press release on the arrival of Exciting Bucket here.
And finally, here is the field for Wednesday's featured stakes race at Delaware Park, named in honor of Our Mims!