Healing Hearts Through Rehoming

A tragedy helps unite a horse owner with her heart horse’s dam.

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An engagement photo of a couple with two horses
Aimee’s engagement photo with Wicklow and Sammy. Photo by Ashley Masopust

Sammy galloped dramatically after our horse trailer as we hauled Wicklow to an eventing horse trial without him. He ran alongside us until the end of his field, calling for her, and her to him. It was such a sweet and dramatic display of their love for one another.

My now-husband, Drew, and I planned a sort of “couple’s trip” for our honeymoon to horse-lovers’ paradise, Mackinac Island, Mich. Everything was booked, including Wicklow and Sammy’s boarding on the island.

Just months before our wedding, we lost Wicklow overnight, with no trace of knowing what happened to her. Losing her was beyond devastating; she was my heart horse. I was inconsolable.

Wicklow was an off-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) mare adopted from Horse and Hound Rescue Foundation in Guthrie, Okla. She was my dear friend and adventure partner. We camped overnight alongside Drew and Sammy, rode trails at state parks, entered eventing horse trials and the fall hunter pace—an event where we all galloped at a fast clip.

She often paused and looked back, waiting for her shorter-legged Appy friend to catch up to us. She had the kindest heart.

Following her death, I couldn’t sleep, frantically researching causes of sudden death in horses, to little avail. I then navigated my dedicated wee-hour search for any horses of her lineage, and then her dam. Drew found a phone number for Wicklow’s breeder and previous owner, and two hours after phoning Mark Swartz, he returned my call.

Sharing the Love

A foal nursing from the mare. The mare was later rehomed to the foal's owner after she lost her heart horse
Wicklow as a foal with In Perpetuity. Photo courtesy Aimee Robinson

Delighted to connect, Mark recalled Wicklow as a foal and her earliest moments in training. While her heart didn’t beat for racing, I assured him he bred an outstanding jumper. His trip down Memory Lane surfaced wonderful memories with his beloved wife, JJ. With a shared love for their horses, they had named Wicklow’s half-sister—a competitive racehorse—JJ’s Forever.

We talked for more than an hour about Wicklow. I sent him pictures of her jumping and my engagement pictures with her and Sammy. He forwarded me pictures of her in training and one nursing her dam, In Perpetuity. And then, hesitantly, I asked him if he knew what happened to her dam.

In Perpetuity was now 14, recently retired from breeding just outside of Lexington, Ky. She was being cared for by her original owner, Mark’s longtime best friend, Mark Corrado. Soon after my call with Mark S., they both phoned me on a three-way call to tell me all about the great race mare, In Perpetuity.

Once in training with well-known Thoroughbred trainer Kiaran McLaughlin—who simultaneously had horses in training for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum—In Perpetuity broke her maiden at Aqueduct in her second start. She was unfortunately clipped by a loose 2-year-old early in her career, which led to her retirement from racing and the beginning of her broodmare career.

An Amazing Gesture

They detailed more about her, and at 9 p.m. that night, they offered us the most special gift a broken-hearted horse girl could have received. Explaining how much it meant as owners to know their filly Wicklow went to such a loving home, they gifted us her beautiful dam, In Perpetuity. They were rehoming the dam of my heart horse to me.

Early the next morning, without delay, we set off from Oklahoma to Kentucky to bring her home.

Upon reaching the barn, we were led to her stall. I was taken aback as there in front of us stood a beautiful bay mare with Wicklow’s mirror-image kind brown eyes and a white sock on the left hind. She greeted us like old friends as I buried my head into her neck in tears.

Sadly, it’s not terribly uncommon to see Thoroughbred horses retiring from their racing or breeding careers to a grim fate rather than owners rehoming them. In Perpetuity was fortunate to be retired in excellent health to a stunning farm, and Mark C. said there was truly no other alternative.

A Thoroughbred horse, In Perpetuity, who was rehomed to the owner of one of her foals
In Perpetuity. Photo by Ashley Masopust

“My dad and I raced her, and Mark and I each had some of her foals. It was time for her retirement. She’d been a nice mare and a really nice racehorse. [But] even if she had been a lousy racehorse, I would’ve done the same thing. If ever given the choice of not being able to eat or not being able to care for a horse and give them a nice retirement, there would be no choice.”

Mark C. continues to contribute to several Thoroughbred horse retirement and rehoming organizations per year.

“To me, that’s the responsibility of owning a racehorse. I 100 percent believe that and can’t imagine anything else.”

So now in our barn is the incredible mare who brought sweet Wicklow into our lives. Moving gradually toward her third career, I tacked her up for that first ride, letting her see and smell my saddle and pad. She inhaled so deeply, ears forward, I really believe she understood that Wicklow was once there with us.

The marvel of her being here, and my level of gratitude toward Mark C. and Mark S., is infinite.

This article about rehoming a horse to heal a broken heart appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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