Training race horses for a new career: "Along the Way"

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Some animals are born, bred, and trained for one thing: speed.
But what happens when they slow down, get hurt, or just aren't fast enough to compete?
We go "Along the Way" to Butte County to see how some majestic animals are still prospering , even when they slow down.

Out west of Newell, past a shiny blue stallion, down a long gravel driveway, there are race horses, whose racing days have passed, and a couple committed to preparing them for a second career.

Dale Simanton of Gate to Great, Horse Creek Thoroughbreds says, "If a horse can't run for some reason they need to get him of out of that stall so they can put one in there that can run. It's a business and if a horse can't run he can't make any money."

In this old place with weather worn wood, Dale Simanton and his wife Dorothy Snowden are one of a relatively small number of groups that actively work to rehabilitate and re-train these thoroughbreds for a second chance at life.

Dale Simanton says, "These horses used to all go to slaughter for the most part when they were done racing. It's a business to the race people. When they got hurt or they were too slow or whatever, if there wasn't somebody around to take them off their hands."

Dale's now 62, but his training days began as a kid when his dad raised horses.

Dale Simanton says, "He'd give us kids each a horse and say here ya go, we'd break the horse to ride and get 'em going and he'd sell the horse and we'd cry and so he'd give us another horse" (Dale laughs).

They're not a rescue center, they're a labor intensive business...working with each thoroughbred for a year, or even two: day in, day out...only able to take on a small group, right now about a dozen.

Dale says, "They're used to having a groomed surface or even asphalt to walk on their entire life."

Clearly it's much different here than the high stakes glitz and glamour of the track.

"They can see for 20 miles but you can't go 100 yards without going over something or going around it," Dale says.

These ribbons are evidence that Dorothy is pretty good with horses too. She rides her own horses in a variety of shows and events. So with strong backgrounds of their own, this couple handles horses with high pedigrees.

Dale says, "This is Quaint. He's sired by Street Sense that won the Kentucky Derby."

"That horse over there I call him King. His name is Salal. He was given to us by the ruler or Qatar. They paid over half a million for him when he was a yearling, and he was a pretty good horse, but he got hurt," Dale says.

Horses can live 30 years, and while racing is one chapter in their life, it doesn't need to be the last one.

Dale says, "I rode race horses, I exercise race horses, I trained race horses for 20 years or more. I have a pretty good idea how they got the way they are, so it's easier for me to undo it."

Born, bred, raised to race; here they're retrained to become a ranch horse. And Dale says from there, they can quickly learn to do just about anything, like fox hunting, or performing in events at shows.

"3 things you want to find in a race horse. You want 'em sound, sane, and broke to ride. And if you want all 3 in the same horse, then you're looking at $10,000 or more probably," Dale says.

At about 10 thousand bucks for a year or two of work...there's not much money in this business here, but it means a new career, for race horses simply not fast enough to win by a nose.

Their business is called Gate to Great/Horse Creek Thoroughbreds.
Dale estimates they've worked with a thousand race horses by now.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.