This new series will look at some of Secretariat’s most famous progeny and how the mighty stallion of Meadow Stable continues to fire the blood of some of the best racehorses on the track today. We will also look at the descendants whose most important contributions have been made, not on the homestretch, but on the home front as pleasure horses, working horses and simply beloved companions. We are very grateful to the owners who send in the stories and photos of their Secretariat descendants. In this way, “the legend lives on!”
This great-great grandson of Big Red was born on March 29, 2010 in Ocala, Florida, one day before Secretariat’s birthday of March 30. His dam, Beautiful Wonder, has Secretariat on both the top and bottom of her pedigree. However, his illustrious bloodline did not protect him from a difficult start in life.
Born with an umbilical hernia for which his owner could not afford veterinary treatment, Little Red was relinquished to a local rescue group. He also had a badly infected foot. In the heartbreaking turn of events, the foal had to leave his mother before he was weaned. Her pitiful whinnying echoed in his ears as he was transported away to a strange new location. However, thanks to the good volunteers at Beauty’s Haven Farm and Equine Rescue in Morriston, FLA, the colt received the medical treatment he desperately needed and began to recover.
Eventually, Kateri Nelson, who worked with the American Humane Association, heard about a beautiful chestnut colt nicknamed Armani up for adoption. Born in Montreal, she felt a special connection to this descendant of Secretariat, due to the French-Canadians, jockey Ron Turcotte and trainer Lucien Laurin, who were such an integral part of his success. Finally, Little Red’s pedigree was going to bring him some good luck.
He just had one more hurdle. Kateri lived 1,800 miles from Ocala in Golden, Colorado. The notion of shipping the colt across country seemed too far-fetched to consider.
However, benevolent forces were at work that would lead to a “Golden” opportunity for the colt and Kateri. Her husband, Dean, (in a move that should have awarded him “Husband of the Year” honors!) secretly arranged to adopt Little Red. The colt was on his way to their ranch when Dean finally told Kateri the good news. An ecstatic Kateri described the colt’s arrival in early November 2010:
“At least I thought he was little until the driver unloaded him. At the tender age of seven months, Armani was already 14.2 hands and was walking on stilts. In fact, you could almost hear the bugle call when he walked down the ramp; he had the confidence of a champion!”
Kateri, along with her husband and son, greeted him with open arms. A few days later, the Florida colt got his first taste of Colorado snow!
Today, nearly a year later, Little Red, now renamed Tristan, continues to thrive in his new home. Kateri describes how the once-sickly colt has developed in size and personality:
“Over time, his personality has blossomed. He shows more and more assertiveness, and has developed a mischievous side directly proportionate to his great intelligence. He quickly found his place in our little herd of three horses and rarely needed to be reprimanded by his elders, even today. Fortunately for us he exhibits a similar behavior with humans. In fact, I’m still amazed that despite his painful early life and the long trip to Colorado, Little Red is as confident as he is. The son of a king, he deserved a name reflecting his noble birth and his great courage. So Sir Tristan of the Round Table became the obvious choice, especially for our 9-year old son. Since he arrived, our horse with many names has picked up a few inches — three weeks or so before his first birthday, we measured him at 15.2 hands. The veterinarian thinks that he will reach 16.2 or 16.3 hands at maturity. Then Tristan will hopefully calmly carry us on his back despite the bugle call that will resonate in his head, and the beating of hooves pounding deep in his heart.”
This author can personally attest to Little Red’s personality. Kate Tweedy and I stopped at Kateri’s place in Golden to meet Little Red on our way to Aspen this summer to go riding at a friend’s ranch. The colt was prancing about in his paddock, exuding confidence but not cockiness. He was not skittish as we two strangers approached and, like his great-great grandsire, seemed to relish the attention as we cooed and fussed over him.
Then he did the most amazing thing. I was petting his glossy neck when he bent his head down and tucked it up under my neck and just stayed there, breathly softly on my shirt. Kate and Kateri said it looked as if Little Red was whispering a secret to me. I told them he was.
He was telling me that he was both proud and humbled to have the blood of a mighty champion running through his veins. I told him that this made him very special and that he always must honor the spirit of his legendary ancestor.
By all indications, that is exactly what Little Red is doing. Thanks to the good work of the equine rescue group, a lifelong Secretariat fan, and a good-hearted husband, the young Thoroughbred now has a future befitting his lineage. The little colt who got off to a rocky start in life now has a forever family in the Rockies of Colorado.
Little Red October 2011 (19 mos.old)
Many thanks to Kateri Nelson for sharing her photos and story. And thanks to all the equine rescue groups who help find forever homes for horses like Little Red!
If you own or have owned a Secretariat descendant and would like to share your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with pedigree verification.
By Leeanne Meadows Ladin