Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Longtime Volunteer At Old Friends Has Staying Power

June Shaw has long been fascinated by Thoroughbreds, and she has shared her passion by leading tours at Saratoga Race Course for more than 30 years. One horse always stood out for her – Thunder Rumble.

The aptly-named New York-bred was, indeed, ready to rumble on and off the track. When Shaw would lead a group past trainer Richard O’Connell’s barn, she would delight in observing that Thunder Rumble typically required two handlers. One did not stand a chance.

On the track, the combination of his innate strength and his imposing will allowed him to develop into one of the most formidable New York-breds in history. In 1992, before a devoted following at Saratoga Race Course, he captured the Jim Dandy as a prelude to becoming the first New York-bred to win the Travers since 1867.

“He was hyper and hard to control,” Shaw said. “But when he went to work, boy, he went to work.”

We do not know about the hyper and hard to control aspect. But when Shaw, 75, goes to work, boy, she goes to work. Of the 45 volunteers overseeing 15 retired horses at Old Friends’ satellite farm in upstate New York – Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division – no one sets a brisker pace or is more dedicated than Shaw.

“She is my hero, really. I look up to her in every way. I hope and pray when I’m 75, I’m doing what June is doing,” said JoAnn Pepper, who operates Old Friends at Cabin Creek with her husband, Mark.

Shaw, all 5’5″, 106 pounds of her, was drawn by Thunder Rumble to the tranquil retirement facility that is a short drive from Saratoga Race Course. The nearly-black stallion arrived in 2009 as one of the first retirees to be placed there. He never failed to flex his muscles until the day he died of complications due to colic in January 2015. He was 26.

The opportunity to work with Thunder Rumble helped to attract Shaw to Old Friends at Cabin Creek. She and her husband, Ron, had given their all to raising three children — Tim, Ben and Samantha. Her 25-year career as a school bus driver was over. She felt she had more to give. So why not give it to Thunder Rumble and others?

“I think it was going to be twice a week,” Pepper said. “But she ended up coming every day.”

Shaw prepares the all-important carrots for retirees

Almost instantly, a visitor is struck by the importance of aftercare and how essential each volunteer is.

“They are like the blood force of it all because there is such intense care that the horses get every day,” Pepper said. “We check them all over.”

Shaw proved to be an immediate asset. She understands the intricacies of equine care through her long-term ownership and love affair with Patrick, a retired Quarter Horse who is now 33. She finds a way to connect with most horses. With Thunder Rumble, she quickly learned to give him his space.

“He used to chase me out of the paddock,” she said, happy to have such memories.

Shaw finds every hour she gives to be rewarding, knowing each retiree has been spared the terror of the slaughterhouse.

“I’ve been to auctions. I know the people are there to take them to where I don’t want them to go,” she said. “It’s nasty. They stuff them into vans and it’s just an awful thing.”

The pandemic did not stop Shaw and others who give so willingly of their time from mucking stalls and tending to the retirees’ many needs.

“All of us were thrilled to be here during the awful pandemic,” she said. “At least we are able to get out and be where we want to be.”

Pepper is proud of the way everything continued to operate seamlessly. Masks were worn, distance was maintained and the volunteers proved that it is possible to work safely.

“We kept each other healthy through this whole thing,” Pepper said. “Nobody has even gotten a cold.”

Shaw hard at work at Old Friends Cabin Creek

Something succeeded at slowing down Shaw. Thankfully, it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Although she was wearing cleats, she slipped on ice in January and broke her right wrist as she attempted to brace herself during the fall. She wore a cast for six weeks and only recently shed a brace.

Even then, she continued to report for unpaid duty, handling as many chores as she could with her good hand. The injury raised the question of how much longer Shaw can continue.

“I have today. Who knows what tomorrow brings?” she said. “I want to live in the day. It works for my head.”

The post Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Longtime Volunteer At Old Friends Has Staying Power appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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