Patti Shirley’s extensive and tireless work with racehorses began innocently enough, a trip with a friend to a racehorse sale, just to scout it out. Dale, her husband, had zero interest in horses, but that wouldn’t prove to be the case for long. “He warned me not to come home with a horse,” Patti chuckles. However, when Doc Sweet Surprise came up for auction, she just knew she had to have him. After a quick call to Dale, Patti purchased her first racehorse, and that innocent trip sparked a lifelong fire in Patti and Dale. In short order, they purchased a farm, brought in a few more horses and at Dale’s suggestion, Patti obtained her trainer’s license.
Patti raced horses from 1998 to 2011, seeing both the good and the bad of the sport. However, she chose to focus on the good they saw, as well as the good they could do. Patti and Dale realized their personal pleasure and profit from the sport was secondary to taking care of their animals. Though diligence and perseverance they managed to hold onto nearly every horse that raced for them. As Claudia Folch recounts, “The way the Shirleys figured it, the horses that worked so hard for them deserved to come home with them after their careers ended.”
In 2005, Patti founded Equine Encore Foundation on her 120-acre ranch in Tuscon, Arizona. Although Dale passed before seeing this happen, his devotion to horses lives on in the work that Patti continues.
Equine Encore Foundation is a racehorse retirement facility for equine athletes and as such, the animals here are not available for adoption. The 79 former race horses that reside at the ranch are all retired and will remain at the facility for the rest of their lives. All of the horses, Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses, come straight from racetracks in New Mexico and Arizona. Therefore, the first order of business is to tend to any injuries that caused the end of their careers. “We keep them separate from the others at first and give them lots of TLC and any medication treatment they need,” explains Claudia.
There are many champion horses residing at Equine Encore, all of which arrived here for the same reason; they could no longer accomplish the task that was asked of them. “When everyone has given up on them, even the vets, we give them another chance and lots of love,” says Claudia. Equine Encore believes that even though they can no longer race, these horses still deserve to live out the rest of their full lives in comfort. Seeing these horses lead happy, healthy lives for many years after coming to Equine Encore is what the staff considers their greatest success.
Use the information below to see how you can contribute to Equine Encore Foundation and learn about the horses, all of which are available for sponsorship. As there will always be racehorses in need of a place to retire, Equine Encore appreciates all of the help and support they receive to make this possible.
Equine Encore Foundation
If you are interested in loaning or donating your horse trailer to this particular organization, then check out details of our Horse Trailer Donation and Sharing Program here. Then, post your comments below to help out!
Also, learn more about horse rescues in these two articles: