This time last year Little Red Fox was more-or-less on death row.
But 10-months after being scooped up from the Echuca sales for less than $400, the mighty mare has claimed a first place at Burrumbeet.
“I couldn’t stop crying. I was so emotional,” Yendon rescuer Maddison Lawrence said.
“It didn’t matter if it was Burrumbeet or Caulfield – it was a massive achievement.”
Little Red Fox came into Maddi’s life after an online bid at a February 28 horse sale.
The other two bidders, she later discovered, were meatworks.
The Yendon equine therapist got a call at 5pm on the day to say the racehorse was hers – but had to be collected by the close of business that night … or head to the knackery.
She made the 220km trip with 10 minutes to spare.
“I saw her in this small dark pen – and she had her head down. She was in shocking condition – emaciated with bite marks all over her. She also had a leg wound,” she said.
“I know of trainers and other people in the horse industry who turned up to Echuca that very same day and saw horses that they once worked with.
“They were emaciated, in poor condition and were buying them back.
“It’s sad to see them like that.
“I know of many trainers and jockeys who check the sales each week for horses they can rescue.
“I know there are bad apples, but there are a lot of good people in the industry who care about horse welfare.
“I believe equine welfare needs to be consistent and applied to every aspect of the horse industry – racehorses, quarterhorses, you name it. There needs to be a tracing system.”
She said microchipping was not a legal requirement – making it hard to identify the parties responsible for the deterioration of horses like Little Red Fox.
“She is so happy and healthy now.
“I didn’t buy her to be a racehorse but when I got her home from the sales, I started feeding her up and rehabilitating her and I saw that she just loved to run around.
“She’s very active.”
Maddi said he first step was placing the chestnut mare in a paddock by herself where she didn’t have to “fight for her food”.
Success has come gradually for Little Red Fox, who placed third at Penshurst on Boxing Day.
The Burrumbeet New Years Day races were a local milestone – allowing the first major crowd in the Ballarat area to since the pandemic bit hard in March.
Yesmeena – a horse trained by famed duo Ciaran Maher and David Eustace – was the hot favourite in race two, but Little Red Fox led the entire 1350m together with jockey (and Maddi’s sister) Mikaela.
“As they were coming down to the finish line we were screaming. You can hear it in the replay. I was crying.
“I cried afterwards, on the way home – and all that night.
“We’ve never seen Dad cry – but he did that day!
“Even when she was in the paddock at home, Little Red Fox was running and prancing around as if to say: ‘Look, I’m a winner!’ I think she knew she’d done something special.
“It’s amazing how many hearts she’s captured.
“The prizemoney meant nothing to me.
“Little Red Fox owes me nothing.
“I owe her.
“She can’t care for herself and she was the thing that got me out of bed when I was depressed.
“She’s given me hope and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
“If we hadn’t have picked her up from the sales that day, I don’t know where I’d be today.
“To whichever angel sent her to me – I want to thank you.
“She’s our world.
“I’ll never let her go.”
The 15.2-hand petite racehorse was also one of the first winners for Miners Rest trainer Emma Collins and is now being spelled at Yendon.
“She’s loving life, Maddi said.
“We’ll watch her – and she’ll give us the signals if and when she’s ready to race again.
“If she doesn’t race again, that is OK. Every horse is different.
Bought for $382, Echuca rescue horse Little Red Fox is making the Lawrence family incredibly proud. ❤️Posted by 7HorseRacing on Friday, January 1, 2021
“The horses we have at Yendon will stay with us afterwards though because we just don’t trust equestrian homes.
“There are homes that genuinely keep and care for retired horses, but there are others that just ship them off to be sold.”
Maddi has named her equine therapy business Sonyador (phonetic Spanish for ‘dreamer’) which is also Little Red Fox’s alternative name.
“She really is a dreamer – and a dream-come-true! We actually call her Sonya for short.”
The Lawrence family is also working with another rescued racehorse called Allyrock – and Maddi later hopes to set up an equine rehabilitation centre that involves a bit of valuable therapy for humans as well.
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Images: Brendan McCarthy Racing Photos and Maddison Lawrence.