Sterling’s Story: A Horse with a Plan
Meghan was interning at a Kentucky-based Thoroughbred rehoming program, called The Secretariat Center, when she got the green light from her family to start looking for her first horse. She’d grown up riding at a barn that specialized in a challenging sport called “eventing,” that tests the bond between a horse and their rider over three phases. Thoroughbreds typically excel at the sport, so Meghan was in the right place to adopt.
She instantly got along with a tall, copper-colored gelding named Sterling. She started working with him regularly as part of her internship and appreciated him for his confidence and personality. When the time came to select a horse to adopt, she rode several other talented horses, but when she rode Sterling, she knew he was absolutely her right horse.
From Uncertain Beginnings
Before Meghan and Sterling met, the gelding sustained an injury at the racetrack, and it looked like the kindest and most compassionate choice his caretakers could make for him was humane euthanasia. The Secretariat Center took him to their Lexington, Kentucky, facility and were pleasantly surprised to learn that Sterling had a tenacious spirit. Thankfully, he began to recover, so the Center gave him the time and space to rehabilitate from his injury. But they made the decision that Sterling could be adopted into a companion home, where he could live comfortably without being ridden.
Only, Sterling wasn’t too fond of that idea either. He made it known that he was strong and healthy enough to carry a rider. Sterling soon entered their training program.
It was at that point that he made a fateful encounter with one of the Secretariat Center’s interns and found his way into Meghan’s life.
“I knew Sterling was the right horse for me pretty much from the first ride. He has the exact mindset that I really enjoy in a horse: dependable but sassy,” recalls Meghan of their first ride together. “His life story has formed him into the horse he is today, and when you look into his eyes you can see his intelligence and confidence written all over his face.”
Big Dreams and Blue Ribbons
After bringing Sterling home, Meghan prepared him for the Retired Racehorse Project. A partner of the ASPCA Right Horse Initiative, The Retired Racehorse Project is a competition for newly retired racehorses and their trainers as they prepare for a second career. The competition draws in competitors from around the country and has been integral to helping thousands of racehorses find second homes.
Meghan’s trip to the Retired Racehorse Project was the stuff of dreams. They finished as the top amateur in the freestyle division and did well in the dressage. Dressage is a sport that tests the training between horse and rider through a series of classical maneuvers requiring balance, precision and outstanding communication between horse and rider.
Building on Sterling’s natural aptitude for dressage, Meghan continued focusing on the intricate maneuvers and training the sport requires.
“The next year we went to the Region 9 Dressage Championships where Sterling showed a ton of promise and really surprised me with how successful he was. We ended up being Region 9 JR/YR Training Level Champions, Training Level Reserve Champions at the Southwest Dressage Championships, and placing 8th in the Region 9 JR/YR First Level Championship class,” she remembers of their journey.
All that to say, Sterling has excelled with his adopter and the pair are now competing with some of the top riders in the country. Meghan hopes to return to Regionals again next year and qualify for the National Finals.
Sterling continues to defy the odds and prove that magic happens when the right horse finds the right person. Meghan now encourages others to consider adoption.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe but when you know, you know. Sterling has saved my life in so many ways and I have been able to get through tough times in my life thanks to him. He is my #RightHorse because I know I can depend on him to understand me. Even if I get mad at him for being really sassy some days, the next day I’ll realize that that is exactly what I needed.”
Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit myrighthorse.org to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, gender or discipline.