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Horses of Unbridled: Queen and Town: A chronicle of resilience, redemption and responsibility

Queen and Town taking a stroll at Unbridled. Courtesy of Tonya Hughes

Queen of the Bayou and Town on Fire are two Thoroughbred mares gracing the pastures of the Sanctuary at Unbridled.

They radiate with beauty and vitality. Their soulful eyes invite visitors and volunteers to a world of companionship with horses. Whether during creative sessions, reading times, study breaks or grooming routines, Queen and Town provide emotional support to the humans who interact with them.

Gentle and always attentive, they are a repository for secrets, sorrows and joys, free from judgment. Despite their past filled with despair, the mares are always eager to make new connections. 

With Queen and Town, we bear witness to the incredible ability of horses to forgive and flourish, even after enduring severe hardship. As you journey through the poignant tale of their rescue, allow these extraordinary creatures to touch your heart and see the importance of respecting them as fellow beings with their own intrinsic worth. You may find yourself transformed into an advocate, a spark igniting change in the world of horse racing.

Queen of the Bayou was born in Louisiana on March 12, 2008. At two years of age, her breeder sent her to auction in Florida. She sold for $17,000. During training, Queen showed immense promise. Her powerful and elongated stride, accompanied by a swift turn of foot, covered vast stretches of ground.

As she prepared for her inaugural race at Louisiana Downs, anticipation built, and Queen did not disappoint. On Sept. 2, 2011, Queen won in her first outing. Celebrating with her in the Winner’s Circle was a part-owner named Aaron Kennedy.

However, a nagging ankle injury necessitated Queen’s retirement from racing. By February 2012, at the tender age of four, Queen was expecting her first foal. In all she would carry and nurture four for Kennedy’s Wallace Lane Thoroughbreds. In 2017, Kennedy found Queen a new home. For a time she was cared for, until she reappeared in George Baker’s slaughter-bound feedlot in Stroud, Oklahoma.

Queen of the Bayou has found sanctuary at Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation. Courtesy of Tonya Hughes

Once vibrant and spirited, Queen had become emaciated and severely lame, her prospect of rescue dishearteningly grim. Despite thousands of social media shares pleading for her life, no one seemed interested in saving her.

On the other hand, Town on Fire, an 18-year-old mare still in excellent health, had spent her years producing Quarter horse offspring. When she became unwanted, she too was discarded at the same slaughter-bound feedlot. It’s estimated that two-thirds of all horses sent to slaughter are Quarter horses, many of them cast-offs from the rodeo or racing industries.

The paths of these mares intersected when Unbridled rescued them and altered their destiny from a livestock truck bound for Mexico to a soft spacious trailer ride to Sanctuary in New York. Unbridled’s mission extends beyond mere rescue; they strive to reconnect these horses with their past connections, in hopes of securing financial and transformative support for the rescued animals.

Queen of the Bayou was lucky. Her past had intertwined with Aaron Kennedy, her former owner and unexpected hero. When Kennedy learned of Queen’s plight, he swiftly and generously shouldered all expenses to save Queen from slaughter and ensure her safe transport to Unbridled. His ongoing contributions secure her royal treatment at Unbridled, where she may spend another two decades in comfort.

Queen of the Bayou is thriving at Unbridled. Courtesy of Holly Scism

Town on Fire’s story was less fortunate. Despite being home-bred at millionaire Satish Sanan’s Padua Stable, efforts to reach out to her past connections have been unsuccessful. Despite multiple attempts to contact Sanan via phone, email and letter, a response remains elusive.

Sanan, at the peak of his horse racing involvement, owned farms in Ocala, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky. He has publicly claimed to have invested over $150 million into the sport he loves, producing several Breeders’ Cup winners like Vindication, Cajun Beat, Cash Run, and the great Curlin, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic victor and Horse of the Year.

Outside the racetrack, Sanan is a renowned figure in the business world, serving as chairman and CEO of Inspirata Inc., a leading provider of cancer informatics and digital pathology solutions. These accomplishments underscore the potential for greater accountability, especially when it comes to the well-being of his horses. Whether they be successful like Curlin or not, they all bear his name.

Queen, emaciated and exhausted on arrival from the Stroud slaughter-bound lot. Contributed photo

This story is not just about Queen and Town; it’s a clarion call for responsibility, compassion and advocacy. The contrast between Kennedy and Sanan is not just about individual responsibility but also about accountability. We must not only care for these animals when they are in use and service to us, but also be answerable for our actions and decisions that affect them and help them when they need a lifeline.

The world needs more individuals like Aaron Kennedy, willing to make provision for the horses they know. Kennedy’s recent appointment in June 2023 as president of Des Moines advertising agency Flynn Wright, the first non-Flynn to assume this position, reflects his dedication and commitment. His journey from account coordinator to president in just 23 years highlights these traits, reflected clearly in his actions towards Queen of the Bayou.

Town on Fire is now at peace in her stall at Unbridled. Courtesy of Holly Scism

Susan Kayne operates the horse rescue organization Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation, on the border of Albany County and Greenville.

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