By Maria Holman
Melissa Raffaeli already had two horses and a newborn baby when she spotted a picture of Royal Wildcat online. A five year old, 16.1h, Off the Track Thoroughbred gelding. Royal Wildcat was rescued from the kill pen at the New Holland horse auction in Pennsylvania. During his racing career, Wildcat had competed in six races, losing his first five and winning his last. As much as Melissa, 27, of Beckett, Massachusetts, wanted to take him home, she told herself it was simply not possible to take on another horse.
The more Melissa looked at Royal Wildcat’s picture, however, the more she thought, “Wow, why would someone dump a horse like that?” She contacted Another Chance for Horses, Inc. (AC4H, Inc), the rescue organization that had Wildcat. Even after talking to them, Melissa was still not sure she could take on the responsibility of owning three horses. She also knew that her husband would not be happy. After making the decision to not take Wildcat, she was told that another rescue, Hope for Horses, was willing to sponsor him during his quarantine, paying his travel fees, grain, hay, shavings and vet bills for two weeks before he would arrive in a new owner’s care. “When they told me that they would sponsor him for those two weeks, I told them I’d take him and I didn’t even tell my husband!” Melissa said laughing. “But he knew right away after talking to me that I had another horse. I just told him, ‘When you married me you signed up for this!’”
In Melissa’s care, Wildcat has flourished and has no quirks or bad habits that are often related to being on the track. He is a kind, quiet, young horse. After a few weeks of letting Wildcat “be a horse,” Melissa started riding him and to her pleasant surprise discovered she had adopted a wonderful horse. On their first ride, Wildcat walked, trotted and cantered on a loose rein. “Someone obviously had taken care of him at some point. I was asking him different things to see how he would respond and he was fabulous,” Melissa said.
One month later they entered their first local show including a trail class in which Wildcat had to walk over a bridge, stand while opening a mailbox and other similar obstacles. He was perfect. They also entered an English pleasure class, which Wildcat and Melissa won thanks to Wildcat’s fluid extended trot. “Judges typically come up and give you advice on how to improve,” Melissa said. “But the judge just said, ‘…it was wonderful, I don’t have anything to say.’” Melissa still has trouble understanding how such a great horse was only seconds away from slaughter.
Luckily for Royal Wildcat, AC4H, Inc. and Melissa were able to give him a second chance at life and a new career. Royal Wildcat is now a happy, spoiled, loved horse, that Melissa says, “Will definitely be sticking around.”
Editor’s Note: Melissa loved this article on Wildcat but wanted to add: “Royal Wildcat was spotted and identified by his tattoo by Another Chance 4 Horses broker Assistance program and listed as such. They contacted the breeder (Taylor Made in Kentucky) with a request for help with bail, Taylor Made Sales paid his bail, courtesy of Mr. Ben Taylor. At that time is when I decided to offer a home for Wildcat. Vetting (coggins and health certificate) and transport to Hope 4 Horses quarentine facility was paid for in part by some very generous horse lovers.”
About the writer: Maria Holman is a graduate of Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She has a degree in Communications with an Equine Studies minor. Maria has been an avid equestrian since she was 11 years old. She recently purchased her first horse, Herin, and is looking forward to entering her first event with him.