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June 06, 2018


by Mike Henry
Veteran of at least 20 racetracks living the sweet life after his owner decides it's time.

Meet Rowdy, the newest addition to the population of Equestrian, Inc., a rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing farm in north Tampa.

You actually might have made his acquaintance at Tampa Bay Downs and about 20 other racetracks, where he served pony person Bob Paterno for a quarter-century after his Thoroughbred racing career ended with a zero-for-13 record.


Close friends Sienna, left, and Rowdy with DeeAnn Smith

The New Jersey-bred gelding, known as Rowdy Runner on the track, had earned his retirement through his invaluable service. “This season – still completely sound, with a million miles on his odometer -- he did some morning work, some post jobs and rode to the track with the runners,” Paterno revealed. “If a horse was known to be rough and hard to get to the post, Rowdy got the call.”

Now 30 years old, Rowdy is enjoying his new surroundings and friends, such as Sienna, a 23-year-old Thoroughbred mare known as All Out Ice during her racing career.

“We welcomed Rowdy with open arms,” said DeeAnn Smith, President of Equestrian, Inc., and the daughter of the organization’s late founder, Glenda Smith. “He rolled around in his stall within five minutes after he got here, and he acts like he’s been here his whole life.

"I could tell he would get along with Sienna by their dispositions. We call them the ‘old married couple.’ ”

Rowdy is one of nine horses (including an Arabian and an Appaloosa) currently at Equestrian, Inc., a non-profit which is accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. The 10-acre facility includes covered stalls, a swimming pond, pasture and a wooded area.

Although he shows some signs of age around his face and topline, Rowdy gets around well and greets Smith and Equestrian, Inc., volunteers enthusiastically each day.

“Bob told us he doesn’t sweat a lot, and we got his teeth done and feed him three times a day because it’s hard to keep weight on as they get older,” Smith said. “We’ll soak some beet pulp and alfalfa cubes for lunch to keep his protein up. He’s quiet, sweet and affectionate, and he has a lot of patience.

"He can teach so much to a lot of beginners” – meaning other equines as well as volunteers.

Paterno has already visited Rowdy a few times. “Many of the tracks where he has worked have closed,” Paterno noted. “At 30, I owed it to him to find him a place to live out his days eating grass with his buddies. Rowdy Runner owed me nothing.”

Smith says visitors are welcome at Equestrian, Inc., but it is best to first contact her at (813) 407-6805. Normal summer visiting hours are 8:30-noon and 5-7:30 p.m.