by Victoria Howard
One of the hardest things about being in the sport of harness racing is when you have to say goodbye to one of your four-legged kids, for one reason or another.
For the four decades that I’ve been involved in the sport, every time I had to say goodbye to one of my horses, my heart broke a little more. (I don’t think I have much more than a pea-sized heart left.) Unable to keep them because I do not own a farm and of course it’s costly; my job as a good “mama” is to make sure my kids go to a safe, loving home to live out their life in peace.
Luckily, there are several wonderful establishments available that will place your horse in a forever home. So, when my first born after many years (Babyitscoldoutside) was told she could no longer be a mama I looked for a wonderful place where she could be loved and feel wanted. Although she never made it to the races, she gave me three colts and she will always mean so much to me.
Only seven years old, Baby had a lot of years yet to live and I wanted her to have the very best life. She is a beautiful, sweet mama (although at times she could be a bitch, lol) and she deserved a safe and happy home. Every horse does.
Laurie Poulin, a friend of mine told me of a place called Cold Springs Nurse Mares, located in Ocala, FL. They place nurse mares with orphaned foals that had sadly lost their dam or were rejected. Some of the mares on the farm are thoroughbreds, percherons, quarter horses and now Baby will help represent the wonderful standardbred breed.
I am beyond ecstatic and will keep in touch with them, periodically receiving photos of Baby and any adopted foals, and one day will go visit her.
Now I had to find someone to ship Baby from Paris, Kentucky to Ocala. This was a very busy time because of the stakes races and horse sales. I was given a name of a horse transporter who came highly recommended. Her name is Stacey Vanraemdonck.
Transporting a horse is a very, very tough and responsible job and getting a dedicated, caring and careful transporter was a must in my book.
I looked into Vanraemdonck and was sold from the first hello. Very professional and a true animal lover, Vanraemdonck has a beautiful rig and treats the horses as if they were her own. She even sent a photo of Baby when she was loaded and another on her way to her new home: a caring, thoughtful woman indeed.
Born in Flint, MI, Vanraemdonck grew up in Flushing, MI —15 minutes from Sports Creek Raceway.
“I grew up on a farm caring for a variety of animals, such as horses, llamas, reindeer, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. I even pinched in to help with the neighbor’s chores,” Vanraemdonck said.
“When I was 3 years old I started riding and I started taking lessons at 9 years old. After graduating from high school, I attended Northwood University pursuing my BBA in Business/Minor in Operations Supply Chain, but spending time with horses was a top priority to me.
“Although my family was never involved in the sport, my grandfather liked to bet on the horses, and I would look at his racing program that went all the way back to Del Miller’s great horse, Adios.
“I began showing in 4-H equestrian team and then competed in local and national level horse shows.
“When I was 14, I got involved with harness racing, starting off grooming horses for Dominic Stornello, a family friend. The first racetrack I attended was Saginaw Raceway where I worked for many trainers in Michigan – racing at fairs and surrounding tracks.”
Today, Vanraemdonck trains three racehorses for her owners Jason Matoy and Cynthia Downey. The horses Ewald Hanover, Lissilas and Coal Hanover are lightly raced due to Vanraemdonck’s busy schedule.
She has raced her horses in Michigan, Ohio, Ontario, Kentucky and Indiana. Several horses that she has trained or owned include Distinctive Skeeter, All American Comet, Jeena’s Dream, Hustlin Hassle, Spunky Monkey and Majestic Place, to name a few.
After working 16 years in the automotive manufacturing Industry as an engineer for companies such as General Motors, Vanraemdonck currently works as a manufacturing quality engineer for Oetiker. It is a global company.
Vanraemdonck is the energizer bunny that juggles training, racing, working as an engineer at Oetiker, and if that wasn’t enough. She transports horses all over the nation. She has shipped for stables such as Jake Huff, Peter Wrenn, Dr. Kevin Kratz and Steve Oldford, to name a few.
“LCF Horse Transport offers safe and reliable transportation. Our main goal is to provide peace of mind, safety for the horses and reliable easy transactions. We are 100 per cent committed to provide a quality experience for the owners, trainers and horses.
“LCF Horse Transport has shipped all over the United States from the West Coast, East Coast and down to South Florida.
“My favorite part about shipping has been meeting all kinds of wonderful people and seeing beautiful farms.”
Added to her list, Vanraemdonck also retrains standardbreds.
“One of my proudest moments was retraining Distinctiv Skeeter, who has a record of 1:52.3 and earnings of $541,657. Skeeter was the winner of the 1st Battle Of Waterloo in 1998.
“I cared for Skeeter for years while working for trainer Paul Holzman and I later claimed Skeeter towards the end of his racing career.
“I’ve always been very fond of Skeeter and the feeling was mutual, so after acquiring him I decided to retire him early to compete in riding competitions.
“As he was in his racing career, Skeeter proved to be as successful in his new career. He has been reserve world champion at the Worlds Standardbred Horse Show, along with placings in war horse and pleasure driving.
“Skeeter really deserves the recognition and has been an amazing ambassador for the standardbred breed showing just how versatile standardbreds can be. He has also given local children riding lessons. Skeeter is now 26 years old and enjoys retirement on our family farm in Michigan.”