For Wendy Muir, the horse that’s overcome the odds is the gift that keeps on giving.
Ports N Porsches, or ‘Portsie,’ to those who know him best, is one of over 50 retired Thoroughbreds that reside at the 100-acre farm belonging to LongRun, one of the continent’s most respected horse retirement and adoption organizations and the first industry-funded adoption program in Canada.
He is, among many things, a crowd pleaser, a horse who humbly draws attention and raises his head proudly whenever someone walks towards him, hand extended to deliver a pat and a few carrots.
Those scenes, the ones that play out hundreds of times throughout the year when visitors come to the property, never grow old for the people who work at LongRun, including its Executive Administrator.
“He is always happy to see you,” said Muir. “I’ve never seen him pin his ears or show any aggression to anyone or other horse. He is just a lovely soul.”
That he has found a home at LongRun, nestled in the hills of Erin, Ontario, is a minor miracle of sorts.
On the racetrack, Ports N Porsches carved out a solid career, mostly at Woodbine, winning nine races and hitting the top three 30 times from 67 starts, accompanied by earnings in excess of $300,000.
Bred by John Franks, the stakes-placed bay gelding was a consistent competitor throughout his racing life. In 2011, in what was his final campaign, he didn’t make it to the winner’s circle, but did post four runner-up efforts in seven starts.
Ports n Porsches’ last race came on October 31 of that year, a second-place showing at Fort Erie.
He would eventually make his way to LongRun nearly eight years ago, but not before enduring some difficult circumstances.
Foaled in Florida in January of 2003, Ports N Porsches, was brought to LongRun’s foster farm in Peterborough, Ontario in July of 2014, where he was cared for by manager Amanda Blake.
“We weren’t sure he was going to make it through the night,” recalled Muir. “But, we had the vet there and Amanda stayed with him, hand-feeding him and taking care of him on that first night. Any chance she had, she would sit on a bucket in his stall to be with him. After 10 days, he came over to Amanda and put his head in her lap. We all knew right then that he was going to be okay.”
Muir, who was the groom of Ports N Porsches’ sire, Native Regent, felt a deep connection to the horse.
So, too, did Vicki Pappas, Chairperson and a founding member of LongRun, who once owned the horse’s dam, Ritzy Lady.
“We look at him as our grandson,” said Muir. “We both have a history with his family, and for us, it means the world that we can have him here and know that he is happy and content. The farm here opened in 2016, and we were thrilled and very emotional the day that he arrived.”
It is very much home, sweet, home for Portsie, who is partially sponsored by Jean Heathcote.
If she happens to be having a tough day, Muir doesn’t have to walk far to find the remedy.
“I smile whenever I see him,” she said. “He brightens any day and makes me feel better.”
Just as he does with anyone who interacts with him.
As for who gets more joy out of those playful moments, Muir considers it a dead-heat.
“I know the effect he has on people, and I love seeing how charming he is and how people respond so positively to him. He is a great ambassador for Thoroughbreds and helps people see how important our program is.”
When asked what three words describe him best, Muir took an informal poll of LongRun staff.
Muir chose “happy, willing and smart.” Farm manager Lauren Millet-Simpson went with, “intelligent, kind and charming.” Tania Veenstra, a farm worker, opted for “handsome, strong and playful.” Finally, Julie Belanger, the organization’s media manager, offered, “sweet, intuitive, trusting.”
Each word is a perfect one, noted Muir.
“He truly is a special horse. We’re so fortunate to have him here with us. I’m sure he knows how much he’s cared for, how much happiness he brings to us and so many other people, and how much happiness he gets from all that attention.”
Typically, Ports N Porsches will fashion some form of holiday-themed adornment around this time of year.
And whatever it happens to be, the soon-to-be 19-year-old horse never fusses.
It’s indeed rather fitting he would sport an unmistakably festive Christmas look.
After all, Portsie is, in every sense of the term, a gift to Muir and many more.
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications