Re-Elect served with distinction in the Indiana National Guard Ceremonial Unit
Standardbreds are consistently showing their versatility, whether it’s for riding or driving, for show or pleasure. Hoof Beats is happy to share stories from readers about their favorite retired Standardbreds. This month, Megan Rider writes about Re-Elect, a former racing pacer who had a second career in the military with the Indiana National Guard Ceremonial Unit.
Some Standardbreds are retired to aftercare programs and organizations that re-home them, while others enter second homes or careers through their owners. If those owners are fortunate enough, they are afforded the opportunity to follow their horse’s journey after the track and have the chance to see them again.
For Margret Romano, Re-Elect is that horse. More than 17 years have passed since Re-Elect was retired from racing. Nothing could have prepared Romano for what would transpire more than a decade and a half later with his second career.
A son of Presidential Ball and the Storm Damage mare Survive, Re-Elect was foaled in 1996 and is the first foal out of his dam. The 24-year-old gelding is a half sibling to Outsource (Matt’s Scooter, $101,862) and Donna Party (Allamerican Native, $235,509).
Purchased by Douglas Chilcoat for $12,000 at the 1997 Standardbred Horse Sale, Re-Elect compiled a record of 22-0-4-7 and banked $7,850 at 2 and 3 under the care of Ben Stafford. He was purchased in June of his sophomore campaign by Kathleen Stafford.
Margret (Maggi) Romano and her husband, Anthony, acquired Re-Elect from the Staffords in April 2000. At the time, Re-Elect (affectionately called “Re-Re”) was racing at Freehold Raceway, so Romano and her husband kept him there for several months prior to his appearances at Yonkers Raceway and Monticello Raceway.
All went according to plan until the fall of 2002, when Romano took Re-Elect to Colonial Downs to provide him with a brief vacation after several races.
“I wanted to refresh him at one point, so I took him to a turnout farm for a few days where they, against my wishes, turned him out with all of the other horses,” Romano said. “They chased him overnight and he ran through the fence, cutting his tendon.”
Romano and Re-Elect returned to New Jersey for his recovery. Once Re-Elect was sound, Romano decided to look for a new home for him, as racing was no longer an option in her eyes. During her search, she discovered the U.S. Army used black horses for funerals and thought this could be a possible profession for Re-Elect, who retired with a record of 61-3-9-11 and earnings of $21,484.
“I heard a Standardbred who raced at Freehold was with the Caisson Platoon in Arlington, Va.,” Romano said. “I contacted them and was informed they did not have an opening, but they put us in touch with the Indiana National Guard. They approved him and requested they draft an adoption contract in case it did not work out.”
Re-Elect was then christened with his military name, Reed, and entered service.
Romano often looked at the horse’s photos and wondered if she would ever see him again.
“I tried to stay in touch with the guard and my husband went to see him at their barn and in a parade,” she said. “But his handlers were called for active combat overseas and he was shuffled to different handlers and barns.”
As 16 years went by, Romano wondered how Re-Elect was doing and what he was doing. In August 2019, her questions were answered when she received an unexpected email from Chaplain Martha Lasher of the Indiana National Guard Ceremonial Unit.
“She stated she had been with the unit for 1½ years and she had found Reed’s file and adoption contract,” Romano said. “She was hoping I could still be contacted under the email address listed.”
Re-Elect had earned his retirement after 16 years of duty. The adoption contract stated Romano must be contacted when the horse’s service requirements were fulfilled to place him in a home in Indiana or with her.
“I was speechless,” Romano said. “I forwarded the email to my husband and he voted to take him. I advised him to call the chaplain to discuss shipping arrangements to New Jersey.”
The chaplain informed the Romanos she was traveling to the Garden State for a family event and could ship Re-Elect to them. There would, how-
ever, be an official retirement ceremony for the gelding and his stablemate, Midnight, a Percheron who had served for 19 years, before Re-Elect would return to his previous owners.
The Romanos were invited to the ceremony, and after several date changes it was scheduled for Sept. 9. Romano left New Jersey the day before to make sure she would arrive with plenty of time to spare.
She was granted permission to arrive an hour before the ceremony to greet the horses as they shipped in. When she saw Re-Elect, she hugged him, but he was still all business and appeared uninterested in her attention.
Romano talked with several people before lining up with the horses.
“The adjutant general then presented me and Midnight’s new owner with a picture box, and in it there was a folded flag with his badges and a script,” she said. “Re-Elect was retired as a sergeant first class and it was so impressive to see what he had accomplished. He was also loved and respected.”
Befitting a soldier who had performed admirably, Re-Elect was shipped to New Jersey in a trailer with the official seal of the Military Department of Indiana (MDI) Ceremonial Unit.
Re-Elect participated in more than 90 funerals either as an outrider or caisson horse, walking behind the casket with the empty boots and saber. He was also ridden in parades and public events in the color guard with the flag, and he engaged in meet-and-greets with the general public where they could pet him and learn about the life of a military horse.
Sgt. 1st Class Amber Brown worked with Re-Elect for several years and had nothing but wonderful things to share about him.
“Reed was an outstanding member of our team and he stood with honor and grace through all missions,” she said. “He was a gentle horse who watched over the rest of the team. Reed also had a playful side, as he would steal a rag or glove right out of your pocket. He is truly missed, but served his state and his country with honor. We are grateful that he will have a wonderful home with Maggi.”
Standardbreds love their work and to please, so Re-Elect appeared lost the first few days on the Romano farm.
“Many Standardbreds don’t like retired life,” Romano said. “He missed his friends and the daily routine. The military horses in Indiana were ridden and driven by their handlers every week, even if there were no events. He looked out for his stablemates and felt like the protector of even the Percherons.”
Romano seeks more public exposure for Re-Elect to tell his story and to provide him with a new sense of purpose.
“I have contacted the local veterans’ group and Re-Re may be leading next year’s Memorial Day parade,” she said. “If our plans work out, he will be ridden by one of his handlers from Indiana.
“For all these years I always wondered if I would ever see him again or even hear of him. We are not only so happy to have him home, but so proud of what he has done.”
Megan Rider is a freelance writer living in New York. To comment on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.