Katie Larsen relocates OTTBs, giving them new life
The final finish line of the Thoroughbred crossover marks a new beginning, thanks to Katie Larsen.
Whether they make it to the winner’s circle, take a small chunk of the purse or finish in double figures behind the first-place horse doesn’t matter to 34-year-old Larsen.
Finding suitable homes for as many of them as possible, whether millionaires, seekers, stake winners, rookies or war horses, is his singular goal.
“I get the same accomplishment every time I rehome a horse,” Larsen said. “It makes me…I don’t really know how to describe that feeling. After 700+ horsepower you might think that feeling would change, but it doesn’t, and I know it never will.”
In June 2017, Larsen founded Southern Belle Thoroughbreds, a matchmaking service that matches off-road thoroughbreds (OTTBs) who have competed in Honeysuckle Where Fort Erie with new career and life opportunities.
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For the rider with deep ties to the equestrian and show jumping worlds, there is always some disbelief in how Southern Belle came to be.
“I switched gears after being hooked up to an off-road horse by the name of Mia Bella Amore,” said Larsen, who started his riding career in the pony ranks and later competed at Trillium and ‘A’ level. circuit in the jumper division of 1.10 meters.
“He was my first Thoroughbred and I was just really interested in his background. I ended up going to Fort Erie – my first time at a racetrack – and got in touch with his old trainer. sort of opened my eyes, the backstretch and how lively it is, and all these beautiful horses I ended up getting my practice rider license, started galloping and I’m on fell in love. It wasn’t an intention, to start repatriating racehorses. It started with a horse from a trainer I rode for.”
It became something she never imagined.
Shortly after picking up that first horse, requests came in faster than the last quarter mile.
“Another horse came to Fort Erie and then other people started asking me. I was able to do it very easily because of the connections I have. That’s when I thought “That could be something. That’s when I launched an official Facebook page and started marketing the horses. The first year it grew very, very quickly, not only the subscribers I had, but I repatriated over 100 horses the first year doing it. And it just took off really fast. I guess you can say I fell into it. It was amazing.”
In 2021, Larsen found homes and new vocations for 150 Thoroughbreds, bringing the total to more than 600 rehomed horses at the time.
Soon, the volume of horses and the time invested put her at a crossroads.
Larsen, who had worked in the financial industry for more than 10 years, has recently thrown her racing career into full swing.
A big decision, but in the end, an obvious one.
“I think I kinda lost my mind in the process,” she said with a laugh. “You have to be dedicated and committed to facilitate the repatriation of a horse. And I was from day one until now, hundreds of horses later. When I sell a horse, I don’t stray from my phone or my computer. I engage with everyone and I’m very laser-focused when I post a horse ad and even after.”
Advertisements for each horse do not contain the same amount of information as a chart of past performance, but potential buyers have a wealth of information.
After visual inspections of the horses, which are pushed by hand to ensure their soundness, photos of each horse are taken and then uploaded to Southern Belle’s social media, along with a well-documented description.
While his interactions with the horses are relatively limited before the sale, Larsen’s conversations with their loved ones are quite the opposite.
“I make sure to go see the horses first, get to know them a bit, get an idea of where they would be best housed, and ask lots of questions,” Larsen said. , which does not buy the horses, but rather sells them directly to the buyer. “I speak to grooms and anyone who has a close association and spends the most time with a horse. I try to get as much detail as possible because every horse is truly an individual. I don’t want to match a horse riding with someone who is just learning to ride.This is a perfect fit for horse and man.
“I will put as much description as possible with the listings for each horse. Each horse is different, with their accomplishments, behavior and form where they are best suited. People in the world of show horses, victories or Successes don’t mean much to them, they want to know what the horse looks like, if it’s healthy or if it has had injuries before.
Once a horse has been adopted, buyers come straight to the back line to take it home.
But that doesn’t signal the end of Larsen’s connection with the Thoroughbreds.
The Southern Belle website has a dedicated page where new owners can share stories of their horses.
“I love the updates. These are my favorites. I try to post an update every 1-2 days. I’ve had people say, ‘This horse saved my life’ or “This horse has changed my life”. Hearing these heartfelt updates really warms my heart. Seeing these horses thrive in their new lives just shows what these thoroughbreds are capable of. They have some potential outside of their racing career and they have so much more of their life to live.
2022 retired Tarah’s Blessing
And, as Larsen shared, she still has work to do. Much more, in fact.
That’s why she contacted Chelsea Clouter with the offer to join Southern Belle.
Also a sport rider, Clouter’s contributions, through her connections to the Woodbine horse people, meant more attention to the organization’s raison d’être.
“I want to continue to grow in the Woodbine market,” Larsen said. “When the volume of horses started to increase at Woodbine, I needed someone. We worked together at Woodbine because there are so many horses. I want to repatriate horses for bigger teams that are learning about who we are and what we can offer.”
Larsen has also put his own money where his heart is.
She is the proud co-owner of a thoroughbred that competes in the Toronto track.
“Her name is Ya Beauty. I bought her when she was 5. You’ll see the Southern Belle Thoroughbreds title next to her name on the program. I’m involved in racing, so I’m on both sides now. I can enjoy the thrill of racing alongside the safe placement of horses after their racing careers are over.”
Regardless of how the bay mare, under trainer Nigel Burke, fares in her racing career, the well-traveled Briton will have a new home past the finish line.
Just like the nearly 800 thoroughbreds that have been given a new lease of life thanks to Southern Belle Thoroughbreds.
“This breed, they’re so athletic and disciplined and regimented. You almost always find that these horses want to do something else when they’re racing. And they’re good at it. They’re really beautiful.”
And according to Larsen, none of them are different from the other.
“At the end of the day, horses are equal in my eyes, and they all deserve the same landing once they’ve finished running.”
His mission, in many ways, feels like it’s only just begun.
This winter, Larsen will be working horses in Florida, providing another opportunity to build new relationships and share the Southern Belle Thoroughbreds story.
“There is a huge push in the industry to find homes for retired horses and I want to continue to grow so that we can help as many horses and people as possible. That’s what drives me and pushes me every day. The end of a chapter for the horses opens a new one.”
This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.