Friday, 16 August 2019 10:01

McLain and Beinars Giving Back to the Horses while Making a Difference at the TRF

By Tony Podlaski | Winner's Circle

Shon McLain and Danielle Beinars represent two generations in their path of training and caring for Thoroughbreds.

Whether is it giving back to the horses or making a difference, both have become an integral part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s barn on the corner of Bloomfield Road and Daniels Road.

McLain, who started the Saratoga Strategic Partners 12 years ago, became a member of the TRF board in March, while Beinars, a senior at Cazenovia College, has spent her summer working with this year’s retired and rescued horses.

This year’s group of horses each has their own story before being retired and getting rescued.

Candyman E, a 12-year-old gelding, is perhaps the most notable of the quartet as he won 10-of-34 races for just over $595,000, including a win in the Grade 3 Tobbagan Stakes, several other minor stakes victories, and a second-place finish in Kid Russell Stakes at Saratoga.

Meanwhile, 8-year-old gelding Call the Iceman and 13-year-old mare Supurb Surprize each had brief racing careers as maidens at Finger Lakes; Uptown Joe was also a maiden through 13 races, including three races at Saratoga.

McLain helped bring these horses to the barn earlier this year when he heard about
their circumstances.

“We got a call from a couple of local horse organizations and found out there were going to be some bad things happening,” McLain said. “That was an opportunity for us to come in and make something good out of it. One of the reasons I chose TRF is that we take any horse that needs to be rescued, not just ones who can be retrained into something or resold. They are here, even if it means that they just want to eat grass in the field. We are the first for the worst.”

Beinars eventually started working with them as part of
her internship.

Even though TRF Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Stevens had a racing background on each of these horses, she didn’t know much about them beyond that.

“We didn’t know anything about their personalities or riding abilities or the challenges we were going to face. Danielle has been able to go through each horse. Now, we know – with someone working with them every day – where they are going to fit the best. She has been great with that. Now, hopefully, three of them can get adopted out.”

Prior to their involvement in the TRF, McLain and Beinars each had unique paths of working with Thoroughbreds.

The 49-year-old McLain went from being an architect major at University of Kansas to working for trainer Tom Pryor at Woodlands in Kansas City as a groom. Once McLain got the experience of being in the Winner’s Circle, he lost his interest in architecture.

“I must have gotten 20 win pictures. I got hooked on that,” he said. “After my fifth year of school, architecture got boring. Computer Aided Drafting came out and it was point-click, point-click. There was no way that I was doing that.”

After going through the Oklahoma circuit, McLain started working for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Along with working with a solid group of former assistants that included Todd Pletcher, Dallas Stewart, Mike Maker, Mark Hennig and George Weaver, McLain also handled Kentucky Derby winners Thunder Gulch and Grindstone, as well as 3-year-old filly champion Serena’s Song.

However, there was a moment with Serena’s Song and Lukas when McLain learned the significance of giving back. A few days before the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Lukas and McLain had Serena’s Song grazing on the backside of Churchill Downs when Lukas allowed a girl to pet the horse on the nose.

“He said it is so important to give back to the sport that has given to us,” McLain said. “He said that little girl will never forget that experience; she is the future of the sport of horse racing. That has kind of always stuck with me that giving back to the sport that has moved me to where I am today. That’s very important.”

As a father of 16-year-old daughter Katie and 14-year-old son Michael, McLain continues to believe in volunteering and community support through programs that include the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, New York State Race Track Chaplaincy, Maple Avenue Parent Newtork and Kiwanis.

“Community involvement is very important to me,” he said. “Having kids, I have done all of the regular community support like the PTA and Little League. Now that my kids are older, I know what I wanted to do community-wise.”

The 21-year-old Beinars from Foxboro, Mass. was five years old when she started riding in horse shows. She got involved in a work-to-ride opportunity from the partner of a farm owner who painted her parent’s house for a couple of years. However, Beinars was looking for more.

“She taught me to make a horse run faster, slower, and steer. After that, I was on my own,” she said. “I did a lot of YouTube watching to learn about advanced skills. I wanted to get more competitive; I wanted to horse show and do more events.”

On the last day of her seventh grade year, Beinars moved onto another work-to-ride program with some initial hesitation from the farm owner. That opportunity eventually became the foundation for Beinars working with Thoroughbreds.

“She wasn’t initially willing to give a 12-year-old a work-to-ride opportunity,” she said. “Gradually, I started working more and riding more. I was given more difficult horses or horses that people didn’t want to ride. It was great because I had the patience for them. That’s where I got the passion of working with Thoroughbreds.”

Beinars graduated from Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, Mass. where she was part of an animal science program. She learned different skills that included woodworking, equine science and applying to college with equine programs.

Over the past 12 weeks in her TRF internship, Beinars believes her experience has prepared her for the future that could include pursuing a masters in sustainable agriculture while reinforcing her personal mission of making a difference.

“I really like my internship,” she said. “I really learned whatever I do – with Thoroughbreds or not – it needs to make a difference. I am always motivated and give my best effort. However, at the end of the day, I don’t care if you win a blue ribbon with some class of a horse. That doesn’t really mean anything to me. The biggest thing that I got out it is whatever I do, it has to be meaningful.”

As a way to raise money for the after care and internships, the TRF features several community events that include the open houses. The TRF’s fundraising event is the Summer Night BBQ at the Barn on Aug. 20 from 6-8 p.m. at The Saratoga Winery.

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