Step Ahead Thoroughbred Retirement, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that rehabilitates, retrains and rehomes retired Thoroughbred racehorses in the Tampa Bay area, has been awarded the use of an Exmark Lazer Z X-Series mower for the 2019 mowing season.
The donation was provided by Equine Equipment and its equine industry partner Exmark as part of the “For the Good Program” that is providing similar donations to Thoroughbred aftercare facilities around North America. This donation was made in honor of the late Kent Stirling, who for many years advocated for horsemen in both Florida and nationally, and in conjunction with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida HBPA and Tampa Bay Downs HBPA.
“Kent did so much for horsemen and horses and for our entire industry, so Equine Equipment is pleased to honor his memory with this donation and to help some of the Thoroughbreds that were so important to him,” said Steve Andersen, founder of Equine Equipment. “This seemed like a perfect way to honor Kent and also help out the horses and the hard-working horsemen who race at Tampa Bay Downs.”
Step Ahead currently has about two dozen horses on its farm in Odessa, Florida, and co-founder Pam Berry said the mower donation came at the perfect time.
“I have a 30-year-old mower, and I was worried about how it would make it through the summer and how hard it is to find parts for it, and then this offer came in and it’s really going to help us out,” she said. “We put as much money as we can into the horses, so it’s great to not have to spend it on mowing equipment this year.”
Step Ahead, which relies mostly on donations and volunteers to operate, has been a longtime partner with the Tampa Bay Downs HBPA to help horses ready for a second career.
“Step Ahead has been taking horses from Tampa for at least 20 years, and Pam is so dedicated to taking care of these horses,” said Bob Jeffries, president of the Tampa Bay Downs HBPA. “She’s been a great help to the industry for a long time.”
The donation is just one of many tributes honoring Kent Stirling since his passing in 2017. A former trainer, Stirling was the executive director of the Florida HBPA for 20 years and was known nationally for his tireless efforts to help horsemen at all levels in the industry.
“Anytime the late Kent Stirling can be honored in our industry, it is more than well deserved,” said Lonny Powell, CEO and executive vice president of the FTBOA. “He was a great leader and friend to Florida Thoroughbred racing and to many of us personally. We applaud Steve and his company for honoring Kent while serving Kent’s favorite cause—helping people.”
“Kent was a friend to all horsemen and a good friend to me for many years,” said trainer Kathleen O’Connell. “He always rallied hard for the horsemen, whether it was a trainer or backside worker or a horse. It’s hard to put into words what he did for horsemen.”