MARYSVILLE, Wash. - A retired racing thoroughbred found wandering along a country road was sold for nearly $1,400 to the couple who took him in and came to love him.
Erin and Steve Porter bought the horse they call Stretch on Tuesday at the Marysville Livestock Auction for $1,375. Most of the money was raised by 4-H clubs.
The couple had taken care of him temporarily after he was found in December not far from where they live. "He was real gentle," Steve Porter said. "He'd follow me around the field, rub me with his head. He loved to get carrots."
News reports on the 7-year-old dark bay gelding's plight drew dozens of calls and e-mails from around the United States and Canada, said Ralph Vacca, general manager of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
"It's just amazing," Vacca said. "He's not a distinguished runner. He has no reproductive ability." He said the horse probably was not worth more than $500, "but with all the interest, you can expect a higher price."
In his heyday, Stretch was known as Flying Algonquin, and in six races, all at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, he won once and finished second once for career earnings of $8,160.
The auctioneer said Tuesday that the horse may have a bone growth just above the hoof, so he cannot be ridden.
"It doesn't matter," said Steve Porter's mother, Cynthia. "If he can't be ridden, he can just hang out."
The Porters plan to keep Stretch on five acres of pasture.
The horse was found wandering around Christmas with a gash on his nose and a lead rope in his halter. He appeared healthy, but no one in the area knew who owned him, nor did anyone claim him or report him missing. He was identified by a tattoo in his mouth.
In late 2002 or early 2003, a couple in British Columbia had sold the thoroughbred to a couple in Snohomish as a non-racehorse, Vacca said. Stretch was then given away at least twice, and the last-known owners never stepped forward to claim him.