Lynn Kirchner Remembers Secretariat Dancer
If it’s true that horses leave hoof prints on your heart, then Carbondale real estate broker Lynn Kirchner has star-powered prints engraved into hers. For years, she owned a son of Triple-Crown winner Secretariat, the thoroughbred that set records in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
Like Kirchner’s memories, those records still endure today.
In the 1990’s, Kirchner was part of group that rescued more than 40 horses and re-homed them to loving families. “Race horses were eliminated because they were no longer earning money,” she explained. “That meant that they were of no value, except as meat. It cost $16 to $18 a pound for horse meat–and that’s still going on today.”
Decades before that, in the early 1970’s, Kirchner worked as a racehorse exercise rider. Growing nostalgic, Kirchner says, “When I was a young teenager, I would do anything I could to get near the horses! They were rock stars to me. So, I volunteered to exercise horses at the tracks in New York. No one asked my age; all they cared about was that I was a good rider and had a natural way with the horses.”
One day, while in the stables at Belmont, hanging out with Secretariat’s groom Eddie Sweat, Eddie said to Lynn, “Here, Secretariat likes you, give him this piece of carrot.” Kirchner smiles ruefully. “The etiquette is that you never give a horse anything without permission from its owner. But Eddie was giving me the OK, so I gave Big Red the carrot.”
Suddenly, a sharp “What are you feeding my horse?” made Kirchner look down the barn’s walkway. “It was all backlit because of the sunshine,” she recalls. “So I saw just a silhouette–a woman in tweed slacks and a turtleneck sweater. It was Penny! I just froze! Even the idea that I had done something to upset Penny was terrifying.”
But Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, was understanding and shared some advice, telling Kirchner to continue her education first, then dream of horses. Twenty years later, having gotten her MBA and working as an executive in corporate America, Kirchner came to own one of Secretariat’s sons, a thoroughbred rescued off of a meat buyer’s truck.
While on business in Florida, Kirchner was asked if she would adopt Secretariat’s son, Secretariat Dancer, along with a mare that was pregnant with a foal sired by another of Secretariat’s sons. Kirchner brought the two horses home to Carbondale and soon added a third, Valentine Dancer. Valentine, who had also descended from Native Dancer, was nicknamed “Bud”. Kirchner recalls, “Bud and Dancer had been pasture mates and Bud was missing Dancer so much I had to take him too.”
Both the mare and her filly “Colorado Star”, a granddaughter to Secretariat, were adopted and went back to Florida. But Bud and Dancer, who were inseparable, settled into a long, happy retirement.
Kirchner scoffs at the attitudes she encountered while adopting the thoroughbreds. “People think you can’t re-train race horses. They actually said, ‘That horse has been trained to travel around a track in just one direction, so you will never get him to turn right!’ That just makes me laugh!”
“Dancer became my trusted trail horse. Bud’s injuries kept him off the trails, but Dancer would tell him all about our rides when we got back. The two of them loved to race around the pastures and they always won their own Triple Crown.”
Dancer and Bud died within a month of one another in the fall of 2001. “They were bonded. Bud mourned Dancer’s death to the point he died too.” commented Kirchner. “The fall is hard for me because I remember that time of year of losing them. But having them was a dream come true.”
Lynn Kirchner, owner of Amore Realty in Carbondale, is a full-time professional real estate broker who has been recognized as a leader and top producer in the industry. Learn more about her at AmoreRealty.com.