(from NTRA release)
Monique Koehler, known for her tireless work saving retired racehorses through Thoroughbred retirement programs, will be recognized with the 2009 Special Eclipse Award, it was announced Dec. 30.
The Special Eclipse Award, given by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association, honors outstanding individual achievements or contributions to the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Koehler will receive her award at the 39th annual Eclipse Awards on Jan. 18 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
A former advertising executive, Koehler, who resides in Middletown, N.J., became interested in the plight of racehorses that did not have “second careers” or could not be used for breeding after they were retired from racing. She founded the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in 1982 and helped to transform it into the largest retired equine rescue program in the nation with more than 1,200 horses in its care.
Since its inception, the foundation has been providing lifetime care, retraining, and adoption for retired Thoroughbreds at TRF-operated farms in Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Vermont, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee, and New York.
In the early stages of the organization, Koehler negotiated a milestone agreement with the State of New York Department of Correctional Services. In exchange for land use and labor at the state's Wallkill Correctional Facility, the TRF would design, staff, and maintain a vocational training program in equine care and management for inmates.
The prison program was recently expanded at Wallkill and has been replicated at TRF farms located at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Kentucky, the Marion County Correctional Facility in Florida, Wateree Correctional Facility in South Carolina, Putnamville Correctional Facility in Indiana, James River Work Center in Virginia, Sykesville Correctional in Maryland, and the Plymouth County Jail in Massachusetts.
“I am very honored and humbled to have been selected as a recipient of this year’s Special Eclipse award,” said Koehler, who is board chairman emeritus of TRF. “When I established the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation nearly three decades ago, it was out of my personal concern for these noble animals and for humane causes in general. I was not involved with racing in any way except as a casual fan.
"However, as the years went by, the success of my personal mission became inexorably linked to that of dedicated members of the racing community including Penny Chenery, Allaire DuPont, Skip & Mary Shapoff, and many others. Without their support, understanding, and guidance, my goals and those of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation could never have been accomplished. Through this award, I firmly believe that the committee is recognizing all of us who have taken part in this life-enriching, life-saving quest.
“It has been a wonderful and fulfilling journey and I am able to take a large measure of satisfaction in what the TRF has been able to accomplish, and the thousands of horses we have saved, the many thousands more whose rescue, rehabilitation, or adoption we have facilitated, and the men, women, and children whose lives we have changed for the better through our pioneering vocational training programs.”