A Special Rescue Story That Defines ‘Meant To Be’
California Woman Couldn’t Save Her Favorite Warrior, Instead Saves His Dam
Jane Bush Castruccio spent the better part of the last five years looking for one horse, and despite still holding out all hope that he will be located, she probably knows deep down that finding him would be like finding a proverbial needle in a haystack. The California horsewoman – dressage is her passion – has mostly a passing interest in racing, but when she noticed the old warrior Proceed Bee on her TV one day years ago while watching TVG, something about him struck her, so she set out on her computer to find out more. And what she found was as sad as it was impressive, even to an admitted racing novice like her.
“I’m more of a ‘casual’ racing fan,” Castruccio said. “But I’m a big fan of the old warriors and Proceed Bee was certainly one of those.”
The son of Bernstein and the Private Terms mare Procession, Proceed Bee had some of the bluest racing blood flowing through his veins. His family tree had all the biggest names in the history of the game on every branch and he once was part of some of the more successful racing stables today. He was a grade 3 hero and multiple stakes winner who captured 20 of his 50 career starts and earned $808,386. But none of that mattered to Castruccio, only the fact that he was still running at all.
Proceed Bee had long since left the stakes and allowance ranks at the best tracks in America and was toiling away at the smaller venues, rarely even hitting the board at the bottom of the claiming events of lesser-known facilities when he first made an appearance on Castruccio’s radar. When she looked him up and learned who he was, she found herself angry.
“He was a stakes winner who made more than $800,000 and I couldn’t understand why he was still racing,” Castruccio said. “Hadn’t he done enough? I thought that it was not right, and I decided I was going to do something if I could.”
When Proceed Bee turned up at the bottom of the claiming ranks at Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma in early 2015, Castruccio reached out to the local rescue group Thoroughbred Athletes for help. Her plan was to give Proceed Bee a place to live out his life with her doing whatever he wanted to do. If he was going to be a pasture horse, it was fine by her. If he wanted to be ridden, that was also possible. She just wanted to make sure he was safe.
“(Thoroughbred Athletes) is a great group, they go out to the tracks and talk to the trainers,” Castruccio said. “They are super diplomatic and they told Proceed Bee’s trainer at the time that someone was willing to buy him if he was willing to let him go. Everyone agreed that we’d wait and see what happens, nobody wanted to ruffle any feathers. The trainer put their card in his wallet and we waited.”
Not long after, Proceed Bee was back in action at Canterbury Park in Minnesota and finished ahead of just one rival in what would be his last race on the fourth of July five years ago. After a significant amount of time had passed and Proceed Bee hadn’t turned up on the worktab or in the entries, Thoroughbred Athletes reached out again. The news was not good.
“The trainer told them he had given Proceed Bee away to someone in Kansas,” Castruccio said, fighting back tears. “I was devastated. I reached out to as many organizations as I could, I posted on the Chronicle of the Horse forum and never got a response. It still bothers me to this day. He’s just gone, he made people $800,000 and they just threw him away. I hope he’s ok and I hope he found a good home, but my heart says he’s probably dead. I have asked a few people to keep their eye out for him, in case he turns up in a pen somewhere, but my gut feeling is that he’s gone.”
A Surprise Rescue, A Surprise Connection
Despite the heartbreak of losing Proceed Bee, Castruccio remained committed to helping all horses in need, especially OTTBs, and regularly supports her favorite rescues, including Thoroughbred Athletes, Neigh Savers in Northern California, Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare and Impact Equine in Leonard, Michigan among others. She also counts herself as a member of a small group of advocates on social media who bring attention to some of the horses still racing who may need their help.
“We don’t advocate for purchasing from kill pens or auctions, we just watch the horses still racing who probably don’t want to anymore and who may need to find good homes.”
It was Castruccio’s involvement and activity with this group that would unexpectedly bring her back to Proceed Bee in the most surprising way.
In late July, while perusing her Twitter account and catching up with her advocate friends, she read a tweet about an older broodmare named Procession located in a pen in Pennsylvania. The name rang a bell, so she clicked on the tweet to get more details and was stunned at what she saw in the mare’s produce records. There he was, in black and white next to a bunch of other blue bloods: Proceed Bee.
Castruccio isn’t sure what the instinct was or where it came from, but she knew she was going to help Procession any way she could.
“I thought, ‘Holy (expletive!),’ Castruccio explained. “It’s his mother! Proceed Bee’s mother. Once the shock wore off I didn’t even have to think about it, I wanted to know what I do and how I do it. She was 23 years old and someone just dumped her. And she had been bred to some of the best stallions. I couldn’t understand who would do that to her and why.
“I immediately reached out to Brandy Frost at Impact Equine, because I have always supported her and believe she does great things, and asked her for help. Brandy instantly went to work.”
Castruccio paid the mare’s bail and Frost found someone to pick her up, treat her wounds and board her through quarantine. And she wasn’t sure what it was, but Castruccio somehow deep down knew she would take care of Procession for the rest of her life. She and Frost came to an agreement that Impact Equine would be the mare’s permanent home.
“She reached out to me because she didn’t know who to contact, who to pay, which shipper to find and where she could quarantine,” Frost explained. “When she asked me about helping and told me she needed a home for a horse, she didn’t tell me who she was or her name, but I didn’t have to think about it, I knew what kind of a person she was and I instantly told her I’d help.
“So I then reached out to Beth Walker, who runs the Pennsylvania Kill Pen Network. She quarantined a horse for me before and she agreed to pick Procession up and quarantine her. She’s at Beth’s in Maryland now. She was thin and pretty beat up from being in the kill pen, but otherwise she was in pretty good shape.”
At one point a few hours after Procession was safe, Castruccio said, her breeder contacted her through an intermediary and offered to take her and sponsor her at another rescue. Procession was at one point a member of a very prominent racing and breeding operation known as the Phipps Family Stable and came into the world at one of the most majestic farms in history, Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. She more than likely romped in some of the same paddocks and along side champions or daughters of champions before starting her racing career, becoming a prized broodmare and then being dumped into a Pennsylvania kill pen.
And as great of a situation as Castruccio felt the breeder offered, she decided that she herself wanted the responsibility of caring for Procession for the rest of her life, probably as much for her beloved Proceed Bee as for the mare.
“It was just a little while after we paid for her that we heard from her breeders,” Castruccio said. “Brandy told me it was up to me if I wanted to do that, but something told me I needed to keep her. I know they were as surprised as I was about where she ended up and I know they wanted to help her, but I felt like it was something I had to do.
“What I do want to know is what the hell happened to her between the time they had her and now? Where was she? She was bred to (Seeking the Gold and Elusive Quality and Union Rags and Speightstown) and a bunch of top sires. Her last foal was a Keen Ice, who is now a yearling. I’d sure like to know, because this should not happen. Not to her, not to any mare.”
Once Procession clears quarantine and ships to Impact Equine, she will get some down time and then become a member of Frost’s permanent band of horses, which among a handful of temporary residents, currently numbers four. Frost started the non-profit Impact Equine in 2018 with specific goals for helping both horses and people in mind.
“It’s been my dream to take rescue horses and incorporate them into therapeutic programs for veterans, special needs adults, abuse survivors, troubled youth, PTST sufferers and whoever else can use a little therapy with horses,” Frost explained. “Procession will be part of that as well. My board president went to visit her at quarantine in Maryland and said she was the kindest, sweetest horse so I think she’ll fit perfectly.”
Castruccio believes that Procession’s story is a classic example of what the thoroughbred breeding industry needs to fix. While Procession is safe, more aged mares who have had a foal every year of their lives are ending up in precarious positions when they are no longer useful producers, which just adds to the crisis of too many thoroughbreds being discarded and shipped to kill pens to begin with.
“I don’t understand how anyone lets it happen,” Castruccio said. “There are no teeth to the rules the tracks set up and there aren’t any rules for farms at all. None of my (dressage) peers watch racing because they think what happens to too many horses when they’re done racing or done producing is just awful.”
“What frustrates me about the whole situation is that (Procession) has done her job,” Frost said. “She was a top citizen and for her to be dumped like that is unconscionable. She did everything she was asked to do. They bred her to top stallions and she produced like 15 foals and this is what happens to her? Two other older mares were saved at the same time, Tack Room and Roses for Sefa, and Roses For Sefa had three auction stickers on her, three. That’s unacceptable.
“I don’t normally get too emotional, but this breaks my heart. But she won’t ever be in peril again, not ever. Bless Jane’s heart, though. So lucky for Procession, Jane is her guardian angel, she really is. And she is honoring Proceed Bee in the best way possible, which is the sweetest part.”
Now Castruccio waits as patiently as possible for Procession to arrive at Impact Equine from her quarantine in Maryland. Someday she hopes to visit Procession and her friend Frost, but for the time being she’s comforted by the fact that the mare is safe and will forever be safe and that though she couldn’t help Proceed Bee, it’s an honor for her to have helped his mother.
“I would like to say I believe in karma and fate,” Castruccio said through tears. “I deleted all of my stuff about Proceed Bee and closed that chapter and never thought I’d look back even though I knew there would never be real closure without knowing for sure what happened to him.
“Is all of this fate? Finding Procession was certainly one good thing that came out of my love for Proceed Bee. I don’t know, maybe if someone reads this they’ll recognize the name and reach out and let me know he’s ok.
“I don’t know, but wouldn’t that be something?”
*If you’d like to donate toward Procession’s care, or for the care of any of the horses at Impact Equine, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, click here and locate the ‘Donate’ button at the bottom of the page.