Saving Baby: How One Woman's Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption

Overview

Few people ever call up the courage to create the life they envision, leaving their dreams forever unfulfilled. But Jo Anne Normile did just that, only to find she was living the wrong dream.

It all started with her beloved horse Baby, with whom she shared as strong a bond as a mother and child. Baby could be hundreds of feet away, on the far side of the pasture behind the house, but if he saw Normile coming through the kitchen door, he'd leave off grazing on the rich summer ...

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Saving Baby: How One Woman's Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption

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Overview

Few people ever call up the courage to create the life they envision, leaving their dreams forever unfulfilled. But Jo Anne Normile did just that, only to find she was living the wrong dream.

It all started with her beloved horse Baby, with whom she shared as strong a bond as a mother and child. Baby could be hundreds of feet away, on the far side of the pasture behind the house, but if he saw Normile coming through the kitchen door, he'd leave off grazing on the rich summer grass and come toward her. If she clapped, he broke into a gallop to reach her faster. He loved rubbing his head against her hands. She, in turn, would kiss that velvety part of his muzzle between his nostrils.

It was difficult to let him go to race at the track, away from her pasture, from the back door where she'd often find him waiting for a tasty snack or to say hello. But she had made a promise to the man who sold him to her. And on television at least, horseracing had always come across as a glamorous mélange of mint juleps and celebrity set against a backdrop of equine grace and speed. It was a vision Normile liked. What could be a better nexus of beauty and brawn than a blanket of red roses thrown over a shimmeringThoroughbred while his owner held the trophy?

But as she gradually learned, the magic that enchants is a veneer. For every Seabiscuit, there are tens of thousands of racehorses whose experiences on the back lots of the country's tracks tell a different, often harrowing, story.

It's not that Normile didn't experience a thrill every time Baby sprinted around the track. She fell hard for the adrenalin rush of gleaming, well-muscled horses running faster than any other animal in the world as they cover distances of a mile or more, her heart rising to her throat each time Baby drove into the homestretch turn. The Sport of Kings, as it is known, is like a drug, an intoxicating ecstasy, that transfixes.

But once Normile learned the truth, she did a complete about-face, even pulling from the racecourse a promising granddaughter of Secretariat poised to win no small amount of money. And she founded the most successful horse rescue in the country, saving more horses than anyone else ever has.

SAVING BABY, a memoir, tells her life-changing story of love, regret, and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
In this memoir, Normile charts the course of her life and describes the growth of her passion for horses. In the early 1990s, her stable of horses was expanding, but one of the conditions of that expansion was that she race Baby, a grandson of the legendary Secretariat. Normile soon became immersed in the world of horse racing, but discovered, much to her shock, that it is corrupt, that many trainers are indifferent to the well-being of their horses, and that when a horse is injured or performs poorly, it is sent to be slaughtered. Normile's naïveté was destroyed for good when poor track maintenance caused Baby to fracture his tibia, an injury that led to his being euthanized. Normile resolved to commit her life to saving damaged horses and rescuing unwanted ones from slaughter. She started an organization called the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER), giving thoroughbred racers new lives. While Normile could never get Baby back, she parlayed her tragedy into new life for hundreds of animals. Readers who love animals will be touched by this account, and by Normile's love of and dedication to horses. Her courage in exposing the dark underbelly of racing is reflected on every page. While the story lags at times, Normile and Linder have produced an engaging memoir that is a must-read for animal lovers.
GateHouse Media
...the true story of Jo Anne Normile, who got pulled into horse racing and had to make painful, life-changing choices she never expected, or even knew existed.
Today's Horse Magazine
An emotionally powerful read, filled with insight...and laced with the deep emotions and dedication of a woman who made a huge difference.
Patch.com
Normile happened to have the perfect story.
Kirkus Reviews
In horse lover and activist Normile's memoir (co-authored with seasoned writer Lindner), she fights for the humane treatment of ex-racehorses. Compelled by the idea of owning a thoroughbred, Normile acquires "Baby" from an ailing breeder, with the stipulation that she races him. Driven by a competitive spirit rather than financial gain, her main priority is ensuring her new horse's well-being. Normile becomes indoctrinated in the early 1990s subculture of Detroit horse racing--and the corner-cutting and corruption that lurk in the unregulated sport. Her tender love for Baby compares to a mother's love for her child who's all the more vulnerable due to his inability to express himself. Baby shows promise as a winner, but due to a series of unsavory experiences, he never reaches his potential. He eventually meets a tragic, untimely end resulting from negligence on the track. This heart-wrenching loss launches Normile into a fight to protect other horses from the same fate. She's motivated further when she learns some dark truths behind the industry, like the legal practice that has retired racehorses being slaughtered and sold for meat. Ultimately, she helms a nonprofit rescue that matches retired thoroughbreds with new owners. Like many tireless and committed activists, she sacrifices her family relationships and personal well-being for her cause. With the help of Lindner's first class storytelling, action and emotion equally drive this compelling tale that will bring on the waterworks for any animal lover. The horses Normile loves are portrayed as dynamically as human beings, with imagined dialogue Normile gleans from their body language. Early in the book, she describes Baby's departure from his mother and siblings: "There were cries and whinnies from the other horses as the trailers left. ‘Where are you going? We thought you were home to stay,' " the others horses are imagined saying. "Baby himself didn't appear to be nervous. ‘I'll be back,' he whinnied confidently. ‘Just gone for a bit--have to make my mark.' " A touching narrative that transcends its subject matter.
Kirkus Reviews
First class storytelling...action and emotion equally drive this compelling tale that will bring on the waterworks for any animal lover. The horses Normile loves are portrayed as dynamically as human beings....A touching narrative that transcends its subject matter. (starred review)
From the Publisher
"First class story telling...action and emotion equally drive this compelling tale.... A touching narrative that transcends its subject matter." —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Normile's... courage in exposing the dark underbelly of racing is reflected on every page.... an engaging memior that is a must-read for animal lovers." —Publishers Weekly 

"An emotionally powerful read, filled with insight...and laced with the deep emotions and dedication of a woman who made a huge difference." —Today's Horse Magazine

"Normile happened to have the perfect story." —Patch.com

"...the true story of Jo Anne Normile, who got pulled into horse racing and had to make painful, life-changing choices she never expected, or even knew existed." —GateHouse Media

"Saving Baby is a story of perseverance and passion, chronicling the heroic work of Jo Anne Normile, who has saved countless racing horses from the worst of fates." —Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO The Humane Society of the United States

"A beautiful story about an extraordinary bond, about what happens when you follow your instinct — and also don't. This book will speak to anyone who has ever been moved by the overpowering combination of love and conscience." —Nicholas H. Dodman, BVMS Co-Founder, Vets for Equine Welfare; Author, If Only They Could Speak

"If you were ever faced with the choice of walking a difficult path or taking the easy way out, the story will resonate—and haunt you." —Karen Menczer, Founder & Executive Director, Animal-Kind International

"A breathtaking look at the world of horse racing, and what one woman sets out to accomplish after she scratches the surface and exposes its underbelly. Ms. Normile's extraordinary journey, and her unflinching and passionate determination to draw attention to the plight of the animals she so dearly loves, brought me to tears. Saving Baby is flat-out inspirational." —Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of Mare's Nest and he Resurrection of Tess Blessing

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780988878006
  • Publisher: Powder Point Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Jo Anne Normile, principal of Normile Racehorse Protection Consulting, advises senators, congressmen, filmmakers, legal firms, rescues, and humane organizations on all aspects of racing pertaining to the welfare of the Thoroughbred racehorse and the integrity of the industry. Normile also founded two successful horse rescue organizations: CANTER, the first organization to take Thoroughbreds right from the track to safe havens and which now has chapters across the country; and Saving Baby Equine Charity (www.savingbaby.org), for which she serves as president. In addition, she serves on the board of directors of Animal Advocates of Michigan and is a member of the Equine Welfare Alliance as well as an advisory board member for the documentary film,Saving America's Horses: A Nation Betrayed. Normile has received the Catalyst of the Year Award from the Michigan Horse Council for her “significant contribution to the Michigan horse industry” and the national Dogwood Stable Dominion Award as an “unsung hero of the racing industry.” She was described in The Thoroughbred Times as having “rescued more horses than any other organization in the equine industry.” Normile has coauthored studies on equine self-mutilation syndrome and compulsive behavior in horses that appeared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine. She was also cited for her contributions to a paper published in Food and Chemical Toxicology about the public health risk of horsemeat laced with phenylbutazone, or “bute,” routinely given to Thoroughbred racers. Normile has provided exhibits for a watershed Congressional hearing on the use of drugs in racehorses and has been an invited speaker at equine safety meetings around the country.

Lawrence Lindner is a New York Times best-selling coauthor and collaborating writer on a wide variety of books ranging from memoirs to animal care to health topics. He also penned a nationally syndicated biweekly column in The Washington Post for several years and wrote a monthly column for The Boston Globe. His freelance work has appeared in publications ranging from The Los Angeles Times to Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune, Reader's Digest, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Currently, he serves as executive editor of Your Dog, a monthly publication of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and as secretary of Saving Baby Equine Charity.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    Although I have never owned horses, you do not need to be a hors

    Although I have never owned horses, you do not need to be a horse person to immediately become immersed in this memoir of love and life. The first chapter grabs your attention and from then on it's nearly impossible to put this book down. I read it in two days yet it's one of those books that you keep looking at the pages left and don't want it to end. I would say it is inspiring and proves what a powerful motivator love can be. There's a lesson in these pages for all of us and what a better world it would be if everyone heeded these life lessons. Bravo to Ms. Normile!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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