- Date Added:
- September 24th, 2013
Saving Horses, Saving Human Lives
Allison Booth was saved by horses, and now she is saving them. Like her mentor, famed “horse whisperer,” Monty Roberts, Booth’s mission is to “make the world a better place for horses and their habitats – and for humans who can be helped by horses.” Booth herself has been influenced by horses and their mystical ability to change people’s lives.
Booth’s own story reads like a Dickens’ novel. Growing up in an abusive home in Ireland, Booth lost her mother at a young age. Her grim life changed when she met a group of migrant gypsy workers and their beautiful horses. Booth became enchanted by the horses, begging to ride them after her long days laboring in the turnip and potato fields. Thus, the seeds were planted for what would become an international career on four continents – Australia, North America, Europe and the Middle East – where she’d meet the world’s top trainers, owners, breeders, veterinarians, and others in the horseracing industry.
Booth’s work with horses helped her make a living. At 15, she was the official groomer of the Irish polo team, and by 16, she was driving the polo ponies in the truck by herself, taking the ferry from Ireland to England to compete at Windsor Castle, amongst others. Eventually, at age 19, she got to Taylor Made Farms in Lexington, KY, a leading thoroughbred farm, where she met future New York Times best-selling author, Monty Roberts. Roberts is one of the world’s most renowned horse trainers. There he taught Booth the language of horses and an effective way to cope with the trauma and grief imposed on her throughout her childhood and youth.
Indeed, for all her life, Booth has triumphed over adversity. As a crusader for countless causes, she’s demonstrated a strong will and fierce determination to help the creatures that have been her constant companion: horses.
In 2002, Booth decided to join an effort to stop the demolition of the oldest track in the U.S., Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida The site had hosted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry Truman, and others.
Booth remembered the heartache of losing the Phoenix Park Race Track in Ireland which closed its doors in 1990. If Hialeah was demolished, America would lose one of its most historic tracks and the only fertile flock of flamingos in the U.S. (which she nicknamed “The Breeder’s Flock” since the flock resides on the horse track). Booth led a grassroots effort to save Hialeah. In 2007, Hialeah Race Track became one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
After that victory, Booth was dealt two major blows. Hollywood Park Race Track in Los Angeles, California, one of the most iconic tracks in America, was scheduled for demolition. Second, Booth had to fight for her life after complications from a horse-related injury. She woke up paralyzed in the intensive care unit. That is when she said, “God, if you have me live, I will do anything in my power to save Hollywood Park.”
Booth survived, and she has not forgotten her promise. On August 5, 2013, she created the campaign to stop the demolition of Hollywood Park, home to horse-racing and a small flock of flamingos (cousins of the Hialeah flock in Florida). Booth created a petition that – as of September 18, 2013 – had hundreds of signatures and deep horse industry support. (Sign petition here –http://conta.cc/HbVadN.)
Booth also founded The American Association of Equine Sports Preservation to protect the historical, cultural and economic value of equestrian sports, and related industries. One example of the organization’s contributions is its support for an award-winning program pairing retired racehorses with veterans suffering from war trauma, under the auspices of the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation, www.saratogawarhorse.com.
As the famous Irish poet, Seamus Heaney said in his departing message, “Do not be afraid.” Booth is living those words and proving the tenacity of the human spirit. She has never forgotten the horses that saved her.
That is why she is committed to horse preservation and supports the many positive contributions of the horse industry worldwide. Allison Both is living a rare life indeed.