Heroes & Underdogs Lecture Series

Join us in celebrating the unsung heroes of the sporting world! Each Heroes & Underdogs lecture reveals the challenges and triumphs of those who struggled against adversity, overcame great odds, and won our hearts with their passion and determination.

May 16: Second Career Thoroughbreds at the MARE Center

On May 16, learn about the retired racehorses that call the Virginia Tech Middleburg Agriculture Research & Extension (MARE) Center home. Often, these heroes of the track spend their time on sand, eat carefully selected performance feed, and interact with other horses during the thrill of the race. When they come to Middleburg, Shayan Ghajar and the other researchers at the MARE Center help them to get used to a slower pace of life- dirt, grass, and a different kind of social interaction. These retired racehorses are part of ongoing studies at the MARE Center, living comfortably and providing valuable research for equine nutritionists. Find out what we are learning from them, and what they have relearned about "just being a horse" in Middleburg.

About Shayan

Shayan Ghajar is program coordinator at Virginia Tech's Middleburg Agricultural Research & Extension (MARE) Center. At the MARE Center, he facilitates research into equine nutrition, grassland ecology, and land stewardship. He will be starting his PhD next year at Virginia Tech, researching the potential use of native warm-season grasses for horses. He helps take care of the MARE Center's research herds.

Reception begins at 6:00 p.m., talk begins at 6:30 p.m.

$5 admission, free to NSLM members

RSVP to Anne Marie Barnes, Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator, at ABarnes@NationalSporting.org (540) 687-6542 x25


Full Series

May 16: Shayan Ghajar, Virginia Tech Middleburg Agriculture Research & Extension (MARE) Center, on second career thoroughbreds at the MARE Center
Image not available May 27: Lilla Mason, MFH Iroquois Hunt, on The Iroquois Hunt Club's Hound Welfare Fund *Special Date & Time: Saturday, 3:30-5:00pm*
June 13: Dr. John Ott, James Madison University, on African-American jockeys in Gilded Age imagery
June 27: Mark Metzger, Carp Anglers Group, on the much maligned sport of carp fishing in the United States


Title Sponsor: Fields of Athenry Farm

Image credit:Louis Maurer (American, 1832 - 1932), The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish, 1888, oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 19 in. Gift of Mrs. Margaret H. Whitfield in memory of Peter Winants, 2001. Favored to win, Proctor Knott with Shelby “Pike” Barnes up takes 1st place at the 1888 First Futurity and a record $40,000 purse. Barnes was the leading U.S. jockey in both 1888 and 1889. He was also the first jockey to win over 200 races in a year and was among several successful African-American jockeys that dominated the sport in the late 19th century. Barnes  was inducted into the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame in 2011. 


  • Wednesday through Sunday
  • 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Contact Us

  • Address: 102 The Plains Road,
    Middleburg, VA 20117

  • Mailing Address: PO Box 1335, Middleburg, VA 20118

  • Phone: (540) 687-6542

  • Email: info@nationalsporting.org