Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Don't throw me away..... I am Somebody's Magical Unicorn


How many of you look at the horse sale ads on social media? Yeah me too. Even if you are not in the market for a new horse it is always fun to look and dream. In a world of instant social media they are hard to miss. If you are a member of any one of hundreds of horse related pages these days you are bound to see them, in fact, they are in your face whether you are looking for a horse or not. However, if you are horse shopping for your new perfect one of a kind seemingly magical unicorn riding partner this can be a daunting task.  Horses come in all shapes and sizes with a wide range of  training or potential talent. Mares , Geldings, and Stallions oh my..... Bay, Chestnut, Grey, Black, and every variation in between. Chrome no chrome the list is endless. I haven’t even touched on the prices. There are horses for every budget. They range from FREE to “Holy Cow I just bought a new Lexus”.  In this new world of Social Media you can even post your request to one of these many pages:  ISO: My magical unicorn (fill in criteria here) and poof instantly you have tens of hundreds of people dropping horses in your lap at the click of their mouse.  With this current trend and so many horses on the market it should be simple, RIGHT? Well here is the thing..... Depending on what you are searching for your magical unicorn may be right under your nose and you don’t even realize it, because that horse doesn’t come in the shiny perfect package. Your Unicorn’s wrapper might be a little fuzzy or a little dull. It might come with an old healed injury, even some hardware, lets add in a superficial scar or two that tells a story of it’s old career that it is no longer suited for.  This might not describe your unicorn but it does describe some of the magical unicorns I have placed into wonderful homes after careful rehabilitation from race career ending injuries. For some of these horses euthanasia was even initially suggested. Do not mistake me for a bloody do gooder who thinks that a horse should never be euthanized, that is not what I am saying at all; however I do believe that there are horses, that given the chance with proper rehabilitation and time, can go on to have VERY successful careers after a catastrophic injury. I want to share just a few of these stories with you, if for no other reason than to educate. The fear of the unknown is one of the greatest things as a horse owner you can experience. I am willing to share not only my experience, but my success stories with you in hopes that maybe the unicorn you have been looking for has been overlooked because of it’s packaging.

Don and Guapo
Curve Ball (Guapo) and Super Slam (Salem) are examples of  Perfect Unicorn’s coming in not so perfect packages. Curve Ball retired from racing with a sesamoid fracture
Guapo's Sesamoid Fracture
so severe that euthanasia was on the table. He now belongs to Don Nelson who not only trail rides him but Guapo is also used for the Jumping H Farm lesson program. Guapo has gone on to win numerous ribbons under saddle from advanced beginners to intermediate riders.  He was overlooked by many riders who just wanted a pleasure, dressage mount. Even his good looking package was not enough for some to take a chance on him.

Salem on the left and Guapo on the right
For Don and the students at Jumping H Farm he is their unicorn. Solid on the trail and in the show ring Guapo has it all. I see story after success stories about horses going on from sesamoid fractures to have unlimited great careers. While every case is individual and it does depend on the placement of the fracture, with careful rehabilitation a second career is possible.

Super Slam or Salem as he is affectionately called by his owner Beverly Crews is another love story worth telling. Retiring from the track with some knee hardware to repair a slab fracture, Salem is another horse that some would shy away from.
Salem's knee hardware
Salem as a flying monkey
I see it all the time...
 ISO: (followed by "No previous Injuries"). I get it, why invite trouble you say, it's horses like Salem, that's why. This is a horse that you can put absolutely anyone on at anytime. He will trail ride anywhere you point him. He is darned near unflappable. Salem has taken more than one Jumping H Farm student around the show ring to victory. His owner Beverly, has also been the catalyst for our farm being Grand Champion two years in a row in the Halloween costume classes.  He truly is a unicorn dressed in a black package, and sometimes dressed as a flying monkey.

Centrifical Force (Apollo) and Samantha
Centrifical Force or Apollo as he is affectionately known to his owner Samantha is probably one of our greatest success stories. I say that because Samantha is an upper level event rider who contacted me several years ago looking for her next forever mount. We talked briefly on the phone, I told her the horses I had available, Salem at the time being one of them, and she scheduled a visit. I knew the moment she stepped into the stirrup on Salem he was not what she wanted or needed. Her dad looked over in my rehabilitation paddock and saw Apollo. I might add that he was jumping, bucking and kicking his heels up as if to say "HEY see me over here." Apollo came into the Jumping H Farm Re3 program with a bowed tendon. The initial vet evaluation actually stated "Ruptured Tendon."  Apollo's rehabilitation took over 9 months of careful care. He had been in his rehab paddock for a few months and was ready to begin his training. This handsome colt was wired for sound. When Samantha told me about her desire to do upper level eventing we discussed Apollo's injury at length. She and her father decided to take a chance on this spirited young horse and it paid off in a big way. Over the last few years Samantha and Apollo have soared through the levels of
eventing. From the baby maiden level all the way through to training level, even winning year end Champion and Reserve Champion awards two years in a row in different divisions at the North Carolina Dressage and Combined Training association the sky is the limit for this pair.  Samantha has a talent for seeing past the plain wrapper and the dings and dents. She is a huge advocate of the off track thoroughbred (OTTB) and their versatility. She adopted another project horse from us, Imaginary Weekend, Trip for short.
Imaginary Weekend (Trip)
This 17+ hand gangly giraffe of a horse captured her heart We both knew Trip had talent and a good mind but he was going to need a serious nutrition program. He came from the track a bit on the lanky and thin side. It takes a lot of groceries to straighten out a horse of that size but Samantha was up for the challenge. It took about a year for her to get Trip in a good place health wise. All the while he was in light work to help fit and muscle him up.This horse had a wonderful brain with a thinner package. He is now in his new forever home with a great partner.

I have one more success story I want to share. This one is very near and dear to my heart. If you own horses for very long you know that sometimes there is "That horse." that one horse for whatever reason does something to you when you look into his eyes. Best Five is that horse. Best came from the Parx track in PA as almost all of the OTTBs I rehab do. Danielle with Turning for Home called me one day about Best. The conversation was a grim one.
Best Five
Sometimes the story is not all sunshine and rainbows. Best had been retired with a less than illustrious career as a racehorse, he only had 16 career starts with a 2-1-1 record and just over $42,000 in winning; for a colt that sold at Keenland as a yearling for $190,000 he just did not perform. Sadly even with only 16 starts his knees were shot. His x-rays were awful. He was riddled with arthritis and it was suggested he might not even be pasture sound. However, Best apparently didn't read his x-rays. The conversation Danielle and I had went something along the lines of: "Nicole can we give him 6 months of pasture rest? I have looked this horse in the eye. He is not ready yet. If things are not significantly better in 6 months we will do the right thing."  It was the best (no pun intended) decision Danielle and I ever made. Six months turned into 10 but all was well with Best. Not only was he sound, he was REALLY sound. When it was time to adopt him out, we all cried. They were mixed emotions of tears of joy and sadness, remember I said there is always that one. Eight months later I got a call from his new owners, they had to give Best up due to no fault of his own. They had some life changes that prevented them from keeping Best.
Bill and Best showing
Sometimes life works like that. The good news is we had our Besty boy back at the farm. I had just recovered from a broken leg and he was the best and safest mount for me to do my rehabilitation on. Since then Best has gone on to teach many a rider the basics on the trail and in the show ring.  

Over the past almost 4 years with Jumping H Farm Re3 Adoption and Therapy, I have placed numerous horses with people just like you and me. That person looking for their perfect horse their "unicorn." Many of these horses are in normal everyday riding homes where the owners like to do a little of everything. They want to enjoy their horse and it be a part of the family. They want to trail ride one weekend and go to a horse show of (insert discipline here). They want their children to be able to groom and love on their horse just like they do. Since February of 2014 I have placed 49 horses in new loving homes with new careers. Of those 49 horses over one third were not in "perfect packages." They had some hardware like Salem, a healed sesamoid like Guapo or a healed tendon injury like Apollo. Sometimes they just need a little TLC like Trip or some well deserved down time like Best. In any case every one of those horses deserved a chance to shine. They were not anyone's first choice but they were certainly somebody's BEST Choice and in the end they were someone's magical unicorn.

2 comments:

Chris Gailey said...

Love this

grannydex said...

Very moving and informative. Love it.