Bawana Jake: Hope

So in the last blog you learned how Reggie has been a real draw on my faith stash. It’s a good thing that faith is like a perennial, sometimes blooming, other times dormant, buried deep. But it will resurge; it always does. Reggie will find a home and a job; this I know for sure.

Hope, on the other hand, is ephemeral, like a soap bubble or a dandelion in the feather stage. One waft and it’s gone. To remain hopeful you need to commit to living every day in wonder. We know how to do this when we are children. As we age, we get rusty. Pretty soon we forget altogether.

That’s why I am a big believer in creating a hope chest. For those of you 
who are too young to know what that is, it’s a collection of housewares—linens, silver, china—that a young maiden of yesteryear would assemble in anticipation of getting married and setting up a new household. It wasn’t, of course, a guarantee that a handsome swain would come and propose. It was assembled in advance in the event such a fellow were to materialize. Think Boy Scout motto: BE PREPARED. Now my hope chest doesn’t have tangible stuff in it. I stock mine with daily unexpected marvels:  The low rumbling nicker of
my Andalusian stallion when I step out of my door; the sighting  of the blue heron fishing in the creek that runs in front of my house as I drive out to work; the unbroken traffic run of green lights that takes me without stopping to the four lane highway; the blooming of a new rose at the entrance of the MMSC. My hope chest is full of all those unexpected, heart warming sights and incidents that occur all the time around all of us, that so often we fail to notice, let alone to appreciate. Each is a gift that provides me with assurance that even in a world of chaos and woe, miracles abound.

There are a few horses I take on every year at the MMSC without a clear vision of what they will be able to do in a second career. I suppose that shows my occasional lack of “cents-ability.” These horses arrive with baggage—physical, emotional, mental. I know that at the time, but for some reason—a look, a feeling, a connection I get from them, I accept them despite their issues. For horses like these, I need a hope chest jam packed with positive expectations.

Bawana Jake loved to run and had a phenomal back end for doing so.  Look at the hip-butt-stifle-hock angles here!
Bawana Jake a 2006 gelding by Forestry out of Starship Miss is the perfect example of a hope chest horse. Fast and competitive, Jake liked to rush to the front and hold on as long as he could. He had nine starts, 1 win, 3 seconds, 1 third and a total earnings of $44,719. Then in October of his three year old year, he bowed a tendon. It took stem cell PRP injections and twelve months of layup, before Jake could return the track, to do what he loved to do: race. But a few short months into 2011, he rebowed the tendon. Worse, he fragmented his left knee. This time, there was no doubt. His racing days were over. He was put out to permanent pasture on a farm in Kentucky.

I often visit that farm to look at possible candidates for the MMSC. I remember seeing Jake a few times over the past two years. He knee was huge and he had a pronounced limp. Such a shame, I thought because he had an eager, proud look and an absolutely superb hind end. He would have made a fine sports horse, I thought.

This February I went to that farm to scout for horses. In the bunch that was shown to me that day was a wooly coated chestnut. He was rough looking, but he spoke to me. I walked up to him, stroked his neck, then gently reached up to his face and brushed back his forelock. His expression was smart, soulful, and self assured. I stepped back and took in the whole picture, the nice short back and…the exquisite rear end!  

“I’ve seen this horse before!,” I said.

“Yes, you have,” the farm manager replied. “He had a knee injury, and a bow…but, he’s sound!”

“What! This is the horse with the knee?? Sound?  No way!”


The handler walked and trotted Jake for me. There was no head bobbing or toe dragging. The steps were even. And the reach and propulsion with his hind legs were remarkable. 

I picked up the knee and felt it. No heat or swelling. Full range of motion. I couldn’t believe it.

“He’s a nice horse,” the farm manager told me. “He could use a job. Probably would make him really happy too.”

I paused and looked at Jake again. He had gone native in the three years that he had been turned out. But underlying the shaggy appearance was a balanced horse with ideal hip to stifle to hock angles, decent bone and feet, and an expression in his eyes that I just couldn’t say “no” to. 

“Ok.” I said, knowing full well that an unknown path lay ahead. “I’ll take him but I’ll need new x-rays to see what he can and cannot do safely. And if he doesn’t stay sound once he starts training, he will have to come back.”

Jake arrived at the MMSC on the 25th of February. After the sleek new entrants recently delivered straight from the track, it was a bit like welcoming Cro-Magnon man to Buckingham Palace.

“Doesn’t he have the most magnificent hind end you’ve ever seen?,” I said  cheerfully to my staff as their eyebrows raised skeptically when he stepped off of the trailer. “Look at his bum!  It better than any one else’s here—two and four leggeds included!!”

They may have sniggered. I can’t recall. What I do recall is that they didn’t see what I saw: Jake four to six months down the road, sleek, focused and happy. It was a beautiful image. 

I never had unwavering faith that that image would realize itself. He was a seasoned, dedicated racehorse who had loved his job, who had old injuries that seemed to be resolved, but one could not be certain. Whether he would concede to going slowly and whether he could sustain training were to be determined. How would his story unfold? Would it have a happy ending?

I had no idea.

All I had was hope.  

Cheery bye,


What’s in your hope chest?