LOVE: The Greatest of All
Nowhere To Hide
There is always one. One special horse, every year, that captures my heart. Of course, I love all horses of all breeds. And every horse that I have chosen as a MMSC candidate, I care about, and will commit unwaveringly to find it a new job and home. But there is always one that makes me smile whenever I see it; one I can spend time with quietly that restores me when I need sustenance; one that I am tempted to bring home to add to my band.
There is no rhyme or reason to which horse will turn out to be “Susanna’s favorite.” Over my years at the MMSC, I have fallen for a sprite, a crusader, a diva, and a Confederate. There’s been an Iron Lady and a cynic too. No jocks, though. I like jocks, but I have never been in love with one, yet.
I had already looked at a bunch of horses when Nowhere to Hide was led out of the barn on a cold day this February.
“This one ran in the Kentucky Derby!,” the farm manager proudly announced.
“Ah yes,” I mumbled as I looked at the eight year old gelding its groom was standing up before me. Clearly it had been a while since he had been in Kentucky Derby shape. This was a non-descript 16 hand bay. Shaggy coated. Unkempt mane. Under weight. With rain rot.
“Tell me about him?”
“He is by Vindicaton who is by Seattle Slew out of a Seeking the Gold mare. His owners bought him for $250,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale. He was a good racehorse. Made over $200k. Ran in the Derby in 2009 when Mine that Bird won. He got claimed, much to the owners’ distress. They went after him and claimed him back and brought him here to retire.”
“In 2010 he suffered a tibia fracture which he had surgery on. He had a tie back operation too. But he had a full recovery and was straight forward to train after that.”
I went over to the gelding and stroked him gently on the neck. “Hello, you,” I said, edging around in front of him. I looked him up and down. Offset. Slightly knobby ankles. Chips maybe? Decent chest. Then I swept his forelock back.
He looked at me with the most magnanimous hopeful eyes I may have ever seen in a horse.
I knew right then and there despite his condition caused by his claiming experiences and exacerbated by let down during a Polar Vortex winter, he had to come to the MMSC. It didn’t matter when his groom trotted him that his pelvis was sub-luxated, his shoulders were locked and his hocks were sore. He was also stiff, very stiff all over. And his stride was uneven on the right hind. Not surprising for an athlete of his caliber.
I stood back and took a good look. I saw expense dollar signs written all over him.
“I am sure he could make someone happy,” the farm manager said.
Noah turned his head and locked me in his gaze.
“I’ll take him,” I heard myself say. “But I want to talk to the owners. This one is going to take time.”
When I talked to the owners I told them that No Where to Hide was a special horse.
“But it is obvious that he has had a hard time after he was claimed from you. The harsh winter has set him back too. He is going to need a program of intensive care: special feed, supplements, alternative therapies, and training. And it is going to take six to eight months to straighten him out. The costs will add up. And there is no certainty that the horse will ever be fully sound.”
The owner explained to me that he should never have been claimed, that they were glad to get him back. He had earned a retirement. Did I think he could be ridden again?
“I never would not have agreed to take him if I didn’t think he had a chance. He is stiff and uneven and in less than ideal condition. We can fix those things. He looks like a horse that would be happier with a person and a job, if we can get him sound enough. But it is going to take time, and I will need your help covering his treatments and supplements.”
“I’d be happy to do that!,” she said. “I love this horse and he deserves the best!”
|Noah arrived at the MMSC in late February.|
“I promise you that I will keep you informed every step of the way as to whether he can have a second career or not. I’m going to start this week with a vet exam and a round of X-rays. I’ll let you know what we find and how I think we should proceed based on that.”
“That sounds perfect!”
Ah me! What exemplary owners! Owners who breed and race for the love of the horse, not just for the thrill, entertainment, and spotlight of the sport. Owners who take care of their horses once their racing days are over. Yes, I know that it is expensive to do this. But it is the morally right thing to do for the horse.
We turn our heads and say that we can’t make a difference individually. But a cistern is filled one drop at a time. Collectively we can make a difference. We shouldn’t pretend this isn’t a problem. Thank goodness people are joining the aftercare effort every day. Hooray for the industry efforts! But there is still much to be done and sometimes the challenge seems overwhelming.
I know. My demons tell me that I am kidding myself to think that the handful of horses I take in and rehome each year is important. They tell me that the never ending battles of raising money, or the efforts to raise awareness about the issue and to educate people about the value and versatility of the off track Thoroughbred in new careers are wastes of time. I should be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, a better citizen. Stupid me.
But then, there is always that special horse. The one I seek out during the day no matter what I am doing because it gives me peace beyond understanding. The one that inspires me to be of service to something greater than mere day to day human life. The one that fills me with that most powerful force of all: Love.
And this year, that horse is Nowhere to Hide. And in the next few blog entries I am going to tell you Noah’s story. It’s one that amazes and uplifts me. From beginning to end, it’s a tale and a labor of love. It’s the reason why reschooling Thoroughbreds is such a joy and a privilege to do.