I wasn’t going to write another blog this year. I mean, really!? How could I top the Noah/Jeffy tales? But looking over the year’s entries, I noticed a few loose ends in my stories. Those are disconcerting to me, like sentences without periods or meals that don’t end with chocolate. 

So, for my own sense of closure,(and I hope yours as well), here’s a short “epi(B)log” for those of you who have been so loyal and followed this year’s journey with MMSC in toto.

  • Regiment: What happened to him? Did he keep throwing shoes? Did he find his person? Was it a man?
Reggie was one of my problem children this year. Talented, temperamental, tentatively healthy. When I saw him at the track, I thought he’d be snapped up instantly for a new career. He screamed “EVENTER!” And high level one at that.  

Reggie had other plans, however. These involved R&R, arrogant behaviors, and a picky palette for people. He marched (or limped depending on whether or not his shoes stayed on) to the beat of his own drummer. Typey and athletic, he attracted lots of attention and potential adopters. He tested every one of them. If they weren’t to his liking, he would feign lameness. It was like living with a teenager. You love him, yet you grit your teeth in frustration when he displays adolescent antics. He had no intention of going anywhere until he deemed the time right.

I tried all the ususal stuff: Nice mom. Mean mom. Understanding mom. Threatening mom-“I’ll send you back to where you came from, Reggie!” Finally, baffled mom-what do you want, Reggie?…a man?

I’ll admit, I do get a lot of intuitions about horses. I think it harkens back to my childhood growing up in a country where I didn’t speak the language. Survival depends on observation. Somehow one develops the ability to garner facts and extrapolate information without words.  Not that there isn’t a very valid realm of inspiration to tap into. That, and the kindred domain of imagination have spawned some of the world’s greatest discoveries and creations. When I am lucky I am graced with a glimpse into those magical places as well. 

One day, when I was particularly frustrated with Reggie I asked him why he kept throwing his shoes. I suddenly saw in my mind a picture of how his shoes should fit his feet. I picked up his hoof. They didn’t look anything like what I had seen. So I asked our wonderful blacksmith who is much more knowledgeable about farriery than I am if he might shoe the horse differently. He scratched his head, but agreed to give it a go. Reggie kept his shoes on after that…until the day, many weeks later that Mackenzie came.

Mackenzie had come in from out of state. As she in an eventer, she had, of course, an interest in Reggie. And, of course, the morning that she arrived, Reggie came into the barn without a shoe. I wanted to throttle him.

I heaved a sigh of relief when we rode him for her and he  took no uneven steps. Then the moment of truth: What would he do with Mackenzie on his back?

What he did, made our jaws drop! He trotted and cantered around with lightness and poise. He reached for the bit lightly and collected his frame.

He picked up both leads accurately. He jumped like a deer. We had never seen him move so willingly and so well. Clearly, he was putting the moves on Mackenzie. She decided to adopt him.

Out of curiosity, to see if my intuition about a man had been hogwash or something of more import, I asked her if she had a male trainer?  

“Yes!” she told me enthusaistically. He’s amazing!

“Is he fit and wiry, of medium stature and bone, with graying sandy hair and he wears a crest ring?”

‘HE DOES!” She exclaimed. “Do you know him?”

“Nope,”  I said.  “I saw a picture of him once…”

Hmmm. It’s odd where one goes with horses sometimes.

  • Concentric circles:  Did you ever get a group of your own colleagues in aftercare together? If so want did you do?  
Cat people. Dog people. Horse People. Animal people. They all are a bit “touched.” They LOVE their creatures. They live for them and through them. In short, they are passionate, which can be hard to deal with.

Those of us in the equine welfare business have no corner on the market of zealotry. It’s part of the job description. One needs ample stores of iron and fire to face the daily grind and tempering in the fight for the cause. Yet, die-hard demeanors get wearisome at best, and are divisive, at worst. Therefore, as a self professed “hopeless opptimist,”I opt to cling to the idea of communality and maybe even, dare I say, compatablity,within the equine welfare organzations. It’s so easy to be misinformed, judgemental and petty! I can be guilty of all of those things. Knowing my failures, I aspire daily to a magnanimous ideal of connection and communication amongst my colleagues. It’s a picture of a cohesion: a Shangrila aftercare effort for horses. 

For lack of a better acronym, and because I thought it might make people laugh, I dubbed the first fledging outreach efforts that I told you about in an earlier blog: the "TART  group (no, not as in “pie”!)—Thoroughbred Aftercare Round Table. I had been inspired to start these meetings by my colleague, Karen Gustin, Executive Director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center.  In May, she hosted a discussion and luncheon at the Lexington Humane Society for individuals in equine rescue and rehab to come together for an annual exchange of ideas. It was well attended and it was fantastic. I did not want to wait a whole year for another one.

Hence the genesis of the “TART” meetings—described in a more genteel manner  n an earlier blog post as the “Concentric Circle” effort. We met several times this year. We shared our challenges. We discussed solutions. We held two joint tack sale fundraisers together. At year’s end, we communed over a Christmas pot luck lunch.

It was a totally open, honest, and helpful meeting. Fun, too. And inspiring is not the word.  It was ELECTRIFYING!!! Think E=mc2, which means that the energy stored within matter is equal to its volume times the speed of light SQUARED. Unleash the amount of energy stored in each of my colleagues and the possibilities for imploding gridlocked stances in the racing industry are staggering! We could create the greenest of pastures in the aftercare world! United we stand. Divided we fall. We even came up with a good name for ourselves: Equine Allies!

Another “Concentric Circle” effort this year was reaching out to Steuart Pitmann, founder of the Retired Racehorse Project.

“What do you need to further your amazing work?,” I asked him this fall after the Thoroughbred Makeover in October.

“I want to bring the Makeover and Symposium” to the Kentucky Horse Park in 2015,” he said. “On October 24 and 25, the week before Breeder’s Cup which will be held at Churchill Downs.”

“I can help you with that!” I told him cheerfully. I knew I could. After all, the Kentucky Horse Park is my home address. Working with Steuart and his board members and friends, we packed the MMSC’s conference room on November 21 with leaders in the Thoroughbred racing industry. The crowd was riveted to Steuart’s presentation.

They lingered over wine and cheese after it was done. That atmosphere, too, created concentric circles of excitement and good will. It was as if we had thrown a boulder into a body of water! It made my heart sing.

  • Noah: When did he actually go home with Jeff to Minnesota? 
But nothing made my heart sing this year like Noah. I was smitten the moment I lifted his forelock and saw the expression in his eyes, cosmic portals into a realm of magnanimty. It was like looking up at the sky on a dark night, and knowing there is a God. I was very tempted to adopt Noah for  myself. But with a one hour commute each way after a long day at the MMSC  and with older horses on my farm that I can only feed and visit with twice a day in the dark, I had no business adopting Noah.

I dedicate myself to finding good matches for all my horses, but with Noah, I have to admit, I knew for a host of reasons, it had to be a GREAT match. As the months passed, and Noah’s story unfolded, as the people who had loved him in his first career emerged, as he bloomed under the care of a young woman who needed tending just like he did, as Noah grew stronger, and healthier and more communicative, I grew more appreciative of his unique being and more convinced that he would need someone very special.

I was not prepared for Noahs person to be a former NFL football player. Talk about being  tackled! Jeffy sacked me with his size, his will, his passion and his heart. When he said he wanted Noah, I was deadset against it. Insanity!  My Noah???!!!

You know what happened next. It was unbelievable and awe-inspiring. For those you might remember, I had told Jeffy when we first made our deal that he could have Noahs shoe as inspiration for success in his quest for Noah. If you succeed, you get Noah, and I get his shoe back. It was a deal.

But, as always, Jeffy exceeded my expectations. I got the shoe back in a spectacular shadow box that Lauren had made, along with a photo of Jeffy and Noah together on that first day when Noah chose him and Jeffyfavorite football jersey. I was stunned. I got teary.  
Jeffy wrapped me and his big arms and said, “You know, I have never even given my mother a jersey!” which made me all the more choked up, and I hugged him back.

Jeffy had to wait two more weeks after Sips ’N Saddles before bringing Noah home to Minnesota. Noah developed an abscess in his hoof that smelled suspiciously putrid. I was worried about an infection settling in the bone. If it did, I  knew that I could get the best care for Noah and fast. I worried that Jeffy would have fewer options in Minnesota. So I told him  I would call as soon as Noah was ready to travel.

It happened that this fell on the weekend when my husband and I were scattering a family member’s ashes in Louisville. Jeffy and Nick were keen to pick up their horses and wanted to come right then. I didn’t want to inconvenience them.  At the same time, how could I let Wordsworth and Noah leave without a final pat and kiss? To accommodate me, Jeffy took interstate 64 west home to Minnesota instead of I 75. My family gathering ended, I lept back in the car and headed east on I 64 to Lexington.

We met at a truck stop near Shelbyville, Kentucky. Jeffy and Nick’s mother, Betty Jo, was with them, along with Jessy’s young niece. I hugged them all, and told Betty Jo how amazing her sons were and how fond of them I had become. Then I slipped into the trailer to say goodbye to the horses.

“You are such a wonderful, lovely boy, Wordsworth, I told the big gelding as I stroked his neck. "Be good to Nick! And show the rest of the world what fine riding horses Thoroughbreds can be.” Then  I turned to Noah. My heart was in my throat.  I ran my fingers through his forelock and leaned over and kissed him on the check. I couldnt pull myself away from him.

“Thank you for coming into my life, Noah. It’s been a joy to know you..” I rubbed my hand down his neck. “And a privilege to help you.... And you have taught me so much...And..."

Noah nudged my arm, then threw his head up and down stomped his left foot. He looked over at Jeffy standing by the trailer door.

I knew what he meant. No need to linger. I love you, too, Susanna. Now...onwards!

Cheery bye,