I can just hear my daddy repeating one of his frequent sayings, “Ain’t no such thing as a free horse.” And I certainly know that but when you are working with my budget to try to produce quality show horses, sometimes someone’s else problem can be your ticket to the big time.
In fact, with the exception of paying for Mimi, the grey pony, all the horses in my barn are rescues of one type or another. Starting with my horse Kid, with his ownership, I signed a document stating I would never barrel race him again. He was done. He was free to be a pleasure horse for me but his racing days were over. Then came Mickey, even with Sarah’s hard work at the rescue it would be years before he reliably bridled, loaded or wasn’t a fool (okay, that still happens but we do our best). Snowboy, also from the rescue and later the ASPCA, has had his issues but settled into being a top-notch schooling pony. Even beautiful Feather has some anatomical issues that will prevent her from ever winning a halter class but should be no issue for her in the jumping ring. Feather had some psychological issues to overcome as well. Not one of these horses could I afford to own if I had bought them for what their true value was (either previously or in the future). I got all of them because they had “issues” and we have been good at dealing with issues.
When I heard about Bruno, an off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) from our trainer Dev, he freely told Lauren that he was feeding into “your mother’s addiction issues” (those of rescuing the unwanted horses) but I don’t know if I would have agreed if I had known what I know now. Bruno was reportedly having a hoof issue that had caused cracking of his foot. This is not uncommon in horses but just like your fingernails or hair, new hoof takes awhile to grow. I have had success in the past helping horses grow hooves that needed repair and thought I could handle this, no problem.
Once our vet, Lynn Criner started looking at the x-rays, she only wanted more information. She did not think this was a simple hoof crack (of course not) and with help from Bruno’s former owner Sherre, we tracked down older x-rays of the same hoof that showed clearly that the coffin bone (major bone in the hoof) was infected or had some other issues causing deterioration of the bone. Dr. Criner consulted with vets here in Houston who concurred with her diagnosis and then moved on to the big daddy of vet hospitals in Texas, The Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Chad Marsh, DVM, an Assistant Clinical Professor at TAMU School of Veterinary Medicine, specializing in Equine Surgery, Sports Medicine, & Imaging also agreed with Dr. Criner’s diagnosis and recommended surgery to clean the infection from the coffin bone to allow the hoof to heal.
So, obviously as my dad had told me so many times, not a free horse, but with this surgery, IF (and I fully understand that it might not be successful) it is successful this horse may be able to carry Lauren to new heights (literally). And honestly, the price of this surgery while not cheap, is way cheaper than I would have paid for a horse of a fraction of Bruno’s caliber. It seems like a good gamble to take.
Am I nervous? Yes, I am almost in tears just writing this. This big guy has fully and completely integrated himself into both Lauren and my hearts. But I feel there is no point of trying to let the hoof heal on its own. For over 20 months (if not longer) this crack has been present. I can see through online race records, that in March of 2011, Bruno ran to second place at Belmont Park in New York (note that this at Belmont not to be confused with running in the Belmont). Apparently it was not bothering him much that day!
Today Bruno, having thrown his special shoe off in a pasture romp spent his last day of freedom, splashing and rolling in the mud and running through deep water. Lauren gave him a good bath, removed all the dirt and mud, polished his black coat and cleaned his feet. Tomorrow we will trailer him to A&M. Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. It is expected that a large portion of his hoof will be removed. It may be eight months before he is able to ridden again.
I honestly don’t know how this story will end, or to put it another way, if the Bruno and Lauren story will ever get to begin. I am making the best decision I can, to do the right thing for a beautiful, proud thoroughbred. I hope one day he runs freely and majestically as he did Saturday. I hope one day he is whole again.
p.s. Bruno has a new OTTB saddle pad (fresh from www.ottbdesigns.com) which I sure hope this great guy gets to wear.