OTTBs-oh, what to do!

Bruno and Lauren breezing down the track.

Bruno and Lauren breezing down the track.

We have had Bruno for almost 18 months now.  Time flies.  A year ago we were deep in his care wrapping, treating and working on his surgically altered hoof, day after day.

And each day we would marvel at Bruno’s great beauty and strength.  He is hands down the most amazing looking horse I have ever owned.   I have had some great ones over the years, including a mare by AQHA super horse, Rugged Lark.  She was indeed a beauty, but not as startling beautiful as Bru.

From the beginning, we dreamed great things for this horse.  I am part of the OTTB Connect group on Facebook and while I can’t speak for everyone, it is doubtful to me that any of us obtained our OTTB without some thought of what our new thoroughbred could do.  And many of them progress on to great, new things.  But some become more a cherished pet than a show horse.  That’s okay, too.

My friend Caroline has rescue horse Joey whom she got up to a safe weight, fixed his hoof issues and turned his dull coat into one that gleams.  She tried to find him a new spot where he would work out for another rider but Joey ended up shuttled around Texas until fate intervened, someone happened to read my blog and Joey came home to Caroline once again.  But in way worse shape than he started.

We have had HUGE dreams for Bruno.  He has the size, the breeding, the look and the conformation to make a top show horse.  Joey is a classic looking thoroughbred as well, tall, fast and smart.  Both of these boys could have great futures in the eventing or show ring.

Handsome Joey, hanging out waiting for something to do.

Handsome Joey, hanging out waiting for something to do.

Caroline and Lauren are excellent riders who can handle the antics and excitement provided by two, young, race bred horses.  Here’s the problem.  Both ladies have show horses needing regular, consistent riding.  Both of their other horses are further along and currently show great promise in the ring.  It is a hard dilemma.  Lauren and Caroline have both been intermittently sidelined with back problems.  Both ladies have school or jobs which take up their time.

It is sad but true that both of these OTTBs are pretty much on the back burner.  Neither Caroline or I want to sell these horses.  Too much love and care has gone into them.  But it is sad to see them lose yet another year as we cannot find the time or resources to get either of them in a regular training program.  I welcome ideas on what to do with the boys to keep their training going, start showing them and continue to develop them as sport horses after the track.

Thanks for riding along with us!

OTTB Joey, Levi and some other updates

One of my favorite stories that I have covered on the blog is the one of big, OTTB Joey.  Caroline took in Joey when he was a scrawny, skeleton of a horse, covered with rain rot, with horrible feet.

How Joey looked when he first was rescued from a field in Texas.

How Joey looked when he first was rescued from a field in Texas.

Long story short-Caroline fattened him up, got him in shape, fixed his hooves and moved him on to a new owner.  Then Joey disappeared (we are unclear about exactly how he ended up like he did).  I was contacted on my blog when his “new” owner was searching for his history. His new owner did not want Joey and all his OTTB issues. Caroline agreed to take him back to her home.

It took awhile and some maneuvering (and the help of friends to trailer him home) but Caroline finally started to get her Joey back.  This weekend I  saw Joey for the first time in months.  His weight was back to normal, his eyes were bright, his coat glistened in the sun.  What a tremendous recovery he has made.  Nice to see the good guys win a round!  Caroline, Bravo!

Caroline and Joey looking  great today.

Caroline and Joey looking great today.

On to my little kitten that Lauren and I found a few months back in the pouring rain, spewing poop constantly. It took a lot of trips to the vet, lots of tests, two prescriptions and some prayerful nights to get little Levi back to health.   He has certainly grown up since being a pitiful little Kitty.

PuppyGirl with the kitten in October.

PuppyGirl with the kitten in October.

Levi has huge paws.  He is getting along great with most of the dogs.  PuppyGirl is still best friends with him!  He is a funny cat and loves to play in water.  Levi will get in the water bowl, splash all the water out and go back for more.  He is also very neat and  tries to keep his litterbox very clean.

Levi wants to use the toilet like people!

Levi wants to use the toilet like people.

Clearly, Levi is a well nourished kitten.  From giving him three more days to live in October,  Levi has made a huge turn around.  Certainly, appears to be happy to be part of Granny’s farm!

Levi, happy and healthy.

400 Blogs!!

For the 400th time, I am writing on my Exechorseluver blog.  I started this blog almost two years ago and have enjoyed telling my stories about my family and the escapades at Six Meadow Farm.  I am so happy you all have chosen to ride along with  me!  It means so much to me when I get a comment from one of you after posting a story or have someone come up to me at a horse show and talk to me about the blog.  THANK YOU!!

Here are some stats for the year 2013-

Crunchy numbers

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people.  This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013.  If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 206 new posts, growing the total 2013 archive of this blog to 397 (400 as of today) posts. There were 519 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 127 MB. That’s about a picture per day.

The busiest day of the year was July 22nd with 435 views. The most popular post that day was RESCUING-JOEY.  Which if I had to pick a favorite post, this certainly was a great one!

Here are some top photos of the year as well-you can click on the link beneath each picture to read that piece.  Enjoy the year in review and thank you again for being a part of Exechorseluver!!

Happy Days-A Joey Story

Joey sticking his tongue out at everyone!  He says he found his way home-haha!

Joey sticking his tongue out at everyone! He says he found his way home-haha!

OTTB Joey found his way home back to Caroline, from over 200 miles away, almost a month ago.  Caroline had gotten Joey in pretty bad shape after he was rescued from a pasture in North Houston. She brought him along to be a well fed, well shod horse and trusted the world to take him from there.

Joey, out to a new barn to begin an eventing career, had his feed cut back and his expensive shoes removed.  By the time he got to a rescuer in Weatherford, Texas, he was in bad shape, again.  His rescuer, doing some research found this blog, and helped get Joey back to Caroline.

When he got off the trailer a month ago, he was badly crippled.  He could not walk without pain on any of his feet.  A trip to local vet, Buff Heldreth, DVM, diagnosed him with feet that had been cut too short.  Days later, after a farrier visit, equipped with Equipak and new shoes, Joey started again.  Day by day, Caroline has built up his rations, groomed his coat, and kept him sound.

In today’s pictures, he seems to be saying, “I don’t need anything, as long as Caroline is taking care of me!”

He just looks happy to walking soundly.

He just looks happy to walking soundly.

While far from the gleaming specimen he was earlier this year (you can see other photos by clicking on the category “A Joey Story”), he definitely looks happy!

I regularly read the OTTB Connect on Facebook, and day after day, there are ads for another OTTB for sale.  For every great story someone has to tell, it seems someone else is having problems related to re-training, feeding, shoeing or some other issue.

As one of my friends noted the other day, if the breeders are breeding for that one in a million horse, what happens to the 999,999 that aren’t that special one on the track?  There are so many beautiful, talented OTTBs without anywhere to go.  And the places they go may not be equipped to handle the training and care of these hot-blooded horses.

While I am glad when I hear of someone taking on an OTTB as a project (there were three at our trainer’s alone this season), I am also concerned.  The fees for these horses are low.  Their pedigrees are from legends.  Everyone (myself included) gets a little bit of savior complex.  We are going to make this horse the best hunter, jumper, eventer or whatever!

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with the mighty OTTB.  So many of us are doing wonderful, admirable jobs of caring for them as long as our health, money and lives allow.  It is the best we can do.

Today, I am glad to see Joey one of the lucky ones who found his way back to great care and love.  Thanks for riding along.

Whirlwind days-a Bruno, Joey and a bunch of other stories

It is budget time at my job, number crunching angst that we endure once a year. I have had my Excel program crash, lost all my files and started over again. Then I got a call from Lauren that Bruno had lost his casted, padded, newly minted shoe and he was lame again. The vet had said it would only go about four weeks but this was only ten days. All I kept thinking was I can’t afford to go through this whole process every ten days.

I also knew my Houston based farrier would not want to make yet another trip across country to see Bruno. I didn’t know what to do.

Meanwhile, over at Caroline’s, Joey was getting new expensive shoes with pads and heartbars, not unlike Bruno, but Joey needed four. All of Joey’s soles had been cut too short and he was unbearably lame all around. Two days after the new shoes, I got the report he had trotted and even tried a little canter. Joey was feeling much better.

By Friday, I had gotten Roland scheduled to come re-cast the hoof. Bruno was actually getting around okay (or better than I would have expected) on his bare foot. He had been almost 99% sound earlier in the week, for the first time in a long time, but was only slightly off without the shoe. It seemed to speak of hope that one day this would be better.


Friday, I had decided it was time for four year-old pony, Pixie, to have her first outing. Thursday night, the recently broke pony was giving me a hard time. But after some work with me, Lauren got a pretty good canter from her for the first time without trying to buck and dodge instead of canter. We were to take Feather for a lesson with Dev at a nice facility in Richmond. I took the day off, Lauren cleaned up my English saddle. I dusted off my boots, found some breeches and was set.

We realized we had never even tried to load the pony before. We got a successful practice run Thursday night. Friday, we were off early with both my Florida horses loading competently. Pixie was pretty amazing. Very green, been no where, barely broke, we walked around the covered arena filled with jumps, horses going every which way, giant dressage mirrors reflecting in the corners, and the pony just walked on. She is well-bred from quiet German lines, RSPI, and it showed.

Dev said if her canter (we did not try the canter) matches her trot she should pin well in the pony hunters. If you are looking for an all-star show pony, keep your eye on this one. That’s if we let her go!

Feather had a good lesson, jumping the 3’6″ courses at an easy five feet. No hesitation, no worries today, but Lauren had come armed with spurs and crop, George Morris would have been proud!
It is fun for us to have these lessons and an opportunity to catch with our ‘keep their horses at home group’, the Kresta’s, the Chambers, Caroline and Arianna. We added Shelby and her massive jumper to the group as well!

I rushed home to finish off some work files and get my mom to the retina specialist. Macular degeneration is quickly now claiming my mother’s sight. There is not really anything to do.

It was hay day. Time for gathering the bales from the field once again. We did not ask Ally this time as she is still healing the broken arm from the last time. Our riding buddies showed up and we made fast work of gathering 60 bales. We went off to the Mexican restaurant and then called that a good day!


Joey in February before he was rescued again.

Joey in February before he was rescued again.

Recently, I had a nice write-up from a colleague at work that was used as a kind of get to know the employee piece. The colleague had asked me about my horses, dogs and cats and written about my work with both a specific horse rescue and rescue in general. I feel like the end result of the “In the Spotlight” made me look a little more altruistic than I actually am.

I have never undertaken a horse from a rescue, friend or otherwise, that I did not think I could profit from in some way. I am not really talking about money here as I don’t think I have ever sold a true rescue horse. But I did think about if they would make a great horse for me, a show horse for my daughter or a good ride for my grandbabies. I hoped to get a horse that I could not otherwise afford, if it didn’t have the particular issue that was sending it to the rescue. I had to believe I could ‘fix’ whatever the issue was.

Let me be frank-there is not a single horse or dog (for that matter) that I have “rescued” or recommended for someone else to “rescue” that was not CLEARLY a deal, a good animal in a bad situation. The horse rescue was besieged with horses, especially in the economically bad times, quality horses that had fallen on hard times. People could not afford to pay over $500 a month to board a horse. Horses got dumped to the rescue to get out from under the economic pain. Of course, during those times some were in horrible situations, like Joey or Snowboy ended up, but many were great horses who just needed another chance.  Maybe I should be a better person, but the truly hopeless cases or crazy dogs have not come into my home.

I think Rescues do outstanding work. But I hate the people who take on ‘rescue’ animals to be do-gooders, to be more superior to us that might ‘buy’ our dogs or horses. Those that end up with too many animals to care for, whatever their original intentions were. I had someone scoff at my breeder bought poodle this weekend and tell me they would have gotten theirs from a rescue. I am glad for them and hope it works out. I have had wonderful rescue dogs, I have owned and cared for more good dogs from rescues than most people will ever own in a lifetime. But for me, now, this breeder poodle was what I wanted and needed. That is okay, too!

In the end, where ever they have come from, the problem is what if you cannot fix the problem your animal is having, be it lameness, aggressive behavior, destructive behavior or other health issues?

In the off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) world, things are even harder. These horses are bred to race. Regardless of their success on the track (or lack thereof) at some point, say age five, they need new homes. Many of these horses are not sound, and may never be. What about those? I have taken in Bruno. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on him. I do not know if he will ever be sound. What will I do then? I cannot, I will not, turn him over to someone if he is unsound. He is so big that he is just a dream come true for a slaughterhouse ending. I owe him more than that.

Caroline and I got Joey as a rescue. Joey’s return to wellness and health is chronicled here. (You can find all the Joey pictures and updates under the “A Joey Story” category). As time went on, it became clear that Joey was not a horse that would fit for Caroline’s young daughters or herself.  In an effort to find him the best place for his temperament and abilities, Joey was given by Caroline to a respectable horse professional. In turn, he was given away again.

And just because of this blog, Joey’s new rescue owner found Caroline and myself. Joey, with whom Caroline had celebrated every pound of weight gain, every day as sound, was returned home to Caroline last night, not as thin as before, but close. Getting off the trailer he could barely walk. I do not know that this big, beautiful horse will ever walk soundly again. I praise his ‘rescue’ owner because at least she knew she had more than she could deal with. She found us and got Joey home again.

Joey arriving back in Houston last night, once again skin and bones.

Joey arriving back in Houston last night, once again skin and bones.

Horses like Joey and Bruno, the big OTTBs, are so tough. It costs hundreds of dollars a month just to keep them minimally fed. Their shoeing is tricky. They need high dollar meds and fancy shoes. And then what if it still does not matter, what if they are still lame?

I do not have a magic answer or a divine plan.  Lauren loves Bruno probably more than any horse ever.  I do not have the funds to care for this horse for the rest of his life if he is not a working part of the farm.  I know many of you have faced similar, horrible decisions with your OTTBs.

Today I applaud those that are willing to care for these animals, cats, dogs, horses, whatever, and give them a chance for a good life.  I applaud the rescues that every day do work I could not.  That both Joey and Bruno will get weight on, adequate vet, shoeing and other care is a given.  What will happen down the road if they do not recover from their ailments is not.  Caroline and I are both single mothers, with too much heart, and too little money.  I wish we could trust the world to take care of these horses when our resources run out.  But we cannot.

Joey-the OTTB-goes for his first lesson


Sarah rescued this OTTB from a life of neglect.  Caroline took over the reins in June.

Sarah rescued this OTTB from a life of neglect. Caroline took over the reins in June.

Joey-six months later.  It is amazing what feed, exercise and love can do for a boy!

Joey-almost seven months later. It is amazing what feed, exercise and love can do for a boy!

First, I want to celebrate Sarah for taking the risk to get this big off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) out of a bad situation, starting his rehab and heading him down the road to a life of purpose and love.  Then hurrah to Caroline, who adopted him in June.  I have written a couple of posts on his progress that you might want to go back and read, see the pictures, if you never have before.

This weekend was the first time Joey traveled away from Caroline’s home.  She wasn’t sure how he would do.  These thoroughbreds are a little intimidating.  We love our OTTB Bruno to death, but we must always be aware that he has the power to hurt us.  Not the desire, but they are big, strong and fast.  So, Caroline was concerned.  Joey had almost seven months of working out, of getting stronger, but ultimately if you want to show-you’ve got to go!  A show horse has to be able to perform, calmly and easily, in any arena.

Like most OTTBs, it has not been a simple strategy of just food, exercise and then instant show horse.  There is always something with these big horses and Joey was no exception.  He had some leg and hoof issues to overcome.  Many months, I am sure it felt to Caroline like one step forward, two steps back, this could be the mantra of the OTTB. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday as I followed Caroline and Joey to Dev’s arena.  Lauren was ride Feather after Joey’s lesson.  Joey was excited and looking around as we waited for Don to drag the arena.  He was definitely aware this was something new.   But once he got in the ring he just settled in and worked.  There was not a buck or skittish moment.  He did his best to do what Dev and Caroline asked of him.  On the race track, these horses are trained to gallop.  They do not work on turning.  They do not work on stopping.  No time is spent getting the horse to have a nice trot (or any trot). The object is to run-fast! 

Joey has a lot more work to do, learning to work off his hind-end, learning transitions, conquering working to the right as race horses run to the left, but in everything he was asked to do yesterday he was an all-star. So, more tales to tell on this boy as he matures and learns to be a pleasure horse.  His old pictures brought tears to my eyes as I see how neglected he was but also how hard, even scarecrow thin, he tried to do what Caroline asked of him.  He is a beautiful horse now with a big future ahead of him.  Thank you Sarah and Caroline, what a save!

So thin and yet so willing.

So thin and yet so willing.

Joey, so beautiful, with Dev, big, flowing trot, overflowing heart.

Joey, so beautiful, with Dev, big, flowing trot, overflowing heart.

OTTB Joey-Three Month Update

Joey after three months in Caroline Care!

It has been three months since six-year old off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) Joey (RV’s Smokin Joe) came home from Sarah’s to his new home with Caroline. 

Here are some stats:

  • He was under 1100 pounds when he came to Caroline’s June 10th
  • By mid-summer he was almost 1200 pounds
  • Recent visit with the vet, tagged him at over 1300 pounds

It is easy to see where the weight went.  He has developed a nice shoulder and hip.  His ribs no longer show.  Along with the good food are plenty of vitamins and supplements that are making him healthy,  his coat glossy and his tail grow.

On the work front, he is steady and workmanlike for the most part.  Although there have been some days that as my daddy would have said, he was really feeling his grain!  He can get strong and Caroline is getting a hands on education in working with an off the track thoroughbred.  Thoroughbreds are trained to run into the bit-so constant pressure on the bit gets you no where.  The old “give and take” method is the best for getting them slowed down and collected.  And not unlike, my old racehorse Kid, Joey requires NO leg to get him going or keep him moving. Friend Mary Lou took him for a ride and had to consciously remember to keep her legs off him.  Problem with that of course, is, when you get scared that the horse is moving out from under you or moving too fast, first thing you want to do is clamp down your legs.  Boy, not on this horse!

Joey has had a couple of bumps in his progress with some leg issues and a mild colic.  Thankfully, Caroline caught both early and Joey is recovering well.  I am very excited to see where this big guy might go when he finally gets into the ring.  When we took pony Mimi from Caroline, we ceremoniously handed over Leo’s beautiful OTTB pad.  I know that Joey will proudly display the OTTB pad at his first show!

With a little research, it was discovered that Joey was running on the track as recently as spring 2011, so not long ago.  He was winning and making a little money.  Makes you wonder what went so wrong (leg issues?, money issues?) that Joey was in such sad shape a year later.  Makes me more than a little crazy.  I am very proud of how well Joey is doing but wish he never had to go so far down.  He is a beautiful, intelligent, talented boy and I am glad he continues to blossom under “Caroline Care”.

OTTB-One Month Update on Joey

A month ago, we went and picked up Joey, the six-year-old thoroughbred that Sarah rescued from a very bad situation where he was covered in fungus, was at least 400 pounds underweight and had a serious cut to his pastern.

Sarah had started Joey on the right road, but he still has miles to go.  In the month since he has been at his new mother, Caroline’s barn, Joey has had countless baths to help treat his coat.  He has been fed enough bags of grain to feed an army of ponies.  His coat and weight have been helped by the Nu Image and Amplify products.  He presents a stunning before and after picture, already in just four weeks.  But nothing we have done or not done, has changed Joey’s demeanour.  He is the kindest, sweetest, most level-headed guy you could ever be around.  No matter the weather, the kids (and there are a lot of them) or anything he has been asked to do, he does it whole heartedly and with joy.

We stopped by this last weekend and Jordyn just walked up to the big guy as he stood in the barn alleyway.  She clamped her four-year arms around his front legs and gave him a huge hug.  He just looked on as if amused.  Caroline, too, seems quite taken with the man.  She said he completes her barn (shades of Jerry Maguire) and as she had a big thoroughbred previously that lived out his days with her, perhaps it is like Ol’George is back with a new youthful spirit.

Caroline hasn’t started him over jumps yet, but I will be campaigning for that on Saturday when we plan to meet.  I cannot imagine he will not just take the jumping in stride as he has everything else we have asked of him. Our farrier, a veteran of many thoroughbred race tracks, was suitably impressed with Joey’s pedigree.  I, personally, had not realized how big he was, or at least remembered it correctly.  I will bring the measuring stick this weekend but expect him to reach at least 17.1 or 17.2 hands.  He is already almost 1200 pounds and could carry another hundred or two hundred pounds easily.

This is the joy of the Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB).  Their pedigrees can be traced to kings but many are abandoned and forgotten, but when they connect with you and are given the food, attention and care they need, they give back in spades.  Visit or for more on these wonderful horses.

I remember sending the original picture of Joey to Dev, our trainer. 

Joey-before and today

He stated he liked the horse’s hip but was not impressed with straight slope of his shoulder or shortness of Joey’s neck.  Well, Dev will need to look again at this marvelous transformation that Caroline is enacting.  I said before we might as well call him “Groceries” for all he will eat, but now we can call him “Handsome” as well.  We hope the folks at OTTB Designs get in some new stock soon, because this guy will be heading to a show soon and we want him decked out right!

Joey comes home

He remembers how to go, just is so thin.

Yesterday morning we headed off in a caravan to pick up Joey from Sarah.  I hadn’t seen him yet, just the pictures and was a little apprehensive.  I mean, another horse, another big mouth to feed, another responsibility and what if he just sucks?  Caroline and I were doing this together but hadn’t really discussed the details.  One bad visit to the vet and we would be over our head in trouble.

We got to Sarah’s first and had a chance to go scope out the big guy. I saw him gazing at us calmly from over his stall gate.  His soft brown eyes took everything in.  He seemed to say, “I don’t know what I am going to do today but I will do it willfully and to the best of my abilities”.

Caroline showed up moments later and we got ready to load him in the trailer.  To make Joey happier and calmer on his way to his new home we had brought Ellie Mae, the rescued Mustang Pony, who is extremely laid-back and accepting of anything Caroline asks of her.  Go back to the start of the blog for a picture of her in trailer surrounded with hay.  That would have flipped most horses out. 

But we needn’t have bothered with the Ellie Mae babysitter as Joey was sensible, unflappable and took everything in stride.  He walked easily up to the trailer and stood quietly as we secured the ramp and headed home. It means a lot to me that he loads in the trailer easily, stands quietly, and accepts new places well.  This will go a long way when it is time to go to horse shows and travel.

Later in the day, Caroline reported that Joey went out with Ellie and pony Mimi.  He seemed thrilled to be out and there was no running or rough-housing that often accompanies a new horse being introduced into the pasture.  After his time with the girls, Caroline bathed him and cut his mane back to hunter/jumper length.  He looked pretty cute with his new-do!

Now, we will start the process of strengthening, building his endurance and getting him back to being a working horse.  Caroline will have the bulk of this for now but Lauren will help out when she can.  Soon, he will be strong enough and have gained enough weight to start working over some poles.  After that we will start him over low fences.  No doubt a trip to Dev’s will be on the agenda. 

He will certainly (if it goes like I think it will) be a poster child for another OTTB make-over prize.  Check out and more inspiring stories on these great thoroughbreds and their lives after the race track.

Later Ally had made a wonderful dinner and we all watched Union Rags win theBelmont triumphantly for his deserving owner, Phyllis Wyeth.  She actually sold that horse as a yearling and paid three times as much money to buy him back.  She believed in him and it paid off royally for her.  Nice race!

Last thing-this horse’s registered name is RV Smokin Joe.  We need a show name for him-thinking he will be a jumper.  Caroline and I have Irish Midnight and Irish Moonlight.  So, what are some suggestions for this one?  Maybe Irish Smoke?  Just an Irish Joe? Joe Irish?  Let me know your ideas-and as always-thanks for riding along!