Website Off-Track Thoroughbreds Reports on Bruno-

Today this article was written about Bruno (called Pilgrim) on the Off Track Thoroughbred site.  I do not know if I have ever had a horse described as “Darkly dappled and startlingly beautiful, Pilgrim grew to an eye-popping 17.2 hands in perfectly sculpted height, and tips the scales at close to 1,500 pounds.”  Startling Beautiful-it is so true and yet nothing I thought would ever be said about a horse of mine.  Anyway, please read this account about my boy!

A.P. Indy scion raring to go after 5 months in stall

By on August 26, 2013

Majestic as they come, Pilgrim stoically endured five months in the stall

Majestic as they come, Pilgrim stoically endured five months in the stall

In the visage of Fiddler’s Pilgrim is a horse that positively reeks of racing nobility.

Darkly dappled and startlingly beautiful, Pilgrim grew to an eye-popping 17.2 hands in perfectly sculpted height, and tips the scales at close to 1,500 pounds. And with two racing kings in the family—A.P. Indy and Hansel—everybody expected, no, they knew that someday, he too would be a stakes horse.

But as so often happens in life, and in racing, fate turned on a dime. And Pilgrim was no stakes horse. In four starts, he managed to turn in a second-place finish at Aqueduct before he was retired, while a mysteriously recurring hoof abscess hobbled his future career for another year.

Retired first to a major hunter/jumper barn in Houston, Texas, Pilgrim was pointed toward a new career as a Jumper when persistent abscesses and lameness dogged him, and he was eventually moved to a different barn and trainer, until at last, that didn’t work out either.

That’s when longtime Texas horseman Cynthia Davis was offered Pilgrim for free, and in November 2012 she leapt at the chance to obtain such a high-quality animal.

Fiddler’s Pilgrim

Barn name: Bruno

Sire: Jump Start

Dam: I’s Pretty Fast

Foal date: April 22, 2007

“My youngest daughter, who’s 20, rides and competes hunter/jumpers, and every horse in our barn has come from the racetrack, and is either a Quarter Horse or a Thoroughbred,” Davis says. “We try to buy the horse we think we can fix, and we’ve had some good success getting to US zone finals with them, where she competes against hundred-thousand-dollar horses.”

As a large stall was constructed to accommodate the very large gentleman, and Davis more than once said to herself, “Beware the free horse,” she and her veterinarian Lynn Criner got to work studying Pilgrim’s recurring hoof problems.

“She went through all his old X-rays in 2012 and compared them, and it became clear to her that his coffin bone was deteriorating,” Davis says. “Nobody else had looked beyond the abscess, but she’s a great diagnostician, and is the real hero of this story.”

Although Pilgrim’s demeanor didn’t hint at the excessive pain typically associated with a coffin bone infection, the pair contacted veterinarians at Texas A&M last December and scheduled a consultation that resulted in surgery.

“I think it was a little confusing before the surgery because he was walking with a Grade 1 lameness out of a possible Grade 5. But once he went for the surgery, surgeons found the bone was very clearly infected,” she says.

During a painstaking procedure on Dec. 19, the infection was cut out of the coffin bone and the edges shaped to encourage healthy regrowth, and approximately one quarter of his hoof was also removed.

Fiddler's Pilgrim romps like a dream horse after a long road back from cannon bone infection

Fiddler’s Pilgrim romps like a dream horse after a long road back from coffin bone infection

Following surgery, Pilgrim stayed at the hospital for nine days, receiving IV infusions of antibiotics directly into the hoof.

After he returned to his newly built stall, the big animal was confined for five months, while undergoing a series of hoof treatments, all while doing his best to remain entertained by the myriad toys and other distractions Davis arranged for him.

“I got him three salt licks and tied them onto a lead rope, and he would push those around all day, like he was working with an Abacus. We went through Jolly balls and buckets. It got to the point that he was throwing buckets full of water, and everyday, there was a new challenge,” Davis says.

There were funny moments to be sure, as Pilgrim became deeply involved in watching the “Cow Station,” her term for the daily activities of the bovine across the way. But the most rewarding came when they unscrewed a special plate covering his affected hoof and saw it had begun to heal.

There were days when Davis couldn’t imagine what she’d gotten into. And with $10,000 in veterinary bills, she often repeated her joke about “free” horses. Then there were others that were a confounding mix of trouble tinged with humor.

“We had to temporarily house him at the local vet one day, and they had him in a soft-bottom stall. When employees left to go to lunch, he was peering over the top of his stall door, and when they returned, he was peering up from a four-foot hole in the ground!

“Not only did he manage to dig a four-foot hole in that time, but he hit the water line and ruptured it. I think that was the day he had watched a rerun of Hogan’s Heroes.”

Finally, on May 29, 2013, Pilgrim was allowed outside for small-paddock turnout. In his zeal to be free to be outside and buck, he accidentally hit the back of the barn roof with his hooves— he was fine.

In the rural Texas town where she lives, Pilgrim has become a bit of a celebrity and people come by to take their pictures with the giant horse.

Pilgrim scoffs at the idea of lifting his back legs any sooner—he'll wait for a bigger jump first

Pilgrim scoffs at the idea of lifting his back legs any sooner—he’ll wait for a bigger jump first

Davis hopes that some day Pilgrim will gain an even bigger following as a sport horse worthy of pictures in the winner’s circle.

Under saddle this summer, he has proved an eager and scopey jumper, easily clearing a three-foot jump by an additional two-feet, without getting his back legs off the ground until the last second.

Though he has been a little hot at times, he has calmly and bravely taken all the new challenges in stride, from his extensive surgery, to new disciplines, like trail riding and jumping.

In the coming weeks, Pilgrim is scheduled to begin taking lessons with a trainer, to begin the process of becoming a sport horse. Davis can’t wait to see what he’s got!

“In our world, there are a lot of people competing on $100,000 horses, and we’ve always been on the OTTBs and rescues,” she says. “When we saw Pilgrim, he was just so amazing, so big and brave” that we knew he could compete against any horse.

So while he may not have had the stuff of his grandsires on the track, in the sport horse arena, Davis expects to see the razzle-dazzle of racing royalty come to the fore.


editorial comments-we have owned many other horses than race horses, but almost all have been rescues of one kind or another.  Also, while Lauren has surely competed against $100,000 horses, there are many, many fine horses who were not in that price range but certainly of that caliber.

As always, thanks for riding along.  A special day for the exechorseluver!

Another Saturday-a Bruno Story

Last Saturday, we spent the whole day waiting, working, trying and praying to find some new way to get Bruno moving soundly. We x- rayed, created impressions of his footfall, crafted casts and forged a new shoe.

It has been raining off and on since then. Maybe God’s little way of making Bruno have to stay in close quarters and let his hoof adjust to all the work we did on it. It was frustrating, but perhaps just what he needed.

Yesterday, we took off early to head to Houston to the dog show. My little VW was packed with two car seats with Kendyll and Jordyn, and Kona sitting (or standing) in the middle. We always enjoy going to the show,seeing all the dogs and I was excited this year to bring Kona to try out some basic agility they had set up. I got to visit with a lot of dog lovers and the girls had a good time.

We dropped Kendyll and Jo at their other grandparents. It was mid-afternoon by the time we were back.

We decided to let Kid and Bruno out in the nearly dry front pasture. Normally, they do not go out here as the fence isn’t as good, it has weeds, and some rocks, but Bruno needed to get out. We followed Dr. Criner’s advice and gave Bruno a shot of Ace. The idea was to slow him down a bit so he would not pound so hard on his hoof. We gave the shot and waited for it to take effect. It was also a humid, 95 degrees with full afternoon sun. I thought that might take a toll on him as well.

But, no! Bruno came blazing out of the gate like the elite thoroughbred he is. Showing astounding ability to turn, cut and slide to a stop (all of which we could have done without) it brought huge smiles to our faces to see him be able to move so well. I know there are many days ahead, and lots of ups and downs but today was a good day. And I will joyfully remember where we are today versus a week ago. Sounds like it is another big thank you to Dr. Criner and Roland for work well done.


Even months of stall rest, cannot keep this boy from having natural muscles in his butt.

Now, forgive me for my weedy pasture, the rain has kept us from mowing, but watch my boy trot and gallop.  It is not perfect, but we are making strides toward getting better.

Remind me of this day, when we take two steps back again as I know we will, but maybe, one day, Lauren will harness this horse’s natural athletic ability into something in the show ring.  I can’t wait!

Also, I have gone back and re-categorized all the Bruno Stories-under the clever name, A Bruno Story, so if you ever want to go visit his history in order you can click on the front page of the blog and read his stories in order.  What a time we have had!!

As always, thank you for riding along!  I love hearing from you all with your support, great suggestions, and just to know you care!

Have Your Picture taken with the Giant Horse!-A Bruno Story

Lauren had new stock panels delivered this week.  We are hoping that we get the okay tomorrow at A&M to allow Bruno to go out in a confined area.  Also, Mr. Kid, Bruno’s babysitter has been sneaking off behind the barn to eat the fresh spring grass that is growing there. We thought it best to fence in the paddock.

The guys from the feedstore showed up with the six-foot high panels and proceeded to put them up for us.  Lauren and I had stressed over who was going to help us with those.  Dillion and Eric just hauled them out of the truck and proceeded to configure the panels.  What did they want in return?  Well, beer probably would have been a choice but all I had was Jim’s Blue Moon beer and that was not to a small town Texas man’s liking.  Instead, they wanted to go in and take pictures with Bruno. 


Jordyn on Feather and Mackenzie on Mick.

Jordyn on Feather and Mackenzie on Mick.

Saturday a friend from work came with her daughter.  She is a little older than Jordyn but had never ridden before at all.  She and Jordyn had a great time with Mickey and Feather. But before they left they went to Bruno’s stall to get pictures with the “giant horse”.

And so the weekend went.  Roland, our farrier, came to do the horse’s feet (he did not want a picture with Bruno but did look at his hoof and said he thought it was doing well).  Ally and Luke came back with the kids and some family friends.  Roland had quite a time shoeing while visitors tramped in and out of the barnyard headed to… you guessed it… Bruno’s stall.  I think I could start charging admission to see the giant horse and make a respectable second income. 

This morning Amy and her daughter Meagen came to get hay.  But first they, too,  had to take pictures with the big horse.

Meagen and the giant horse.  Is that anything like James and the giant peach?

Meagen and the giant horse. Is that anything like James and the giant peach?

Meagen also rode Mimi for us.  Mimi is for sale and we wanted to see how she would do with a non-adult rider.  She was great.  I think she is turning into a special little pony. 

The giant horse returns to Texas A&M for his first follow-up visit since his dismissal from the hospital.  He will get new shoes (which will cost way more than any shoes I will buy this year) and have his progress evaluated by Dr. Marsh.  We think we will get praise for our care of the big guy and are hoping for a confirmation that the hoof is growing healthy and strong. 

We have new tires on the trailer, Bruno has his foot bandaged in maroon and we should be good to go on the road to A&M.

Bruno-Post Operative Day 31

Apparently, the supplements we are using for Bruno's hooves are working on his coat.  Pretty Boy!

Apparently, the supplements we are using for Bruno’s hooves are working on his coat. Pretty Boy!

I guess it is just a time of milestones.  I published my 200th post the other day.  That was a big milestone for me-and I guess some of you are still reading along so that is great as well.

Bruno went in for surgery to cure an infection in his front hoof one month ago yesterday.  Although my vet, Lynn Criner, DVM., thought the infection went to the coffin bone, none of the vets consulted agreed.  But when Dr. Chad Marsh got into the hoof, the infection did in fact spread into the bone.  That required more cutting and more down time for Bruno.  I said from the beginning that I was good at growing hoof (I have a special mixture of biotin that makes hooves grow and coats shine) so I felt like if we could get the infection out, we could succeed at growing new, strong hoof in its place.

A quick look through my posts of the last month will tell the story of Bruno’s recovery so far.  To summarize:

  • He spent nine days at TAMU.
  • He has been confined to his stall for 31 days except for a few brief moments when he escaped, rolled and ran.
  • He has been quiet and reserved for his long confinement except for the one night his buddy Kid took a walk-about and he almost went nuts trying to find him.
  • Lauren has changed his bandage ten times using miles of gauze and tape.
  • We have cleaned his stall a minimum of four times a day since he came home using pounds and pounds of shavings.0 112912 crack

Above- the crack in the hoof when we first got him-prior to his diagnosis with an infection in the coffin bone.  All anyone could tell me was this crack would not go away. (Nov. 29, 2012)

0 122112 crackShortly after surgery when they were able to get a shoe on him.  Still big gap between the shoe and any hoof.

Northeast Wharton-20130120-00414Okay, this is not pretty but look how much the new hoof has grown down and how the new flesh is filling in.  It was probably an inch or so from his hairline above and now (look for the white hairs of his leg) it has probably grown an inch plus filling in the old crack.  Lots of work left but WOW!  (Jan. 20, 2013)

IMG-20121231-00361About a week after surgery, you can see daylight through the bottom of his foot. (Dec. 31, 2012)

Northeast Wharton-20130120-00415

Sorry for the shaky photo but what is clear is that the hoof is growing and filling in.  No more daylight to be seen.

We go back to A&M on January 28th.  I am pretty sure that Dr. Marsh will be happy with Bruno’s progress. The best news is we are now 31 days closer to Bruno returning to the ring!

Visiting Hours-A Bruno Story

Bruno in his surgical stall.

Bruno in his surgical stall. Red and green buckets for the holidays?

We made the trek up to Texas A&M Vet hospital to see Bruno today.  Dr. Marsh had let us know that Bruno had a pretty good day yesterday as his first post-operative day.  The doctor had been concerned about how well he would deal with the pain.  But Bruno was tough, strong and had a real good day.  Today they were holding his pain with a couple of grams of bute, which horse owners know is a pretty low dose. 

When we got back to the surgical stalls, he was bright-eyed and walking with a minimal limp. We were not allowed in his stall without special foot covers, so we fed Bruno treats through the door.  We had brought him horse treats and carrots.  He absolutely love carrots-like he can devour a package in moments flat if you allow him.  We were telling this to Sherre, his old owner, and she told us this story of when he first came to her in Texas. 

Bruno was not a pet, he was a race horse in training and apparently had never had a carrot.  Sherre tried to get him to eat carrots but he had  yet to acquire a taste for them.  Finally, she bought the carrots with the green tops still attached.  Bruno ate his way through the greenery and suddenly was eating carrots-the orange part.  He has learned the “I love carrots” thing well! 

They had sedated him earlier to clean out the wound and then to get a shoe on his foot to give him support and protect it from infection.  You do not think of a hoof and blood.  We have all watched the farrier trim hooves and they do not bleed.  But think about cutting too much of your nail off and how that hurts and bleeds.  Well, Bruno’s hoof was definitely bleeding.

Bruno's bandaged hoof-and yes, that is blood seeping the bottom.

Bruno’s bandaged hoof-and yes, that is blood seeping through to the bottom.

The doctor said he can probably come home after Christmas (the 26-27th?) so that is our plan.  We will have to learn to clean and bandage the hoof.  We will also have to come up with something to keep Bruno from running and playing until his hoof can stand it.  That will require some prayers and drugs.  Maybe not in that order.

The vet student, Lisa, that was assigned to Bruno said that he thankfully did not act like his breed (thoroughbred) or his age (five).  I am again grateful for his even temperament and good training.

I kind of freaked myself out yesterday.  I got overwhelmed with the prospect of the many months of care this big horse will need.  I wondered if I was not the biggest fool ever to take this horse then agree to do surgery on his foot.  But then last night, Lauren and I looked up many of Bruno’s relatives.  He is definitely bred from the best.  We looked at pictures of two triple crown winners (Seattle Slew, Secretariat), Breeder’s Cup winners ( AP Indy) and of course, way back,  my favorite horses Bold Ruler and Man O’War.  I guess if I have to pick a horse to bet the farm on, this one is not a bad choice. Bruno is big, brave and tough.  I suspect he has that special ingredient, “heart” as well. 

Day three of recovery is done and we are one day closer to getting him well.