OTTB Bruno goes to the Dressage Master-A Bruno Story

Amelia making it look beautiful and easy.

Amelia making it look beautiful and easy.

We have owned OTTB Bruno for over 18 months now.  He came lame.  He had surgery on his hoof to correct an infection in his coffin bone.  He was stall bound for over five months.  He has been lame off and on for over three years.

This last Christmas Lauren tried to start Bruno over fences.  They had two weeks of intense instruction and came a long way to getting Bruno to learn and listen.  He still had a long way to go.  He is over 1500 pounds and 17.2 hands.  He is strong and can be opinionated. Lauren was told by the trainer that Bruno would never be an easy ride.

Lauren also has a major project working; bringing along a Flagmount mare who is doing very well in the jumper ring.  Getting time to consistently work Bruno was not easy to find.  His on and off shoeing and lameness issues caused in part by the constant mud at our old place did not help.

My daughter Ally rode and went to school with friend Amelia back in Florida.  We had lost track of Amelia in the 14 years we have been in Texas.  Then Facebook to the rescue and Amelia is back in our life.  I had a strong feeling about Bruno and Amelia.  Amelia has an eventing background and knows all the tools to help Bruno.  When we finally got to our new place, Amelia came and started her education of off the track Bruno as a show horse.

Nancy Lindsey, the quintessential dressage master.

Nancy Lindsey, the quintessential dressage master.

Right around the corner from us in our new place was an instructor, Nancy Lindsey,  who had earned her place in the dressage world.  I heard about her reputation from many of my friends.  We had driven by and seen her place not even a quarter of mile away.  I called to introduce myself and see if she might be available to help Bruno and Amelia.  She said she wasn’t really taking new students but would consider it if the timing could be worked out.

Nancy Lindsey agreed to come to my arena to give Bruno his first dressage lesson.  It was hot and humid, the kind of hot that just hangs in the air and you feel you can’t breathe through the heavy mist. Nancy pulled up in her truck and bounded from the seat.  If you imagined what a seasoned Dressage instructor would look like, this was it!  She was slim and strong in breeches and boots.  She wore an old faded Rolex ball cap.  Her face was tan and her smile engaging.

She headed over to the arena where Bruno and Amelia were warming up (a stupid term on a day like this).  I bet seven year-old Bruno lost gallons in sweat. I told her Bruno’s story and they got to work.   Nancy alternately rewarded and commanded Amelia and the big horse.  I could not believe the giant horse could move like this!  I have seen him constantly improve under Amelia’s guidance and was excited to see him do so much.

Here is a short video of their canter.  Not perfect but coming along!

The trot.

The trot.


Look at the stretch in this canter!

Look at the stretch in this canter!

For all the months and years that we waited to see what this horse could do, it was a pretty exciting morning.  Through the dense air emerged horse with a future, an off the track thoroughbred that had managed to make his way through injury and set-backs. I believe one day soon we are going to see the horse take on a competition and triumph.

Have a safe and happy fourth of July weekend.  Thanks for riding along!


You can read all of Bruno’s stories and see pictures of hoof before and after surgery by searching the “A Bruno Story” category.

Bruno’s One Year Anniversary from Surgery

Glowing with health.

Glowing with health.

One year ago today we headed to Texas A&M Vet Hospital with our new OTTB Bruno.  He had on-going hoof problems and was being referred by Dr. Lynn Criner for a possible coffin bone infection.  We met with the great orthopedic staff at TAMU headed up by Dr. Chad Marsh.  Bruno, tipping the A&M scales that day at 1450 pounds, was scheduled for surgery to cut out the infected portion of his hoof.  We were told it would be nine months to a year before he could start gently back to work.

About one fourth of Bruno's hoof was cut away to heal the infection that had brewed for sometime.

About one-fourth of Bruno’s hoof was cut away to heal the infection that had brewed for sometime.

Nine days later, we took the big horse home to his specially built stall to start over five months of stall rest.  It was a challenge.  We had all the work that is associated with holding a giant animal captive in cage (essentially) while keeping his bandages changed, his stall clean and shoveling in feed and hay to keep him content.   Plus we had to learn new bandaging skills with the miles of Elasticon tape and vet wrap we purchased.

Weeks become months, we had good re-growth due to some special supplements, good food and genetics.  Mostly, Bruno tolerated his captivity.  We had some horrible times when he seriously injured his rear foot, losing a lot of blood and requiring stitches.  But the time went by.  By June we were released to start riding him again.  We had managed to grow back all of his hoof in six months.  But the hoof walls were still thin and until this week, have been ‘casted’ to support his hoof.

Today, Bruno is an inspiration to the OTTB spirit.  He has been ready to work, ready to play, ready to be interested in anything we have tried with him.  Now, weighing in at 1650 pounds and measuring over 17.2 hands high, he is a lot of horse to handle.  I am proud of my daughter, Lauren, who has taken on this mammoth challenge with determination and hope.

We are very close to having a nice horse on the flat, one that walks, trots and canters smoothly and on command.  His left lead at the canter will probably always be an issue.  He ran on a sore foot for some time and will not chose to pick up the left lead.  Memories of pain are hard to erase.  But pain is no longer an issue and Lauren will hopefully, get him to trust her that he can reach out with that left foot and be pain-free.

The jumping is coming slowly.  While natural jumper Feather with her Irish relatives has generations of jumpers, Bruno comes from generations of runners.  Yesterday as Lauren and Bruno worked  through a grid, it started to get better.  Lauren relaxed and let the horse relax and he was much smoother.  Perhaps this is a horse that we need to let find his own way over the jumps and not interfere with him.  That would be fine.

What I know for sure is that a year ago I was agonizing over my decision to do the surgery on this horse that had just come into our household.  There were no guarantees that this would work or that Bruno would ever get back to sound or ever jump a jump.  We took a leap of faith in taking in Bruno and deciding to do his surgery.

This is an excerpt from my blog a year ago:

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.

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 before.  I hope one day he is whole again.

I know now that it was a good decision, for the horse and for us.  Bruno has yet to walk into any show ring or win a blue ribbon, but at least we have given him a chance for this to happen.  I believe we are on the cusp of the next part of great Bruno’s journey. I can’t wait to see what I will be writing about him a year from now. I hope you stick around for the ride.  Thank you to all that have supported us in so many ways to help get Bruno through this year and off to a new career. We are so grateful.