The Barrel Jump-a Bruno Story


Mickey jumping the infamous barrel jump. Set here at 3’6″.

We got these metal jump cups that attach to the side of barrels. A lot of our friends, actually a lot of my friends all my life have been barrel racers. I have owned and run a top barrel horse in my youth. My arena will always have some barrels in it. When I found these jump cups that make my barrels into jump standards, I had to have them.

A barrel is about three foot high. With the jump set on the top cup, with a regular pole, it is a solid 3’6″. With Mickey, we made it an oxer as well. Mickey was sailing over the jump, but he was an experienced jumper. Feather has not jumped the barrel jump before last night and not on the top setting.

We took Bruno out to work and I was armed with my camera not wanting to miss a shot of Bruno finally jumping a fence. We started the barrel jump as an X. It was about two and half feet tall. Honestly, he could walk over it. I saw him trot towards it, move into a canter, easily jump and come back to Lauren (as opposed to running off strong). For OTTB Bruno, with his racer’s soul, it was something good to learn. That he has stayed sound as our work-outs have increased in intensity and now over the jumps is great as well.

Lauren has never jumped Bruno over anything other than an X. I wanted to take the jump up to a vertical, which is really a horizontal pole across the width of the jump (don’t know why it is called a vertical but it is). Lauren said no. I set it up anyway. I will be first to admit his jump is not perfect, no nice even knees, he will hopefully continue to learn. The main point of the picture below and while I squealed with glee when I first saw it, is how Bruno makes this jump look like a toy. Ask any barrel racer, they will tell you they don’t mind racing around a barrel, but they sure would never consider jumping over one.


While this jump is not the full height or width of one Mickey is jumping above, it still was the first balloon we have floated out there to see if Bruno might have the makings of a jumper. Lauren has never competed in a division with fences over 3’6″. In this picture, Bruno’ s giant OTTB body, absolutely dwarfs the barrels. His back feet are still on the ground. His upper body is easily a foot over the top of the barrels. It was quite an ‘ah hah!’ moment for us. I quickly texted one of my friends to tell her the news. She told me she was excited to see where this Bruno story was going.

Each of these small steps, takes closer and closer to having a show horse. We are going to take it slow but it is sure a lot more fun watching him jump than watching him stand in his stall!

Pixie had a good solid ride. She seems to be maturing before our eyes. We got finished up with those two and Lauren saddled up Feather for workout. We don’t jump Feather much at home, preferring to save her legs for lessons and shows. But the barrel jump was calling to her. Again, not set up as high as Mickey jumped, Feather was her usual over-achiever self.


Feather did a pretty good job of making those barrels look small as well. Maybe, we got a couple of sterling youngsters (three if you count Pixie) gaining ground and showing promise at our farm today.

Thanks for riding along!

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!

What now?-A Bruno Story

I wrote Monday about Bruno’s lameness. Today is Saturday, here is a short update of what happened this week:
* we started Bruno on bute (an anti-inflammatory drug)
* Tuesday, he was walking better but was still lame
* Wednesday Bruno was lying down, unable or unwilling to get up, so lame he could barely walk
* We started treating Bruno for a hoof abscess, soaking his bad hoof in Epsom salts to try to draw out the infection.

Bruno, no doubt a veteran of the hoof soak process, stood quietly.

* Thursday our local vet team got here to gently coax Bruno’s shoe off the infected foot. They did not want to damage any of the newly grown hoof. Bruno got a big injection of more anti-inflammatories.
* Friday after much discussion with both our vet Dr. Criner and our farrier, Roland, we determined we would shoot x-rays this morning.

Today started with radiographs of Bruno’s front hooves. He behaved well for the front feet but was not interested in having his back feet photographed. We will do that another day.

Setting up for the x-rays.

Later this afternoon, both the doctor and farrier returned. After reviewing the images, the doc wanted to see how Bruno was moving and how it affected his hoof. Dr. Criner needed him to move on the flat, unforgiving surface of concrete. She suggested using the highway (eh, no way!) and then the neighbor’s driveway. I got permission and the test was on. Dr. Criner ( because she is tougher than any of us) placed a chain in the ex-racehorse’s mouth, covered his hoof in duct tape and headed down the drive. The duct tape clearly showed that Bruno was striding in such a way that most of the impact was hitting on the damaged coffin bone, and the weak, outside of the hoof.

The next task was to find a way to support this hoof as time allowed it to get better. All of this was new to me. Based upon the x-rays, the hoof was trimmed. A new heart bar shoe was custom designed by Roland (Lauren thought we were cooking hot dogs, but we were making shoes). Then, casting material was used around the hoof to support the fragile hoof wall and allow the nails to have a place to rest other than the hoof.

Roland sculpting the cast material.

Next, was a custom fit pad to absorb the shock of the hoof as Bruno bounded down the arena walls. Finally, after re-shaping and molding, Bruno’s custom shoe was done.

The new heart bar shoe, with pad and cast.

The casted, padded new shoe-ready to go.

And finally, the jog for soundness. Off Lauren went, dwarfed by Bruno, moving beautifully, with just a hint of his old injury.

We still have several months of re-hab left. But the vet that diagnosed Bruno’s injury right in the first place, got him on the road to recovery with TAMU vets, appears to have made some good decisions for our giant OTTB Bruno. I am grateful for our new path forward, and grateful to Lynn and Roland for giving up their Saturday to get this horse pain free again.



My horse, Bruno, had surgery to cure an infection in his hoof, almost seven months ago. I had my fourth surgery to repair rotator cuff tears, three months ago.

I was scheduled today for an MRI with dye injected into the joint. I got to the imaging center in a pretty fair state of mind. I was actually more concerned about the money I was spending than I was the procedure. Then I got called to the x-ray room where they explained the procedure. I have had this done before and remembered needles in my shoulder, but I did not remember it as a bad time. However, I really remember child birth pretty favorably so there you go.

As she started to tell me about the needle and moving it against the bone and moving the needle again, I was almost sick. I asked her to quit talking. She told me I still had to sign the waiver. I said, okay, just no more talking. I almost left. Really. It went through my brain, that I would just have to come do it again, so I stayed.

My ability to tolerate pain is diminished. Both my shoulders hurt. I have been trying to swim and can’t. Ditto, lifting much of anything. I wish I had never had surgery on my left shoulder at all. It hurt before, but it worked. Not now. I am sure (I see doc tomorrow) that my right shoulder is completely torn, again. I am just as sure he will tell me I need immediate surgery or it will be unrepairable.

I don’t care! I just cannot do it again so soon or perhaps ever. Maybe I will have reduced use of my shoulders but can not take it again.

In this happy mood, I got home to an empty house. Okay, there were seven dogs but no Lauren. She had left a note.

She had cooked a turkey breast (peace offering). The dogs needed to be fed. Horses were fed. Then the all-star news of the day! Bruno was REALLY lame and needed to be stalled for the night. Lauren had started meds.

I don’t even know if it is the same hoof, but we can assume so. What now? I am just at a giving up point. Totally.

I hope that means better news is in store for us soon. I just hope.

Feet first-a Bruno story

It has been over six months and 200 days since Bruno underwent surgery to clean out an infection in his left, front hoof. Surgery included taking out a significant portion of his coffin bone as well. We were told it would be a year before Bruno would be ready to ‘try’ to work again.

We had gotten the horse from our trainer, Dev, who unapologetically said he was playing to my rescue horses mentality. From the moment I saw him on Dev’s trailer, standing with his ears up and nose to the wind, I was smitten with him.

He was released by the great docs at Texas A&M Vet Hospital with clean x-rays in June. We were ready to start the Bruno goes to work story as a preamble to the Bruno jumps at horse shows story. But it has not gone as we hoped. I have been decidedly quiet on the Bruno front. Since his June release we have had three good rides without lameness. Not what we had hoped. We have added bute and injections for any inflammation he may have. But nothing has really a helped.

Our farrier, Roland, getting ready to do Bruno’s feet for the first time.

We have been told when we have posted pictures of Bruno, that his toes were too long. I thought so too. But it is really hard to accept the farrier chosen by TAMU would not have done them well. Roland has done my horses for years. I trust his judgement. So, today I told him evaluate this horse and treat him as any new client. First, he wanted to get some toe off (the toe is the point facing the off the front of the hoof). And then I just trusted him. We definitely needed a change for the better.

The right toe has not been trimmed yet. Look at the rounder, shorter left foot.

Then we added a support pad in the straight bar shoe to hopefully give Bruno more help in maintaining the new hoof. Roland cut back all four feet. I prayed it would be enough to bring this horse back to soundness.

We releAsed him to the pasture and watched as he pounded down the line,then through and around the big arena. He was looking pretty solid.

Mickey has been working and wearing shoes at least 12 years. But he is not working much now, so we thought we would try to leave him barefoot. It has been very dry so maybe not the best time but we will see how it goes.

Mickey with his new barefeet getting ready for a ride with me while Lauren readies Bruno behind

Bruno’s ride was the best we have had since the surgery. It was not perfect, but he was moving much better. I really hope we have the right shoes on him now to move forward. His trots and canters were good tonight.

Liking this shot at the trot through the dusty arena but with nice position and extension.

Mickey and I had a good ride with his new barefeet as well! I hope we are on the cusp of getting the big horse finally into training.

And the horses cometh-

Adelena with new pony Scholar.  I am hoping she is deeply surpressing immense joy in her new pony.

Adelena with new pony Scholar. I am hoping she is deeply suppressing immense joy in her new pony.

After traveling almost 1000 miles, the new horse and ponies came to a stop on my recently dried ground ending their 24 hour journey in the trailer.  I bet my neighbor thought we had opened up a stockyard as he viewed all the trailers at my small property at once.

The big trailer from Florida was a huge, comfortable ride but everyone gratefully stepped off into the gentle Texas breeze, warm sun and solid ground.  The trip was a success for all!  I had Lauren be sure everyone in our gang was safely up in their stalls before the large rig pulled into the yard.  I bet it was a good day for “Bruno TV” as he got to watch the new horses arrive.  Still, everyone was pretty excited as the new kids arrived.

Ally came with Jo and Kendyll.  Caroline was there with Abby, Arianna and niece Adelena as well.  Lynn showed up a first thing this morning after having had vet calls all day.  I honestly think I was the most excited (which is a little pitiful).  I sat at the barn and watched the road knowing from texts they were getting close.  I had my camera around my neck and Lauren told me I looked like a tourist as I rushed around taking photos as the trailer arrived.

It is good to still be excited about friends, especially friends with horses.  The OTTB, Dubai, was the worst for the trailer trip, having dropped some weight in transit.  The ponies were taken immediately to arena and unlike any of my existing horses, just calmly walked around investigating everything.  There were no Bruno runs, bucks or sliding stops.

Jordyn came running from the car to see ‘her new pony!!’  Yeah, I don’t remember agreeing to that and we will see if it works out.  Still, it may be hard to say no as they just get more and more attached over time.  I could be in trouble on this one.  Baby Kendyll was there with Ally.  Kendyll loves horses-especially Bruno and she good-naturedly hung out several hours in the barn just gazing at the horses.

Ally took a video of Kendyll watching the Kentucky Derby this weekend.  Kendyll stood at the base of tv, spellbound by the race,  bouncing up and down on her chubby little legs.  I swear the horse thing is genetic.

Ally, Kendyll and Jordyn with Pixie.

Ally, Kendyll and Jordyn with Pixie.

I am grateful everyone made the trip safely and well.  Our Florida friends will be here a few days.  They are gathering up bales of my Texas alfalfa ($12 here versus $27 there) and two tons of rice bran.  For those unaware, this is a huge rice producing area.

A trip to see OTTB Joey was accomplished this afternoon and I think they are pretty excited about taking the big man home to Florida with them.  They better not buy anything else or Joey will be riding on the roof!

Track stories-a Bruno Story

AP Indy, grand-sire of my Bruno

AP Indy, grand-sire of my Bruno

Bruno has been going out for six days now.  Yesterday morning in his romp through the arena he somehow caught his horse-shoe on his “good” front hoof and ripped it off.  Really, six days since taking him over 200 miles to get his shoes put on?  But I was glad we had found the shoe and that it wasn’t from his bad foot.

Still I knew that he had to have that shoe put back on now or we could not let him back out.  The shoes help support the hooves and with the healing taking place in his bad hoof, we did not want anything to stand in the way of his continued success.  My usual farrier comes from Houston and it is a long way to tack on one shoe.  I had another farrier that I really liked, and if I had not had a relationship for so long with Roland, he would do my horses.  I called Sean who is an ex-jockey and very involved in Polo.  He has done me favors many times and I was hoping this would be one more.

Sean pulled in late yesterday afternoon.  He had never seen Bruno.  Immediately, he asked-“where did you get this horse?  Is he from Fiddler’s Green barn in New York?”  and yes, Sean he is.  He knew Bruno’s trainer and owner from days on the track.  And he knew very well Bruno’s grand-sire AP Indy, from the Triple Crown winning Seattle Slew out of Weekend Surprise.  Sean had known the stallion well and ridden several of his progeny.  He had some great tales to tell us of the strength and endurance of the AP Indy line.  He gave Lauren tips for handling Bruno when it was time to get back on the big guy (ride him light, DO NOT take a hold of his mouth).  It was wonderful to share some thoroughbred history with a man who knew what this horse was made of and even better to hear him enter his stall, ready to shoe him, talking quietly to him, telling him about his days with “Indy”.

I looked up a picture of Indy which is seen above and set out today to take a picture to show why Sean stopped in his tracks when he saw the big horse yesterday.  So, I don’t have the fancy background and my horse is not as spit polished as Indy.  Actually, Lauren is gone today and I struggled just to get his OTTB halter on but I think it shows genetics in action.  I love these thoroughbreds and the stories behind their lives.  It makes me even more inspired to do the best I can for this horse who got left behind because of his bad foot.

Fiddler's Pilgrim, aka Bruno

Fiddler’s Pilgrim, aka Bruno

On the Road Again-Bruno Returns to Texas A&M

I did not make the trip to TAMU today for Bruno’s latest six-week check up.  Megan was there to go with Lauren.  But I have felt like I was with them all day.  First, imagining the loading of Bruno (pretty uneventful) and the subsequent release of Kid (he did put on a little rodeo show bucking and cantering around the paddock as the trailer pulled out).

I caught up with Lauren a few times during their almost four-hour long appointment.  First, she reported that Dr. Marsh was quite positive about the way the hoof he had done surgery on looked-or as my friend here in Houston called them “the old hurt hoof” versus the “new hurt hoof”.  Then a couple of hours was devoted to hot shoeing all the hooves (new, old, hurt or not). 

The steam coming up from Bruno's shoes.

The steam coming up from Bruno’s shoes.

Dr. Marsh decided that the “old hurt hoof” was not growing as straight as he would like so he drilled out a quarter size hole and then filled the opposite side with a substance that will help keep the new growth moving in the right direction (help stabilize the hoof and create less motion in hoof).  (I really am just repeating what the girls told me-I don’t really get the concept of motion in the hoof but we will let that go for now.) 

How it looks today-still needs to grwo-but whoa-looking so much better!

How it looks today-still needs to grow-but whoa-looking so much better!

From the front-looking good.

He also looked at the “new hurt hoof” and did some re-stitching on the wound.  He re-iterated how lucky we had been.  Apparently, the cut was not as superficial as our vet had indicated to us (or we did not understand it that way).  Dr. Marsh sent home orders with Lauren that any change in “the new hurt hoof” be communicated immediately. 

Wow, I knew it was bad at the time but I guess I just didn’t comprehend how close this latest mis-hap had taken us to never getting Bruno sound again.  You get caught up with the “big” problem and fail to see how another issue can eat your lunch in the meantime. 

The new-hurt foot being re-sown and 'casted'.

The new-hurt foot being re-sown and ‘casted’.

Bad News/Good News

The bad news-which I was really, really hoping for a change in-is that Bruno is still confined to his stall until at least his next six-week check.  By then he will have been on stall rest for almost 130 days!  I am not aware of a horse that has been on stall rest for that long-I am sure there have been others.  Thank God, I had the foresight to build his extra-large stall or this would be worse punishment than what it is.

The good news-which is extremely good news that I hope comes to pass:  Dr. Marsh feels that after two more six-week shoeings (so, 12 weeks from now) Lauren will be able to get up on this horse’s back and RIDE him.  Just walking to start with-but oh, my goodness, that is amazing!!  We had thought it would be Christmas time again before Bruno would feel that girth tighten around his broad back. 

And we can start some walks in the next few weeks, around the arena, around the paddock, but Bruno cannot go loose.  Whatever, it is wonderful news and a testament to this strong OTTB and his great care (both from the vets at Texas A&M and Lauren).

p.s.  The moment I wish I had witnessed at A&M today, was when the vet tech who was helping with case (he wasn’t there when they talked about Bruno and his history) looked up at Bruno’s brand new OTTB halter that Lauren got for her birthday from her sisters and said “Is his name OughtBE”.  I am  pretty sure I would have fallen on the ground laughing and it would not have been nice!