Craigslist OTTB rakes in high-level ribbons

Borrowed with permission from Off the Track Thoroughbreds-

I understand the actual video of Trapp riding in the race saddle over the crudely constructed jumps was something to behold. The owner expected him to fall off this little mare, but she just went willingly along. Feather and Lauren, no doubt, will encounter Cait and Lulu as they make their way up the ranks. Thanks Susan for a great story!

By Susan Salk on June 3, 2015

World Cup rider Trapp O’Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she’s in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson. Alison Harwell Photography

World Cup rider Trapp O’Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she’s in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson. Alison Harwell Photography


Leading Grand Prix rider and coach Trapp O’Neal was out shopping for a flatbed trailer one lazy afternoon in August when he discovered in the dirt and dust of a modest Texas farm a gem of a Thoroughbred with the makings of an A-rated sport horse.

Though Au Girl lived in circumstances that lacked a standard ring to stretch her legs or pretty jumps to display her form, she went along quite willingly and smartly for O’Neal, who rode her in her jockey’s saddle over jumps made of orange cones and lumber. The bay mare just seemed a natural for the job.

“As a Grand Prix rider and coach, it’s never been typical for me to chose Thoroughbreds to work with. But as a horseman, I’ve learned to keep my eyes open. I don’t think you can be too prejudice as to what shape, size and breeds the talent comes in,” O’Neal says. “And when I tried Au Girl I knew I couldn’t pass up talent.”

O’Neal purchased the ex-race mare in August 2013 and took her home to his Magnolia, Texas facility TKO Sporthorses, where the green mare quickly proved herself as worthy as the fancy show horses in the barn.

Au Girl
Barn name: Lulu
Sire: Formal Gold
Dam: San Miguel Queen
Foal date: April 23, 2009

Whip-smart and scopey, she trained for about a year before Trapp sold her to his longtime student Caitlyn Epperson, 20, who formed an instant connection with the mare. “The minute she sat on her, they just clicked,” says Caitlyn’s mother Kathryn Epperson. She adds, “They are a great team. They’ve already earned numerous grand championships and reserve championships … this mare just has a spirit like she’s in it to win it, and yet, she’s also very sweet.”

The pair has excelled at the TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Division at the lower heights, but has also ribboned at the High Adult Jumper Division as well. Her awards include: Low Adult Jumper Champion (1.0 – 1.05 meter) Dallas Harvest in October 2014; High Adult Jumper Reserve Champion (1.10 – 1.15 meter) Great Southwest Winter Classic IV in February 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Reserve Champion (1.0 meter) Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in March 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Champion Show Jumping Classic in May 2015.


Au Girl takes a nap after winning Grand Champion in the Take 2 Jumpers at the Show Jumping Classic in May

Au Girl is ranked 9th in the National TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings and 7th in the USHJA Zone 7 TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings through April 2015.

But more than earning ribbons there is the deep satisfaction that comes from bringing along a green OTTB to compete at the highest levels.

“In this area you don’t see a lot of Thoroughbreds competing at this level. A lot of trainers just want the Warmbloods. Trapp was one of the first trainers in our area to step out and try a Thoroughbred, and now that people see her, other people have started to show an interest in them,” she says. “This horse is just a trooper. I don’t care how tired she is, or if she’s been at a show for three weeks, she’s going to give 110 percent every time.

“And she moves, very, very well. And she was a fraction of the cost of the other horses in her division. She was a true diamond in the rough.”

The Sound of a Million Dreams

Amber finishing a half marathon- first time ever!

Amber finishing a half marathon first time ever!


Exciting times, these last few days.  My oldest daughter Amber who has never run any kind of race, decided in a moment of delusion, madness or just pure stubbornness to sign up for a half marathon.  Couldn’t she have started with like a 10k?  You don’t have to be a tremendous athlete or fast runner to make a 10k, you can even walk.  But Amber set her sights on the half marathon and off she went.  She trained through one of the worst winters in Denver history.  She kept running.  Even last week, in May,  it snowed again.  You never know what you are going to get weather wise there.

But Amber is one for setting goals and keeping them.  She had a dream to run and she did- the entire way. Wow, I am so impressed and proud of her!  Just think what she could do here at sea level.

Ally spent her childhood about 45 minutes from the Disney castle in Florida.  She has wanted to take her family since Jordyn was little.  They left Friday and are having a fabulous time.

Not sure Kendyll is so impressed with the weird little man.

Not sure Kendyll is so impressed with the weird little man.

I hope they make it across to Ally’s home town and the glistening beaches of the Atlantic.  Disney makes dreams come true for many and I know it is for Ally and family.


Since off-the-track  Thoroughbred Bruno joined our family a year and a half ago, we have battled to cure a hoof infection, then get him sound enough to ride.  Once he was sound, we struggled to get him ridden with commitments Lauren already had with Feather.  Several times we talked about my daughter Ally’s friend who was an eventer coming to try Bruno.  But you know with a giant, sometimes difficult horse, it isn’t easy to trust anyone with your baby. Finally, since coming to Richmond, I knew it was time.

When Amelia got here, I offered her Mickey to ride first.  She said she was fine on Bruno. Okay,then.

First ride, learning to bend.

First ride, learning to bend.

The second ride today was really Bruno’s third day of work.  Bruno is always better after three days of work. (Lauren had ridden him yesterday.) Today, he was actually listening and trying.  It was a dream come true to see Bruno jump a few fences, bend along the lines and make me believe this big black horse might have a career after all.

It has been a time for us when a lot of dreams are coming true.  We are appreciative and gladdened.

Jump Bruno, jump!

Jump Bruno, jump!

Bend me, shape me!

Bend me, shape me!


Looking pretty perfect.

Looking pretty perfect.


On the Hunt for a Mare

Ally riding Mac.

Ally riding Mac, a registered Quarter horse.

My daughter Ally, mother of Kendyll and Jordyn, gets mentioned frequently on this blog, but not that often in the context of riding.  Ally started riding in grade school in Florida at a hunter/jumper barn.  When we bought our first Florida horse, and then her first Quarter horse, a Rugged Lark mare, she rode under the direction of Kit Kope who is now a top Paint Horse judge.  Something about that time with Kit has always stuck with her because Paint horses are hands down her favorite.

Since the loss of our horse Kid, and since moving to the new house, I have been on the look-out for a horse.  I know, I am always on the look-out for a top horse for little money, its what I do, but this time it is different.  I have put off my riding for Lauren’s riding or for buying a horse that would be quick to sell.  I ride a lot but I have no horse that is mine.  The same is true of Ally.  She wants to ride more now that we are close.  We have Mickey and Bruno.  Mickey is fine for me to ride, just not a horse I connect with too well, same for Ally.  His major forte is jumping and we are not interested.

And riding Bruno, well, I am hoping one of Ally’s Florida friends hits it off with him.  I would like to see him ridden more.  If not, I will be buying a big girth and saddling him up in my western barrel saddle.  He needs to be worked and I am a chicken (and old) so just going to go with what I am comfortable with.  He will be the largest western horse in history!

I also put down on my bucket list to have babies born on my own farm and while my daughters might comply, I am referring to horse babies.  My cousin reminds me not to wait too long.  As does the owner of Flagmount’s Freedom (Feather’s sire) whom I want to be the father of said babies.  So, I need a mare.

It would be even be more awesome if I could find in the horse I want to ride and share with Ally, to also be the mother of the horse babies.  I didn’t think I was asking a lot but apparently I am.

Here are a few I have looked at:

Try Delta-you know maybe I should.

Try Delta-you know maybe I should.

This is a three-year-old off the track thoroughbred that is the granddaughter of AP Indy (just like Bruno).  I love Bruno and this way Feather and Bruno would both be represented in this mare’s baby.There is a lot that is good about this mare, except she is three.  The last thing I want is a three year old to work with, especially to ride.  But…I am still checking to see if she has been sold and still can see her nicking well with Flag and producing quite a magnificent foal.  Then my vet just had to send me the text the day after the Derby that California Chrome is an AP Indy great-granddaughter. One more thing in this mare favor, except, then I remember she is three.

I have been all over the usual horse sale sites.  In a perfect world, I am looking for a 15.2 to 16.1 hand paint, quarter horse or thoroughbred that is not the heavy stocky look but the more refined, lighter boned variety.  Oh, and one that has great ground manners, is quiet and easy to ride.  Anyone have one of those?  Because it is not going well in my search.

I got real excited to learn a local thoroughbred breeder was going to close her business.  Off Lauren, Ally and I went to check out three horses that promised to be exactly what we wanted.



This mare had several foals.  Many were on-site.  She was said to be quiet and easy to handle.  She is 16.  I figured it would be a great fit.  We arrived at one of the most beautiful horse properties that I have seen, the rolling pastures and well-kept horses, it was amazing.  However, they had just separated this mare from her pasture mate and she was frantically searching for her.  Up and down the paddock she went and there was no way I would convince Ally that this was a quiet, easy to handle horse.  Check her off the list!

QueenLadifa-daughter of Ladifa

QueenLadifa-daughter of Ladifa

Then I easily went and caught this seven-year old daughter of the horse above.  I saddled her up and it was like I was back riding Kid. She was very quiet, well-mannered and easy to ride.  But Dev was texting he didn’t like her neck and shoulder.  Both Dev and doc Lynn thought something was going on in her hind end.  So much for the Queen!

She has a chip in her knee, how fast could she be?

She has a chip in her knee, how fast could she be?

Finally, I looked at this 11-year-old.  She was quiet and sweet.  She had successfully had babies. She was a good mom.  She could be ridden lightly as she had a bone chip in her knee.  I figured that would limit her running off with us.  But Ally had to get back to pick up kids and I didn’t ride her.  As we left I was pretty set on taking her.  But as time went on, I just haven’t felt a connection to her so the search continues.

Let me know if you have the perfect horse for Ally and I and one who can also be the bride of Flagmount.  If only Mickey or Bruno was a mare!  Then we would have a perfect solution.


Thank you all again for the cards you have sent to my mom.  She is doing a little better day by day.



Lauren doing a selfie with her buddy Bruno.

Lauren doing a selfie with her buddy Bruno.

I am out-of-town again.  Another three days in Bartlesville, Oklahoma is being spent teaching classes.  It is hard to be away when so much is happening at home.  My real estate transaction on my new house is beset with daily amendments to the contract and arguments over property lines, driveways and fences.  The sale of my house, ironically, the old house, is going perfectly.  Soon, I will close on Six Meadow Farm but have no level of confidence, just prayers and hopes, that I have somewhere new to live and stable my ponies.

Lauren turned 21 with a family dinner to celebrate, and a second dinner with friends.  I am sure alcohol was involved but she got home safely and I was grateful. The next night, I was already in Oklahoma but Lauren headed up to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for some Jason Aldean.  Pretty good birthday I think!

I have had good training classes here where my audience has laughed at my jokes, been interested in the subject matter and seemed to grasp what they were supposed to learn.  Another couple of classes tomorrow and I will be homeward bound.  I tend to review my photos when I am on the road, missing my animals and family ( not necessarily in that order but maybe) and I came upon this video of Bruno blazing down the fence line in a match race with poodle Kona.  Lauren is at home alone entertaining herself with selfies with Bruno while I sit in a hotel room watching the beast on video.  We are pathetic.

Watch the video but turn down the sound -lots of wind in this one.

Who do you call as the winner of this race?


A Solemn Promise

This famous boy near starvation just days ago.

This famous boy near starvation just days ago.

I feel like nothing is forgotten faster than a thoroughbred race horse.  Everyone wants to produce the Triple Crown winner, the ‘one in a million’, the fastest horse ever, but if you are trying to breed that one in a million horse, by definition, 999,999 must not be the one.

I know there are issues with all horses, all animals in fact, but I feel that something about the thoroughbred, makes them the target for so much neglect.  The window is so small and the few that make it so limited, that maybe,   most  are simply done by age five if not sooner.

I have owned a few off the track thoroughbreds.  I have not exclusively owned thoroughbreds or dedicated my life to helping them, but I have done my best to help where I could.  There is not a horse in my barn right now that did not come out of some type of rough situation, a rescue, a bad start, or an injury or illness.

I heard about the horse above on Facebook, my source for much news these days. Particularly upsetting about this horse was that his sire is still a sought after horse garnering a large five-figure stud fee. The sire of this horse has a higher stud fee than Big Brown.  So someone must have thought enough about the idea of this horse at some time, to have paid a hefty fee to create him.

I do not know all the details.  But this horse was found near starved, infested with worms and covered in fungus.  Both of his back feet were raw and infected from-kick chains that had been attached to his feet and left for months to rub and irritate his fragile skin.  This horse is being secretly kept in a barn far from where he was discovered so that those previously involved in his care can never touch him again.

In an almost Lifetime Movie-like  scenario, when rescuers tried to help this horse, it made the situation worse. One of the biggest issues that faced this horse was that when the he was discovered in such horrible condition, the neglectful owner was threatened and berated.  Instead of keeping emotions in check and coming up with a plan to get the horse re-homed, these advocates of doing the right thing, nearly got the horse in more trouble by frightening the owner.  I am not at saying that the owner of this horse was right in anything they were doing, but when faced with this situation, the best choice is one that gets the horse out of harm’s way, preferably forever.  Contact a local rescue who can help deal with the situation.  Be calm, save the horse.

I sent my old OTTB Cupid’s warm stable blanket to this horse.  I included a note to the guardian angels that are caring for this horse now.  I was gratified to receive a note back:

“I want to give a HUGE thank you to Cindy and Lauren, her daughter, for the wonderful stable blanket!!! It is getting colder, so he will really appreciate having his very own pajamas!! Something totally cool is that just like this horse,Cindy’s first OTTB that wore it was also Breeder’s Cup Nominated! He will wear it with pride!! ”

It was a just a little thing to do but I was glad I could and making Lauren drive the giant box to the post office and wait in line to mail it, well,  hopefully that taught her something valuable as well.

This wonderful horse was good enough to be Breeder’s Cup nominated and yet ended up like this.  It could happen to any of ours. I am making a solemn promise that I will do my very best to humanely and fairly care for my horses for as long as I am able.  And if I cannot, I will find someone who will care for them for me.  It is the best I can do.

No more preaching, I appreciate you riding along!

Donations can be made to:

Bruno and Kid, their career paths-A Bruno story

Kid following Bruno around the arena.

Kid following Bruno around the arena.

I overheard Bruno and Kid having a heated discussion as they stood in the paddock last night.

Bruno is a six-year old, off-the-track thoroughbred, who ran four races and placed second in one.  He has suffered from some hoof ailments that we surgically corrected at Texas A&M Vet Hospital.  He is just getting back to work and has yet to prove himself in any discipline.  Bruno has been called “startling beautiful” by the Off-Track Thoroughbred website and is a huge 17.2+ hands tall.

Kid is a 32-year-old, off the track Quarter Horse, who was very speedy on the track, went on to do some team penning at the national level and also was a winning barrel horse in the Houston area up to age 20.  He has done everything we ever asked him to do from showing English, jumping, trail riding, and hauling my grandbabies around. He is 15.2 hands high.

Bruno remarked to Kid about his slowness in the arena, “you are so slow you can’t keep up with me when we are just walking!”.

“Well, at least I won on the track when I ran!” said Kid back to Bruno.

“Sure on that tiny little quarter-mile track!  Run a mile and a fourth and come from behind to be second, then let’s see how good you are!” retorted Bruno.

“You couldn’t even get out of the starting gate! You had to run from behind because you couldn’t untangle those daddy-long legs and break with the rest of the horses.  I could beat you out of the starting gate today.   In fact, I could probably still stay with you for at least two strides.”  Kid said snidely back to Bruno.

“What a joke!  My stride is over 15 feet in length when I am not trying, you would never stay with me for even one foot!” answered Bruno.

“Well, at least I had multiple careers, race horse, team penner, barrel racer, horse about town, English, western, I did it all!. What did you do, place in one race and have some vets work on you?  GEEZ!”, said Kid.

“What did you do again? Something where you chased a bovine creature and then pushed it somewhere?  What kind of talent does that take?  I could do that easy!”  Bruno remarked looking disgusted at Kid.

“Really?  I would like to see your big, ol’self running, sorting and stopping as fast as a young cow. What about my barrel racing?  I was older but still the fastest in the whole Houston area, could you do that?  Wait, no, you couldn’t! You are too big to get around a turn without circling it 20 feet out.” Kid challenged, looking up at Bruno.

“Oh, my gosh, really, running around some trash cans?  At least I ran races in respected locales like Aqueduct and Belmont. How dumb is barrel racing?  To be a track runner you must have endurance, strength and be fast.”  Bruno noted

“You ran at those tracks like twice.  I ran on the race track too and won! And you need to have all those qualities you mentioned to be good at barrel racing.  You are big but you are so silly sometimes!” Kid said wisely.

“I am going to be a top-notch jumper!  You will see”, said Bruno.

“Okay, I guess we can all be surprised.  You might actually accomplish something in your life, you never know”, said Kid.

Snow watching Bruno and Kid.

Snow watching Bruno and Kid.

“So, look at that white pony over there, I bet he never ran on any race track”, Bruno said, quickly changing the subject.

“Pick on the white pony, classy move, big guy!  But you are right, he never ran on a track anywhere.  At least we got that, don’t we Bruno?”, Kid conceded and ended the conversation.

Day 300-A Bruno Story

Strong hooves, strong shoulders and a newly found strong horse, Bruno takes flight.

Three hundreds days ago
TAMU Vets did surgery to clean and cure
Giant Bruno’s infected hoof.

Over one fourth of his left front hoof
Was cut away with surgical precision.
Antibiotics pumped directly into the bone
Day after day until it was finally time
To come home.

Over five months he spent jailed in a wooden cell
No way to fill the long hours or the boredom
Just a view from the top stall rail of the world
Passing by, cows, trucks, tractors and more.
A literal tv screen of slow entertainment.

Finally summer and a release from Dr. Marsh
Allowed Bruno to run free again, the racing
Blood of his ancestors coursing through his veins.
Back under saddle, controllable, but only because
He desired to be controlled, most of the time.

Finally ready, after plaster casts were molded to protect
and support his soft, fragile hoof walls
did we get an okay to launch the big guy
Over his first fences. Of course, he could soar!
But boy, he did not want to jump. No way!
His workouts on the flat got better and better.

His jumping over fences became more matter of fact, as we continued
Lap after lap, walk, trot or canter but always with a small fence to cross.
As days became weeks, we thought there might be some
jumper in the big horse after all. And still he got stronger, better
And anxious mentally to fly for Lauren. Houston, we had lift-off.
One day he just started to get it!

Today is day 300 from surgery and the mighty thoroughbred Bruno,
Is as good as he once was and maybe better than he ever was.
Today with these short months under saddle he would already make
A great dressage mount. Each ride is smoother, more fluid, than the last
yet emits strength and fitness in every step.

We were told he would not be rideable for one year after surgery.
We earned some extra time with him growing back his hoof so fast.
We learned a lot taking on this magnificent OTTB. We learned about
Faith, courage and love. We couldn’t be happier to have our big man
Back to work with nary a hint that trouble ever brewed.

Thank you to all that have supported and cheered on the “startling beautiful” (According to off-Track Thoroughbreds) Bruno.

Three hundred days-look how far he has come!

Collected, flowing and moving like a dream!

You’re in Big Trouble Bruno!-a Bruno Story

Bruno giving us a sly look after he is safely back in his stall.

Bruno giving us a sly look after he is safely back in his stall.

Last night, I got home to Roland making his monthly farrier visit. It was the first time he was having to do all the horses as in the past he has made separate trips to do Bruno. He had been there for well over two hours when I arrived. He was waiting for a patch to dry on Bruno’s bad hoof. I commented it looked like drywall tape and I guess it is similar.  Bruno had pulled off his specially sculpted cast and shoe about a week ago.  His hoof was looking pretty ragged.

Roland told me if it comes off again, I am to immediately duct tape his entire hoof and then put it in one of those boots that is used to protect the hoof when a shoe is lost.  Bruno’s hoof wall is still so thin, it cannot hold up to any type of abuse, even just walking around on soft ground.

It was another balmy day with heat indexes over 100 as we stood and held horses for Roland to shoe.  By the time Roland left, Lauren and I were both tired.  We might not have been paying a lot of attention to the usual details of closing the barn at night.

On clear nights, Snow, Mickey and Feather go out all night in main pasture.  Bruno is locked in his paddock, which is covered in case a stray shower heads our way.  To keep ol’Kid safe from Bruno pushing him around all night, Kid goes in the paddock in front of the main stalls.

We try not let any horse but Kid in this area.  As Roland told me, it is supposed to be a barn not a green house, but I have enjoyed planting climbing vines and hanging baskets full of flowers from the front of the barn.  Also, the cats have their food out which Snowboy would clearly eat (and did) when he had a chance.

Snowboy sneaking a snack of cat food!

Snowboy sneaking a snack of cat food!

We put Kid in his paddock, turned off the fans, locked the tackroom, closed the hay room, double checked the water troughs and went in to the much-anticipated air conditioning. Kid can be trusted not to bother anything.

This morning at my usual 4:00 am I let the dogs out the back of the house and immediately noticed the barn had all the lights on.  I rushed to Lauren’s room, thinking there had been some barn emergency I had been lucky enough to sleep through.  “Why are there lights on in the barn?”  I demanded.  She looked up sleepily from her bed with no comprehension of what I was talking about.  Then I got scared.  What if someone was out there?  Although, that would be pretty stupid, why would you turn on all the lights if you were planning to attack someone?

As I came around the corner of the house I saw Bruno looking at me from the gate (he was back-lit like a giant statue in the blazing lights of the barn).  However, he was on Kid’s side of the paddock, not his.  And what a time he had!  Sometime during the night he had gotten through the connecting gate of the two paddocks.  He literally reached in and pulled all my plants out of their pots and left them strung along the fence.  The cat food was a thing of the past.  We had bags of shavings stacked next to the main gate, just under all the industrial light switches that have a toggle switch instead of a normal up and down switch.  The bag of shavings was torn open and the lights and fans turned on.  Perhaps the industrial lighting switch company can use this in their advertising, ‘so simple even your horse can turn on the switches’.  I am not sure that is really an asset. I got the morning feed and literally had to drag Bruno back over to his side of the paddock and his own stall.  Apparently he likes all the attractions on Kid’s side of fence.  I guarantee we will be triple checking the chains on that gate tonight.  That’s after I have gotten all the plants re-potted and bought some more cat food.  Oh, Bruno!

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!

Bruno Advice-A Bruno Story


From the artist Amber Brooks comes a symbol of the loves of my life-animal anyway-with the Poodle and the thoroughbred.

From the artist Amber Brooks comes a symbol of the loves of my life-animal anyway-with the Poodle and the thoroughbred.

I just received the above watercolor drawing today. I LOVE it. It seems to sum up what is near and dear to my heart. What a talent this Georgia lady is. She owns poodles and horse like I.

From a conversation on my office about how siblings have the same genetics yet turn out so uniquely, so can be true in the thoroughbred world. Thoroughbreds are (usually) thoughtfully bred to produce the best assets a breeder can give them through choice of sire, dam and the rest of the relatives as well. I have blogged before about Bruno (registered name-Fiddler’s Pilgrim) being well-bred with AP Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat and others. I just had never spent too much time looking at his dam’s side of the family.

Today I glanced at the pedigree once again. I realized while his grand-sire on one side was AP Indy (pictures in blog further back) I had not noticed that his maternal grand-sire was Hansel. Hansel was a top horse as well-most would say greater than AP. Winning two legs of the Triple Crown (the Preakness and Belmont) and many other big stake races.

Bruno's great grandsire, Hansel.

Bruno’s great grandsire, Hansel.

It was a little difficult to come to grips with such a prestigous horse with so many famous relatives, rolling in the mud at my little place in Wharton. Talk about a long way from New York. The fun of the OTTBs is their great heritage and lineage.

I texted my friend and sometimes farrier, Sean, who grew up in the thoroughbred world, his grandmother one of the first female managers of a large track in the US. He has also spent time as a jockey. He rode AP Indy. I texted him about Hansel. He replied that having Hansel and AP Indy as your grandfathers is pretty much Thoroughbred royalty. I gave him a little update about how Bruno was doing, that we were starting training and even had done a few jumps

I love dry humor. I received Sean’s text back. He told me Bruno was bred to run, that he was a great horse. I certainly agreed with him. He had ridden the great AP Indy and gave Lauren some tips previously. Then he made me laugh out loud with his final comment. ” I would suggest one thing when you get that horse back in shape and ready for the jumper ring, GO SLOW!! That is one horse that was born for speed and Lauren better never let Bruno take off with her. GO SLOW!”

Absolutely made my day. It is kind of like in the Disney movie, Secretariat, when jockey Ronnie has clearly won the Belmont race and his trainer yells, “Ronnie, don’t fall off”.

I can just see me in the stands watching Bruno and Lauren attack a big jumper course and me yelling., ‘Remember, go slow!”