I came in from feeding the horses one morning in early July when I received a text from my friend Linda asking me if I heard about Weather Wiz. A pit sank into my stomach. I wrote back that I hadn’t and to please tell me. She told me to contact Lisa. I asked her to tell me, that I wanted the band-aid ripped off. I feared he broke down during a breeze, and I didn’t want to contact someone else to hear about it.
She wrote back saying, “You got Wiz.”
I sat stunned for I’m not sure how long.
For quite awhile I’ve offered a home to Weather Wiz through his former owner Centennial Farms, but his present owner/trainer was not interested in retiring him each time they reached out to him. After getting that text from Linda, I called Lisa. I honestly wondered if I was being punked I was in such shock. Centennial reached out two weeks ago, and he once again declined the offer. Lisa answered my call, told me the story, and I guess Jamie Ness (owner/trainer) told a friend of hers, “Tell Centennial I will give him to that woman who wants him.” That woman was me, and I was incredulous.
Next I called Danielle from Turning For Home who was the one that spoke to Ness. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed to meet outside of Denver on July 15th where I would meet Wiz for the first time. She was traveling with her niece up to Wyoming for a competition.
My husband stayed behind to take care of the horses and dogs, and I packed up and headed east. It was a hot day and I was making good time until I got east of Glenwood Springs. There I hit the weekend traffic heading to the mountains or Denver, and we all found ourselves in a monsoon downpour. Traffic crawled. Seeing Wiz was delayed by an hour at the least. I grew irritable.
I’ve watched Weather Wiz since his first race at Belmont back in 2017. He is by Tiznow, who is a California bred horse and won two memorable Breeder’s Cups back to back. He is the first and only horse to do that. Tiznow is a special horse that found a huge place in my heart during his racing days. He had this grit, such heart, and he seemed to pass that on to his offspring. Also, when Mojo was supposedly abandoned in some field in Oklahoma, he was found with a Tiznow mare. When Mojo died, I swore I would take in another Uncle Mo or a Tiznow in honor of him. Before I left for the Front Range to pick up Wiz, I realized the day I would meet Wiz was also the anniversary of when Shandoka died. It seemed that I was coming full circle on both tragic losses.
When I finally hit the plains, I couldn’t wait to get to him. My nerves were frayed, and the temperature boiled at 98 degrees. When I exited the freeway, I realized I was in the middle of nowhere. As I looked around it seemed that everyone but a few farms sold off their water. Brown, burnt grass sizzled under the hot sun all around. What used to be thriving farms was now dried up, barren land.
Following the directions, I was surprised to see that I did drive by a weather station that looked like a gigantic golf ball. A short ways down the road, I turned left into the motel where I found other people staking out their spots for the night in a dirt field covered with sparse, brown grass. Butterflies fluttered. All I wanted to do was get to Wiz, but first I had to park where the owners of the horse hotel wanted me to. I got out and headed straight for Wiz where I found him in the back barn. He was tired, worn, and dehydrated from the long trip from Maryland. Laying on the floor of his stall he gave me a look that said, “Get me out of here.”
I pushed a full tube of electrolytes into him to treat the dehydration, which got him up on his feet within ten minutes. He looked straight into my eyes and buried his head in my chest; I held his head while kissing him on his neck.
“Let’s get out of this stall,” I whispered to him.
It was 98 outside but much warmer inside the barn that was filled with stale and heavy air. Nothing circulated. The owners were kind and hung a fan for him when they realized he needed some help. We walked through a small arena to an open area where a gentle, hot wind blew. I hoped the monsoons would come.
His tired yet gentle eyes filled with interest as we watched an elderly man strolling around his yard with his elderly dog. He was fascinated with them as they plodded along on his green grass.
I took him back to his stall where he drank down quite a bit of water over the next few hours. Relief eased my wrinkled brow. I went back to the truck to haul more water for him when I saw the monsoons. They’re coming.
I headed back, pulled him out of his stall, and we went back to the opening in the arena. The breeze cooled and the sky poured a blissful rain upon the parched plains. Wiz and I stood in the mist and he let out a long sigh. We stood there or walked around gently for almost an hour. When it was dark and time for sleep, he hadn’t pooped due to the dehydration, I worried about him becoming impacted, although he drank a lot of water since I arrived.
I went to the truck, got my mat, bedding, and some banamine just in case. The closest vet was an hour away. I unrolled my mat and bedding on the floor next to Wiz’s stall. I plopped down from exhaustion. The sky ripped open and it rained hard for almost four hours. I was sure the ground would be mud, and I wondered how difficult it would be to drive out in the morning. The temperature dropped by twenty degrees, and I was lulled into a comfortable sleep listening to Wiz and all of the other horses munch on their hay.
Startled, I shot straight up after an hour of deep sleep; a horse violently kicked the side of one of the stalls. I jumped up to turn on the lights. This is when I finally noticed Pearl. How did I know her name? Her owner hung a sign with her name written in glitter on her stall.
Pearl is a Palomino mare, tall and wide, and she definitely was the queen of the barn. None of the geldings felt like taking her on. Her ears were pinned to the backside of her head, her eyes narrowed, and she bared her teeth at the thoroughbred next door to Wiz. She quickly turned her ass at this terrified horse, and kicked the stall wall that they shared extremely hard. I ran over to her to make sure her leg was still in tact. She upset all of the other horses who began to express themselves in different ways. The horse next to her began walking the stall. The horse directly across from her incessantly pawed the ground. Two other horses were trying to break out of their stalls. Wiz stayed pinned to the stall door next to me not moving.
The thoroughbred moved over by Wiz’s wall and the mare instantly perked up here ears and relaxed. Kindness returned to her eyes as her whole demeaner changed with the flick of a light switch. I went to the stall walker and nuzzled with him, went to the pawer and soothed his mind with some kind words, and went to the two that were sure they could break out. I stood with them until they returned to their feed. I walked back to Wiz reassuring him that all was well. He took a sip of water and returned to eating his hay.
I turned off the light and fell back to sleep. An hour later:
“Pearl, he is only trying to stretch his legs!”
I got up and repeated the above until everyone calmed down again. This happened every hour on the dot.
At 2am when Pearl started, I had it. I turned on the light, checked on Wiz, and stomped over to Pearl.
“Listen you, you’re not the only one in here with mare energy. I have more than enough to match yours. What are you going to do about it? Her ears instantly went up, and she walked over to me for some cuddles. I then went around calming everyone down before collapsing on my mat.
Wiz pooped. Finally. “We’re going to be okay buddy,” I whispered as I dozed off.
At 4am Pearl started up again. I looked at Wiz and said, “Let’s get out of here and go home.”
I normally would never do this with a horse I didn’t know, but Wiz and I had already been through a lot in the twelve hours we knew one another. I also wanted to get him home before the heat of the day boiled. A heat wave was moving in.
I calmed everyone down, rolled up my bedding, and I headed out to the truck in the darkness. Several generators were running, so I didn’t have to worry about waking anyone up. I slid open the main door to Wiz’s barn. I went into his stall, and I told him if this was too much for him, we would head back. We both looked at Pearl, and he seemed more than willing to go. I trusted our relationship.
We headed out of his barn into an open breezeway, through another barn, between two very long horse trailers with generators running, into a moonless night. We walked through a crunchy field to my truck when it dawned on me that despite all of the rain the ground was as hard as a rock, this drought is horrible. Without any hesitation he loaded in the trailer.
I kissed him on the nose and off we went. We drove easily through Denver, but instead of driving along I-70, we went on 285 through the mountains. We climbed passes, drove through beautiful forests with interesting rock formations, followed creeks and rivers, saw a herd of buffalo wandering through an old homestead on a wind swept, high mountain plain before we made the turn for home. The temperature stayed in the low 50’s the entire trip. Each time I stopped to check on him, he was bright eyed and chomping on hay.
After six hours, we pulled into our driveway. The other horses were snoozing in their stall avoiding the heat. When I put Wiz in his turnout area, Sueño came over to greet him. Ever since that moment Sueño has been his companion. They love one another.
Pearl exhausted me, exhausted all of those horses that night, but I honestly think Pearl is the reason why Wiz trusted me as we walked out to my truck in the dark. He knew I was his safety net, and I think we all wanted to escape Pearl. If he ever gets ornery, which happened one time, I tell him, “Don’t tell me you learned that from Pearl!”
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I walk outside and can’t believe he is here. I honestly never thought he would come here even though I never gave up. Seeing him each day brings a huge smile to my heart and soul. If you are offering a home to a thoroughbred that is currently racing, remember it takes time.
After resting and eating, I went out and stood with Wiz who was looking at the mountains., “You’re home Wiz. Those mountains are yours now.”
I want to thank Centennial Farms for believing in me and putting up with me when I began getting a bit nervous about Weather Wiz. I thank them for reaching out to Jamie Ness for me several times. I especially want to thank Julie who has always been kind to me. I want to thank my friend since the 3rd grade, Lisa, for listening to me as I planned this out. I also want to thank Susan, Lisa F, J, and Linda for being so supportive and being a bridge for bringing Wiz here. I want to thank my dear friend Heather and new friend Robbie for trying to help solve the bumps in the road. You’re the best. Thank you Athena for always having my back. I also want to thank Danielle reaching out to Ness and for bringing Wiz to the Wild West, and I want to thank Jamie Ness for retiring Wiz to me. Thanks Mom for being his cheerleader. Last and the best, I want to thank my husband for all of his support and understanding. Weather Wiz is so loved by Bill, the horses, our dogs and me.