The wind pounded us, assaulted us, and wore our minds out yesterday. It was unrelentless as a cold front pushed up against a warm front and they battled it out. I stood with the horses thinking about a warm, summer night walk with Weather Wiz.
When Weather Wiz arrived here, he of course wore shoes. If you know me, you know I am all about transitioning a thoroughbred to being barefoot, and I couldn’t wait to begin with Wiz.
One of the things I immediately noticed when I met Wiz was that he tripped a lot, because his hooves were landing toe first instead of heel first. He walked as if he wanted to go on pointe like a ballerina. Some people think this is the proper way for a horse to walk, but it is anything but. It causes a lot of destruction to the hoof. It tears the hoof wall away from the underlying structures weakening it, which can lead to issues such as laminitis. What causes a horse to do this? Usually it is because they are heel sore from an issue such as thrush, or worse, they can be navicular, etc. Also, wearing shoes constantly can cause this heel soreness to occur, and couple that with a horse that runs at incredibly fast speeds, and that pain only worsens. Imagine how you would walk if both of your heels were bruised? Probably toe first, and now imagine how much pain you foot and legs would be in from walking toe first all the time. This is what happens to horses.
When I looked at his heel bulbs, I saw that they were severely contracted with his heel bulbs butting up against one another and upwards. He definitely was heel sore. My first priority was to pull Wiz’s shoes.
He was such a good horse about letting me pull his shoes. I am not a big fan of pulling shoes with clips on them. It makes it a bit more challenging, but after pulling out a couple of nails, I was able to easily pull them off. He barely knew me, yet he stood perfectly still. After they were removed, I saw that his toes were bruised from the repeated toe landings. His heels were uneven, so I began to gently file on one of them when he pulled back violently on me terrified by the pain that I unknowingly inflicted upon him.
After I calmed him down and reassured him, I saw how the heel horns were blood red just underneath the surface. They were badly bruised. I could only use the fine side of the rasp gently to get his heels to the right height. I whispered to him, “I bet it hurt to run didn’t it buddy?”
The best thing for rehabilitation of sore heels and to encourage a heel-toe landing is to walk the horse. For the first two weeks he wore Cloud boots. After that he was fine to go barefoot. Each day Wiz and I went for walks four to five times a day all around our property. Not only was it great for his hooves and their healing, but it helped Wiz and I get to know one another.
I know Wiz enjoyed our walks, because he waits at the gate for me when it is time to go out. During the summer, we meandered all around as I learned what made him nervous, what sparked his curiosity, and how I never felt like he wanted to break free from me. I’ve never put a chain across his nose, or any of my horses for that matter, and I can walk him with a light feel on the lead rope. He is a joy to walk with.
We often stood together gazing in the distance at other horses, or he would play with me and the lead rope. Wiz loves to play, and he shows me that for training in the future, to always include some aspect of play into it. He also loves to hug. When he needs contact, he will gently rub his head all over you. He never pushes you, he is always gentle about it, and it is loving.
One thing I noticed the first month he was here was that he didn’t want to canter, didn’t want to trot, and galloping wasn’t even a thought in his mind. He always remained at the walk, because those heels were so sore.
When you first pull shoes off a horse, the hoof expands, because nothing is holding it into some predetermined shape anymore. Thus, I trim every two weeks to make sure that nothing becomes a fulcrum that can cause cracks or any further tearing of the hoof wall from the underlying structures. Each time I worked on him, those heels were red until we hit the month mark when two of the heels on his left front were normal. He didn’t even twitch when I rasped them.
Our last walk of the day during those warm, summer nights was always around 8pm. We would walk up to the top of the pasture, and listen to the water flow along the irrigation ditch before we headed back to his barn. I usually would unclip the lead rope and we would walk together at liberty.
One night I removed the lead rope like usual, but he didn’t follow me. Instead he watched me. I kept looking back to see if he moved. He didn’t. When I got within twenty feet of the gate, he gave me a look, arched his neck, and he opened up. He didn’t trot or canter, but he ran as if he busted out of the gate on some track in his memory. He ran straight for me. His hooves seemed to barely hit the ground, yet they made the sound of thunder. As he dropped lower, the wind tried to keep up with him as he flew through the air. My breath escaped me as I watched the racehorse within him return. He blew past me only to corner on a dime that a horse as a big as he is shouldn’t be able to do. He then trotted to me with his head held high, nostrils flaring, and tail raised. He touched his nose to mine.
“Wow! You are amazing Wiz,” I whispered as I stroked his neck.
I clicked the lead rope back on, and we walked back to the barn together both of us smiling.
Both Weather Wiz and Chaco are direct descendants of Man o’ War through the same line….In Reality.
Chaco is Texas bred. Chaco’s sire, Captain Countdown, is also Texas bred, and the fee to breed to him was $500.
Weather Wiz is Kentucky bred, and his sire is the great Tiznow, who was bred in California. His highest breeding fee was $75,00, and Tiznow stood in Kentucky at Winstar.
Chaco would be considered a low level claimer racing primarily in New Mexico, Arizona, and also in Texas. For the record there was nothing low level about Chaco.
Weather Wiz raced on the New York circuit before going to Gulfstream where he was claimed. He then raced on the mid-Atlantic circuit.
Chaco won five times, and he came in second six times as well as in third six times. He earned just over $48k.
Weather Wiz raced 33 times winning six times. He came in second eight times, and he came in third four times making almost $309k.
They both finished in the top three 17 times.
I told Wiz that their earnings should be equal since Chaco went down in a race, had two horses go over him, and he lived to tell the tale. Wiz agreed.
Similar stories with very different track experiences, both direct descendants of Man o’ War through In Reality, and they found each other here in Colorado.
Each morning they were together, and they became instantly close. Chaco taught him how to play and passed on his knowledge. Chaco was a lot like Wiz is today… racing for many years, coming off the track, and having to learn what being a horse with other horses was like without a human controlling their every movement. Chaco had a lot of knowledge to share, and often I saw Wiz intently listening and learning from Chaco.
Two warriors becoming the best of friends in a short time.
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.
I climbed on to Sueño’s back, and we began to move forward together. I was getting on his back for a couple of weeks, and we would move around bareback together. He was fine with it, had a good mind, and I was so excited about the future. Then a shadow approached us. I looked up, and before I could respond, a paraglider was directly above us by maybe thirty feet. Not only was he above us, but he was going up and down as if he was on a rollercoaster.
I felt Sueño’s entire body tighten up. His head flew up, his back tightened and hollowed, and his breath stopped. Somehow, he didn’t blow up like most horses would. I hopped off and stood next to him and did what my grandmother would have done. I shook my fist at the paraglider saying a few choice words. I walked Sueño around until he started to breath normally again. I went and got the brush running it all over his body. I then scratched his ears and jaws; all of his favorite things. It was my feeble attempt to try and end on a good note and not let that paraglider affect his young, green mind.
The next day I went out, got on him, and he let me stay there. He didn’t try to buck me off, bolt, or anything like that. Instead, what he did actually seemed a bit worse. He wouldn’t take one step forward. His head dropped towards the ground as I listened to him grind his teeth. He grabbed hold of the reins and chewed and chewed. All signs that he was thoroughly stressed. I hopped off and loved on him until he calmed down.
The paragliders were becoming a major problem for my horses. They flew over them each day after the infamous crash, and I noticed that all of my horses were chewing their sides incessantly, which meant ulcers. I called and asked my neighbor to ask them to not fly over my horses again, I put my horses on Gut X and sucralfate, and they all got a month off. I then had my appendix removed, so they got a few more weeks off. After their teeth were done, I decided it was time for all of us to get back to work.
Sueño seemed to be back to normal. No more chewing or grinding his teeth. We moved through everything easily as we refreshed all that he learned before the incident. I thought it was time to bring out the mounting block after a few weeks to see how he felt about me getting on him. I never did get on him. I still haven’t.
Each time I was about to get on, his breathing would either stop or become rapid. His body tensed as his head flew up. He looked for the lead rope to chew on. This is not what I wanted to see at all. I put getting on his back on hold as we went back to other groundwork challenges. Meanwhile I kept trying to figure out other ways to work with him; a different approach that would help him relax.
The problem was that now he was afraid of me being higher than him. He associated it with the paraglider flying directly above him. Every different approach I tried did not ease his fear. Each time he held his breath. Yes, I could have gotten on him and rode him through it, but what would the ramifications of that be? Would he get ulcers again? Would I be bucked off? If you skip a step where there is tension, it always comes back to haunt you.
Lying in bed I remembered a documentary I watched years ago called Taming Wild by Elsa Sinclair. The documentary is about giving a wild mustang the choice as to whether or not to allow someone to ride on her back. In it, Elsa gets on the back of the mustang once, and the horse seems to completely accept her. However, the next day and many days and weeks after that, she said, “No way.” Sinclair realized that whenever she stood on a stump to get on her, the horse held her breath. Instead of getting on her, she stood next to her on the stump until she finally let out a sigh, and that would be the end of their work for the day. Each day it took less time before the horse sighed, and then finally one day she let Sinclair get on her again.
“This is it!” I exclaimed in the darkness.
The next day, without a lead rope or any way to stop Sueño from walking away, he followed me to the mounting block, and I slowly climbed up alongside him. I stood facing his head with my hand resting on his back. We stood together like that for a half hour. He never walked away, but he did hold his breath. Then he began breathing fast….held his breath….breathing fast….. began shaking his head….for 3o minutes. I stood still and let him work through it. Finally, I felt him rest his hindleg, and he let out a deep, long sigh. I scratched his entire back, hopped off the mounting block and scratched the area in front of his ears; his favorite. We have been doing this six days a week, and the amount of time is getting shorter and shorter.
Then today happened.
I gathered up Sueño to work with him, and we were successfully going through some of his suppling exercises. I was so happy at how things were going, and I even had the idea of possibly getting on his back today.
Across from my hay field, my neighbors planted rows and rows of corn. Today a helicopter came to spray the fields with fertilizer. In order to spray the neighbor’s field, the helicopter has to fly over a portion of our property when he turns around. He comes close to where the horses are.
I am no fan of helicopters after a friend died in one, but I knew that this was a really good training opportunity. So, without a lead rope on, I took him over to the mounting block. I climbed up and stood alongside Sueño with my hand resting on his back. He leaned into me gently; not to push me off but to seek comfort I believe. He began moaning, and at the end of the moan, he blew out his nose. He did this three times. He has never done this before. I could have jumped off the block to comfort him, but I felt it was important to let him do it; let him work through it. Each time he blew out his nose and shook his head. I felt like he was releasing his fear of anything being above him, so I stood in that space with him.
What did I feel, I felt peaceful. I felt humbled by the fact that he leaned into me for support. I was in awe of his courage and willingness to stand with me, to trust me as this helicopter approached us over and over.
Then the helicopter looked like it was about to fall out of the sky on to a house not far from my hay field, but somehow he landed in the field across the street. Sueño took it all in stride. In fact, he rested his hindleg, was breathing normal, and finally let out a big sigh. I immediately hopped off and walked away from the mounting block. He followed me and buried his head into my arms where I held his head telling him how much I loved him.
I think we had a breakthrough, but I won’t know until tomorrow and the coming days. What I can say is when you have an opportunity like this, take it. I could have told myself to wait until the helicopter was gone. I knew it was a gift, so I accepted it. What I learned today is that sometimes it’s not about action and movement, but about standing there, breathing calmly with your horse, and providing your horse the space to work through an issue with you by their side.
I had a dream. My horse Shandoka, who died four years ago, was standing inside a barn with another horse. I wasn’t sure who the horse was. He didn’t look like Mojo or any of my horses. He was thin and tired. I approached him to say hello, but each time I tried, Shandoka herded him away from me. I finally saw the other horse’s face, and he had an interesting white blaze down his face. The phrase, “Not now,” entered into my mind as I woke up. In a few days I would know for sure that this was Mintz.
When I began writing this, Fish Trappe Road was on his way to Connecticut after a long stint racing in Puerto Rico. He is a stakes winning racehorse that somewhere along the line found himself on a ship to Puerto Rico to race at Camarero. This is usually a one way ticket for for horses as most never make it back to the states. Luckily, after a lot of effort by many, especially by Kelley Stobie of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare and Sherrie Courtney of Racing For Home, they were able to secure his retirement. Fisher is now at his forever home in Connecticut with my friend Sherrie Courtney.
A horse on my radar needed help as well and fast. This is the story ab0ut how a bunch of people came together to help a horse by Candy Ride named Mintz who also ended up on a boat to Puerto Rico and nearly raced to his death.
I had my eye on Mintz for a long time, and while CTA worked feverishly to raise money to get FTR and nine other thoroughbreds back to the states, I worried about Mintz. He hadn’t raced in two months after he was scratched on January 28th. Horses in Puerto Rico often run every two weeks, and if they can’t, it’s not good for them.
On October 10, 2021, Royal Flag won the Beldame at Belmont. She is by Candy Ride as is Mintz. Mintz raced a few days later finishing third. Even though it was third, there was something about the way he moved that bothered me. I went out to spend time with Dulce, who is also by the great Candy Ride. I looked deep into his eyes, and he buried his head into my heart. It is something he does, a moment that I love, and I thought about Royal Flag and Mintz on such different stages. It was a moment that caused me to walk back into the house and make a commitment to Mintz. I wrote to my friend Chrissy who works with CTA asking if anyone had vouched for him. Nobody had so I filled out the paperwork. He raced three more times in Puerto Rico and vanished.
When FTR was in quarantine awaiting to leave for Miami, I wrote to Kelley about Mintz. The dream haunted me, and my red flag wasn’t just waving; it was in a gale force wind. Two months and still not a race. When he was scratched back in December, Mintz had a bout of colic. I wondered if he did again and was put down.
She wrote back after speaking with the owner saying he still had Mintz. He didn’t state why he wasn’t racing however. Kelley reminded the owner that he had a home when he was ready to retire him. Although, I was relieved to hear that Mintz was alive, my red flag was still up and flying hard. I kept asking silently for the forces that be to help this horse.
The following Friday Kelley wrote asking me to call. This is when I learned about Mintz’s condition. She would be sending me x-rays. FTR was preparing to fly out the next day. Filled with joy and anxiety at the same time for these two horses, I planned on where to put Mintz. I decided he could go by Chaco, and they could be companions for one another. I would loop his corral around, so he could intermingle with the other horses including his half brother Dulce over the fence. They are the same age, and how great would it be for them to be together?
Then the x-rays came, and I received some scary news. He was bad lame. The x-rays looked pretty bad, so I sent them off to several racing vets and my surgeons for their opionion. They were going to put him down that Friday morning, but Kelley stopped them saying that he had a home with me. If I never would have asked Kelley to check on him, he would have been put down.
Mintz was purchased by Centennial Farms for $320,000 at the Keenland September sale as a yearling. He won his second time out, and stayed up in the Northeast for awhile. To be honest with you, I’m not sure Mintz was ever a fan of racing, but that didn’t matter; he had a loyal fan base. There were good races and not so good races. I watched him from afar with a special place in my heart, because I am a huge fan of Candy Ride. Also, I liked Centennial Farms. They seemed like a good organization that truly cared for their horses. He traveled south to Gulfstream where he was put in a claiming race, and that is when he fell into the devil’s hands; the Navarro barn. The Navarro barn claimed Mintz and another horse named Wonder In.
Jorje Navarro was arrested with several others in a big drugging scandal. He bragged about all of the horses that died in his care due to these drugs. All of us horse racing people immediately think about X Y Jet who died from a massive heart attack in his care. The FBI has wire taps where Navarro bragged about drugging X Y Jet, so as I write this, I have no doubt that Mintz was a victim of who knows what kind of drugs that Navarro raced his horses on. They can not be detected by present day tests, and who knows what the long term health effects will be on these horses.
Mintz raced for Navarro three times. The third time he finished second to last. I wonder if this is when a problem emerged. Maybe he came back slightly lame. Maybe some x-rays were taken, and instead of retiring him as he should have been, Navarro shipped him off to Puerto Rico instead like he did with numerous other horses.
The last time he raced in the states was July 11th, 2020, and the first time he raced at Camarero in Puerto Rico was Christmas Day in 2020. Why was there such a long space between races? The journey to Puerto Rico from Florida is a long and tortuous trip for horses. Mintz, like hundreds and hundreds of other horses, traveled by cargo ship in a metal container with windows cut out of it. The container was forty feet long, had small, wooden dividers, and a fan in one corner. They have some hay and water. He probably traveled with eleven or more horses in it, and none of them had any room to turn around or lie down. The horses usually arrive 50 to 75 pounds lighter due to dehydration and/or pneumonia. Due to the cramped space and inability to move, he may have landed in Puerto Rico with injuries.
For whatever reason, it was six months before his racing career started at Camarero. He raced sixteen times often two weeks apart. We all watched from afar hoping somehow he would make it back to the states. Since he often finished in the top four, that didn’t seem likely. Lately, I saw Mintz struggle. I saw him run well in the beginning but fade. This made that red flag of mine wave harder and harder until I finally found out from Kelley that he was about to be put down.
After a lot of consideration and guilt, I realized that if I brought him here, he would be in worse shape. I live in Colorado by Utah. In between Denver and where I live it is all mountains and valleys filled with steep passes and winding roads littered with hairpin turns on steep grades, which would be hard for a horse in his condition. He has osteoarthritis in his left fetlock, an osselet, and his suspensory is compromised. In the video that was sent to me, I saw a horse in a lot of pain. The further he walked, the more ouchy he appeared, and turning was a challenge for him. His hips don’t track well, which I believe is his way to compensate for the pain in both front ankles, which are huge. Coming to Colorado could be his end. I had to admit coming here first was not a good idea, and the guilt that flooded me was suffocating. I called my friend Sherrie hoping we could figure something out.
This is where Sherrie from Racing for Home enters into the story. As I mentioned, she runs a fantastic OTTB Non Profit having rescued and rehomed many. She is taking in Fish Trappe Road, and she and I wanted to give Mintz a chance. She hatched a plan. She found a person that could foster him where it would be much easier for Mintz to travel to. This sealed the deal for me even though I was riddled with guilt still. Sherrie found the best solution. He can rest and heal, and if it is determined in 6 or more months that he can travel here, we will do that. He now has his soft landing.
Acacia Courtney Clement, who is also on the Racing for Home Board, would be attending the Ocala Sales, so she planned on talking with Centennial Farms to see if they would be interested in helping bring Mintz home. When she spoke with the President, Donald Little, there was no pause, no hesitation….only a yes. Centennial said that they would pay for his flight back and help with vet bills as we rehabilitate Mintz.
I want to underline how amazing this is, and how much I appreciate Centennial from the bottom of my heart. Mintz never made them that much money. They could have easily said no, but instead they are eager to bring him back and give him what he needs. I’ve helped rescue several horses, and there have been times that the owners and/or breeders either never responded or said no to helping out. Centennial Farms didn’t even blink an eye at the cost to fly him home. We will forever be grateful to Centennial for their help. Their participation in this village along with Acacia’s of support for Mintz was crucial, and this needs to be lauded from the highest of mountain tops. Instead of fundraising and trying to get him home, he already has his plane ticket.
Next step was where could he have time to rest before traveling to Connecticut? Clement Stables, who never had anything to do with Mintz, offered to send him a private farm in Ocala, Florida for two weeks. There he will be treated like royalty. He will be able to graze and relax. He will be seen by some of the best vets, and this is when many decisions will be made.
Rescue can be messy, and there is often no black and white. Instead there are all shades of colors that paint a picture that is rarely perfect. So many nights are spent in the barn with the horses to make sure they see the light of the next day. I slept outside with Dulce for three weeks until we got him through the worst of his gut issues. There are so many highs and lows on the journey to wellness, and Mintz will have many of those.
At first we thought we were flying him home to put him to sleep, but after seeing him and his personality, we have hope that we can rehabilitate him. Sherrie is in the perfect location to give him what he needs. Tufts University is an hour and a half a way. She has an excellent vet, and he will be given every opportunity to be the horse that he can be.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from horses is that I can have a goal in my mind as to what I want to achieve with my horse as I walk into the arena. However, there really is no “I”, and often my goals are reimagined as my horse communicates his needs. We may all have a goal to get Mintz pasture sound and live a good life, but along the way he may tell us that he needs something else. If the vets believe that we can’t help him, we will do right by him. All of us came together for him….not because we want anything from him at all….but for him. We want to give him a chance, dignity, and love in whatever shape or form he needs.
As I’m writing this, he is going into quarantine, and on April 1st he will fly to Miami. I have hopes that one day he will find his way here, but I’ve surrendered that idea. Whatever is best for him is all that matters to me. If he does make it here, he will have a run next to Chaco. They will be called the Blister Buddies, since they were both blistered while racing. It will loop around, so he can visit with his brother out of another mother, Dulce. Sueño can teach him how to play, while Harley will help him adjust to and get to know all of the wildlife that moves through with the changing seasons. No matter where he will be he will have a home thanks to Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, Sherrie Courtney and Acacia Courtney Clement of Racing For Home, Centennial Farms, his Foster, Kinsman Farm, and Clement Stables.
Mintz has a fantabulous village. I have a good feeling. Growing up in racing you always look for a good sign. He went into quarantine on the anniversary of my grandparents’ wedding. He flies home on the 21st anniversary of my first date with my husband.
Mintz is coming home everyone, and he will be in great hands every step of the way.
UPDATE: Mintz will not be able to come here. His leg cannot support the long trip through the mountains. He has arrived at Racing for Home in Connecticut where he will receive the best of care. He already has received an injection into his left fetlock and had an acupuncture treatment, both of which have done him wonders. He gets to go for a hand graze on beautiful grass each day for fifteen minutes. He is loving his new life.
Please consider going to these sites to thank everyone for their efforts in helping Mintz on his healing journey. They need to know how appreciated they are. During a time when all is focused on the negative, they all are doing what we want to see in racing…..caring for the horse….putting the horse first.
I also want to thank his foster for providing him a safe spot to land and heal. He will have a lot of vet bills, and we need to raise funds for his boarding. If you would like to donate to his ongoing care, please go to: https://racingforhomeinc.com/donate/
Please give a lot of thanks to Kelley, Chrissy, and Shelley at Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare. The work they do is beyond any words. To say that they are in the trenches of rescue is an understatement, and they need all the support they can get to keep up the rescue work they do. You can thank them on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaribbeanOTTB and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/horserescue, and if you would like to make a much needed donation to bring more thoroughbreds home, please go to https://www.ctahorse.com/
Finally, I would like to thank Kathryn Papp https://twitter.com/kathrynpapp, Elizabeth Yarberry, and my surgeons at Roaring Fork Equine Medical Center for all of their help. I will always be grateful to you.
I hopped out of the truck, walked over to my horse trailer about to drop Dulce’s window when I came to a dead stop. I slowly turned around to look into the eyes of a very big bull.
I hopped out of my truck, walked over to my horse trailer about to drop Dulce’s window when I came to a dead stop. I slowly turned around to look into the eyes of a very big bull. There is a rule around here to never get off your horse around cattle, but my horse was in the trailer. He took a few steps towards me as we stood there looking into each others’ eyes.
The last time I was this close to a bull on the ground was when I was ten years old. My brother and I went to visit my grandparents up in Oregon. My grandpa needed to move the cattle into another pasture. I never saw him ride a horse, and he did everything on the ground with his cattle. He told me that the bulls would be scared of me since they didn’t know me. It was his version of a joke I guess as this bull charged after me. I ran for my life screaming for help while he laughed. I flew over the fence only to hit the hot wire with my right arm. My grandpa kept it turned it up all the way due to the bulls always knocking down fence, so my arm buzzed for the rest of the day into the night. I’m not a fan of bulls.
“I don’t eat red meat buddy, so you need to be nice to me.” He took a few steps closer. I wasn’t sure if I should run to the door of my truck risking him pinning me or stand there. “Why does this stuff happen to me?” I moaned.
I stood there and looked into his eyes. He didn’t seem aggressive at all. Behind him I saw that there were several cows in the old BLM corral with the gate wide open. There was no grass in there at all. In fact there is hardly anything for these guys to eat in this drought in the forest. I wondered if they went in there because they were scared by a bear or mountain lion, or if they hoped a truck would come get them and take them to food.
What I saw in his eyes haunted me. I felt like I carried the same look in my own. He pawed at the dirt that should be grass, and not being able to help him, I climbed back into my truck. I rolled my window down and told him, “Don’t worry, someone will come to check on you soon. Maybe you can be moved to the next section.” I drove off feeling guilty at not being able to do anything for him.
I drove to another place that would be a good spot to ride Dulce, which was much farther up the road. I kept thinking about that bull. I felt like him….as if I’m standing there trying to protect everyone yet helpless to do anything. I’m waiting and waiting for something to change, but this drought is affecting my life on so many levels personally; not just physically.
All sorts of thoughts roamed through my mind; thoughts not good before a ride. When I pulled over, I took a few breaths, reminded myself that Dulce needed me completely present, cleared my mind, and I hopped out of the truck again. No cows or bulls anywhere.
Dulce and I had a great second trail ride through the forest. I am in awe of him and how brave he is. When I literally climb on him, he stands so calm waiting for me to get myself situated. He walks off with his ears perked and confidant. I point him in any direction, and off he goes. He has no problem pushing through brush, trees, climbing over logs, walking by uprooted trees where the roots are taller than we are, weird looking rocks; he takes it all in stride.
I don’t even know how to describe how amazing it is to sit on a horse like him. I can feel his power, his strength, his ability to take off at a full run in a split second, yet he chooses to work with me in this silent partnership. It humbles me all the time, and cracks my heart open filling it with an indescribable euphoric joy. I love working with OTTB’s. I love retraining them if that is even the right word. Maybe it is more repartnering with them? Because, no horse will do what you hope unless they are willing to; and that comes from developing a relationship.
When we get back, he loads up on the first try. Woohoo! I get back in the truck, and I decide to stop and see what brand that bull and cows have. Maybe I’ll recognize who they belongs to, but when I get there, they all are gone. I hope they went to the one water hole in the area.
I head down the long, winding road home, and all sorts of thoughts crowd in again that I’ve been trying to avoid. Mojo again….what would he have been like on the trail? Awesome I know. Will Dulce’s gut recover well from this ride? Dreams…my husband often asks me what I want to be when I grow up. I tell him that I have no dreams anymore. I simply want to get through each day with healthy, happy horses and dogs. I’ve given up on my dreams for the horses, because each time I try to aim for something, it all goes wrong…Shandoka when I started him on barrels, Chaco when I started training him for Dressage….Mojo….and now I worry that Dulce’s gut can’t handle the stress of doing anything. I would rather he be healthy than anything go wrong for my hopes and dreams.
Maybe the bull wasn’t being desperate for help. Maybe he was showing me that even during this horrible drought, he has hope that help will come…..that things can change, and that this dark cloud can transform.
Then the question that a lot of people asked me recently is do I plan on getting another horse strolls into my brain. Well, I think about that a lot. Mojo was perfect, because he was a year younger than Dulce, and he and Dulce really liked one another. The fact of the matter is I don’t know how long Harley will be here with us; he’s 20. I hope he lives another fifteen or more years, but who knows if that’s possible. Chaco’s stifle injury on the track has probably shortened his life as much as I hate to admit that (I don’t want to admit to it at all.). I often wonder how long his left hind leg will hold out compensating for the right. The Pentosan, Glucosamine, and Hyaluronic Acid have really helped him out. He is standing more square, and he rests his left leg more often. However, winter….uggh….winter. It’s so hard on him that last winter I almost packed up the horses and dogs to go camp in the desert until the Arctic cold moved on. Dulce can’t handle being alone at all. Harley can’t either. Chaco is the only one that remains somewhat calm.
Watching Dulce struggle after Mojo died, his gut issues flaring back up, I know that yes, I need to get another horse one day, because he and Chaco are joined at the hip. He really needs to have another buddy if Chaco goes before he does to literally survive that. The same goes for losing Harley. Yes, I want to get another Off Track Thoroughbred. They have my heart. They always have since I was a baby. I believe thoroughbreds give so much of themselves for our enjoyment that I need to give back to them in whatever way I can one at a time.
I would love to get another Uncle Mo gelding in honor of Mojo. Mojo and I weren’t done, so I would love to get one of his siblings….to keep at least one of them from ending up in a bad situation like he did; it would be my way of giving back to Mojo what he gave to us in his short time with us. If not an Uncle Mo, maybe an Indian Charlie (sire of Uncle Mo) or an Afleet Alex, which was Mojo’s damsire. If a Tiznow appeared, I would definitely consider taking one in since Mojo was abandoned in a field with a Tiznow mare. Of course I will bring home whatever horse speaks to me the most like my others have. Maybe in the Fall or next Spring a horse will find me. If you know of any racehorse (gelding) that is related to Mojo that needs a home, please let me know.
After Mojo died, a friend sent me winnings she bet on a horse the day that Mojo died. The horse’s name is Got Mojo. She told me to do whatever I wanted with it. I’ve held on to the check not feeling right about accepting it. I thought about tearing it up, so she could donate it to another horse or rescue. I went back and forth on it until I came to this realization that one day I need to get another horse.
My husband and I decided to cash it, and we are going to build another horse stall with it. If a horse doesn’t call out to me in the future, then Harley won’t have to share his barn with Dulce. He likes to have a lot of space to himself…lol. Ever since Shandoka died, that area of the barn belongs to him, and he reluctantly shares it with Dulce. Whatever may happen, I believe that by building this extra stall, another horse will come be with us one day.
Driving up the winding road to the Plateau I wondered what the heck I was doing. My horses need to be worked, and my mind isn’t in the right place to work them. I’m misplacing everything, tripping over things that aren’t there, and find my brain zoning out more times than I can count. My mind is a scattered mess, yet here I am driving up this ridiculously long hill. Take Dulce for a walk my friend said.
Dulce is a high energy horse, and if I don’t work him, he turns his energy towards my other two in annoying ways. Before Mojo passed, I took Dulce up top for a few walks to introduce him to the smells and challenges of riding through the forest. I like to walk my horses in the beginning, so I can see what spooks them or if they eye something for too long. This way it allows me to identify what to work with them on at home, and I can work with them in the moment on the ground. I think this helps them develop courage to explore, but it also shows them that I won’t ask them to do something that I’m not willing to do with them. It builds trust between us. The only thing that seems to bother Dulce is bodies of water. I think it’s more the smells of all the wild animals around the water that gets to him. I knew the perfect place to go, so taking my friend’s advice, here I am driving up the hill to take Dulce for a walk.
My hands grip the steering wheel tight causing my fingers to tingle. I want to turn around and go home. What if something goes wrong with the other two while we’re gone? I’m not ready for this, but there is no place to turn around easily with a horse trailer. I keep going. I hit the dirt; the road is rough rattling my nerves to all new highs. I put on Bluesville, and Howling Wolf is belting out Backdoor Man.
“You men eat your dinner, eat your pork and beans I eat more chicken than any man ever seen, yeah, yeah I’m a back door man”
I sing along when I hit washboard in the hairpin turns. Are you kidding me? They were fixing these a couple of weeks ago. I have much further to go, but the forest is beautiful today. I don’t have to do the whole walk I tell myself. We can do a small portion of it and then go home. At least I got us both out. It’s a step
Oh man, this can not be happening! I come up behind the grater that supposedly fixes all the washboard roads. There is a huge pile of dirt down the middle of the road as far as the eye can see, so I can’t pass him without possibly flipping the horse trailer on its side. He is going two miles an hour. John Lee Hooker is singing House Rent Boogie.
“I’m tired of keepin’ this movin’ every night I can’t hold out much longer Now I got this rent, now let’s get together, y’all Let’s have a ball”
We crawl up towards the Divide Road, and at this pace it will take me forever to get to our spot. I give up and pull off at this a spot that I always want to go. There is a nice trail across the road, but since I have the dogs with me, that option is out. Cars drive too fast on this section of road. I figure I’ll walk him around this one little spot, and then we’ll load up for home.
By this time, my nerves are fried, and Dulce needs me to be calm for him. I am anything but. I unload him, get the dogs out, and focus on my breath to try and slow it and my mind down. Usually, within the first five minutes of each ride Dulce has a spazz out moment where he lets out his stress/excitement before he settles down and focuses on the work at hand. I waited for it, and waited, and waited, and it never comes. In fact, we walked together on a loose rein immediately. He gave me time to spazz out and calm down. We reversed roles.
What I thought was a small path along a private fence turned out to be a big path deep into the forest. I never knew this existed, and it is the perfect path for a horse beginning to learn how to trail ride in the forest. The only challenge is that it’s at 9,200 feet, which is 3,200 feet higher than our home. I know this will challenge his lungs a bit. We take breaks as we walked along the path lined by Spruce’s and Aspens to give his lungs a chance to adjust. The air is heavy with the scent of forest. Each breath melts away my accumulated stress from the drive. I get a cellphone signal. I check my cameras, and Chaco and Harley are fine grazing away together.
Dulce took everything in with ease. We went off the trail and pushed through brush and over all size logs. He never hesitated at anything. He is so athletic and brave. We wind in between and around trees ducking under low branches, and he pushes through all of it gracefully. We get back on the trail and head further up. We could have headed back to the trailer, but now my curiosity is peaked. What is it like ahead?
We meandered on and off the trail exploring all sorts of obstacles. All we hear are birds calling out to one another from tree to tree. The wind is absent today as the light shimmers through the aspen leaves. Dulce and I walk side by side with one another when I realize how he is taking care of me. I’m part of his herd. I watched my horses take in Mojo on his terms willingly. They knew he struggled, and they accepted him and that struggle. When he died, they mourned him even though he was with us for a short time. I watched those three amigos take care of one another through it in all sorts of ways. Today I thought I was taking care of Dulce, but he is taking care of me. He’s allowing me to be where I need to be with him on my terms not asking for it to be any other way. Each time we venture out together, he amazes me. He is the most amazing being, and every moment with him is a blessing and a lesson in something. And people wonder why us horse people think horses are so amazing.
After walking three miles, I let him graze while the dogs explore an interesting scent. I look around in awe of the beauty shining through. Dulce rubs his head along my leg, and we head back. I see a man-made obstacle off the path, which usually can make a horse nervous. Horses know that man made stuff don’t belong in the forest. Dulce could care less about it. We walk around it in both directions. Nothing. He looks at me as if to say, “Seriously? This is all you’ve got?”
He easily loads into the trailer. “Okay, who are you? Where is Dulce?” I ask him as he takes a big bite of hay out of his feeder. Driving back home is easier and a bit faster. Stevie Ray Vaughan is singing Life By The Drop.
“Hello there my old friend Not so long ago it was till the end We played outside in the pourin’ rain On our way up the road we started over again”
When we finally head down the road to our home, when I’m coming down the hill, Harley spots my truck and comes running to the top part of the paddock nickering at Dulce welcoming him home. Chaco acts aloof, but the moment I drop Dulce’s window, he’s all happy. I unload Dulce and walk him in. I take off his halter to turn him loose. I expected him to run off to join them, but instead he lingers with me dropping his head into my chest. I hug his head in my arms kissing his poll. He lifts his head, looks me in the eyes, and makes his “Weeeeee” sound before he runs off to join Chaco and Harley.
If you’ve been following my blog, this is the next installment about Mojo who was rescued out of a kill pen. Lately, I’ve seen the mental toll the kill pen had on him.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that Vallier/Mojo is my newest OTTB to join the Reenchanted Horse Ranchita here in western Colorado. He was rescued out of a kill pen thanks to the many donations and retweeting and resharing of many people. Now he is here, and he is deeply loved and cared for. He is a gentle soul, and slowly I see more and more of his personality.
This week marked a milestone. He is now out of quarantine, and I thought he would be in the corral next to my other three horses by now. That’s what I wanted, but when I paid attention to him, my hopes for him had to be tossed out the window. So often we impose upon horses our desires for them instead of watching them to see where they’re at and what they need. He is telling me to put the brakes on things. Let’s take baby steps.
When he came here, I noticed several scabs on his hindquarters and hip area from being bit by other horses. When horses are experiencing anxiety, they let it out in all sorts of ways. Mojo is not a dominant horse; at least he hasn’t shown me that side yet. My guess is that in order to survive in there, he constantly moved to get away from the others as they bit him on his rump. Now, instead of wanting to be with other horses, he is scared of the thought. Horses are herd animals, so they usually want to be together. This is different, and it makes me sad for him that he isn’t dragging me over to them each day.
He is fine if I’m standing with him and there is a fence and distance between him and my other horses. He wants to feel like he can get away. Chaco and Dulce are very playful and mischievous. Chaco is a hand taller than he is, so he seems more dominant even though he tends to be a more submissive horse. Dulce, the same size as Mojo, on the other hand is very dominant, and I believe one day will be the leader of the herd. However, he is also very kind and loving, and his relationship with Harley and Chaco proves that. I can see how he may not like sharing Chaco with Mojo though. Harley is presently the boss of them all, and he does not like sharing his hay with anyone. You will often see him pushing Dulce and Chaco off one pile of hay to another. Harley has a sweetness in his heart, he always tries, and with his age, he is a wise and a steady horse for the others. Although, he can rile things up more than the thoroughbreds do. Oh, herd dynamics. I could go on and on about everything I learn and notice.
Where will Mojo fit in? He will be somewhere close to where Chaco is in the herd. As I bring him down to spend time with my other horses on their respective sides of the fence I see moments of extreme anxiety flash through his eyes. He doesn’t jump, spook, bite, or move away. He simply looks at me.
He is interested in Harley, my 20 year old quarter horse; the boss. Harley lets him smell him without trying to nip at him or play with him. I decided to take Harley up to Mojo’s corral on a lead rope to see how it would go. Mojo sniffed him once, and then went to the other side of the corral with absolute fear filling his eyes. It broke my heart. I immediately took Harley back to the main paddock, and I returned to Mojo. All he wanted me to do was hold his head.
He feels safe here. I’m not concerned about moving him next to them until he’s ready. For now we do daily meet and greets. Next I will start walking him with Harley and let them graze together. After that, I will pony him with each horse around the property. Each step will help him relax, and feel like he is part of their dynamic instead of separate from it.
The next issue that I feel comes directly from the kill pen is the day I was going to take him to the dentist. For four days prior to our appointment, I loaded him and unloaded him into the trailer. No problem at all. It was as easy as slicing pie. The day of his appointment I had my truck attached. I think he sensed he would be leaving. He 100% refused to load, and I had no one with me to coax him in. I canceled the appointment, disconnected the truck, and lo and behold he loaded. He didn’t want to leave. Without the truck attached, he knew he’d be staying here.
Driving into town I pondered what happened, and how to fix this. I thought about a conversation with my aunt. She said something along the lines of this, “For all of his life he was loved and taken care of, and then one day he wasn’t.”
This hit me right in the heart. Tears for him streamed down my face as I realized what a long journey he has ahead of him to leave behind what that one trailer ride brought to him. I then had an “ah ha” moment. It was one trailer ride that changed his life. One trailer ride that meant the difference between being cared for and suddenly not. One trailer ride brought him to a place where he is cared for again. He can eat all day and night, no one is biting him, he has shelter from the weather, I scratch around all of his wounds each night for him, and what if another trailer ride takes him away from all that?