I cannot reconcile myself to death. I’ve tried for 32 years. I’ve failed. And as we consider the cumulative effects of concussion for football players, I am left to contemplate how many blows the heart and soul can bear…In the past nine months I have lost two people I loved more than life itself. They in turn loved me deeply and carried me through some of the darkest, most trying days and moments of my life. With their loss, especially so close together, the concussion of loss seems all there is.
Yet and still, there’s a special being that forces me up every morning; she’s a rare gift in the form of a 16.3-hand, too slow and noncompetitive OTTB (Off-Track Thoroughbred) mare in which resides the sweetest of hearts and the kindest of spirits.
Having her in my life is completely the result of a chance encounter. I was doing massage work at a nearby barn when the owner told me she “had my next horse.” Interesting, as I wasn’t looking for a new horse, far from it. But on the way out, I stopped and took a look at her in her stall and thought she was fairly cute. The owner invited me to stop back and ride her. I’m always interested in riding different horses so a few days later I stopped back and did just that. Mistake! She was easily one of the nicest horses I’d ever ridden. I knew if I went looking for her I’d never find her. After untacking, I stuck around for the scheduled veterinary exam and the university vet and interns raved about how healthy she was and how clean her legs were, particularly for a horse that had presumably raced (her race career is a story for another day). I went home and slept on it and the next morning I committed. In nearly nine years, I’ve never regretted that call.
When most people think Thoroughbred, undoubtedly they likely think hot-blooded, anxious, fast, possibly uncontrollable, and hard to handle. To a certain extent I thought the same thing. If not for her tattoo and size, you’d likely not think that this mare is a Thoroughbred at all. She’s exceptionally easy to work with and to ride her you’d be completely convinced she’d been trained to be a riding horse all along, not a racehorse. But there’s more to her still than that. She’s just a joy to be around, easy going and always giving her best effort. And I can’t tell you how I know it, but she’s a kind animal with a very gentle heart. I’ve spent 46 years of my life amongst and around horses, so you’ll just have to trust me. I love her to pieces and right now, despite the fact I love all my horses and dogs, there’s something extra special to her and I suspect that’s what drew me in the first time I saw her. She was made for me and maybe especially now when I need something special and beautiful and with great meaning in and for my life.
I’ve spent all my blog time since I began making these posts discussing racing. But now is a good time to segue into a related topic and perhaps the undercurrent of this post: Thoroughbred rescue. Needless to say, there are far more Thoroughbred racehorses in the world than can be successful. Successful in a way that, generally, will secure their futures for the remainder of their lives with food, shelter, and care. Although strides have been made in the past 10-15 years to prevent OTTBs from “falling through the cracks,” it takes the efforts of many people to intervene and provide homes for those that don’t make the cut, primarily, as breeding animals. The Thoroughbred horse is more than the stereotype of high-strung racehorse. They are exceptionally versatile and given the opportunity can go on to a “second career” that can vary from elite three-day event horse to the backyard family pet. They just need the chance.
One of many organizations that works to provide retired Thoroughbred racehorses that chance is The Exceller Fund (TEF). You can learn more about TEF’s efforts and hopefully make a donation by checking their website: http://www.excellerfund.org
If you’re considering adding a horse to your life, don’t overlook the Thoroughbred. Providing an OTTB with a home can be a life-saving gesture. And you never know when or how they might return the favor and the life they save is yours.