Tuesday, September 24, 2013

..onward, and upward!

Going to actually attempt to post regularly now...summer has come and gone, with n
Diam being lightly ridden in the outdoor a few times. We've found that he has a lovely snaffle mouth.  I honestly didn't expect that...I've previously had OTTBs who are strong in the bridle, so it is really making me ride more tactfully.  I asked my BO, who is an outstanding barrels rider, to give me his opinion on where to go from here, so he hopped on in the outdoor.
He fell in love !
He rode Diam in all three gaits in both directions, and it delighted me to see what a good rider can do with a horse.  He had to do a lot of digging for correct leads...mind you from what I gather Diam has  likely not been consistently ridden in over a year.  And his lope....sigh.  But the coolest thing of all  was Ron asking him to stop...he can dig right in like a good thing!
Last night was our first ride in the indoor, and the first time Diam has really thrown me attitude.  The plan was just walk jog since I've been busy over the last few weeks.  He popped in a bunny hop at the walk, and a few strides later, another one.  Now I'm not a rider who is good at riding out bucks...even when I was far more fit.  Rather than completely throw in the towel, I asked Ron if he'd be willing to sound him out and see what he thought.
Holy attitude and a half!  Popping tail, bucks, and head-tossing! I hate to say that it's a relief when your horse is an asshole with a better rider, but somehow knowing that you're not the only one is a relief.  Ron has the ability to follow through if a horse gets difficult, but he does so with tact and patience.  He needed a lot of it last night; I'm going to store it in my metaphorical toolbox.  Diam got to the point of deserving a swat on the rear with the lines, but that point was only after a lot of patient correction. Same tack as usual, no signs of heat or soreness...just 'tude.
The best part was the ride ending on a good note....a civilized walk round the arena.  Naughty buggerwasn't   done yet though...as I was taking off his bridle, he ducked out of the  reins and backed all the way to his stall! I know that he's learned to back away in his previous life, so am going to have to stay vigilant about that.
And the unexpected ,lovely end to the challenge....seeing the love and affection shared by him and my dear friend.  Take a bow, gentlemen!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Now that the dust has settled a bit, we're starting to see Diamond come to life.  Looking back at the picture of him on the trailer, I realize how mentally and physically exhausted he was by his journey.  

It's about two, two and a half hours from OLEX to where I am keeping him in quarantine, depending on how many bathroom breaks I need to take.  At one stop, our hero Dave (dare I call him SuperDave? :) ) opened up the back of the trailer to give Diamond a bit of fresh air and a chance to stick his head out and look around.  Right off we were approached by some Tim Horton's customers who I don't think had ever been up close and personal to a horse.  They snapped some cell phone pics, and asked about him.  Kelly told him the Coles Notes (Sparknotes for my American friends) version of his story, and they reacting with horror - do people EAT horses? I'm not going farther into that direction today, but the Toronto Star came out with a story just this weekend about the sad end of a horse bred by Adena Springs, reschooled and responsibly rehomed - and despite heroic efforts to save him, was not as lucky as Diamond, and met his fate in a Quebec slaughterhouse.
The thing that I liked was that Diamond seemed a  pro in the trailer - thought I am comparing him to my first TB, Boo.  Boo would let you know in  no uncertain terms that he was present - usually by tapping the side of the trailer with a hind hoof. One day I'll tell you the story of  his antics while being trailered through our small town - but that, also, is a story for another day.
Kelly took the following picture that I think I want framed...it's a perfect image of our new journey with Diamond.
As you can see, he has a huge motor - here he is underweight by approximately 150-200 lbs.  In upcoming posts you'll see the white mark on his left cheek expand - it's a flap of hide where it looks like he took a hell of a kick from another horse.  Currently it's shed off to the size of my hand, with another equivalent amount to go.
And my final thought of the day....I believe that he was boarded in the off-season at the farm where I am doing his QT, because when I started walking down the hill to his paddock, he picked up the pace, pricked his ears, and definitely put some pull on the shank.  As soon as I closed the gate and turned him loose, he dropped down with a loud grunt and rolled right over, then got up and trotted around happily.
Dave said something that I will never forget: "Enjoy it, buddy....each day from here on in is a blessing."
I think that it applies as much to us as it does to our new horse.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Shared Goal

I think the thing that blows me away about Diamond is HOW he was rescued. 
When his first off-track owner, Kelly, realized that he had indeed been shipped, she set into motion a chain of events that almost had its own life.  Donations started appearing...twenty-five dollars here, a hundred there, fifty from someone else.
I felt that I had let Diamond down once...when his previous home had wanted to re-home him in February, a good friend told me that I should go to see him.  We discussed it, but neither of us felt ready to bring another horse into our lives when just talking about Boo usually ended with one or both of us wiping away tears.  I even avoided looking into his stall, where emptiness reminded me each night of the keen mind and noble heart of its previous occupant.
I came home late in the evening to a message from Robin, the same friend - that Diamond was in serious trouble now. Her friend had given him away to what she believed was a good home...and then Diamond disappeared.  Kelly realized what day it was....just in time for the weekly mostly-meat auction in Kitchener.
This is where the powers of social media performed a miracle...Kelly posted an APB on Diamond, along with a picture, asking if anyone had seen him go through the ring at OLEX.
The answer?  Yes.
The realization that a horse THIS nice had somehow slipped through the cracks, and was on a livestock transport to a feedlot for slaughter galvanized a number of people.  NYNE, or Need You Now Equine, also recognized him as a special horse, and separated him and a handful of others to post on their page.  Reading their FAQs, you realize that horses with a red border on their page are at immediate risk for slaughter.
Diamond's page was red.
Kelly was determined that THIS horse was not going to take that final step, and began gathering money in order to pull him back.
I knew that there was one thing I could do - I could offer him a forever home. 
I emailed Kelly after I got Robin's message and made my offer, and held my breath.  My DSO, Paul, had given me the green light - he felt that a horse doesn't cross your path twice, and that it was a sign from Whoever rules the universe that this horse was meant to be in our lives.
Over the next couple of days, funds were accumulating....but more was needed.
Someone, I think Kelly knows who, contacted LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, who has a strong affiliation with Woodbine.
Would they be able to help Diamond somehow?
That question, put to their board of directors, had us holding our breath.
Their answer....yes.  They would contribute to his cause.
I have to admit, I burst into tears when I heard the news....Diamond is not a stakes horse, or a famous horse....he is one of millions of blue-collar horses who run at the lower levels.  That doesn't mean they aren't loved or cared for by their connections of trainers, grooms, owners and hot-walkers - and their pony people.  It means that they are one of millions of racehorses who exist on the fringes, successful in their own element.  They are not the Secretariats or the Cigars or the Zenyattas who capture the public consciousness,  always in the public eye.
They are the ones who are easy to lose in the crowd....the starfish on the beach at low tide.
This is Diamond.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Road Home - or, new beginnings.

I'm sitting here trying to think of where to begin...today?  A week ago? Or did it all start 18 years ago with another bay gelding?
I think I'll start with right now...I am looking at pictures from today and reflecting that I, and Diamond, have traveled a long, long way over the past week.
Diamond's story - the Coles Notes version - is that he was sold down the road...reasons have been given, but the key motivation was simple profit.
How was he saved?  By one person who had a keen eye for a good horse, and by a group of people who believed in one common goal:  to make sure that this horse, on this day, did not go to slaughter.
Diamond's life actually overlapped with mine about a month ago.  A good friend of mine knew that a few days before Christmas, we had suddenly lost Boo, the TB gelding who had been part of our lives for 18 years.  We know that horses get older, and that a time comes when we must only hold them in our hearts.  I think that Robin understood the emptiness we felt...we have two other lovely geldings, but Boo...he was something else.  Robin tried to persuade me that I should go look at Diamond, and another friend, whose opinion I value highly, echoed the sentiment that he was a special horse.
We had decided, though, that despite the empty stall, that we were going to wait a while to fill it...that the right horse would find us when it really needed it.  What we didn't know, a month ago, that Diamond was that horse.
I learned that he had found a new home, and was happy...that is, until I came home last Wednesday to a message that he was in serious trouble.  The "good home", who picked him up on March 3, had taken him to OLEX - the Ontario Livestock Exchange - and he had been purchased by a kill buyer.
The only word to describe the reaction of his previous owners, and a number of others, is horror.  How could a horse as nice as this fall through the cracks?  It has happened so many times, to so many horses - but this time, a network to save Diamond was forming.  Over the next several entries I will explain this in greater detail - but these are stories for another day.
When I read Robin's message, I told Paul, and I asked if we could offer him a home.  His comment was that a horse does not cross your path twice - and if one believes in omens, or signs, or a slap up the head from the Divine...this was it.
I messaged Kelly, the owner who had taken him from the track...now you have to understand, she didn't know me from Job's off mule at this point.  I don't know what I said that allowed her to trust me,  but I told her that if they could find a way to get Diamond to me, that he would have a forever home.
Now Facebook can be a royal pain with political rants, off colour jokes and things that really deserve a visit with Snopes - but it can also be an amazing tool; and this is how Diamond was saved.
ONE person realized that Diamond was in trouble and sent it out into the ether on Facebook - and one person, through good luck, serendipity or the Divine - recognized him and set his salvation and redemption into motion  Are those strong words?  Yes.  But they are appropriate when a horse finds himself in a situation where his life is in peril.
So now that I've outlined the beginning of his story - and there are many more good parts - I would like to say goodnight with a huge thank you to the first person:  Barbie. 
Myself, Diamond and Barbie in the holding area at OLEX.