Dec 31 / The Continuing Saga Of Graycie

Thursday, December 31, 2009

We finally found out why Graycie has become unrideable which is a relief in some ways, but scary in others. I decided to give riding her another go in March/April 2009. I had my vet go over her and he found nothing wrong. We were going to hack about the farm for a month or so. It didn’t go well.  It broke my heart that a horse that loved to train, was basically unrideable. I could ride her, but who would want to? She was horrible. And horrible Graycie is really a horrible thing. I knew there was something wrong so I called Morgan and he came out and went over her once again. Nothing to speak of. Nothing to explain the behavior. Oh I did point out the toe crack she had had for a long time, but there was no separation and she was completely sound – always. It was actually growing out at the top.

In racing we all develop a protocol to deal with lameness. If I can’t define the problem, I start with: Giving them a week off and if they are no better, I give them a month off and if that doesn’t work they get four months off (bone heals in four month’s time), if that doesn’t work they get a year off. All the while we look for the cause of the lameness.

I made the decision to give her a year off. It was kind of a relief, but it made me sad too. I rode her most every day from the time she was a yearling when I broke her until she started having this problem when she was 7. It was like losing part of myself.

The first Saturday in May, my husband and I went to my good friend Lucy’s for a Kentucky Derby party. She breeds very nice racehorses. As a side note, this was the year of the Bird and as you know I have a Bird. I hadn’t had any time to follow racing so I had no knowledge of the field. Russ and Lucy had computer printouts and much handicapping knowledge to make their selections. I picked both Birds, Mine that Bird and Summer Bird. They were both going off at high odds and Russ looked at me like I was a noodle head. Unless you are a green horn, you don’t make your betting selections by name, but that’s what I did. It’s the only thing I had to go on. When the race concluded, the noodle head was the only one with the winner and I pronounced “It’s the year of the Bird!”

Okay, back the Graycie. After the race we were drinking mint juleps and Lucy suggested we go out and look at her babies. The yearlings, it’s the best age. They’re cute and playful and of course Lucy’s babies are super friendly. They ran up to the fence and were vying for our attention. My husband loved it. He even talked about how cute they were on the way home. I started thinking….

Graycie was getting a year off anyway, but I don’t breed. I bet you know where this is going. I thought how much my husband would enjoy the experience of a little one. After all he bought Graycie for me and had never had the experience of a baby horse. Of course, I don’t breed, it’s not my thing. If I did breed a horse it would be from Graycie though. She’s an outstanding mover with nearly perfect confirmation. Perfect doesn’t exist or I’d say she has perfect confirmation. If I bred her I’d want to produce her – beautiful her. My good friend Kelly Bailey had a gorgeous Unbridled Song stallion that was incredibly similar to Graycie only with a kind temperament. If there was one thing I’d modify on my girl it’s her temperament. Unbridled Mate is a refined thoroughbred with a beautiful head. He’s a lofty mover with very correct confirmation. Maybe a teeney weeney long in the back, but I’m picking. And he’s GRAY!

So I took Graycie to Kelly’s farm. You have no idea how significant this is. The only time Graycie and I have been apart is when she did an overnighter at Leesburg so they could tell me she was the soundest racehorse they’d every had there. I did the scintigraphy out of my usual paranoia. It was hard leaving her at Kelly’s but I knew she would take care of my girl like it’s her own horse. Royal Wux Farm is about four hours from me over the bay bridge and before I got home Kelly was calling me telling me how beautiful Graycie is. Yep, she sucked in another one.

My husband was so excited about this, I knew I had made a good decision. I’m not going to breed every year. Yes I believe there are enough horses in the world and we will keep the baby forever.

By July that toe crack started to look weird. By the end of July the right side of her hoof started to push out. In the beginning of August I called Steve and said I was scared. Graycie was off in the front and getting a bit more sore every day. Steve came right over. It wasn’t good news. He looked at me and said “Kim Clark, I think you finally found a horse I can’t get a shoe on.” She had shoes on, but he was talking about getting them back on. Basically the right side of her hoof had separated from her foot and the pressure from it growing down was perpetuating the problem. They call this white line disease and it is not common in our part of the country. Go to Kentucky, they can tell you all about it. Steve said, I don’t know whether to cut all of the separated hoof away or just the bottom part. I told him I wasn’t ready to deal with the whole side of her hoof being gone, but I trusted him and thought he should do what he thought best. Steve took the bottom off only to relieve the pressure and then he got this really weird shoe on her. He didn’t expect it to last but it did for a month. She wasn’t sound, but she wasn’t as lame. You have to understand, Graycie has never really been lame in all the time I’ve had her. For me it’s like the biggest tree in the forest is falling.

In the meantime, Morgan came to the farm for vet stuff and I showed Graycie to him and he said I should let Steve take the wall off. Incidentally, Steve had me soaking her foot in an iodine mixture to kill the fungus that had caused the separation. Morgan thought in time she’d be fine. I felt a smidge better. We had her in the weird shoe and a Boa Boot.

Six weeks later Steve came back to do everyone in the barn and he said he’d been thinking about Graycie. He had a plan. I told him what Morgan had said. I was not particularly comfortable with Graycie losing half her hoof, but I trust Steve and Morgan. I clung to that.
I should have video taped Steve that day. It was like watching a surgeon work on a patient. His movements were deliberate and exact. After and hour he was done and he looked up and me and said “I had a plan, but I didn’t use any of it.” I almost cried as my girl walked away completely sound. We turned her out and she played like she hadn’t in months. The biggest tree was saved. I love Steve Guy. He doesn’t believe me, but I really love him. I don’t know anyone that could cut off half your horse’s hoof, get a shoe on them and make them sound. The shoe has stayed on for over two months now and she’s remained completely sound.

We believe this is the reason she became unrideable and obviously she needed at least a year off. I have felt guilty for not figuring this out, but I’ve been told there just wasn’t any way to find it, especially since she never took a bad step until the wall separated and then it was obvious.