I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but everything happens for a reason. The older I get, the more and more I believe it.
Below is a quick rundown of how things happened…
Step 1: Ask your husband if you can have a second horse.
Step 2: Husband says yes.
Step 3: Don’t question said husband. I repeat, don’t question husband.
Step 4: Use your PayPal account to buy an off-the-track Thoroughbred sight-unseen off a 10-second video.
Step 5: Spend the next 48 hours questioning your sanity.
Step 6: Travel all day through five states to pick up your new horse and your friend’s horse with husband, kids and dog.
Step 7: Have your 9-year-old dime you out to your grandparents at dinner about the new horse.
Step 8: Just laugh when your 9-year-old replies to your grandmother’s question of why with a simple, “Because we can, duh!”
Step 9: Have a breakdown when the new horse has a date with some barbed wire and exercises your credit card.
Step 10: Cry like a baby to your barn owner about how stupid it was to not bring the new horse to her farm where Finn lives.
Step 11: Begin searching for any and all deals for blankets.
Step 12: Immediately regret you decision to sell all that unused tack and those blankets from your previous horse.
Step 13: Begin to accept the fact that you married one heck of a man who is just as horse crazy as you are.
Step 14: Come to terms with the idea that you do in fact have not one, but TWO chestnut OTTBs.
Step 15: Begin to think about the 2018 Retired Racehorse Project.
Step 16: Reconfigure your perfectly planned schedule to get everything done in a day’s time.
Step 17: Begin to start looking for a farm of your own.
Step 18: Invest in lined jeans and winter silks.
Step 19: Come to terms that Finn might throw a tantrum or two when he realizes he’s got a brother.
Step 20: Be forever gracious and don’t question the simple fact that everything happens for a reason.
I know I said back in my April blog that, “I recently discussed with Sean about getting another horse. Don’t worry, I’m not getting another horse anytime soon!” Yeah, I might want to never repeat that sentence again!
So, I should also add that you might not want to ask your husband if you can get a second horse, because he might just answer with a simple “yes.” Yes, you all read that correct. The “horse husband” as he now calls himself said yes to a second horse.
I wasn’t exactly looking for a second horse, but I always keep an eye out because you never know. It was a Thursday evening, I had a long week in orientation class, still recovering from a wicked case of bronchitis, when I was browsing Facebook ads for horses. To be perfectly honest, I was actually relaxing in a hot epsom salt bath because I fell through a roof training prop during class that afternoon.
I carefully looked over pictures and two quick trot videos of this 4-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred that had just raced the night before at Mountaineer (West Virginia). He was New York-bred and named Candy Space Center. He had a plain face, no forelock, three white socks and was chestnut. He had 22 starts and three wins on eye-clean legs.
After a quick chat with Sean and some negations, I sent money via PayPal and bought him sight unseen! I was shocked and scared all at the same time. I didn’t exactly know what I had just gotten myself into.
I called the next morning and got the ball rolling on insurance for Candy Space Center. We woke up early Saturday morning, myself, Sean, Marissa, Logan and our dog Mikey all piled in the truck, picked up the trailer and headed to New Cumberland, West Virginia. We had no idea this short trip would turn into an all-day adventure through FIVE states!
I was anxious, excited and driving Sean crazy with anticipation; it was like Christmas morning for me. We got about 2/3 of the way there, when KC, my college trainer, texted me. She also got a new OTTB, and his ride to her farm was postponed due to truck issues with the hauler. We didn’t even think twice and said we would pick him up.
We arrived at the farm where my new horse was located. He was small in comparison to Finn, race-fit and had zero fat on him. He didn’t have much of a personality, had scratches up to his knees and hocks, skin fungus all over, but he had clean legs. I watched him jog and a wave of relief hit me—he was in fact sound!
I confirmed his tattoo with his Jockey Club papers, and I signed the bill of sale. I wrapped his legs, got a quick picture before loading, and off we went. We hit the road for about 20 miles to Jen Ruberto’s farm in Ohio to pick up KC’s new horse, Sport.
My new horse was a nervous wreck and was shaking in fear when we arrived Jen’s farm. She helped me check on him and the trailer, but nothing was out of the ordinary. We loaded up Sport and started the journey home. We hit a few rough patches of traffic and some roadwork along the way, took breaks when we could, and each time my horse became less nervous.
We finally found a place to grab dinner, checked on both horses and noticed mine was no longer shaking in fear. He was relaxed and content with everything. I switched his halter for a new one I had as a back-up for Finn, gave water and checked the hay supply.
We finally made it back to Virginia around 9 p.m. or so. KC drove up after a day of horse showing with Henry, the horse that got me back into riding, and met us at our volunteer firehouse to do a “pony” swap! We had a good 30 minutes to catch up, hug Henry and look over both our newly purchased horses before going our separate ways.
It was a short 10-minute drive to the farm from the firehouse. We unwrapped his legs in the trailer, gave a dose of Ulcergard, unloaded him into the isolation field in the dark, threw some hay and filled up a muck tub full of water. He walked around his field calmly and had a roll in the grass. We could tell he hadn’t been turned out in a long time.
We talked the entire way home about what to name him. I knew I wanted to keep it simple, and I was on the fence about keeping his Jockey Club name or changing it to something completely different. Since I’m extremely superstitious I decided not to change it. So, trying to keep with a “space theme,” I mentioned, Buzz after Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin and Sean immediately said, “I like Buzz!”
Now, I thought I had things planned, but good ole Murphy’s Law decided to pay me a visit or two within 72 hours of getting Buzz home.
He stayed overnight at my current farm, where Finn lives, before moving the next day to a friend’s farm about 45 minutes away in West Virginia. My plan was to turn him out until March and allow him a solid letdown period at a place I would not be tempted to restart him. But I got a phone call late that Monday night saying he got scraped on some barbwire and had some superficial scrapes on his chest and looked like he caught his heel after being out in her big field.
The next day, he started to become lame and had some swelling. I was able to head up after finishing with orientation class and make the three-hour trip from work. I arrived in the dark, it was close to freezing that night and cell service was spotty. I was able to remove the wrap my friend applied and noticed he completely avulsed the heel, luckily missing the coronet band. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near his leg and was trembling with fear.
My friend was able to reach her emergency vet who finally came out at 11 p.m. He was able to block his fetlock and clean and suture his heel under less than desirable conditions. Luckily, there was zero tendon or ligament involvement, but it would be touch and go as far as healing was concerned. We finished up with a tetanus shot, a shot of antibiotics and wrapping the hoof and heel. I finally made it home that night at 1:30 a.m.
I went to orientation class with about 1.5 hours of sleep. During breaks, I was able to arrange for Buzz to come live at the same farm as Finn. I was able to catch up with the barn owner, Dorothy, at the barn when we picked up the trailer. I started crying as I was telling her how stupid I had been for buying a second horse and not bringing him to stay at the farm.
She gave me a giant hug and cried with me before she started laughing and asking if I needed a CT scan of my head to see if I had lost my mind! That took my thoughts off my bad luck and stupidity to enjoy a good laugh. We picked Buzz up and returned back to the farm at 11 or 11:30 p.m. Dorothy had waited up for us to return and we settled him back into the isolation field. I think we all had a sigh of relief that night knowing he was back home with Finn.
Dorothy presented the idea of taking care of Buzz and another horse in lieu of board, as well as some various other things around the farm. I jumped on the idea, but knew this would be a change for me, and it would also require some work on Sean’s part too. I talked it over with him, and there was nothing said more than, “I know this is something you’ve wanted for a long time—you’ll have to show me what to do.” Of course I cried, who wouldn’t have?!
The first month would be trying for both of us with getting to know Buzz, treating the heel injury that would dehiscence a week after being stitched, teaching Sean how to feed and hay the horses, blanket changes, and all the other stuff in between. I found myself searching for enough blankets for two horses, let alone tack I would eventually need.
I immediately regretted selling all of Ollie’s things the year before to pay for a new saddle that Finn needed—I swore I’d never need it again! Luckily I had a second set of blankets at home for Finn and was able to make do until I could afford to invest in some new ones.
So, I posted a few ads on Facebook for clipping and braiding services, which landed a second all-nighter for me with driving to the Virginia Horse Center for SWVHJA Finals to braid five horses. I was at work the previous 24 hours and didn’t get much, if any, sleep overnight or that day. Sean thought I was crazy, but I told him I wanted to do this to pay for things I wanted and needed for Buzz.
The next week, I drove 1 ½ hours one way to clip two horses for a good friend and was finally able to get Buzz two new Rambos for winter and know he would be warm and ready for winter. Who knew that we would end up having one of the coldest winters this year?!
As I sit here and finish this blog post that I started back in November, I reflect back on things and know it’s been a long fall and early winter for our family. The addition of a second horse and a new routine, our work schedules, being sworn into my position at work, the kids’ schedules, the sudden loss of Sean’s father on Thanksgiving Day, we said goodbye to two horses at the farm, and Finn spending a few touch and go days at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center just prior to Christmas. I know there is a reason for everything, but maybe life has a way of throwing you just enough to challenge, humble and remind you that you’re still human.
I know I’ve learned more in the past few months about myself and changed some perspectives on things. I know what my goals are for this upcoming year with both of my OTTBs, and I look forward to sharing more about this adventure in my next post.
Elizabeth Grubbs fits riding her off-the-track Thoroughbred hunter, Finn, around her full-time job as a firefighter/paramedic and two part-time jobs. She also juggles that with her life as a wife and stepmother to three girls. You can read more about her in the Amateurs Like Us profile “Elizabeth Grubbs’ Bumpy Road Led To The Right Place.“