Mattie Worsham couldn’t believe her luck the day her trainer suggested she hop aboard Scout. The brown warmblood of unrecorded breeding held superstar status, with the likes of John French, Archie Cox and Liza Boyd competing him at the most prestigious shows.
“I can still remember very clearly the first day when I was training with Terry Brown, and he had come into her barn,” said Worsham. “I can remember the first day where she told me, ‘Go get on Scout.’ And I was like, ‘Are you sure? Do you really mean Scout?’ He sort of was and is the big name in the barn.”
Worsham was only 13, and she quickly discovered that, despite his talent and training, or perhaps because of it, Scout was no pushbutton pony. “I got on him, and I could not make him canter for the life of me,” said Worsham. “That remained a very big theme in our early years together and sometimes today.”
But in 2015, Worsham’s last junior year, she finally felt like she’d reached Scout’s level. The pair was consistently champion in the small junior division and had qualified for Devon (Pennsylvania) for the first time.
The week before Devon, Worsham received a call from Brown. Scout had torn a hind suspensory, and they’d discovered osteoarthritis in both front fetlocks. Not only was Devon out of the picture, but it also looked like his performance days might be over for good.
“I was so much more devastated at the time to lose a partner who I was so close with, to lose him to retirement and right on the cusp of everything,” said Worsham. “It was so much harder to think about not being able to ride than going to Devon and things like that.”
Worsham’s parents, Penny and Hugh Worsham, DVM, and Brown helped her see past her sorrow. “[They] could really empathize with how hard it was and what I was going through, but [they] also helped me to know that, even at that point, I’d already had so many amazing moments with that horse, and he taught me so much,” Mattie said. “He challenges me, and he inspires me every single day, and he had already [done that]. So, they really helped me see that.”
Mattie brought him home to retire at her parents’ farm near Atlanta. The Worshams didn’t have a companion for Scout, so Mattie brought out the wheelbarrow and slept in it next to his stall so he wouldn’t spend the night alone.
“It was fine except for the fact that at 3 a.m. he’d start pulling on my hair,” said Mattie. “I was within reach right outside the stall. Apparently, he can stretch out and grab me. More than any other horse I ended up sleeping in the stall/outside the stall for this horse.”
While the prognosis for his injuries was poor, the Worshams weren’t ready to give up. Hugh had used Pro-Stride APS, an autologous protein solution made from the horse’s blood, for an unrelated injury earlier in Scout’s career, and he’d had good results. Hugh decided to try it again with Scout’s fetlocks.
“We call it a regenerative product or an ortho-regenerative injection,” said Hugh. “You harvest 60 ccs of blood off a horse. And there’s a centrifuge that we take to the barn, it’s stall side, and we spin the blood down with these kits that Owl Manor provides.”
Commonly used regenerative therapies include stem cells, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP). The Pro-Stride process produces a concentrated solution of cells, platelets, growth factors and anti-inflammatory proteins from the horse’s blood, and then the veterinarian injects them back into the point of interest.
Hugh injected Scout a few times, but they didn’t put him into a focused rehabilitation program.
“He just came home, and he got turned out, and my dad and my mom both worked on him and just never gave up,” said Mattie. “My dad was the veterinary care, and my mom was the day to day. I was at school at the time for undergraduate.”
But then one day in 2018, Hugh saw Scout trotting around.
“We can see the field from the deck of our house where we used to live,” said Hugh. “And I’m watching him trotting around like a million bucks with this mini one day. I’m thinking, ‘Man, you are way too sound to just be living out here.’ ”
Three years after his injury, they pulled Scout out and pointed him toward a coop in the field. With his miniature horse companion Nugget running behind him, Scout jumped it and landed with ease. So the Worshams came up with a plan to get him back into shape, returning to the show ring in September in the adult amateur, 18-35, division.
“The funny thing about it, when we brought him out of retirement, I haven’t fallen off in probably a year or two,” said Mattie. “And after we brought Scout out of retirement, it was like every week for a while. Our very first show back after three years, he bucked me off in the first class. I really wanted to do right by this horse because he was three years older, but so was I. Instead of being 18, I was 21, and I was in a very different place in my life. I felt like I was finally ready to give just everything that I had into doing right by this horse and trying not to let him down ever.”
This fall, at 19 years old and five years after his first retirement, Scout traveled with Mattie to Tryon, North Carolina, to compete in the WIHS Adult Hunter Finals. After Scout laid down a second-round score of 86 to win the class and wear the Washington International cooler, Mattie knew this was the curtain call he deserved.
“It was so redemptive and cathartic and just unreal—I still don’t even really believe it—that I could do that with this horse who’s been my partner for so long and who I spent every single day with,” said Mattie. “I live in the barn [in Aiken, South Carolina,] right beside him. I can see his window from my window. It was really a strangely sublime moment, and [I felt] uncontainable gratitude for everything that I have with him. I just knew in that moment, ‘This is the way I want to remember showing him.’ Being there with my trainer Courtney Goldstein, and my mom was there also, and getting to share that moment with them, that’s the way that I want to remember showing this horse who was my junior hunter and then my adult hunter.
“The way that he retired the first time was so unexpected and kind of a mess, and it wasn’t on our own terms,” continued Mattie. “So getting to do it on our terms and walking out of the show ring with a win like that, on a horse who is very well known in the show world from his days even before I bought him, it felt really nice for him to get to end on top like that.”
And while the win to close out his career was wonderful, just having those extra seasons with Scout is what Mattie will treasure. “I had just as much fun when I was winning with him as when he was bucking me off in the ring because I was just so grateful to be showing this horse that I never thought I would show again,” Mattie said. “It really feels like this unexpected gift, and I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year-old self that this isn’t the end. It’s going to get better, and this horse is always going to be there for you. He’s never going to let you down.”