Del Mar, Calif.—Feb. 3
When Charlotte Jorst imported Ray Dance as a 6-year-old, she was looking forward to working with the talented Westphalian gelding (Rockwell—Verita-Vittoria, Van The Man).
But on the way over from Europe “Ray” contracted a serious case of shipping fever that left him hospitalized for a year and had vets doubting he would ever be a performance horse.
Since then, Ray’s surprised everyone, especially Jorst, with his recovery and positive attitude. This weekend he and Jorst won the Weltinos Magic CDI* Intermediaire I at the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival, scoring a 70.26%. They also topped the Intermediaire I freestyle with a 69.02%.
When he was imported, Ray, now 9, went directly from quarantine to the San Dieguito Equine Group clinic in San Marcos, California, where Dr. Paul McClellan oversaw his care.
Dr. McClellan tried different antibiotics, but Ray didn’t respond. Finally he found a course that worked over about 10 days, but at great cost and frustration to Jorst.
She admitted it was too emotionally difficult to visit him during his stay, and thought about euthanizing him when he was at his worst, but reports from the clinic changed her mind.
“We were thinking of putting him down until they did the antibiotic. They tried many different antibiotics on him and nothing worked. I felt the quality of life for the horse—” she paused. “But sometimes life works out. When he came [home,] he had been sitting for a whole year and coughing. In an interesting way, I think his temperament, his cuteness and his likeability saved him.
“I didn’t want to see him because once you go see them you become attached, and I didn’t want to get attached and have him die on me, but the vet kept saying, ‘all the vet techs come in on the weekends, and they love on him, and he’s everybody’s favorite.’ Now he’s safe and sound, I can see why. He’s just the sweetest horse in the whole world.”
Once Ray was home he was very weak. The vets said he would have scar tissue in his lungs that would prevent him from becoming a performance horse, but Jorst started slowly, and he continued to show he could handle it.
“I just started riding him a little bit, and he was fine. I was like, ‘OK, this feels fine to me,’ then I worked him a little bit more. He’s never not been perfect. He’s been so healthy and wonderful, knock on wood,” she said.
Last year the pair competed in several small tour CDIs, and Jorst says she’s taking her time with him this year since she’s having so much fun with him.
“I knew pretty much right away that he was really special, but then he just kept developing, and the ease at which he does everything—he’s so easy to ride. All the other horses I have you have to ride every step, but this one, you just put his head up, lean back, and he just goes. He loves showing, always forward, every day he’s just ready to work,” said Jorst, Reno, Nevada.
Jorst says Ray is a barn favorite. “He loves to learn stuff, so you can teach him stuff in the barn,” she said. “He has all these silly tricks, like a tongue trick where he sticks his tongue out when you touch him. He’s everybody’s favorite when he comes out of the ring. He chats with people. He’s the sweetest horse.”
Jorst is thrilled to be able to compete on her home turf after several years traveling to Wellington, Florida, to compete in the winter.
“I love the West Coast, and I love the people here. Today I’m with my family. My daughter said it’s the first time I’ve been at her birthday for five years,” she said. “To be able to be with your family and have them come watch and not have to travel so far, it means the world. It’s been so well-organized. I always go in the ring and want to learn, and this has been really great in that sense.”
Jorst said she recently saw Dr. McClellan and thanked him again for saving Ray’s life. “I said, ‘You know what? I was so wrong and thank you. Who knew you were so right? I didn’t know you were right at the time, but now I know.’”
For more from the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival, click here.