Somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go,
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
I remember my horse Valjean racing off lickety-split out into the pasture. Show horses have shoes like models have long fingernails, so I had decided that winter to remove his show shoes. I took him out of the barn, undid his lead line, and off he bolted like any race horse. He raced down the lane to the pasture and rounded the corner fence pole like any barrel racing horse. What a beautiful site to see!
Man of Integrity, my three-gaited horse, was next to let go. I realized then that someone had decided to make him a three-gaited show horse instead of remaining a show harness horse. Problem was for all those years he he was in harness, he wasn’t allowed to canter and he’d forgotten how. I led him out of the barn and took the lead line off and he just stood there…nickering for Val cavorting out in the pasture. He wanted to go but he’d never been turned loose since he was a foal. His instincts drew him to race as fast as he could out to join Val. However, he trotted. He peg-legged..that is canter stiff-legged. He came to the same fence pole and stopped…walked around it…and peg-legged it out to Val. I stood there stunned.
The beautiful thing was that spring when Val and ‘the big horse’ as I called him raced neck and neck, speeding around that fence pole to be the first to the barn for dinner. Horses love to race. They love to run. And they are good at it. For thousands of years, man has had the pleasure of watching them run, race, and win. But as life has it…tragedy happens and we cry. And we remember. I think that is our nature to honor and remember and then hopefully make something good come out of this tragic happening. Thus, this blog is a tribute to favorite Thoroughbred horses who have captured the hearts everywhere at one time or another and changed the world.
As I said in my blog on the Preakness Stakes,it got its name from a three-year old colt named Preakness who won the Dinner Party Stakes race at Pimlico in 1870. Preakness was a born winner, enjoying a winning career for eight years. His owner sold him to Duke of Hamilton who lived in England. Over the next years, Preakness developed a temper and attitude. Unfortunately, the duke also had an attitude and temper. (This causes me to think where Preakness developed this new personality) Anyway, the Duke shot and killed Preakness. So, not only did this fine colt name the Preakness Stakes but he also “touched off a reform in English law which governs the handling of animals.” (www.gohorsebetting.com/preaknessstakes/history) Good for you Preakness.
Seal brown and almost black, this seventeen hand filly stole the hearts of the racing world In fact, she won the nickname as “Queen of the Fillies” in 1975, and winning the Triple Tiara- the triple crown race for three-year-old fillies. She went undefeated in her first ten races, setting new records and stakes for years to come. Then came her eleventh race at Belmont Park on July 6,1975. It was a match race between Ruffian and the Kentucky Derby winner of that year Foolish Pleasure. The race was dubbed as the ‘equine battle of the sexes” and was run before 50,000 spectators and 18 million television viewers.
At Belmont Park, Ruffian slammed her shoulder into the gate when she bolted from the starting gate. At the first furlong, she was ahead by a half-length and then both bones in her foreleg snapped. Her jockey Vasquez tried to pull her to a stop but she refused. She fought him and continued on, pulverizing her legs, ripping skin from her fetlock, and driving bones through her skin. Sand from the ‘Big Sandy” racetrack stung into the raw skin, tearing her ligaments and leaving her hoof flopping. Handlers immediately raced to her, managing to get her into the hands of four veterinarians and a equine orthopedic surgeon. The surgery lasted three hours. When Ruffian came out of anesthesia, she went nuts as if she were still running in the race, spinning in circles on the floor, destroying all that the surgery had accomplished as well as the plaster cast. The cast slipped. allowing her to break the rest of her legs. She was ultimately euthanized.
The result of her death caused a change in treatment for horses that undergo surgery. Ruffian’s behavior is common for horses coming out from anesthesia. Thus, the ‘recovery pool’ was developed so horses will awake in warm water and won’t re-injure themselves. Thirty four years later the Ruffian Equine Medical Center opened. Here, specialists work to solve ‘horse’ problems in particular for future horses.
Ruffian is buried near a flag pole in the infield of Belmont Park with her nose pointed to the finish line.
Ever watched Olympic events and the contestants jump seconds before the start. then they have to get back into place. Well, on May 20,2006, Barbaro broke from the starting gate at the Preakness Stakes before he should have. Going into the Kentucky Derby, this bay stallion was undefeated and was the favorite to win the Triple Crown. He was one of the only six undefeated winners of the Derby. So, he bolted out too soon from the starting gate at the Preakness. Why? No one knows. Did something snap in his leg and scare him? We’ll never know.
The race was restarted and his start from the gate was clean. He was in contention to win as he rounded the last turn and headed for the finish. No one knows what happened there either but suddenly Barbaro apparently broke his right hind leg in twenty places: a cannon bone, a broken leg bone, his pastern, the fetlock was dislocated and his hoof was left to dangle. His jockey, Edgar Prado immediately brought Barbaro to a stop, letting the others pass. Prado then vaulted off, and leaned into Barbaro’s shoulder to support him. Track attendants arrived and they managed to get Barbaro safely into the Equine ambulance and taken to Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.
Unlike most animals, a horse can not survive on three legs because the horse tries to carried its weight on three legs. Well, Ruffian’s recovery pool was well used because Barbaro underwent many surgeries and showed the promise of possible recovery. Of course, he would never run again but maybe sire a future Triple Crown winner and just enjoy grazing in his pasture. That wasn’t meant to be.
By July, Barbaro developed a severe case of lamintis (inflammation of the hoof) in his other hind leg. This was because it had carried the weight from the other healing leg. Surgery was again and half of Barbaro’s hoof was removed. Now, both hind legs are in casts and the boy was left hanging a sling. Still, Barbaro seemed determined to win this race. Mares were waiting for him. In fact, in August, he was taken out to graze for the first time.
August, September, October, November, December 13, Wednesday…Barbaro had his casts removed. However, his front legs developed lamintis. His removed hoof wasn’t complete. His fractured leg wasn’t developed enough without the cast. Now, the old boy had no legs to stand on at all. January 29, 2007, Barbaro was euthanized because his pain was no longer manageable. He was later cremated.
A statue of Barbaro created by Alexa King was unveiled April 26, 2009 at Churchill Downs one week before the Kentucky Derby. This statue was placed atop part of his ashes outside one f the entrances to Churchill Downs adjacent to the Kentucky Derby Museum so the public that followed Barbaro’s struggle can pay their respects without paying an admission feet to the race track.
University of Florida was the recipient of $30,000 from Gulfstream Park for scholarships for two senior veterinary students and one graduate student in equine veterinary research. And the New Bolton Center received a large anonymous donation, creating the established Barbaro Fund to aid treatment and care for large animals. In 2006, the Preakness Stakes established the NTRA’s charities Barbaro Memorial Fund for Equine Health and Safety that will look for a cure of lamintis. This had gone on around the world…check this out http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/health/110-laminitis.shtml
How many of us have stumbled and fallen? I know I have a time or two. Well, it is possible this is what led up to this last catastrophe. According to the trainer of this grey thoroughbred filly. Eight Bells had a habit of stumbling over her hoofs. Her trainer said she wouldn’t pick her feet up high enough, which was one reason she could run so fast and far. Once going, she had perfect motion that was effective and efficient, however at times, she would stumble.
Eight Bells was on the tail hairs of Big Brown, the winner of the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby, when they passed the finish line. As the horses were slowed from their neck-breaking speeds, she collapsed, suffering compound fractures from both front fetlock joints. Her legs were lacerated, absent of joint fluid to these areas, and her lungs congested. The fall she took bruised her head and hemorrhagde her thyroid gland. She had to be ‘ put down’ on the track. Eight Bells is buried at Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Museum and a race that is run on the day of the Derby has been named in her honor.
Eight Bells was a winner. She came to the Kentucky Derby with a proud winning record. She was a filly with Native Dancer’s bloodline and her mother was from Northern Dancer also a descendent of Native Dancer’s bloodline. Sally Jenkins of the Veterans Washington Post wrote, “She ran with the heart of a locomotive on champagne-glass ankles.” Thus raising the question of whether these thoroughbred horses have become too strong bodied on bones too fragile to hold them up. This controversy is still in question. Her legacy to the racing world maybe to strengthen bloodline for more stamina. It is yet to be seen.
But Preakness, Ruffian, Barbaro, and Eight Bells have given the world a better place for horses and those who love them. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And their lemonade will forever be remembered as sweet. I believe all these horses are racing about in Stanley Harrison’s ‘sweet pastured place” with my Val and Man of Integrity and free of pain, frolicking and playing with all the other greats.
Thank you for joining me on this wild race through the world of the Triple Crown. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you have as well.
And thank you to wikipedia/Ruffian/Barbaro. Eightbellslegacy.net