Sunday February 13, 2011

This is the story of a horse.  While some of the blanks admittedly are filled in with assumptions, the story is true.  And although a different perspective would likely make the facts appear in a different light, the journey and its end remain the same.

The horse’s name is Stormy Passage.  The dictionary defines passage as “an act or instance of passing from one place, condition, etc., to another; transit.”   As you will see, it an apt name, as this horse’s life is a metaphor for a passage from one place and condition to another.  And as his name would imply, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

Stormy was born in 2005, a dark bay or brown horse by Richter Scale out of a Northern Dancer-line mare named Northern Dynasty. He was born in Kentucky, at a farm in the Lexington area and was entered in the 2006 Keeneland  September Yearling sale, where he did not meet his reserve.  His breeder perhaps saw some potential in the young horse, because he kept and raced him.  Stormy won his first two races in 2008, as a three year old.   

All in all, Stormy raced a couple handful of times in cheap races for different owners.  He finished in the money 60% of the time and judging by a couple of longer layoffs, injuring himself on and off during the years he raced.   All but two of his 11 starts were at northern Kentucky’s Turfway Park.   

This is the part of the story where the winds of change begin to blow Stormy around.  In 2010, after a layoff and with a new owner, Stormy returned to the races.  This isn’t all that unusual.  It’s possible-even likely perhaps-the intent was to give Stormy time to rehab, see if he could successfully return to the races and if not, retire him.   In any case, after a layoff of nine months Stormy returned to Ellis Park in the first of his final four races, a $4000 claiming race. He ran third.  Stormy’s last three starts were spaced about two weeks apart in December 2010 and January 2011.  In his final start on January 30, he was unsaddled near the 7/8ths pole and vanned off.

So after a couple different owners, a sesamoid fracture, and some wear and tear Stormy found himself running in that final claiming race at Turfway Park, where he was pulled up with a bowed tendon.  With this latest injury it was clear he didn’t have a future as a racehorse.  In what I sincerely hope was a difficult choice, it was decided to euthanize Stormy Passage.

This story, like that of so many other low-level racehorses, could have ended right there.  But the winds of change weren’t done with Stormy yet.  The veterinarian summoned to euthanize Stormy refused to do so.  Other vets offered opinions, help, care.   Turfway Park became involved, and Stormy lived in a Turfway stall for two weeks while calls were made.  

Homes are scarce for any ex-racehorse, but especially so for the broken down ones needing specific, long-term care.  Several options were discussed, explored, and ultimately discarded for one reason or another.  And so, on February 10, 2011, the Turfway Park horse ambulance pulled up to Old Friends.  Inside, wearing a warm blanket and supportive leg wraps, was Stormy Passage. 

I met Stormy for the first time today.  He is a friendly, medium-sized bay horse, with white feet and a narrow white stripe down his nose.  He is in a stall in the big barn, wearing a cast on one front leg and a thick leg wrap for support on the other. Dr. Fraley has already worked on his feet, and in a few days Stormy will get a special shoe to help support his bowed tendon while it heals.  Stormy will spend several months in his new stall recovering, eventually being able to go outside to just be a horse.  For now, because he needs quiet and calm, he will not be a stop on our tours. 

For every famous horse at Old Friends–horses like Gulch or Commentator, Kudos or The Wicked North–who never received anything but the best of care, there are any number of horses like Stormy Passage.  People come to see the famous horses.  But I promise the ones they remember are the horses like Stormy. 

No rescue or retirement facility can save every horse.  But Stormy Passage is an example of what happens when one person stands up, and then another person stands alongside, and more people become involved in helping this one horse, this one time.  It doesn’t matter what you can do–donate, volunteer, provide a home.  One dollar, one horse, one time, one broken piece of our world fixed.  Spread the word.




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19 responses to “Sunday February 13, 2011

  1. Pat

    Great blog, made me cry. Thank you for helping, and thank God for the vet who refused to euthanize him. Post pictures, please.

  2. Anne

    I almost stopped reading as I just couldn’t stand to hear another one of these horrible track stories and not having the means to help when believe me, I want to. I admire the vet who made the call and Old Friends for opening their barn door. Hopefully all will go fine and one day Stormy will be able to enjoy his new found life finishing it as he started it, in a large paddock with other horses near by only minus his mama.
    Thank you Old Friends. Good luck to Stormy Passage. What a looker he is. How could anyone just give up on him? Such a kind face.

  3. Viv from Ivytree

    Val. you better believe I am standing up and cheering for Stormy after your impassioned blog. My hat, as always, is off to Michael and crew…as well as the humane minded vets who decided that it was about the horse. THIS is why it is no important to know when to say when. I pray for a day when these claiming level horses will see more humanity BEFORE the injuries, the pain, the months in a stall…or the inevitable dignified passage in the company of friends because there was no alternative. Let them have some life in them and pull them off the track before that last dollar is squeezed out of them…or worse, not. God Bless you, Val. You told one heck of a story today. That Appy horse is so proud of you. Hugs, Vivien

  4. MRO

    Wonderful story or I should say wonderful ending to the story. I’ll echo Val’s comments about volunteering and donating. There is nothing more rewarding & it really does make a difference. Welcome Stormy Passage. So glad you made it to Old Friends. Hopefully, you’ll be well enough to be turned out & on the tour stop at the May(?) blog gathering.

    • oldfriendsblog

      We’ll meet Stormy at the blog gathering. But it’s hard to say how long his rehab will take. A lot depends on him and how quiet keeps himself. -Val

  5. Bonnie

    God Bless you Val and Everyone at Old Friends! What an incredible job you all do and with such open hearts. And yes, thanks to the vet who said no, we’re not just throwing this horse away. I will think good thoughts for Stormy and hope to next see a photo of him out in a pasture playing with his mates, just where he deserves to be! Bless his heart!!!!

  6. Pam

    Val, I began reading your blog with tears of sadness and ended up with tears of triumph. Thank goodness for caring, ethical people such as you, Michael, the vet and all the people involved in saving these horses…whether they’re famous or not. I hope that Stormy recovers quickly, so he can go outside and enjoy being a horse. Depending on how well he heals, will he be rehabbed for a riding horse? I can see some 10 year-old girl falling in love with him, taking him on trail rides, and becoming his best friend. Thank you for posting this wonderful story.

  7. victoria Racimo

    Val — once again your writing takes us to the place we need to go — to understand and feel with you the extraordinary moments you continue to share in the glorious and sometimes painful work you do, in the horses and stories that cross your path.
    thank you for this — i must do what I can to help move the cause and your stories out to the world.

  8. Colmel

    What a lovely, kind eye he has! How remarkable, considering his path. I think Stormy will be a wonderful ambassador for his brethren who might not share his good luck. (BTW, I love his name! We bred a lovely thoroughbred mare named Stormy Creek who is now a broodmare in NC – show horses.)

  9. Mary Matthews

    Met him yesterday and he is definitely a cutie pie! But Val I think I have now fallen in love with marleyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!

  10. Carole

    Thank goodness for ethical vets like that and for people like Michael & the Old Friends family. Because of them, Stormy Passage’s journey finally has found calm waters. I hope he heals well and quickly and is showered with love. Such a lovely looking boy.

  11. Gae

    This is well written. And this one horse is one very lucky horse indeed. I just hope he isn’t afraid of the growing herd of Old Friends felines!

  12. Fern Blair

    Thanks for a story – Stormy Passage’s story but one that could be any number of other horses stories. Although he is not a well known horse as are others at Old Friends, he was sent to you for a reason – I do not believe in coincidences – his story will mean better days for others – it will help educate people who do not know about the less famous horses and their usually sad outcomes – the $4,000 claimers of the racing world.
    God bless you for what you do. I will eagerly be waiting more news of Stormy.

    Fern Blair

  13. TBDancer

    I owe meeting my OTTB to an unknown person who cut through the nonsense at a track where time is money and saw a young gelding anxious to please but worried about not doing the right thing correctly and who reacted out of fear by rearing up and going over backward. He never did it with anyone on his back or with anyone behind him (because he KNEW not to harm the peeps ;o), but he was a handful. His then-trainer, known for HIS short fuse, wanted the horse GONE, but instead of taking him to a feedlot or handing the lead over to a meat man, this unknown person arranged for some retraining and eventually, the horse came to me.

    I hope the kindnesses continue for Stormy and that he settles and lets Mother Nature and the kind folks at Old Friends aid in his healing. Stormy’s story, like those of so many other racehorses, must be repeated “early and often,” and his journey is proof positive that second careers await for horses that meet people with the eyes and the heart to see beyond the track.

  14. Kathy

    Please give Stormy hugs from those of us who will have to wait until Derby week to do it ourselves. I’m sure he is getting lots of TLC from everyone at OF. a great home for one whos eroad has been so bumpy.

  15. Brenda Weaver

    God bless you Old Friends for taking another beautiful creature under your wings!! We so love you for rescuing as many as you can and I will try to be more of a help in the future.

  16. rebecca shain

    Think you for this story. I will promise to support the rescue foundations in some way. I love horses so much and want so badly to support these wonderful rescue foundations.

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