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.