From Racehorse to Best Friend...
What an incredible horse.
Jazz embodies the versatility of the Thoroughbred racehorse. He not only has the looks with his dark points and dappled coat that draws everyone's eye... but he has the brains and the desire to do anything he puts his mind to.
It was a whirlwind of a year with Jazz. This sweet horse came to us with a horribly locking stifle. This means his knee would lock completely causing him to be unable to move his back left leg. He learned how to adapt to this; when it would lock up he would move in a way that would pop his leg back into place. This happened quite regularly; if he was stalled for any amount of time, if he tried to move backwards, if he even stood in one place too long, his leg would lock.
While we were away we took trips Iowa State University; and, when back home in Kentucky, to Hagyard Medical Institute. The treatment plan was always the same: ride, ride, ride. Build the muscle up and keep him pastured rather than living in a stall as he had been his entire life at the racetrack. We were to keep him as mobile as possible to strengthen that joint.
One thing was certain during this process: Jazz loves to be outside. Our skill and strength training consisted of miles and miles of being outside...
Jazz had a blast with all of our trail training. We hit the trails all over northeast Iowa during our time stabled there, and all over central Kentucky when we came back home in July. There was not an obstacle he couldn't conquer. At first; however, he was terrified of water. He stopped dead in his tracks and trembled in fear the first time he saw a stream of water "out in the wild" rather than in a nice quiet bucket where it belonged. After some time of allowing him to relax and ease his way towards the scary stream, he realized he could touch it and even drink it without being eaten by it! What a discovery! From that point on Jazz LOVED walking through streams and even deep river crossings. He never hesitated again to venture to and through new places.
These experiences kept showing me how smart this horse is... Even if he was unsure, even if he was VERY unsure, he trusted me enough to try anything I pointed him towards. I was especially impressed when we came to the large tunnel leading underneath a loud highway at a state park in Kentucky. This tunnel not only was huge, dark, and noisy... but it had a floor of concrete and running water. Jazz embraced this while on a trail ride with his horsey buddy by walking straight through in the lead and not looking back.
Locking stifles are not completely uncommon but it did seem to inhibit some of our progress as our training for the Makeover competition continued. We had to find the balance between building his muscle to strengthen his leg and making him sore.
So one lovely summer day we brought Jazz to the incredible professionals at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute who preformed the surgery on Jazz. With a short recovery time and a continued prognosis to keep as mobile as possible we were back in business shortly!
And let me tell you...Hagyard, again, worked their magic. After the surgery, Jazz's leg never locked up again. Not once!
As fall closed in we entered Jazz in the New Vocations TIP Show at the Kentucky Horse Park to see how he would respond to a high energy show atmosphere. He ended up winning ribbons in his three classes: English equitation (3rd place), English pleasure (6th place), and Western pleasure (4th place)! Soon after we entered him in a local show outside of Versailles where he won ribbons again in the three classes he entered: Western pleasure (1st place), green horse pleasure (3rd place), and trail class (2nd place)!
Jazz was gaining confidence and skill. He was getting softer in the bridle more responsive in his leg and seat cues. He was being ridden both western and English and learning the basics of both disciplines.
Throughout our training I wanted Jazz to have a little experience in a lot of things so that he could go any direction in the future. He clearly loved to be out on the trails so my desire was for him to be able to be a trail horse in some capacity. Endurance/competitive trail seemed like it might be a good fit. But he also did well in an arena setting and had a nice walk, trot, canter when he engaged his brain in what he was doing. So we swapped back and forth from English to western tack and kept an open mind.
I am a firm believer in letting every horse have a say in their future "career". Not all Quarter Horses excel at working cattle, not all Percherons are meant to drive heavy loads, and not all Thoroughbreds are meant to run fast... Jazz's heart was not in racing but he undoubtedly has a big heart. By the time the week of the Thoroughbred Makeover came Jazz and I were ready to show the world that big heart.
Jazz was INCREDIBLE at the Makeover competition! He completed every obstacle well (10 out of 10!) a few were not perfect but a few were absolutely perfect. I could not be more proud of his performance throughout the entire weekend. There were some tough competitors, a lot of amazing & hard working trainers and horses; so we placed 28th out of 80 in Competitive Trail. And we are very proud! Photos right & are two of the obstacles during the trail competition.
During the Makeover weekend, Jazz was offered for sale to a good home so that he could continue his new life with a great new owner. I was hoping to gain the interest of someone who would thoroughly appreciate Jazz's affectionate nature and gentle heart. I also knew that this is a horse who needs to and who want to be worked with very consistently. Though he doesn't like to run, he loves to expend energy and keep his brain thinking. He needed a fulfilling job. The human that came along next would offer the perfect home to give him job and that detailed affection.
Nicole sealed the deal of Jazz's purchase the weekend of the Makeover and came from the outskirts of Chicago to pick him up the next week. I was sad to see him go. We had spent every day of almost an entire year together building up to the moment he would find his forever home. But his forever home was found and it was better than I could have imagined.
Jazz is now in his Chicago home being taught to jump! What a perfect way for him to funnel his energy and his brain into something enjoyable! He is also trail riding on his off time and as soon as he's settled and ready he will be used in lessons teaching youth riders. He is loved and cared for beyond measure, and I get continuous updates from his new owner who fully appreciates that big heart of his!
Thoroughbreds are typically seen as racehorses... athletes who are bred to run and want to do nothing else. Along with this comes the idea that once they can't run anymore they must not be useful for anything else, they must be high-strug, hard to keep, animals. Horses like Jazz and so many others, as evidenced through the Retired Racehorse Project Makeover, show us just the contrary. Thoroughbreds are strong, capable, versatile, and smart. They are kind-hearted, gentle, affectionate, and willing. They can do anything from eventing, to barrel racing, to cattle work, to trail riding through rivers...
I am so thankful that I could be a part of Jazz's life. He is incredible proof of how rewarding it can be to take in a horse with a physical imperfection, a failed-racehorse, from a track and help him become someone's best friend for life.