The HJU Thoroughbred Update has another great vignette from one of our readers!
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Horse: Lasting Freedom (Lou) 2004 grey/roan gelding by Red Ransom – Bin Sweet, by Bin Along (Ky-bred, 27 starts, 2-2-2, $48,730)
Owner: Trina Maus, Ontario, Canada
I currently have two OTTB – Lasting Freedom (aka Lou) and Mia Amore (aka Sophie, reg. name Italian Queen) – both have very different stories. However; one I credit for saving me. This is my journey with Lou.
In 2008, after 10 years off riding, I decided to get back into horses. I looked for more than a year when I stumbled on Lou at the Assiniboia Race Track in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was in his stall, a stunning 17 hh steel grey gelding. The trainer had just bought him and intended to race the 5 year old that weekend. He was noticeably lame. Against better judgement, I knew I had to buy Lou and get him off the track before he was permanently hurt. The trainer finally agreed to sell him to me for a profit. My vet determined that his injuries were just wear and tear and with time off, he would be fine.
Lou and I went on to have success in the show jumping ring in Ontario. I have never sat on a horse with such a heart; all he wanted to do is please me. He is a tough horse to ride because he is so powerful, but I trusted him. I knew he would never do anything to hurt or scare me. Thanks to his talent, I went from wanting to get back into riding, to winning numerous championships… but then it all came (literally) to a crashing end.
In April 2011, a young horse tripped while I was riding her and flipped on top of me. My left leg and ankle were crushed and the right ankle broken. At first doctors told me I would never be able to walk on my left leg again. It took 5 plates and almost 40 screws to fix the 100 breaks in the left leg. While in the hospital I picked up a hospital-borne infection and almost lost my life. In total I spent 2 and a half months in a hospital bed and lost 30 pounds.
That was way too much time for me to spend away from Lou – I talked about him everyday. After two months, my family quickly noticed I was becoming depressed and arranged for doctors to allow me out of the hospital for a day to go see him. We did not know how he would react to seeing me in a wheelchair.
When I arrived I called for him and he came running to the gate calling back. The barn owner led him into his stall and put up a stall guard so I could pat him. He was so quiet and gentle, but never once touched my legs. He didn’t spook at the wheelchair, just ignored it, preferring to nuzzle my face and chest. That is when things started turning around for me.
Once I got out of the hospital, with the help from friends, I would visit Lou every day. He stood their quietly while I patted him from the wheelchair. Eventually I started brushing him and when I moved to crutches – he would take baby steps (did I mention he is a 17hh monster) so I could lead him. This “high strung” thoroughbred jumper turned into the quietest horse to handle.
It has been almost a year since the accident and my leg is still broken (one of the fractures will not heal). Despite the damage to the leg, I can put weight on it. It is still amazes my doctor I can walk. I thank Lou for that. Every day he would push me to do a little more. Working with him became my physiotherapy and a reason to get out of the house.
A few weeks ago, my surgeon said I could get back on a horse – as long I did not use stirrups and promised to be careful. I knew exactly who I was going to get on. The coach at the barn cautioned me not to get on Lou and use a school horse instead. Her reason was he hadn’t been ridden in almost a year, and he is a bit high strung in the field (what TB doesn’t like to run). But my gut told me, if any horse would understand I needed to be looked after, it would be him. I couldn’t have been more right. My horse, who never liked mounting blocks, stood like a rock while I got on. He quietly walked forward with his head down as he was lead with me on his back. He has NEVER put a foot wrong (knock wood). He doesn’t mind the big cast I have to wear and has learned voice commands since I can’t use my leg.
With out him I strongly believe I would not have been able to pull through this ordeal. I count my blessings everyday that I took a risk on a lame older race horse. He really has saved me!
UPDATE: Trina emailed back in March about Lou. Since then she has continued progress on healing and here’s a recent email:
Last Tuesday, my surgeon gave me the green light to start horse showing again (as long as I promised to be careful and not fall off). Wednesday I jumped my first course with Lasting Freedom, Lou (since my accident). It went so well we decided to show him in the .75 meter jumpers on Saturday. Yikes! The show was Joker’s Hill Hunter Jumper Trillium Horse Show held at RCRA in Newmarket Ontario.
I only entered him in the first clear round class to see how my ankle would hold up. I was very nervous, it was my first horse show in more than a year…. and Lou’s first horse show since I was hurt.
Lou has been known to get excited at horse shows and throw a buck or two in at the end of a round …. not Saturday. He was a pro. He never spooked, played around, nothing – he just jumped around like a seasoned pro.
We jumped clear in the clear round. I decided we could do the whole division. This is where having a TB paid off – I did not ride for speed, I was only aiming to do clear, safe, steady rounds. Since Lou is so naturally fast we placed 7th and 5th (out of 21) in the first two classes. WOW! We did have to tape up my ankle, and by the third class I dropped my stirrup after the 3rd fence and finished the round with only one stirrup.
Not only has Lou helped me in my recovery – he has also given me the confidence to know I can get back in the jumpers… and be competitive, despite my disability.