Why own a racehorse? Because they're our miracles

June 12, 2019 02:54pm
Why own a racehorse? Because they're our miracles
Photo: Courtesy of Gene McLean

It was just about a year ago that I got the call from my great friend, and newest horse partner, David Osborne. It was early in the morning. It was on a Saturday. And, nothing about any of this was close to being normal.

Then again, is there anything in the horse business that is normal?

After an exchange of a few pleasantries and a bit of chit-chat, I cut right to the chase:

“Is everything OK, Ozzie?” I asked.

There was a bit of some awkward silence, and then I continued.

“You know, Ozzie, whenever the phone rings this early in the morning, and the call is from your horse partner, it usually isn’t good news,” I said.

And, it wasn’t. Definitely was not.

Little did I know that this situation would fit that definition.

David struggled to find the right words for a call that he certainly did not want to make. I struggled to locate the right meaning from a call that I certainly did not want to take.

Come to find out that my mare, Diamond Seeker, whom I had bred to David and Lori’s fantastic racehorse-turned-stallion, Majestic Harbor, had been stricken with a severe bout of colic throughout the night. On her way to the nearby clinic for some medical intervention, she struggled to stay upright and fought just for her next breath.

Diamond Seeker could not be saved. The blockage was too severe. The pain too much. The only way out was a humane way out.

And, come to find out, our month-old foal — an itsy-bitsy filly who had always been by her mom’s side — was now left an orphan.

She was all alone. All by herself.

No mother protector to help raise and praise this baby. No mom’s milk to help this little baby grow and nourish. No mare to care.

We were left with decisions that neither David and his lovely wife, Lori, and I wanted to make, and with problems that we truly didn’t know how to fix.

All I remember, quite honestly, is telling Ozzie that I would jump in my car and head home from the lake house as soon as I could throw my clothes in a bag. And that I would head straight to the clinic where the baby was now trying to learn how to sip milk from a bucket, and learn how to make it in a strange new world without any mother to help her teach, protect, guide, command, love and direct.

Don’t care who you are: That seems daunting, right?

As I made the four-hour trip home, I sent a tweet asking all my friends and cohorts in the social media world if anybody knew of a possible nurse mare that I may be able to locate.

Much to my shock and surprise, they helped saved this little filly’s life.

I had never witnessed anything like it. Within seconds, the word began to spread all over horsedom. Within minutes, people I knew started to send me names and recommendations. Within an hour, people I didn’t know at all were texting, calling, hitting Facebook and sending tweets. The Indiana Thoroughbred Association was simply amazing. The world of horsemen and horsewomen was astonishing. No stone unturned. No call unmade. No collestrum bottle unfilled. By the time I made Louisville, I had the names that I will never, ever forget.

One name is Bill Roseberry. A man who had a nurse mare residing at the comfy confines of Ashwood in Versailles, Ky., just in case a foal needed a friend. But seeing that it was now June, it didn’t seem like her services may be needed there. Seeing that we had a foal without a mom, we desperately needed her services here.

I called. Bill answered. Twenty-four hours later, Bill was on his way to Shelbyville, Ky., and the clinic with a miracle mare.

The other name is Gerri. A mare with a heart of gold. A mare with a love unmatched. A mare with a soul she didn’t mind sharing. Part Tennessee Walker. Part something else. And wholly, a life saver. After Bill brought Gerri into the stall, he cautioned that we should leave the hobbles on the mare’s back feet just to make sure that she would adapt and accept the new baby. He also suggested that we keep the mare tied up for several hours, just to make sure that she would not nicker or snip at the month-old looking for a new mom’s breadbasket.

After about three hours into the wait, Lori Osborne, who never left the new mom and baby duo alone, and I decided to give the new roommates a try at meeting. The baby walked up, and slowly, carefully began to nurse. Gerri, slowly and graciously, turned and started to lick her new baby.

They were a natural. They were a miracle.

The hobbles came off. The shank came free. Mom accepted the baby. Baby accepted the mom. The milk bucket went out. The milk was delivered the old fashioned way, just like the baby filly was Gerri’s very own. It was a miracle. Right in front of your eyes.

Things didn’t get much better for a while, though. A day after Gerri moved in, we discovered that the baby filly was lame in the right front leg. An X-ray revealed a fracture. Apparently, her mom, Diamond Seeker, had accidentally kicked when convulsing from the colic contractions.

Another obstacle, for sure.

The attending veterinarians applied a splint to keep the fracture still and in place. They prescribed six weeks of stall rest. They insisted that physical activity had to be at a minimum for the leg to heal and fix itself naturally.

Ever tried to keep a baby still? Ever tried to keep a baby horse still?

Somehow, Lori Osborne and Gerri were up to the task. Together, they took turns loving the baby filly back to health one day at a time.

Just last week, almost one year to the day, I called Lori and David Osborne. It was a much nicer phone call than the one when shared the year before. So much better.

The call was after lunch. The call led to an invitation to come out and pay a visit to see the filly. And, the call was an invitation to have dinner and chat.

Oh, what a difference in a year’s time. One year at a time.

As soon as we all walked into the paddock to make the reintroduction to the baby filly — now a growing yearling — she immediately came over to snuggle, wiggle and mingle. The beautiful white “diamond” in the middle of her forehead was a reminder of her birth mom. The beautiful, sweet demeanor and loving nibbles were a reminder of her adopted mom, Gerri.

She had grown nicely. Her legs were straight and strong, healed and healthy. Her hips and back were muscular and mighty. Her shoulder round and stout. She looked like she was in for a growth spurt. And she looked and acted happy, well-adjusted, lovable and with a hint of mischief.

She looked just like a yearling horse, full of potential and verve.

She looked just like her mother, full of spirit and fight.

And, she looked a bit like Gerri, full of life.

Hard to imagine this frail little filly, who clung to life on a whisper and a prayer just 12 months ago. Hard to see how fragile life can be, and death so dauntingly close to reality. Hard to imagine, now, life without her.

A few months ago, while at dinner one night, Lori Osborne had a brilliant idea. One of many that she has in that whirlwind mind of hers that goes about as fast as Secretariat on a Belmont Stakes Saturday. She came up with the idea that we should name our little filly Diamond Solitaire.

Diamond after her mom, of course. Diamond Seeker.

Solitaire after the fact that the filly was on her own, all alone, and by herself.

Until Bill Roseberry and Gerri came along.

Until a miracle came along.

I don’t know what Diamond Solitaire will ever grow up to be on the racetrack. Still a long, long way to go before she gets her first test to a saddle and a rider. Still a long, long way to go before she sees a racetrack and a starting gate. Still a long, long way to go before she ever sees her first racetrack and jockey.

But I have seen enough now to never underestimate the spirit of this gal.

When we got ready to leave Diamond Solitaire alone with her new friends in the paddock at Deerfield Farm, I walked up and blew in her nose and cupped her face next to mine. It was the same thing I did when I left her the last time at the vet’s clinic.

It was our way of saying hello and goodbye, for now, all at the same time.

And, it is the reason I own a racehorse.

She is a miracle. And, she is ours.

 

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Meet Gene McLean

The Pressbox is your source for news, handicapping and interviews with the industry's biggest stars. Gene McLean is the Founder of The Pressbox and The Louisville Thoroughbred Society. No one in this industry has more talent in reviewing, forecasting and handicapping.




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