Thursday, December 3, 2009

What a Thoroughbred Taught a Person--- The Story of "Puppy"

This month I am dedicating The Second Race blog to stories of ex-race horses that have touched the lives of those that either adopted them, rescued or just loved them. My hope is in sharing stories this month, a few of the horses currently listed with our group (or any group for that matter) may find their way to a new home.

The first in the series of stories is by author Diane Tuorto......

"Puppy" AKA Regal Destroyer, photo Diana Tuorto

I met my Thoroughbred gelding, Puppy (registered name Regal Destroyer) in 1998, while taking lessons on a farm in New Jersey. Then 15 years old, Puppy had endured a hard life, having been shuffled from owner to owner. His early years were spent racing in Fingers Lake region of New York state; he remained there for five long years. While Puppy was a stalker, not a sprinter, his owners continued to enter him in six furlong races, where his performances were always noted as "tried hard in the end". He regularly came in second or third, but rarely won a race, earning barely over $ 10,000 in his many years on the race track.

At a towering 17.2 hands, Puppy next found work as a jumper, where he excelled in four foot courses. He had an amazing work ethic and also had the movement and responsiveness to succeed in 2nd level dressage competitions. By the time I met Puppy, this schoolmaster was working as a lesson and pleasure horse.

Puppy was a perfect example of a horse who was a bit TOO well trained. A friend of mine demonstrated this one day when she had forgotten something up at our barn. She said to leave Puppy. tacked up and alone, in the indoor arena and asked him to "stand". He stopped and stood perfectly still. When we returned, nearly five minutes later, there he stood, having not budged an inch or even lowered his head.

When his stall was left open one night, Puppy wandered outside to eat some grass (judging by the hoof prints), but by morning, was standing straight in his stall as if the door had been closed behind him. Thankfully, over our time together, Puppy realized that wasn't all about work and started to enjoy being silly and playful -- even small things like rubbing his head against my back seemed difficult for him to feel comfortable doing, but as the months went by, he learned that he wouldn't be scolded for what must have previously thought of as "bad behavior".

I had always loved Thoroughbreds, but had never been comfortable jumping any horse; under Puppy's guidance and patience, I soon took on fences, dressage, and hunter paces-- Puppy was willing to try whatever I asked and provided the confident partner I needed to overcome my nerves and excel at different disciplines of riding.

I purchased Puppy in 2000, but sadly, in February 2002, I was forced to put Puppy to sleep when degenerative arthritis in his spine and back (from a starting gate accident years before) had taken its toll on him. I still miss him terribly.

One thing Puppy and many other ex-racehorses have taught me is perseverance. Even when Puppy continued to lose on the racetrack, or in other disciplines, it was always noted how he would constantly give it his all, never complaining, hesitating, or showing any signs of the arthritis that ultimately took his life until the absolute end. Puppy was a fighter. His character and presence inspired me so much that I committed myself to write a novel loosely based on his life, which became Luck of the Draw, the story of a Thoroughbred racehorse that never gives up.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful story, Diana. Thank you for sharing it here, Sharla.


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