Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saving Captain Dudley---- How Barbaro Inspired a Rescue

The Second Race from time to time posts stories submitted by supporters, showcasing their stories and the story of their retired race horse. Here is the story of Captain Dudley, the inspiration of Barbaro and the story of Saving "Brego"... Thank you to Julie for submitting her story. Enjoy!

Brego’s story begins by looking backward, long before he was born, long before Barbaro was born. Brego’s story really begins with a deep, deep love of horses and one hell of a crush on Steve Cauthen. The father of one of my classmates was editor for Equus Magazine, and in the 70’s it was more focused on Thoroughbred racing than general equestrian stuff. This is where I read about Seattle Slew, a horse I grew to love, and Affirmed, because I thought his jockey was the hottest thing on the planet. Never mind that I was six years old and the proud owner of a new horse (my parents gave in, finally). At that time I could follow present day thoroughbreds but learned all about the great legends through my Breyer horse collection. I had Silky Sullivan, Man O’War, Ruffian, Kelso, and the list goes on.

As I grew older, my love of racing faded, but my love of horses did not.

Fast forward many years to the day of my brothers wedding and the day of the Preakness. I was watching the pre-race festivities, saw interviews with Michael Matz and listened to the talk of Barbaro. My brothers wedding began ten minutes before post time.

One day later I became a fan of Barbaro.

A few years before that Preakness Day I was introduced to Joe Sheldon at TB Friends, who was good friends with a dear friend of mine who happened to be a trainer. My friend Ernie suggested I get to know Joe because he always had access to so many great horses. Ernie and his wife Fran had been privy to my brewing dream, to set up an environment where horses could heal people and people could heal horses. What better place to get horses that needed healing than from Joe? I already knew where to go to get the people that needed healing.

I knew it was time to start looking for my first off the track thoroughbred when Barbaro was injured. The nation rallied around a horse in a way I hadn’t seen before. It inspired me.

I began watching Joe’s site like a hawk, convinced that he would get my horse. Every now and then I’d swing up to Woodland and drop a bunch of grain off and look around his field but there was no spark. So, I waited. For better or worse I wanted a bay with a white star (I later realized that my first horse was a bay with a white star). Searching local websites, back and forth to Joe’s this went on for over a year.

Then one day I was looking at the Bay Area Equestrian Network in the Retired Race Horse Section when I saw this:

“17H tattooed gelding with star like Barbaro. This gentle giant has a sad look in his eye and his energy seems beat down and despondent, although he seemed happier after I rode him. His knee has some swelling”

His name was Espresso and he was at a feedlot in Yakima Washington. He was just four years old. And there was something about, something about that sad look in his eye that pulled on me. I contacted the rescue working with the feedlot and inquired about his availability. I then printed out the pictures of him and took them to my barn.

“He’s a train wreck!” my trainer exclaimed at the site of the photos. “Of course he’s a train wreck, he’s in a feedlot!” I barked back at her. After much negotiation, mostly with my husband who could not for the life of him understand why I needed another horse, and this horse, I purchased Espresso site unseen and decided I’d deal with the knee later.

He was quickly renamed Brego. He remained in quarantine for one month at Camelot Farms in Yakima. During the first vet check I got and ran his tattoo. He was Canadian-bred Captain Dudley, his name honoring a friend of the breeder, who died the day Brego was born. He was a grandson of Seattle Slew. I could barely gather myself, I had a Slew grandson – I was pretty chipper with this newfound news.

Brego was shipped to California on June 6th, 2007. When he came off the trailer he was in pretty bad condition. A two on the body scale, which prompted the barn manager to hide him in the upper barn because no horse on the property looked like him.

It was a matter of moments, as he looked around in his stall, that the realization sunk in maybe, that he was “home”. In two weeks he didn’t need to be hidden anymore.

We focused on getting weight on him while we evaluated the knee. He had chips, we just didn’t know how many and what the prognosis was. A few months later he was scheduled for arthroscopic surgery. The surgeon pulled three chips out of his knee. The first true testament to his character was coming out of anesthesia. My trainer and friend watched him as he tried to stand. He would try to get up, and realize he was too wobbly, and then rest for a few minutes, and then try again. On the third attempt he was able to stand. I was so impressed by his patience and intelligence.

He was rehabbed for six months and then began a long retraining process. We spent several months rebuilding his muscle before we put a rider on his back. After a full year, we were ready (we quickly learned that he had been ready for a while!). I asked one of the trainers who was also a jockey and exercise rider at Golden Gate Fields to get on him first. We didn’t know how he’d respond and Nicole can stay on anything.

Brego responded the way he had to everything else. No big deal. He was actually more comfortable with someone in the saddle.

We continued this process for another six months and then it was time for Brego to go learn how to be a horse. From the time I saw him come off the trailer through all the rehab and retraining, I wanted to see him run, really run, like he was bred to do.

When we arrived at Pegasus Ranch last April, I had no idea that one of my dreams was about the come true. Brego led the herd run, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my lie. And he was reunited with Wild Inspiration, the horse he was stalled next to when he first arrived at my barn.

Brego is now at a family owned barn in the town I live in. He is, dare I saw it, fattish…. Hay belly-ish.

I am working with him as a teaching horse for my programs, where horses interact with people to help them come human again. He is coming along great.


  1. A HUGE thank you must go out to the people at Columbia Basin Equine Rescue who saw the spark in him on the feedlot that you saw and cared enough to list him and try to find him a home.

    And THANK YOU for giving Brego the time, attention, love and care that he needed to turn into the gorgeous guy he is!

  2. Great story and thank you for sharing it.
    Run Brego and nurture well.

  3. That story was so touching. My heart breaks every time I see one of these regal spiritual creatures cast away as garbage after they are used up by the people who break them down as youngsters. Stories that end as Brego's has, in a good way, are a bright ray of sunshine through the dark clouds of the collateral damage of the sport of racing. God bless all who have hope and give the gift of a second chance to one of God's greatest gifts to mankind. Judy Leonard

  4. And the sad look in his eyes is long gone...wonderful story and thank you for sharing it!

  5. Brego was one of my favorite stories. Thank You for posting. Columbia Basin Equine Rescue has saved so many of them. Kudos to all

  6. In light of some negative press lately on the Internet, its a pleasure to showcase some "good news". Today another story was posted of an ex-slaughter bond horse from CBER, formerly known as "Splendor". Please read the story of Tolo on our blog.

  7. That is so cool! What a gorgeous horse. All he needed was a chance.


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