I’ve gotten updates on TJ over the past year and a half. Each update was a bit worse than the last. He started out happily retired and ended up not being able to walk. In the end he was stalled with limited turnout to keep him comfortable. He was tested twice to see if he could be nerved. Everything that could be done was, but nothing worked.
The x-rays below we taken in January 2016 and show what can happen to a horse when pushed too hard, too soon. My vet told me in over 30 years of practice, he’s never seen hooves this bad. This is something he would have expected from a cutting horse, but not a Western Pleasure horse.
TJ had a good life with me. He was happy, had friends and played. He learned that people could be good and he could be ridden without fear. He learned love and kindness. He was a clown. At 16h and 1400 lbs, he was gentle and careful with me. He gave kisses, stole my hat, stole my pony holder, played with anything he could get his mouth on. My only regret is that I didn’t get him sooner – before he was so bad that nothing could be done.
Although TJ’s life has come full circle, his story will remain here as a reminder of what greed can do. Owners that want nothing more than wins and money, trainers that want to make a name for themselves as creating winners, an industry that encourages top horses at an early age caused a beautiful, sweet gelding a life of pain and torture. It ultimately led to his demise at the young age of 11.
TJ is no longer in pain. I’m sure he’s racing up and down lush green pastures with his buddy Harley that passed away of a heart attack in the late fall of 2015.
January 30, 2016
Saying goodbye is never easy. As I sit here tonight knowing that TJ will be leaving for his new home tomorrow, thoughts of our last year together fill my head. The decision was difficult, but it’s best for him to go to a home where he can be ridden more often to keep him sound.
January 31, 2016
The trailer to take TJ to his new home was to arrive at 8:30 this morning. We planned on being there at 8:15 so I could spend some time with him before he left. We were on time, but followed the trailer down the road to the barn. I wasn’t going to have much time with him before he left. It was early and everybody was still in their stalls, waiting to be fed. I piled the last treats that I’d ever give him into his bucket. I explained that he was going to a new home today. It wasn’t because I didn’t love him, but because I did. I told him I just couldn’t ride him enough to keep him flexible and sound. I also told him I did everything I could to make sure he was going to a good home. That I love him very much and will miss him. As I led him our of his stall and down the isle I noticed he was stiff and gimpy. As much as I love him, I knew at that point I made the right decision. We walked out to the trailer, his head popped up and his ears pricked forward. We stood in front of the ramp. I gave him a big hug, a kiss on the muzzle and told him I loved him and would never forget him. He hesitated slightly going up the ramp then walked into the trailer box stall. As I watched the trailer go down the road I prayed that TJ would be happy and have a good life ahead of him.
As I walked back into the barn a sadness came over me. Never again would I walk down the isle & hear TJ nicker to me as I approached his stall. Only an empty stall with his nameplate.
I’ve enjoyed the past year with TJ. We learned from each other. We have times of frustration, learning to trust. We had good times and a few not so good. The only regret I have about my time with TJ was having to give him up. When I filled out the transfer report I did enroll TJ in the AQHA Full Circle program. If a future owner can no longer keep him or he’s ready to retire, I’ll be contacted. Maybe someday we’ll have our own farm and he can come home.
As TJ’s and my story comes to a close, so does my blog. I never was able to find anything more about his past. I hope all of you have enjoyed reading TJ’s story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. You can follow more of my writing in My Life With Horses.
With the onset of winter days of riding became fewer and TJ’s limp got worse. The more days of rain or bitter cold we had, the lamer he became. Being stuck in his stall was not a good thing for the big guy. I called one of the best lameness specialists in the area. Dr. Blauner and his assistant arrived on Wednesday. They did blocks and X-rays.
The diagnosis – severe calcification of the deep digital flexor tendon in his left fore. In 35 years Dr. Blauner had never seen it so bad and couldn’t imagine what was done to TJ for it to be so bad. Although it can’t be fixed, he doesn’t have to be put down. In fact, he can and should be worked. Light work on good footing is going to help him remain flexible. Cantering on soft ground is fine, but only when he wants to. Walk, trot trail rides for several hours is fine. No hard work and no sharp turns. The more days he can be worked, the better he it is for him.
Decisions – The vet told me he needs to be ridden as many days as possible and not just weekends. TJ can’t be a weekend horse in order for him to stay sound and because of my work schedule I can only ride on weekends. It seems like a no brainer, but I was torn between my love for the horse and what’s best for him. In the end I need to do what’s best for him. TJ has been offered for sale or on farm full lease in Gilbertsville, PA. His sale price is just high enough to deter anyone from running him through a sale or reselling him to make a profit and is negotiable to the right home. If you know anyone that would love to have a great walk, trot horse, please send them my way.
So it really is time for TJ and I to go our separate ways. He has given me my confidence back, taught me to be calm and relaxed regardless of how nervous he was and showed me how much patience I could have. I’ve shown him that he could be ridden without being abused. He’s learned riding can be fun and life can be good. It’s truly been a pleasure to have owned such a special horse.
TJ is a 2006 16h registered Quarter Horse gelding (A Good Machine x Impulsive Lil Lena – Impulsions). He’s Western Pleasure & cow bred going back to Zippo Pine Bar, Blondys Dude and Doc Bar. Pleasure trained, spur broke.
Rides English or Western. Wonderfully smooth at all gaits! A fabulous western jog you can ride all day & a ground covering working canter. Picks up correct leads & does changes. He has a good mind and a great personality. He has been on the trails a few times & seems to enjoy it. Stands for vet, farrier, loads, hauls, UTD on shots, teeth, feet, etc. Needs a confident, patient rider. He has a great, fun personality & will be in your pocket for treats. Gentle and easy to handle for someone with horse experience.
TJ does have calcification of the deep digital flexor tendon in his left front. Because of this he can’t be ridden hard and no sharp turns. A few hours on the trail at a walk & trot is fine. He can be cantered lightly as long as the footing is soft. The more days per week he’s ridden, the better it is for him. He does need to be buted before riding. I can only ride on weekend & the vet said he needs more days. I’ll be happy to provide prospective buyers with his x-rays.
On farm full lease in Gilbertsville, PA or purchase for $1,000 (negotiable to the right home).
Happy anniversary TJ! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I can’t believe it’s only been 1 year.
It’s been year of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, progress and set backs, joy and frustration; you’ve tested my patience, pushed my riding skills and made me realize again just how much I can handle while I’m in the saddle. You’ve helped me regain my confidence and made me become an active, thinking rider again. It was a year of getting to know each other and bonding.
You’ve gone from a horse that couldn’t walk without limping to a horse that races his buddy at a full gallop up and down the fence line and doesn’t take a bad step. From a horse that tensed so badly you were like riding a fence rail, piaffed and reared to someone I just hang out on bareback with a halter and lead.
You’ve learned to trust me to get you through all of the scary situations I’ve put you in over the past year. From just being ridden again, riding outside of the ring, trail riding, riding in your pasture and your 1st gymkhana. You’re becoming a steady, confident horse.
Why you should ever trust people to ride you again is beyond me, but I’m grateful that it’s me you trust. With all you’ve been through in your past life, you still have more heart and try than any horse I’ve ever known. You’ve become my buddy and my overgrown puppy. We’ve formed a deep, mutual bond that most horse owners never get to experience. If they do, it normally takes years to develop. You follow me everywhere and never take your eyes off of me if I leave you for a few minutes.
Maybe more importantly than our relationship, you’ve become Koko’s best friend. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her bond with a horse the way she has with you. Apparently you won her over from the start by protecting her from her pasture mates when they rushed up to see you.
I still haven’t been able to find out more about your past and what path you took in life that led you to being run through a kill sale. I probably never will and I’m ok with that. The past is the past. It seems that you’re learning to put it behind you and are enjoying your new life with Dad, Koko and I.
I’m looking forward to not only what this new year has in store for us, but many more years and adventures together.
I love you TJ … for the wonderful horse that you are and the horse you’re turning into.
The foundation for any solid relationship, whether it’s with another human or an animal, is trusting your partner. In just 11 short months (and mostly riding on weekends), I certainly didn’t expect to earn as much of TJ’s trust under saddle as I have.
Friday was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. We worked in the ring for a bit so I could see how he was doing. The previous week he stumbled a few times and ended up limping. Since he was still a bit sore during the week, I wasn’t sure if I’d be riding. He was fine so I decided it was time to venture out into their pasture for a ride. The last time I tried it, we barely got 20′ in when TJ started to bounce and rear. One of the young girls that rides there was already enjoying a pasture ride and we decided to join her. He was a little nervous and confused as to why he was going in his pasture with me on him. We made it past the spot he had his meltdown the last time. Skeptical, but willing, we walked around the smaller area. I could feel him tense when he saw the gate and got a little jiggy as we got closer. I let him go through the gate to take the pressure off. Once he relaxed we went back in. Encouragement and reassurance from me got him into the much larger back pasture. Half way down the fence line, turned around and went completely out of the pasture without incident. One more little ride in the big pasture for reinforcement and I was going to end our ride on a good note. In the gate, across the small front pasture and through the second gate. Head up and looking, ears forward, on a loose rein with no encouragement from me, TJ walked all the way down to the bottom of the pasture, part way across the back and back up the middle. I was shocked. I didn’t think he had developed enough self confidence to do that on his own.
Saturday was cold and rainy. I was disappointed that we couldn’t ride. The rain had cleared out and Sunday afternoon turned out to be a nice day, although somewhat cooler and breezy. Not the ideal time to take Mr Spook out of the ring, but I was going to try. I went in the ring long enough to use the mounting block. TJ seemed a bit surprised as we walked out of the ring. His ears went forward and his pace quickened as we headed for the pasture gate. He must have enjoyed our last ride. We walked through the small pasture. We barely go through the gate to the big pasture and another one of the girls at the barn came galloping up behind us and blasting past TJ. The thought of I’m going to die ran through my head for an instant as TJ and Koko spooked. Once they past and TJ saw what was going on he was ok. I rubbed on him and reassured him. He settled quickly. A few months ago this situation would have been a disaster . Fortunately the young girl that was also riding in the pasture was far enough away that her horse wasn’t affected by this. Shortly after being told about galloping around like a lunatic that close to other horses, she took off again. This fired up Koko to the point that Greg could barely keep her controled. The other girl’s horse got spooked to the point she got off. I put the reins in 1 hand and rubbed TJ’s neck with the other. TJ handled it. A bit up, but we continued our ride on a loose rein. This is when I realized how much trust he had in me and the amount of self confidence he was developing. I can’t begin to express how proud I was of him that day.
When I bought TJ 10 months ago I thought he’d be my forever horse. I guess in the back of my mind I knew it was possible for this day to come. Fall is here and the air is crisp. TJ’s Thoroughbred ancestry is starting to show itself more and more. I’m missing riding time because he’s so wired. I can barely get him brushed and saddled, let alone get on. I’m seriously out horsed. I never though this quiet, sweet big goofball would turn into a horse I could barely handle when he recovered. I have the ability, but because of past (very) bad experiences, I no longer have the confidence. I told TJ he was up for sale and why. As much as it breaks my heart, I think it’s time for TJ to move on …
I started writing this a few weeks ago and I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. It was the end of the line for TJ and I – my heart was breaking. I really love this horse, but I wasn’t able to ride him anymore. What am I supposed to do? I left it in God’s hands. If I put TJ up for sale and he sells, I’ll know he’s not supposed to be with me. If he doesn’t sell, I’ll know he’s my forever horse. So I put an ad together and posted it on several horse sale sites, our website, Craigslist and 10 +/- Facebook groups and prayed every night for God to do what’s best for both of us. I waited and waited.
Friday was supposed to be unusually warm for November in PA. Mid to upper 70’s was unheard of. I decided to take advantage of the warmth, take a half day off and give him a bath. He managed to lay in a pile of manure and he stank! I couldn’t show him to anyone like that and I certainly wasn’t dealing with Mr. Stinky all winter. Koko also desperately needed a bath so Greg decided to take time off and meet me at the barn. We bathed Koko first since she has a much heavier coat and it was going to take her longer to dry. They were pulled off the hayfield a week or so ago so it was just the two of them in a 5-6 acre pasture. Koko was getting too fat and the hay field proved to be more protein than TJ could handle. Koko was finished and we went out to get TJ. He was half way down the pasture. I called him and to my surprise he came up. Just as I was putting his halter on, his buddy Harley called from the adjacent hay field and TJ took off like a rocket. So I walked down to get him. As I approached, Harley (who is a retired racehorse) took off up the fence line and of course, TJ had to accept the challenge of a race. I was mad as hell. He desperately needed a bath and I couldn’t catch him. My attitude changed when I realized he was galloping up and down the fence line with Harley and doing sliding stops at the end of the fence without a bad step. He even jumped a downed tree branch without missing a beat. He seemed to enjoy the competition of giving enough gas to beat Harley in the race, but by no means flat out. He’s fast! Of course we both left our cell phones in the truck so they wouldn’t get wet! After 4-5 hard runs up and down the fence line, TJ was finished playing and let me halter him. I’m thinking he’s going to limp all the way up the pasture and it’ll be days before I can ride again. There was not a trace of a limp and I almost had to run to keep up with him. My arm was tired from trying to hold him back! It looks like that shoulder is 100% healed. He got his bath and both of them grazed until they were almost dry. When we turned them out, we were prepared with cell phones in hand, on video in case he took off to be with Harley.
TJ’s sale ads have been up for a couple of weeks. 200+ views on one horse sale site, 150 on another and quite a few likes on Facebook group posts resulted in one inquiry from Craigslist. Someone wanted video and asked a few questions. It’s been 5 days and I never heard back. I had my answer to the question that’s been troubling me for a few weeks. TJ is supposed to be my forever horse! What a huge relief. I was tearing me apart to think of him being with someone else. I quickly deleted all of his ads.
Despite the chilly, blustery day yesterday we ventured to the barn after lunch. Heavily overcast, windy and in the mid 50’s. Far from a perfect day to ride. TJ was up and nervous, but I dealt with it. We did slow work and things to make him think about what he was doing instead of everything around him. He relaxed. After our ride I told him that I took his ads down and he was no longer for sale. I told him that nobody wanted him ….. except me. I told him I loved him and wanted him to be my forever horse. And that he’s never be put up for sale again unless he specifically told me he no longer wanted to be my horse. He put his forehead on mine, lipped my hand and put his muzzle to my face for a kiss. And people think a horse doesn’t understand what you tell them …..