…is paved with good intentions. That certainly was in evidence this past week, when a number of attempts at good deeds were fraught with unintended consequences. Where to start? How about the story of George.
I sold him to an organization called Ecurie Second Chance, which buys out-of-training racehorses, reschools them and then sells them on as riding horses. Sometimes, with the owner’s consent, they are placed again for racing. When I sold George, for just 500 euros, which is the going rate for retired racehorses, I said I wasn’t opposed to him racing again if a small permit-holder was found and if the horse had a much-needed break. George is sound, nice and could race next year in easier venues than around Paris. A week later, the man who bought the horse called me and said he had two possibilities that both involved racing: One in Martinique, and one in France, but for either one he’d have to move on immediately. Needless to say I wasn’t pleased with either choice, but in all fairness I had sold the horse, so I had very little say in the matter. Between a rock and a hard place, I said I prefer he stay in France. That week, he showed up declared in training with a public trainer with a yard of 25 horses, and a week after that he was entered in a sprint up in Le Croisé-Laroche, a dismal track near Lille that I would avoid racing at at all costs. George would have to endure a seven-hour truck ride each way to get from his new trainer’s base to race and back, not to mention it was a race completely unsuited for him even if he WAS in shape. He raced, and needless to say he finished last, poor kid. The next day I saw he was entered in a race at Amiens seven days later. That was when Kay, my American owner who had leased George while he was with me, and I took action. Long story short, we bought the horse back, and we’ve found a new home for him that will not include racing.
The man who runs Ecurie Second Chance was highly apologetic and I believe he sincerely did have good intentions, but just had no idea how to execute them. During our numerous phone exchanges, he would always complain that he was severely overworked, that numerous trainers were looking to “dump” their bad horses at the end of the season and that he couldn’t cope. These are the times that try men’s souls. Yes, there are too many horses, and yes, we’re looking, at this time of year, to move the underperforming ones on. But if Ecurie Second Chance felt overwhelmed by the task, he should not have bought the horse! I would have kept him until I found a suitable situation for him myself. Which brings me to the second story of the week…
…and the names are changed to protect the – well, not the innocent, really, but…a horse, let’s call her Sadie, was injured in a race at the end of September. The nature of the problem meant that she had to be on box rest for a few weeks, but she was a very nice-natured filly and would make an excellent riding horse; the injury wasn’t limiting in that sense. I immediately started looking for a home for her, but obviously it is hard to place a lame horse, even with good potential. So I was forced to hang onto her for longer than I wanted, and certainly far longer than the owner wanted, but I did eventually find a very nice home for her at the end of October. This meant the owner was being billed for the horse a month longer than he wanted to be. He paid, along with a registered letter saying how furious he was with my “extortionary” price of 30 euros a day for a horse out of training. I understand his frustration, but despite all, I applaud him for paying his bill and not ordering the horse sent to slaughter, which I suppose he could have done (for the record, I wouldn’t have done it, even if it meant paying the horse’s keep myself). In any case, this story ends well: I just got a photo from the new owner, and he is thrilled with her. And for the record, the price I charge is far from extortionary; there is no profit margin there. Hay and straw prices have skyrocketed this year, and while the horse wasn’t ridden out, she was kept in a clean box, brushed and fed daily. The standard of care doesn’t change when the horse can no longer race.
We soldier on. Going into winter is the worst time of year in the horse business. Magic picked up the dreaded cough right before her race on Monday, and I nearly scratched but didn’t and should have, probably. In any case, the distance of 2,500 meters seems just a bit too long on heavy ground, and I’ll look for something shorter for her once we clear up the cough. King ran a great second race at St. Cloud last week. He’s learning his lessons well and I want to get a couple of more races in this year, but we had to give him a flu shot this week, and of course, he’s had a reaction to it. I’m hoping it’s a brief setback, but don’t know yet.
The new fillies from Newmarket are doing well, and Triple Tonic, back from her convalescence in Normandy, is jumping out of her skin. It’s great to have Hard Way back. He seems better than ever and hasn’t lost a step – if you don’t hang onto him in the morning he’ll be off like a shot. And we have a new colt, Deep Ocean, who came to us from Marseille. He can only race right-handed because of stringhalt in his left hock, which makes him a challenge, but he’s a lovely horse who clearly always tries his best (he’s had a win and six places this year). All of them are being aimed at some winter racing on the fibersand in Deauville and later in Cagnes (except for Deep, who can’t go to Cagnes because it is left-handed).
Already, November this year has been paradise compared with what we had to put up with last year. I don’t know how long we can escape the freezing temperatures, but I’m treasuring every day I don’t need to put ten layers and gloves!