I've been lucky to have some great friends that I've met through owning a horse. I've been on many adventures that have brought new experiences for me, which I've embraced for a variety of reasons. Today was another outing with one of those friends, who is very active in placing thoroughbreds who come off the track and need a new job. Our mission: to pick up a race horse who has officially retired and take him to my friend's barn to begin his new journey.
I've been around thoroughbreds often enough to know their overall personality and temperaments and been to Churchill Downs many times, but today was exciting for me because I got to be there for a horse to have a life changing day. I had mixed feelings, knowing this horse with an amazing pedigree and such athleticism would be leaving the life he's known, leaving his horse friends and an atmosphere he's known from a young age, so a little sad for him. At the same time, I was excited for him to know he was leaving for greener pastures - literally.
We arrived at the track and talked with nice folks about the horse and other horsey type topics. I got to take pictures around the barn area and the quiet track (we were there post-exercise time so no pictures of that).
It was then time for us to load the horse and head to the barn. Excitement, nerves, uncertainty, energy. This thoroughbred knew today wasn't just a normal day. His routine was changed and something new was happening. Below is a picture of him being nervous about crossing the water drain, right before loading on the trailer. Some challenges were there, but success was there also. Loaded up, we headed to his new barn.
I got to help with the unloading process. I had never handled a horse of that stature and energy level but my friend gave me specific instructions on what to do and what not to do. The energy and power of the horse was channeled through the lead shank into my hand - amazing and slightly intimidating to begin with, but I knew I had to stay calm and relaxed to help him get off that trailer safely with my friend, which the two of us did. Once on solid ground the horse immediately came down in energy and walked to his new stall with ease. Whew. Here he is looking out with wonder and a little worry. That would soon pass.
New sights and sounds and smells in the country. Quiet yet busy and noisy. Rural calm with other horses and animals who already call this barn "home" all taken in by the newcomer. I was and am so excited for this thoroughbred to enjoy relaxing in a pasture full of fresh spring grass. Excited for him to be able to roll and get muddy. Excited for him to relax and play and not need to work. Excited for him to just be a horse.
I can't wait to see where this handsome thoroughbred goes and what new life is there to welcome him eventually. What I do know about him is that he has been cared for by some great owners and trainers, and is now in the hands of people who will give him that care as well - he can just run for fun now.