Tough West dies; vets, donors help owner

Tough West was euthanized Tuesday after his coffin bones started to sink, and following a month-long health ordeal.

Tough West was euthanized Tuesday after his coffin bones started to sink, and following a month-long health ordeal.

Tough West, a 3-year-old Thoroughbred who battled Pleuropneumonia since mid-September, and who was featured in a story last week by Off Track Thoroughbreds, was euthanized Tuesday after developing excruciatingly painful laminitis.

After spending a month in the Bravos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas, and battling back from Penicillin-resistant infection in both lungs, as well as myriad complications, Tough West was readmitted to the hospital for a routine checkup. While in the hospital the gelding’s condition worsened quickly, as Laminitis developed, and his coffin bones began to sink.

Owner Alyssa Hammond, 19, who spared no expense to treat her horse and give him every opportunity to live, made the difficult decision when her horse let her know the fight was over.

Tough West
Sire: Tough Game
Dam: Ladyinabrownsuit
Foal date: May 3, 2011
“He was in excruciating pain and had fought so hard for me that he had earned his wings,” she says. “I couldn’t see him suffer. His bones were sinking down into his feet.”

Tough West was given to Hammond by a Golden Gate trainer, and arrived at her Texas farm on Sept. 7. A week later, he was rushed to the hospital with a 103.8 fever. From that point on, the young accounting student divided her time between school work and her horse, spending hours commuting to the hospital to stand with him as he battled to regain his health.

Though he endured surgeries, the implantation of drains in his lungs, side effects from treatments, and complications, he always retained a fighting spirit, she says in the earlier story.

The young woman, who had already suffered a big life loss when her father died young of a brain tumor, vowed to keep treating him as long as he showed a spark.

Tough West battled pleuropneumonia for one month at the Bravos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas.

Tough West battled pleuropneumonia for one month at the Bravos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas.

Shortly after vets radiographed his feet the decision was made.

“I thought he had tried so hard for me and it wasn’t fair to push him. I talked to his main vet and he said they would check the blood flow and see how it was. On Tuesday morning, I called and said not to put him through anything else, since the bones were sinking. If the bones had rotated, they could have cut the tendons, and stopped the rotation. But, they couldn’t pull the bones out of his feet.”

In an abundance of compassion, veterinarians significantly reduced her $10,000 hospital bill and did not charge her for the final hospital stay, radiographs and euthanasia.

Hammond had begun a Go Fund Me account and raised approximately $2,000 to defray costs. Although donations and cost reduction will not entirely clear her account, the kindness of the veterinary hospital, strangers who donated, and good friends have helped her tremendously, she says.

Her friend Micah Wuhl along with Tough West’s original owner paid to have the young Thoroughbred cremated and his remains will be kept in a box, which Hammond will keep with her.

And her horse, she says, through tears, has joined his mother, who died recently, and her father, who passed away when she was 11. ♦

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Hell on the track, perfect on x-country

Fine with Me and Lauren Lambert won the USEF National One-Star Eventing Championship at the Hagyard Mid-South Eventing and Dressage Association Three-Day last weekend. Photo by X-Press Foto and courtesy Lauren Lambert

Fine with Me and Lauren Lambert won the USEF National One-Star Eventing Championship at the Hagyard Mid-South Eventing and Dressage Association Three-Day last weekend. Photo by X-Press Foto and courtesy Lauren Lambert

He was hell on the track, but devilishly good on the Eventing field last week.

Fine with Me, an innocent-looking pretty gray once had quite the bag of tricks when stalled at the racetrack. “He used to stand up in his stall and try to climb over the walls,” says rider Lauren Lambert, who evented Fine with Me to clinch the 2014 USEF National One-Star Eventing Championship at the Hagyard Mid-South Eventing and Dressage Association (MSEDA) Three-Day Event and Team Challenge last weekend.

In addition to the championship, the pair also took home the Jockey Club High Point Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) award in a landmark horse show drawing 500 horses of all breeds, and numerous Thoroughbreds. Fine with Me bested 60 horses for the TIP Award.

The talented 25-year-old Louisville, Ky., equestrian started riding the fair-haired upstart in 2011 after her aunt Margie Darling first co-purchased the T-bred in a partnership, and eventually took over full ownership.

Fine with Me
Sire: With Approval
Dam: Alycheer, by Alydeed
Foal date: April 30, 2003
“When we first got him, we thought, ‘What did we buy?’ He had such a personality and a reputation on the track,” Lambert says. “But I started riding him when Margie sent him to Florida in 2011 and 2012 and to train, he was fine. He’s really smart, and very straight forward.”

After tackling a couple of Preliminaries in Florida together, Lambert and Fine with Me went into regular training again in April after she returned home from Germany, where she’d worked in a world-class show jumping barn, and Fine with Me shipped back to Kentucky from the Sunshine State.

They honed their skills at Morgan Kentucky Horse park two weeks prior, competing at the Intermediate level, and placing third out of 15.

By the time the pair charged out of the start box Oct. 18 for the cross-country portion of the Hagyard event, the Fine with Me and Lambert combo was able to tackle the challenging course with relative ease.

The winners! Photo by Ann Banks

The winners! Photo by Ann Banks

Noting that her horse still had “gallop left in him” when others lost their gumption, she says Fine with Me showed remarkable finesse at the first water, Jumps 4 and 5, a combination that caused many problems and refusals for others.

“It had to be reset several times because people were hitting it really hard,” she says. But not her horse. “Fine with Me just ate it up, he really did. He’s a great horse and all I had to do was put my hands down and ride him forward to the distance, and he never questioned what I was asking.”

Also a careful jumper, he put in a good round in show jumping, and though not great yet in Dressage, he is showing promise that he will shine one day in that discipline too.

After winning the championship, Lambert really had to hand it to her horse. The gelding, once so ill behaved, answered every question spot on. “There were a lot of tiny questions along the way, and a lot of forward riding,” she says. “A lot of people and horses got discombobulated and the horses weren’t 100 percent sure what they were supposed to be doing. I had to sit down and dig in and give the horse confidence.”

With the USEF championship under his belt, Fine with Me will travel to Florida for the winter, pointing toward going Advanced next spring. ♥

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19-year-old T-bred is unlikely Eventing star

Valentine enjoys the fuss as Kayla August attends to him.

Valentine enjoys the fuss as Kayla August attends to him.

Valentine, a poorly put together 19-year-old Thoroughbred with knee chips and early stage navicular, is blowing the socks off the competition in Preliminary cross-country throughout the Area 3 Eventing world.

The unlikely sport horse, who once won a race under Jockey Club name R Motel, by “running in terror from the other horses” is never so happy as when he is plunging into water, and soaring over obstacles with his owner Kayla August.

“His thing is Cross Country. He falls asleep before dressage and showing jumping. But put him in a start box and he goes wild,” she says. “At our first one-star, just before the starter said go, he reared and screamed” and they took off running, and haven’t looked back since.

August purchased Valentine, who some deemed dangerous, when he was a scrawny 15 years old. Said to require two hours of lunging before each ride, with August he fit hand-in-glove.

Race name: R Motel
Show name: Valentine
Barn name: Red
Sire: Chateaubay
Dam: Chaka Zulu
Foal date: May 21, 1995
“We clicked right away,” she says. “I remember getting this feeling like I was sitting at home in my saddle, and I had this snapshot in my head of how it would be. It was like he knew what I was asking without me needing to ask.”

Though X-rays on his legs have revealed bone chips in his knees, hocks and ankles, and navicular changes are starting in his front feet, her older gent has only taken two un-sound steps in his life; simultaneous abscesses in both front feet sidelined him once, and a stone bruise, picked up while running a course after throwing a shoe, sidelined him a second time.

“I had no idea the time he threw a shoe. I didn’t find out until we got to the Vet Box, and he was still fine on it and did Stadium Jumping the next day,” she says. “It wasn’t until we got home that he let me know he was sore.”

Valentine is a 19-year-old ex-racehorse Thoroughbred who shows no signs of stopping as an Eventing sport horse. Photo courtesy of Kayla August.

Valentine is a 19-year-old ex-racehorse Thoroughbred who shows no signs of stopping as an Eventing sport horse. Photo courtesy of Kayla August.

He has done so well climbing the ranks that last March 30 he cleaned up against very fancy Warmbloods at the Full Gallop Farm event in Aiken. “We won it all,” she says. “I was riding against a woman who had a young horse, who was much fancier than my Red. I don’t know how we pulled it off!”

She considered dropping Valentine back down from Preliminary, where he is campaigning now. But he is not a horse who wants to be pulled back, she says. “He jumps Preliminary fences like he’s jumping Intermediate. He just loves it.”

Though the pair is riding out the summer heat away from the competition fields, she plans to enter him at Full Gallop in August or September, and other events in the Area 3 region. Age, to this horse, is a state of mind.

“He’s usually one of the oldest horses and he is not put together well at all, but when he moves, he’s amazing,” she says. “And he shows all those young horses exactly what perfection can look like!” —Author’s note: This story was originally published on June 23, 2014. ♥

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