Cheersto Glory got lucky. Several times.
After ending up at a Hoosier Park paddock sale in 2005, the ex-racehorse was bound for slaughter when he caught the eye of volunteers with Friends of Ferdinand, a rescue organization formed earlier that year. Members loaded the gelding and three other unwanted ex-racehorses into trailers and drove them to safety.
Before too long it became clear that something wasn’t right with Cheers.
“He had a recurrent hoof abscess and he’d get very lame,” says Sara Busbice, a pharmaceutical company biologist and president of Friends of Ferdinand. “After the third time he went lame, we took X-rays.”
Cheers to Glory
New Name: Cheers
Sire: Honour and Glory
Dam: Hurrah Hurrah
Foal date: April 5, 2000Revealed in the image was a tumor the size of a silver dollar in his right, hind foot.
Again Cheers’ luck held.
Donations to cover the $1,600 surgery at Purdue Large Animal Clinic came from far and wide. The Exceller Fund, a Kentucky based Thoroughbred rescue organization, cut a check to Purdue for half the surgery, and then Busbice got creative —she auctioned 99 cent shares of his surgery on EBAY.
“We had people donate from across the United States for a horse they would never see,” she says. “A veterinarian in Canada donated several hundred dollars—I was taken aback. The experience taught me that if you just ask for help, it comes.”
Cheers underwent surgery to remove the bottom of his hoof and his toe. Dr. Steve Adams of Purdue also rounded up the coffin bone of his toe, and he was placed in a cast for about three weeks. After the cast was removed, a special rubber shoe was created for Cheers to allow caretakers to pop it on and off easily so his foot could be cleaned.
“It was like a hospital shoe, but not exactly. It had no screws. It was easy to pop it off with my hoof pick and flush out the hole before I repacked it,” she says, noting that he wore it for four months. He endured a full year of stall rest. The confinement did not sour his personality. The “very social horse” always had barn mates nearby—a factor Busbice believes made all the difference in his ability to cope. “I think it helped him to feel he wouldn’t be left behind,” she says.
In April 2007, a year after he began his recovery, Cheers was allowed to go outside for the first time, and by June, he was well on his way to a permanent home. A couple whose daughter took lessons at Cheers’ barn often stopped by to feed him carrots; they bought him when he came for sale. Today, Cheers is a pleasure horse for that family, and is among 38 horses to successfully transition to new careers through Friends of Ferdinand.
“He’s a character. The picture of him (leaping in the air) embodies his spirit,” Busbice says. “Any horse that can go through a year of stall rest and still have a brain about him is pretty special.”