“Learning in the deep end of the pool,” is how Jessica Creighton-Swift describes the time she spent working sunup to sundown caring for 40 competitive horses, while still finding time to show her own Thoroughbred, as a student employee of nationally known eventers Bruce and Buck Davidson.
And she couldn’t have known back in 2001 and later in 2004, that all the leg care she perfected—wrappings and poulticing, would knit together perfectly, later on, to help save a gelding’s life.
But it did. It all came full circle in May 2007, when she agreed to foster and rehabilitate Gaetano’s Way, a gelding ex-racehorse who earned $171,000 in a career that abruptly ended with a badly bowed, left, front tendon.
Having raced most of his career at Monmouth Park, NJ before arriving at Suffolk Downs, the horse found his way into the care of CANTER New England after his injury, and then to Creighton’s caring hands.
The swelling was so pronounced it took her three days of constant cold-hosing, doses of an anti-inflammatory, poulticing and wrapping to quell it enough so a veterinarian could get an ultrasound image. Finally she learned that his deep and superficial flexor tendons had been quite badly damaged, but the good news was that his suspensory tendon was still in tact.
Race name: Gaetano’s Way
Barn name: Dylan
Sire: Private Interview
Dam: Nae’s Way
Dam’s sire: Strawberry Road
Lifetime earnings: $171,000“What saved his life was the condition of his suspensory tendon. If that had been damaged, he wouldn’t have had any support on his leg,” she says, adding, “We decided to give him a chance.”
The horse she renamed Dylan started his recovery at her 10-acre farm in Belmont, NH, and he came with Creighton and her husband Joel when they recently moved to their Dare to Dream Farm, a 288 acre spread near Bangor, Maine.
Dylan and Creighton struggled to regain four sound legs. For the horse farmer with a herd to pay attention to, Dylan’s care required special attention for about a year.
While on stall rest and very limited turnout, his tendons reorganized themselves. But other problems soon emerged. At one point, he opened up a gash on his leg where the skin had been stretched so tight over the wound, and at another point, he locked a stifle while weaving in his confined stall.
“We think he started weaving because he couldn’t understand why he was being confined,” she says. “So to keep from doing this, and reinjuring himself, we put him in a very small turnout, outside, with a quiet buddy to keep him company.”
In six months the gash on his leg healed, and after about a year, the tendons corrected themselves. Throughout the long recovery, Dylan remained a perfect gentleman. “He never pinned his ears or tried to bite, even when I manipulated his leg, and I knew he must be in excruciating pain,” she says.
After his rehabilitation, Creighton was so bonded to Dylan that she adopted him from CANTER and has made good on a promise to let him retire from work.
“Dylan earned his keep on the track. He was actually one of the highest-earning horses on the track, and it means a lot to me to give him the retirement he deserves,” she says. “His leg looks really good now. He spent his time in work. He’s happy now as a pasture ornament.”
And Creighton, now growing her own horse farm—which includes a number of off-track Thoroughbreds, is happy to apply all that she learned so that a few special retirees can rest.