Margaret Kennedy has been in the horse business long enough to know that when it comes to a Thoroughbred’s future, it doesn’t matter what famous forbearers light up a racehorse’s family tree.
If a horse can’t win, and can’t breed either, they are no different than any other failed racehorse who has no safe harbor, or no secure home waiting.
This was the case with a little mare named Lazaria, an untalented racehorse and luckless broodmare, who boasted a lineage right out of the Who’s Who in horseracing.
The granddaughter of Seattle Slew was descended from greats such as Bold Ruler, Native Dancer and Nashua. But when a horse-rescue organization discovered Lazaria and contacted Kennedy last October to come look at the mare, the bay with one small star had sunk to depths far beneath her luminous ancestors.
Matted and terrified of people, she was a bag-of-bones just riddled with infections and parasites. It looked like she’d come to the end of the line when the lifelong equestrian, competitor and Texas horse farmer decided to intervene.
“How could I not help her?” asks Kennedy. “The medical problems she had weren’t worth dying for. This wasn’t a horse who was beyond help, but I knew if somebody didn’t do something soon, she would die.”
Race name: Lazaria
Barn name: Lizzy
Sire: Distant Ryder
Dam: Show’em Slew
Foal: Feb. 10, 1999 in TexasAnd so it was in late October last year that Kennedy took Lazaria home to her Texas farm The Silver Lining Training Center to work “from the inside out” to restore the Thoroughbred’s health and her trust of people.
Lazaria was wracked with infection and infestation. Her bladder and kidneys were so compromised that whenever the horse sneezed, she wet herself. Worse, worms seeped out of her body in her urine and nasal mucus.
Her ears were crawling with mites, and from a cribbing habit, she had worn her teeth down to mere stubs.
“The two biggest things were the worms, and the bladder and kidney infections,” Kennedy says. “Every time she had to inhale or coughed, she would wet herself, and worms escaped in her water.”
To combat infection and strengthen her immune system, Lazaria was placed on oral antibiotics and steroids. She was also placed on a fat-absorbing supplement to help her gain weight.
She was fitted with a specially designed collar to prevent cribbing, and a farrier was brought in to attend to her very soft feet.
Then there was the issue of her ears. Sensitive to many horses, this mare was understandably uneasy about people to begin with, and she especially didn’t want anyone touching her ears.
But Kennedy had her sneaky ways to get at the mite problem.
“The meds she was on made her slightly docile and a little loopy, so I would give her the meds first and then when she got loopy, I’d feed her carrots,” she explains.
In this way, she was able to get the mare to tilt her head and allow her new owner to clean her ears a little bit every day.
And over the course of the year, the mare cautiously began to trust people again.
“When we first got her she was so, so afraid of people. She tried to kill the farrier,” Kennedy says. “In her mind, she was fighting for her life.”
Then, little by little, the mare took notice of the people around her. In particular, Kennedy’s teenage son Jason became a person she trusted and tried to spend time with. “She followed him around like a puppy dog, and would actually wait for him at the paddock gait.”
And last March, Lazaria met a rider she would give her heart to.
“I’ll never forget the first time they brought her out of her stall,” says Texas paralegal Cynthia Minchillo. “She was a bony, skinny horse and I thought, ‘This is the horse you want me to ride?’ ”
But she climbed into the saddle and was taken on the most beautiful ride she had ever experienced.
“She was just so calm. I got on her and she didn’t take off on me, she was just calm and smooth,” Minchillo says. “Her trot was wonderful. She kept her nose down and we had a great ride.”
The pair even started showing weeks later!
For Kennedy, the emergence of a healthy and successful creature like Lazaria, who only one year earlier was so sick she appeared near death, is truly emblematic of her foundation, The Silver Lining Training Center.
“The deeper meaning behind the name of my farm is the idea that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
A light that shone on Lazaria.