Injured racehorse is her dream come true

Blaze in his racing days

Susie Harris grasped tightly to the lead rope connecting her to the injured racehorse, a gentle animal who was the physical embodiment of what she had always wanted.

Hardly daring to believe, Harris heard the words:

“Take him. He’s yours.”

“That was three years ago,” Harris says. “Today, I’m 51, and I can say that dreams really do come true.”

The California-based horse fanatic grew up riding other peoples’ horses, but long ago, financial realities imposed, and made her give up the childhood dream to own her own.

Her life proceeded along happily enough. She went to college and studied violin, settled into a career raising show dogs with her husband, and had children.

And then something truly unexpected happened.

Her sister Charla acquired a small horse property with enough room in its barn for an additional horse. And, after nudging her to start looking, she discovered a sun-bleached and sad ex-racehorse at Winners Circle Ranch, who was recovering from a sesamoid fracture.

Race name: Blaze N Waggin
Sire: Cherokee Run
Dam: Checkerspot, by Affirmed
Foal date: April 27, 2005
Blaze N Waggin had been at the farm for six months, recuperating from his injury. And while his kindly owners provided for all that the four-year-old gelding needed, from veterinary attention, to the roof over his head, Harris and her sister knew they could provide the missing ingredients to help the bay Thoroughbred complete his recovery.

“He just looked so sad and depressed when we met,” she says. “For me, it was love at first sight.”

That was late March in 2010, and by April, Blaze moved into his new barn, and began the best phase of his recovery.  Taking leisurely walks with Harris and her sister to scenic locales where horses and sisters would enjoy a picnic lunch.

They did this every weekend.

Over cool, green grass, Blaze was hand-walked to shady spots where the sisters would unpack theirsandwiches, as the horses grazed on sweet clover.

“All we did was walk him. He loved to be with us. He didn’t pull, but walked quietly beside us on a trail,” she says. “He never spooked, and was never afraid of anything when we were out on our picnics.”

Blaze enjoying life

When Blaze had healed to the point that even his former exercise rider, couldn’t find evidence of the break, Harris saddled him up.

What a shock she had!

“The first time I rode him he behaved like a 30-year-old plow horse. He was so calm and slow,” she says.

He trotted and cantered on voice commands, and it wasn’t long before the pair went on long, ambling trail rides.

Although Blaze will never be a show horse, Harris doesn’t mind. Even if he couldn’t be ridden, she wouldn’t care. He is hers. He is the horse she never thought she’d own.

“When I was a young girl, I used to pray every night that if I died before I woke, that there would be a horse for me in heaven,” Harris says. “So, for me to actually have him is more than I could have ever asked for.”

5 responses to “Injured racehorse is her dream come true”

  1. Nuala Galbari

    Susie & Susan:

    A story close to my heart (owner of Captain Jack Sparrow). Thank you for sharing the story of your beautiful blaze. Both in our fifties, our greatest joy is just being with our horses. This thoroughbred has changed my life. Yesterday we, too, shared a picnic with Jack and Strider ( the latter a 20-year old Hanoverian who is somewhat lame from his past jumping career). We just hand walked the horses and had tea and sandwiches under an old oak tree in the cool breeze. The sheer joy of the companionship of horses, and being allowed the opportunity to give them love and attention, with some light riding, is the perfect life for us. To see them canter over to the gate when you arrive, with evident happiness in your company — what can possibly be finer than that?

    I wish you many years of happiness with Blaze. He is one fortunate horse of have you as his owner.

    Best wishes,
    Love, Nuala Galbari

  2. Lisa Melone

    What a great story! I sounds a lot like mine and Halawa Moon’s. Like Susie, I never thought I’d ever get a horse, much less afford it. Yet I hadn’t given up and sold my boots and saddle, although circumstances did make me ponder the thought now and then. In 2010, just before I had to have kidney surgery, my partner found me a free horse. Here I was, 50 years old, and hadn’t ridden in about 20 years when an OTTB landed in our laps. We were Halawa Moon’s third owners since his track retirement and I think he knows he’s landed in a good spot. He has big knees, so no speed and only a little jumping, so he’s learning how to be a trail horse and enjoy the good life. Since then, we’ve acquired 2 more OTTB fillies to accompany him on adventures in the Maine woods. He’s the highlight of my day. I can’t wait to get home from work and go to the barn, even if it’s just to brush and feed him carrots on a snowy winter night. Harley can be obstinate at times, spook at silly things, and sometimes be a handful, but he’s my horse, at last.

  3. Rox

    As Blazes’ former exercise rider, nothing pleases me more than this article!!! From the fantastic previous owners and trainer that have always done their best to find their OTTB horses good homes, to Susie and Charla that have done an amazing job with Blaze…This is how EVERY OTTB should wind up when they are done racing, this is what every one of them deserve…BRILLIANT and thank you for such a nice article that proves some people in racing still care where their charges land and that their are people off the track just waiting for their special horse.

  4. TBDancer

    I watched a short couple of videos taken by another blogger I follow of the New Vocations workshop during Rolex where three riders who were in the Retired Racehorse challenge rode just off-the-track horses available from NV. For most of them it was their first time with a “regulation weight” English or forward seat saddle, a rider with long legs AND a rider who was “normal weight.” Bruce Davidson did the narrating/instruction and the horses did a little bucking and silly but then there was a pole on the ground, which they first trotted over, then cantered over and finally a small vertical, maybe 12″. One of the horses–I believe his name was Quiet Again–tucked his legs over the pole AND the vertical, and the audience oohed and aahed–as if many watching were surprised at how quickly this OTTB “came around” and “figured it out.”

    Bruce said, “This one would make a cute jumper.”

    People think of TBs as being “wild children,” a lot less sensitive than they truly are. Like Blaze, most TBs respond very well to kindness and attention, especially if they have been treated well by their “former peeps.” If not, as in the case of my horse, it takes time to connect with people again, but that trust comes quickly and “sticks” when the OTTBs realize you are “theirs.” No greater bond, in my opinion, and one I certainly honor every single day.

    Another good story, Susan, and continued happy days for Susie and Blaze. ;o)

  5. Christy

    Fabulous. There’s no better way to bond with a horse than to nurse them back to health. I spent countless quiet hours with my first OTTB who survived colic surgery two months after I got him. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. The nine months he spent recovering created a bond stronger than anything I could ever have hoped. Best of luck to you and Blaze, Susie!!!

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