In a late afternoon race at Suffolk Downs last September, Noble’s Honor ruptured his left, front tendon in a scramble to the finish line, and wound up falling into the kind, caring hands of people who would help.
He was taken back to his stall, bandaged up, attended to by a track veterinarian and offered for sale during CANTER New England’s Suffolk Showcase just one month later.
And from his dinged-up stall with peeling green paint, he must have had the luck of the Irish when Taylor Belakonis and her sister Marina went to see him Oct. 14th.
Looking beyond the big front ankle and his less-than-glamorous setting, the pair imagined the horse he could be, and when he rested his regal head upon their shoulders, dividing his time between them, the sisters decided a horse this kind was worth taking a chance.
Sire: Noble Causeway
Foal date: May 8, 2009Later, as Noble was paraded out of his stall so the young ladies could take a look, he walked fairly soundly on his injured leg, appearing untroubled by what would turn out to be a serious injury.
The track veterinarian who took an ultrasound of his ankle expressed surprise at how well he was walking that day at the track, when she reported to the sisters that his tendon was so badly bowed it had ruptured.
“He had almost no tendon left, but he was only a 2 on the Lameness Scale,” Belakonis says.
Though the pair had come to the Showcase only to window shop, as they had during a similar visit to the year before, and over the objections of friends and despite skepticism of their family veterinarian, they decided to take on Noble anyway.
“My sister had fallen in love with him from CANTER advertising on their website because she’s a huge conformation buff. Even though he was injured, she saw a lot of potential: he doesn’t have crazy, sharp withers, and is nicely proportioned and is solid chestnut, with no white.”
On Oct. 23, they transported their new horse to their North Shore, Mass. barn and quickly learned the full extent of their horse’s injury and rehabilitation.
Following a thorough exam and ultrasound by Dr. Marie Butler, their family veterinarian, Noble was placed on nine month of stall rest: outdoor walks were forbidden and his prognosis for recovery was not optimistic.
“In the beginning we had been doing a little hand walking with him. But after Dr. Butler saw the next ultrasound, she cut him off. She didn’t want him doing anything because it was more severe than she originally thought,” Belakonis says.
The sisters bought him toys and tried to keep him entertained, but by the end of nine months, he was pretty unhappy with his confining lifestyle, she says. And yet, quite miraculously, he held his muscle tone so well that when he was finally allowed to step from his stall he looked to be in very good shape.
By the spring of this year, most of his tendon had healed, with only a few small areas in his low superficial digital flexor tendon needing more time.
But going by Noble’s attitude, you’d never know there was anything left to heal.
“The first time we led him out of his stall, we had to have him on sedatives because he wanted to jump around,” she says, noting that the first walk led to a walking routing routine that increased incrementally over time.
And on his birthday this past May, Belakonis tacked him up and sat on him.
These days Noble is working well at the walk, trot and canter, with no heat or other tendon issues. And he has taken to his 24/7 pasture turnout with zeal. “He loves being outside! He runs around in his paddock, jumps, and tries to flip his blanket off.”
But under saddle he moves with comfortable gaits, and in a laid-back manner, she says.
“He’s a gorgeous mover with very fluid, great-looking moves,” she says. “Everybody said we were nuts when we got him. He was an injured, young racehorse. A lot of people had concerns for our safety, because they believed that OTTBs are crazy, and that a broken Thoroughbred would be dangerous.”
Belakonis knew better though. She trusted her instincts that day at the track, and knew in those moments when he rested his great head on her shoulder that Noble was not a dangerous horse. He was just a little broken.