He kept his pain a secret, a stoic T’bred

Cappy and Lord have spent many quite moments like this, relaxing, and hanging out.

Cappy and Lord have spent many quite moments like this, relaxing, and hanging out.

Cappy never let on he was in pain.

In show after show, the 7-year-old bay Thoroughbred The Capt.’s Reddie carried his young owner higher and higher, wrapping up their 2010 dressage season with a prestigious finish as reserve champion.

Even after Augusta Lord packed up the ribbons and had begun training her fine horse for more, Capt.’s Reddie seemed only a little stiff and mildly unhappy.

The Capt.’s Reddie
Barn name: Cappy
Sire: Saint Reddie
Dam: Capt Golden Girl
Foal date: April 10, 2002
“We started to have minor training difficulties,” Lord says, “and everyone suggested I start injecting him. But, I just wasn’t comfortable injecting such a young horse without knowing what was causing his stiffness. So, I took him to the MidAtlantic Equine Clinic, and the vets there were baffled too.”

Veterinarians gave him every lameness test in their arsenal. He passed with flying colors. Then finally, they trotted him in a 10-meter circle on a lunge line and concurred: “Something looked a little funny in the right hind.”

At this point, months had passed since horse and rider had concluded a show season so successful that he was pinning as high as sixth in rated shows. And it wasn’t until spring of 2011 that veterinarians discovered what the stoic young horse had been hiding.

Cappy and Lord cantering along in 2013, following surgery and extensive recovery.

Cappy and Lord cantering along in 2013, following surgery and extensive recovery.

A chronic hole in his suspensory tendon, upper hind, showed 30 percent of the ligament was gone, Lord was told.

“The vets told me he shouldn’t even have been walking sound on an injury like that, and he carried me through a whole show season!” she says. “It made me feel awful. I had no idea.”

And from that moment on, the young rider, who was just a teenager, resolved to do everything she could to ease the pain in her beautiful and courageous horse.

Beginning with shockwave therapy to boost circulation and stimulate blood flow in the area, Capt.’s Reddie was ultimately treated with stem cell replacement therapy, she says.

“The vets made an incision in the upper fatty part of the hip and spun the fat cells down to stem cells and inserted them into the hole in the ligament,” she says, noting that expenses were covered by her very supportive equine insurance company, Hallmark Insurance, who were “fantastic” as she and her horse endured months of testing and procedures.

After the surgery, Lord and her OTTB embarked on a two-year recovery. The young rider never left her horse’s side. She graduated high school, deferred college for a year, and in the winter of 2011, she packed her bags, loaded her horse onto a trailer, and traveled to Massachusetts to serve as a working student for Olympic dressage rider Dotty Morkis.

There’s nothing but blue sky ahead for Cappy and Augusta Lord.

There’s nothing but blue sky ahead for Cappy and Augusta Lord.

“I lived in the hayloft of the barn and I spent my off hours rehabbing him, every day,” she says. “I had no family in Massachusetts, I didn’t know anyone, and being a working student can be brutal. There were times I found myself sitting on the floor of his stall, crying.”

Throughout the winter, they walked and walked and by spring, when Lord was required to relocate to Florida to continue the working student position, her supportive mother Debbie Lord took over the reins.

In May 2012, after spending nine months in Florida, availing herself of both riding and training opportunities, including a position with international Grand Prix riders Caroline Roffman and Endel Ots, she was able to return to Massachusetts to embark on her college plans and to have her beloved horse reevaluated.

And to her joy and great relief Cappy had fully recovered. All traces of the hole had vanished, and he was ready to begin to rebuild muscle using all four legs equally well, without having to compensate for the soreness.

“He was a different horse, but I was different too. In Florida, while he was rehabbing, I was learning to be a new rider. And my horse, who had been compensating for his injury all these years, had to remake himself too,” she says.

Now the pair is entering another learning phase. Lord is studying for a career in insurance, a backup plan to her desired end-goal to become a professional rider.

And Cappy is right there with her, a few miles down the road from her college campus, a steadying force in her life, avowed partners to the end.

“I’ve had so many trainers tell me to sell him and get a horse I can compete with, but I’m never going to leave him, I couldn’t,” she says. “He was there for me … and I couldn’t imagine doing anything without him.” — This story was originally published on Feb. 17, 2014. ♥

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9 responses to “He kept his pain a secret, a stoic T’bred”

  1. Gloria Stagmer

    Great story. These two are meant to be together. Much love and best wishes.

  2. Judith Ochs

    A rider who valued her horse more than winning and medals. This young woman will be a success no matter what she does or where she goes. She has a strong ethical and moral core. Anyone – human or animal – will be lucky to be in her sphere of life.

    1. Catherine Adams

      Ditto! I wish more horse owners had this girl’s character and wisdom.

  3. Ann Thomas

    This story is far too familiar. My little Morgan mare is another stoic. She had a chronically inflamed LH suspensory that went undetected for almost 2 years. The vet was pretty sure she had it when I bought her but who is going to ultrasound a low-level horse during a pre-purchase exam? She barely looked lame but when the vet did the ultrasound there it was. Finally had surgery and PRP and a very long rehab. There are diva princess horses but it sounds like neither of us own one!

  4. Catherine Adams

    Kudos for this young woman for remaining faithful to her horse and not listening to other people by just getting rid of him because of his condition. More folks should be as honorable and courageous. God Bless.

  5. tbdancer

    I too have “a lumberjack” horse that knows he’s got this job to do and by golly, he’s going to do it … until it just gets to be too much and then he lets me know. Three years ago when my vet x-rayed “Huey,” he said, “I have NEVER seen a horse with holes in a navicular that bad who was still up and walking around.” And a big ka-thunk to ME. The vet said had Huey just let us know sooner, we wouldn’t have been looking at such a distressing sight.

    Tildren and “adjusted levels of exercise” along with Osteo-Form (for a then senior horse) plus a seven-month rehab and today we’re back on hoof injections every six months and a happy horse with a much improved navicular.

  6. Alli Farkas

    The T-breds are indeed stoic. Mine was another that preferred to just forge ahead rather than complain about some pain. There were a few episodes of abscess that I didn’t even have a clue about until the hoof had grown long enough for me to notice where the the abscess had blown out. Even when he ended up with a twisted gut at age 23 and I had to say goodbye to him, he exhibited only a very few of the usual signs of colic, which made the diagnosis more of a puzzle than it needed to be. I miss his courage every day and wish I could have been more tuned in to the subtleties of his stoic personality.

  7. Pattie Gelsleichter

    It is nice to read this story ~ in a world where people don’t place the value on horses and replace them when there is a problem such as this. Horse ownership is a committment, not a passing fancy. Kudos to Ms. Lord. You are what horse ownership SHOULD be all about!

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