A ragged racehorse, who narrowly escaped the slaughterhouse with the help of a kind stranger, has blossomed into a fancy stepping dressage prospect loved beyond measure.
Got the Urge, a 3-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who wound up at the Camelot Auction in 2013, made it out on Thanksgiving Day after Rhiannon Toman awoke from nightmares about the vulnerable animal and quickly decided to save him.
And in no time, the bleak animal has gone from an 800 pound, ewe-necked horse to a beautiful mover admired by many in just a few short years.
Affectionately known as Surge, his rags-to-riches story turned on a dime. Toman happened to see the very unremarkable-looking animal advertised as a Camelot Auction horse in a picture on Facebook. The thin bay stood meekly, not eating, in front of a manger full of hay. Guessing that few would be interested in a horse like that, especially as the press of holiday was upon everyone, Toman decided to call the auction house.
Got the Urge
Barn name: Surge
Dam: Raise a Roar
Foal date: April 5, 2010“I didn’t think anybody would answer because it was Thanksgiving morning. But I wound up getting ahold of somebody, so I said I was interested in Hip Number 344. And the guy told me he was gone. Then he said, ‘Wait, wait, what number was that? Oh, he’s still here. Do you want him?’ And the next thing I knew, I was handing over my credit card information to an auction I didn’t know, to buy a horse I’d only seen in a picture.”
The Virginia equestrian, who suffered the sad loss of her horse Chili to intestinal cancer in 2010, the year Surge born, shocked everyone with her spontaneity, even herself.
“Stunned is how I’d describe my coach’s reaction,” she says. “She probably wanted to tell me this wasn’t the smartest move in the world, and some people in my barn did say just that when this little 15.3 hand Thoroughbred, who was probably 800 pounds, walked into the barn.”
And yet, the ragamuffin soon blossomed into a horse so handsome that the same coach, stunned then, is now bowled over by the animal’s beauty, Toman says.
“My coach is head-over-heels for him now,” she says. “He has a very big, Warmblood movement, with a toe-flicking trot, and sometimes she’ll pull me aside and say, ‘Will you look at him? He’s such a nice horse!’ ”
First impressions can be so wrong, she adds.
“The picture of him standing in the feedlot was certainly far from flattering, and it certainly didn’t make a casual observer look twice,” Toman says. “He was underweight and unkempt, a far cry from the horse he has become today— which is a big, bold, and expressive horse with a wonderfully goofy, kind personality.”
The trio has worked for two years to build upon the young gelding’s surprising aptitude for dressage movement. Surge had a few things running in his favor: His feet had been well kept, as had his teeth. So building up his body weight proved to be fairly easy. And he possessed a natural balance that allowed him to move easily into a frame.
It wasn’t long before his short, flat trot grew to an expressive gait punctuated by a hyperextension and toe-flip so desired in a dressage horse.
And though it’s early days in the show ring, Surge has already placed a few times. He took 5th at the Meadows Event Park in Doswell, Va., against 17 competitors last year, and is smoothly learning the dressage ropes, just like the big boys.
“He has a very similar movement to the big, expressive trot of a Warmblood,” she says. “For this reason I call him twinkle toes!”