A Thoroughbred inspires bravery in fight for life

Chance and Kim share a moment

The day she met Rowdy Jones, Kim Alexander was feeling as poorly as the scruffy gelding looked.

Weak from her battle with stage-four breast cancer, Alexander was there to see if the ex-racehorse she’d heard such good things about might be a horse she could bring along, in whatever time she had left.

The talented equestrian had already accomplished so much. She won bronze and silver medals in USDF competitions in Tennessee in 2007 and 2010, and captured the state championship in October 2010.  All while undergoing cancer treatments that ravaged her body and left her bald. But there was one thing left undone on her list of life goals.

She wanted to own a Thoroughbred.

“I’ve had many horses in my life, but I just love Thoroughbreds. The way they look, with their lithe bodies—they’re spectacular,” she says. “Of all the breeds, there’s nothing that catches my eye more.”

Neither horse nor potential owner however, was at their best on the fateful first meeting.

Race name: Rowdy Jones
New name: Chance
Sire: Warner Jones
Dam: Win She Will
Foal date: March 2005
No evidence of lithe, catlike grace hung on this racehorse. He was more disheveled than anything. And Alexander herself was feeling sick and was nursing a broken elbow, which she had sustained falling off a mounting block.

“I wasn’t a well woman at the time. But we went over, and there stood this pathetic horse who looked like he was in horrible shape,” she says. “A jockey had him in a racing saddle and rode him around for us, and I turned to my friend and asked her to get my riding helmet out of the truck.”

Nobody was wild about the idea that a sickly woman would try riding the racehorse. But Alexander insisted that she be given a leg up despite the objections of the jockey and her friend.

After a short ride, she fell on dismount, and slid beneath the horse. “He didn’t move, and I looked at my friend and said, ‘He needs us.’ ”

On the cusp of a new life

On Jan. 18 this year, after weathering some of the lowest moments in her struggle for health, Alexander, in a joint effort with her close friend, purchased the horse and began a process that has transformed both horse and rider.

Her energies and worries, once preoccupied entirely by her own wellbeing, shifted to focus on the underweight gelding, whom she renamed Chance.

“Instead of lying awake at night worrying about dying, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and think about Chance.”

Her first order of business was putting weight back on him without causing other complications, including illness. She fed him good nutritional hay, supplements, and copious amounts of beet pulp, fattening him up without giving him too much grain.

Results were almost immediate.

“After about 90 days he looked really good. And today he looks fabulous,” she says. “Sometimes I just stare at this horse and his perfect conformation makes the hair on my arms stand on end. Being around him is like being in the presence of a dancer.”

Horse and rider feeling great

And how he loved to move. Just like a performer, almost from the beginning, he handled cues to walk, trot and canter on the lunge line as if he was circus trained, she says.

With the goal of getting him ready to show, she enlisted the help of a trainer to get him started with dressage training.  And has recently placed him at Martha Murdock Stables for even more intensive work.

Fully absorbed now in the challenge of turning Chance into highly skilled dressage mount, the effort and focus has paid her back in spades; giving Alexander a new lease on life. As her horse has grown fit, she has followed suit. Now it’s sit-ups, and riding a bicycle, and doing all the many other activities in preparation for the day when she will ride him in his first show, that consumes her attention.

“Rehabilitating a Thoroughbred is the neatest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “Every time I look at that gelding my heart beats stronger.”

And, she adds, “The best is coming.”

23 responses to “A Thoroughbred inspires bravery in fight for life”

  1. Rachel

    This is awesome! Good luck to you both!
    I rescued my OTTB last year and is just now starting to look good! He looked a lot like Chance! I was wanting to show with him but he has a past injury to his shoulder that I don’t think is gonna allow us to do much. I sit around all the time and think about how much better Jake looks. It really makes you feel good about yourself!
    Susan, are you really experienced with Thoroughbreds? Cause, if so, I’d really like to ask you a few questions for advice if I could? Thank you!
    Good luck with Kim& Chance! 🙂 y’all are gonna go far!

  2. Louise Ferro Martin

    Kim, I am so happy for you and Chance! I,too have experienced healing with my horse. The connection they we are so lucky to have if only we reach out to these amazing horses. I cannot wait until you compete with him! Best wishes and God bless you both!

    Thank you Susan for sharing this beautiful story. One that is told in only a way that you can do! 🙂

  3. Claire North

    oohhh and Jo-Claire helped rescue and place another OTTB at the same time as she got “her” Chance..or should I say Chance got her!!!!!

  4. Claire North

    Ladies, I love your stories, good luck with you and your horses.
    I do not have OTTB’s or ex racers just some rescued Quarter horses and an arabian but to be able to help a lost soul and at the same time, for YOUR soul to find love, is something not enough people ever experience in their lifetime…

  5. Jo-Claire

    Wow great story, I too have just rescued an OTTB who was abandoned by his trainer in a field in southern WV. I guess they thought this would be a good dumping ground. We have named him Chance and we’ve been together for three weeks now. He doesn’t look anything like he did during his racing days and is gaining weight. Together we have started am amazing journey. Difference is I never thought I would ever own an OTTB but there was something special about thus guy. He didnt have the best life prior to coming to me, but that has changed now. Good luck with your guy.

  6. TBDancer


    Seriously, Susan, you did a wonderful job relating the story of Kim and Chance. Horses, particularly those in need, speak to our hearts, and getting away from our own problems by helping those that cannot help themselves shows the true character of the person and the greater good we are ALL capable of.

    Kim: You go, girl! I think your dressage partner is ready to “take you to the dance.”

  7. Jessica Boyd

    That is a beautiful story, Susan! (And Kim and Chance, too.)

    Horses heal us in many ways and helping Kim focus on something besides being sick was Chance’s way.


  8. Sarah

    Just beautiful. It’s so true that horses get us out of our own heads and our own problems, definitely for the better. All the best to Kim and Chance:)

  9. Annette Turnbaugh

    Hey Kimmie, we go back to age 12, in all these years I have never known you to “throw in any towel” and Chance is no exception. You WILL make that show, and my “Good Luck” Top Hat will be on your head in the win shot!…Love ya, Annette

  10. Patti Bradfield

    Susan Salk put the true emotions of this amazing lady, my friend Kim, into a truly moving piece about life, and what it ‘can’ hold for those that reach for that elusive brass ring.

    Two lost souls came together to heal each other, (as Pam said), in a way only story books tell us about. But this ‘true’ story brings tears of happiness for a ‘chance’ they both took with each other.

    Kim has taught many of us that the brass ring isn’t that far out of reach, if only we just go for it.

    Thank you Susan, very well written.

  11. Susan Koska

    Kim I think in all honesty U needed Chance as much as he needed you. The both of you are progressing wonderfully. I am so proud of you, as this guy was a big challenge, BUT, as we IBC’ers know, our Life has become a challenge. I know the bond you two have is awesome. Keep up the great work and continue to enjoy your new bud. Just don’t forget about King Nick. Lol. Luv to you my sister, Susan in Tx.

  12. Becky Slocum

    Just read your story Kim – it is great but I had no idea that you were not well. I thought you were is remission and things were going good ( adding new doggy friends, etc.) I would love to come and visit and meet Chance if that is something we can arrange . . . . you up for a visit from an ol’ horse and dog lover like me?????????

    1. Kim Alexander

      Hey, Thanks, Becky. Susan is right. I feel great. Yes, hoping for a good spell for a change as 2010 was pretty horrific for me. I’m doing well now, and looking forward..yes, FORWARD to next year! Come on up! (gimme a shout first)

  13. Cheryl Ann

    What a wonderful, moving story! I got my first horse when I found out I had melanoma. I spent many an afternoon crying into his mane. I am now cancer free for 7 years. I couldn’t have done it without Sunni. I also have 4 more horses now. Yes, GO KIM and CHANCE! You need each other!

  14. Pam Clark

    Beautiful! Two souls healing each other.

  15. Laurie Tuozzolo

    This story is one of hope and determination! It made my day ! You go Kim & Chance !! They sky is the limit! I wish you both all the best- I have always believed that horses have great healing power and here is more proof! Please keep us posted !! Wishing you all the best in life !!!

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