The shining ex-racehorse looked at Laura Jones with trusting, liquid-brown eyes as if to say he knew she would make him well.
Carrizo Creek had sustained a slab fracture in his knee after seven lackluster starts at various Florida tracks, when he was introduced to Jones at the Calder Race Course.
If he was in pain, he didn’t show it.
He was gentle and calm as he walked out of his stall to allow Jones to look him over, and later, he willingly allowed himself to be led to a trailer and hauled off to the next chapter of his life.
“I’d never owned my own horse before,” Jones says. “I waited until I was 32, and had started my career, before I went to Calder to take a look at him.”
Despite his injury, Carrizo Creek had impressed enough people with his demeanor and other fine qualities that all who met him described him as “a really good horse.” And even though it would take some dedication on her part to rehabilitate him, Jones decided to take a chance.
“He was so calm when they lead him out of his stall, and he seemed perfect. And, I knew that if he didn’t work out with me, I knew plenty of people who could take him.”
Racename: Carrizo Creek
Barn name: Flash
Sire: Snow Ridge
Dam: Missing Dancer
Foal date: Foal date: Feb. 26, 2007Jones had a network of Florida-based equestrian friends, connections she made riding at Collins Horse Farm in Miami. They were the ones who helped her find her new horse, and she trusted she could lean on them for help navigating the rehabilitation process, and, if necessary, re-selling him if it didn’t work out.
After the gelding arrived at his new home, he was confined to his stall for three months of rest.
And as his condition improved, Jones started bringing him on hand-walks to stretch his legs and enjoy some time outside of his stall.
“He was never really lame, but I wanted to go really slow with him to make sure he healed adequately,” she says.
After about six months, Carrizo Creek let her know he was fine, and that she could stop worrying. And while he never spoke the words, a la Mister Ed, he did the next best thing:
“After six months of walking, he got down on the ground and rolled while I held him on the lead rope,” she says. “I knew he felt better when he did that. And, when he got back up, he gave a huge kick. That told me he was ready to work.”
By this point, they were well into 2010. She had adopted the horse in February that year, and, it was with great anticipation that she began prepping him for his first ride.
But as luck would have it, during a lunging exercise, he struck a rock with his back hoof and opened up a new wound. This time, a deep quarter crack.
“I didn’t realize what he’d done until we were walking back to his stall, and I noticed he was limping,” she says. “When I looked at his foot, and saw all the pink, it was pretty bad. I thought I’d killed my horse.”
Fortunately, Carrizo Creek, a battler all the way, took only two more months to heal before he was ready to try again.
When the day finally arrived for her to mount the beautiful horse, Jones and her husband were a bundle of nerves. This was a racehorse, after all. Would he spook at the mounting block? Would he bolt? Would he throw her?
“I got on him and he wouldn’t move!” she says. “We were all laughing so hard that my husband finally said, ‘Make him do something!’
“We were even ringing a bell to simulate the sound of the starting gate, but he wouldn’t budge. I finally had to kick him to get him to walk.”
His demeanor is so gentle, in fact, even walks quietly beside Jones’ niece, a toddler.
“When people first hear that I got a racehorse, they say, ‘Oh, you’re crazy!’ And, I say they don’t understand—he’s bombproof.”
He has taken her on trail rides and hacks around the property. Other riders offer to keep their horse reined in so they won’t excite Carrizo Creek into the frenzied gallop they imagine he’ll spring to, and Jones always replies with a smile that says she is confident her ex-racehorse will keep her safe.
She kept him safe during all those months of recovery, and Carrizo Creek is saying, thank you, every day.
“He’s perfect,” Jones says. “I let everybody ride him, even the kids. He’s perfect for everyone.”