A Thoroughbred inspires bravery in fight for life

Kim Alexander and Chance

Author’s note: This week, I am re-running earlier stories, which were favorites among readers. Off-TrackThoroughbreds will resume its regular publication cycle on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. 

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.’ ”

Chance, scruffy and thin

So, on Jan. 18 last 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.”

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.

Chance and Kim feeling better

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.”

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

  1. Jessica Boyd

    Wonderful story AND good to see the comment from Kim that they are both doing well!

    Kim should meet Calabar, a horse who also loves to jump so.. I am learning how, too. 🙂

    Beautiful and inspiring Susan, Kim and Chance!

  2. Dawn Willoughby

    Fabulous story. Oh the healing powers of horses is infinite!

    TX! Could you please tweak something so a photo from the story shows up with your article when I post it on Facebook. For the last two, the face of the happy vet showed up! LOL

    Now off to love on my TB

  3. Kim Alexander

    Thanks, Susan for your repost. I am flattered to be picked for a rerun.
    A change or two since your story first came out.

    Chance is well, as am I. My scans have shown that my cancer is in complete remission at this time. I am blessed, and looking forward to some quality years.
    I have finally unloaded all of the baggage in both of our lives and have now got a great team working with us, since removing the ‘cowboys and idiots’! So it’s pretty much just Chance and me and we both love it that way.
    He is sound, fit, and quite full of himself. Um, I am afraid to tell you that he is enjoying hopping over ground poles WAY too much and I am one who has never jumped anything on purpose… but he absolutely LOVES it. I have no alternative but to make some jumps and learn to fly.
    Hmmm, actually, this is not such a bad thing since I’ve already seen death. What’s to be afraid of!

    I love what you do, Susan and follow you faithfully.

    Thanks again!

    Kind regards,
    Kim Alexander, and “Chance”

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