An OTTB helps a stricken police det. stay strong

Susan Kimball and her OTTB Cricket. Photo by Vanessa Green, courtesy of Kimball

Susan Kimball and her OTTB Cricket. Photo by Vanessa Green, courtesy of Kimball

A homicide detective with a wasting disease and an ex-racehorse who lacked the appeal to attract a new owner, each found their second chance, with one another.

After Susan Kimball was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, a rare degenerative disorder that can confine its victims to a wheelchair, she said goodbye to her longtime career with the Biloxi, Miss. police force, and in 2009, began looking for another outlet.

“I was on the police force for 10 years and a homicide detective for eight of them. I was very passionate about what I did, and after I had to retire, I started thinking about how I’d be home during the day, and I wasn’t even sure how long my strength would hold up, but I needed to do something.’

Always suspecting she was a “horse person” at heart, just one who never had the time or opportunity to ride, Kimball picked up the phone one day and called the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River in Crozier, Va.—a Thoroughbred facility situated 2,000 miles from her home.

She learned there was a plain bay waiting there who raced under the Jockey Club name Excessively Crooked. He wasn’t particularly flashy, and he was just learning to jump. Kimball can’t recall what it was that they said about the horse, only that she was seized by the desire to give the animal a second chance; as she so much craved for herself.

Race name: Excessively Crooked
Sire: In Excess (IRE)
Dam: Inca Tern (GB)
Foal date: May 16, 2004
Her father volunteered to take her, since her condition prevented her from safely driving a vehicle long distances, and off they went on a two-day road trip that would prove to be her new beginning.

Arriving to find the object of her quest, Kimball liked the animal on sight. “I liked the fact that he was a bay and that he wasn’t considered flashy, and also, that he might be something others would overlook,” she says. “He has just about every bad habit—he cribs, he weaves, and he also has these cute little quirks—he’s kind of a jokester.”

Kimball figured she needed a good laugh, and when the nosey Thoroughbred insisted on flipping the baseball cap off her head, she say she could “see the humor in his eyes.”

“I felt like this was something I needed in my life.”

He sailed easily into her world. On the long journey home, the unlikely trio often pulled into truck stops and raised more than one set of eyebrows as the ex-racehorse gingerly and politely off-loaded to graze and stretch his legs.

“He was unfazed by all the activity of the trucks,” she says, noting however, that some of the truckers were indeed pretty fazed by her horse. “We got a lot of second-takes and strange looks,” she says.

Finally arriving home in July 2010, Kimball and her trainer Christine Vedros of Foxwood Farm set about training Excessively Crooked (nicknamed Cricket) to tame his nervous energy and make him a suitable riding horse.

Excessively Crooked and Susan Kimball gave each other a second chance. Photo by Vanessa Green Photography, and courtesy of Kimball

Excessively Crooked and Susan Kimball gave each other a second chance. Photo by Vanessa Green Photography, and courtesy of Kimball

“As calm as he was on the ground, he was a nervous horse,” she says. “He was afraid of ground poles, and he leapt them like they were three-foot jumps. He used to refuse cross rails all the time, and when he finally started jumping those, he refused verticals.”

She adds, “It didn’t help that I was a green rider.”

Those somewhat awkward first rides built up her confidence and skill in the show ring, and eventually led doctors to marvel at how well the daily physical exercise helped her alleviate the symptoms of her disease.

At a doctor’s appointment to determine the effects of her disease, which is progressive and degenerative, muscle measurement testing found that her strength and conditioning had held steady. “I haven’t gotten any stronger, but I haven’t lost strength either,” she says.

Her doctor was so encouraged by her progress, she adds, that he asked her, unable to hide his surprise and excitement, what she was doing to take care of herself.

“I told him that I ride almost every day, and he told me to never stop doing it. He says that’s what’s keeping me from deteriorating.”

The total effect of riding horses has given Kimball her self-respect back.

Coming off two recent blue-ribbons wins in Jumper classes at the Gulf Coast Classic in Gulfsport, Miss., her first rated show, Kimball feels her strength surge through her limbs, and a deep pride in her progress with Excessively Crooked.

“To come from where we came from, as partners, to win ribbons at our first rated show, was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she says.

Kimball doesn’t know how long her strength will last. But with her new partner, she says she feels “unstoppable.”

“Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is my horse,” Kimball says. “I have never been this happy and complete. And I look forward to many more years together, and many happy trail rides.”

18 responses to “An OTTB helps a stricken police det. stay strong”

  1. Cynthia

    What a beautiful inspirational story. Much love to you Susan and Cricket (love the nick name, not to crazy about the name Excessively Crooked for such an exceptional horse) Yes, Lisa Malone, that is a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle, I have the same set. English with laced reins. No surprise that such a beautiful person would use a humane tack. I read your story twice,with tears in my eyes.

  2. Denise

    I personally know this beautiful woman. She should be an inspiration to all of us. I love u Sue. Keep fighting and taking care of beautiful cricket. She does not let this horrible disease keep her down. God blessed this horse with a beautiful owner. 2 peas in a pod…

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  4. NLR

    Your photographs are stunning. I wish you continued stability in your health and more blue ribbons.

  5. Debbie

    This is a truly wonderful success story for BOTH…. Horses can give us so much the bounty of their fruits are endless… Good Luck to the two of you and have FUN…… LOVE THIS 🙂 Also I think Cricket is gorgeous…..

  6. Lyndsey

    What a wonderful story. Congratulations on all your success with this lovely horse. OTTBs have an uncanny ability to heal so many things in us. I’m so glad that you found this horse to help you.

  7. Lisa Melone

    What a great story! Inspiring and a sweet ending for Cricket to boot. Happy trails to you both.
    Yes, is that a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle I see? All our OTTB’s are ridden on the trail with them!


    I find nothing common or not beautiful about ‘Cricket’ instead I read of a magnificent character residing behind those Brown Chocolate Eyes, and wish his beautiful new owner inside and out a long long continued friendship with her best pal!


  9. Folly Darling

    I am so proud of you Susan–a side I did not know.

  10. Jill Mora

    What a WONDERFUL story! I think it’s really cute how a retired detective ended up with a horse named “Excessively Crooked”, it was most certainly meant to be! Ride On! 🙂

    1. Susan Crane-Sundell

      I couldn’t second that sentiment more. And as for Cricket…he is very flashy… love his “star” I know he is Susan’s star and I wish them a long partnership and good health. They make wonderful partners.

  11. Chrissy Ogilvie

    Sue! You look gorgeous and what a beautiful horse! Am I to really believe you’re within a few hours of me here in Pensacola and we haven’t connected? Drop me an email or connect on FB. I would love to see a home town Sterling gal!! Talk soon, Chrissy

  12. Outside of a Horse

    What a fantastic story! So inspiring to see the effect that horses can have on their people. Best wishes to Susan and Cricket!!!

  13. Lindsey

    There is nothing like the love and strength of a horse to help your body and soul! Keep on Kicking!!!

  14. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Excessively Crooked looks absolutely awesome. What a beautiful picture. Excessively Crooked retired through the R.A.C.E Fund in March 2009. He had quite a journey prior to our organization taking him and sending him to TRF. He is a lucky boy to have such a wonderful home and to be loved so much. So happy he an Susan are helping each other.Bravo.

  15. Elvira

    Best wishes on adopting Cricket. He sounds like a wonderful and carefree horse, I’m very happy for your good health and fortune. Cricket has made all the difference in your life. I wish you and Cricket continued happiness and health.
    God bless you and keep on riding.

  16. Jana Kellam

    I love this story! Super inspiring and encouraging to see how powerfully our bodies respond to doing what we love in life. 🙂 And is that a Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle he’s wearing?

  17. Christine

    WOW! How inspiring. Congratulations on adopting your OTTB, your success and your health. I wish you continued success and a long, happy, healthy life. 🙂

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