Bedraggled and hanging half forgotten like a child’s rain-soaked stuffed animal, RV Smokin Joe was about the sorriest looking Thoroughbred Caroline LaCombe had ever laid eyes on.
Wearing a 17.2 hand frame like an ill-fitting suit, his neck too short, his hair matted or worn away completely in spots, he peeked tentatively at the Texas barn manager who’d ridden along with a friend to check out the horse, now for sale.
“My friend called me and asked if I wanted to go look at a Thorougbred at a local rescue, and he was about 45 minutes away from the barn I work at in Richmond Texas, so I said sure,” she says. “When we pulled up he was standing right there. He was really big, and he looked awful.”
Skin and bones and knee-high in mud from his pasture, he walked with a slight limp and generally seemed “off.”
And yet, he listened so well and tried so hard during a test ride that LaCombe and her friend debated his potential the way they some girls do when looking at a dress that isn’t quite right. “I said that he looked terrible right then, but if we fed him better, and cleaned him up…… and the lameness went away, well, he just might be really nice if we fix him up,” she says.
RV Smokin Joe
Sire: Cien Fuegos
Dam: Cash to the Mint
Foal date: March 19, 2006LaCombe thought about her five-stall barn, filled to capacity with her other horses, and realized that while she’d never owned a Thoroughbred before, why not take a chance. What the heck!
So back she went with the trailer. And Smokin Joe, or Joey for short, walked onto that van like he knew he was going somewhere better, and off they went.
“I gave him a bath, cut his mane and started feeding him. I started frantically reading and researching what to feed him and how to train him, and even started reading about his breeding. He has good breeding!” she says.
Introducing each dietary change slowly, she fattened him up on a good-nutrition pellet feed, Alfalfa and pasture grass. He did have one mild episode of colic early on, but in a month’s time, the ugly duckling turned into a swan. A fat, shiny, beautiful swan.
“Everybody wanted me to do monthly updates on him, so I took his picture every month so we could see how he was changing,” she says, adding that though his coat was lying flat and looking better, his body was indeed fitting his frame better.
After an injection to his left knee, where a fixed bone chip was giving him trouble, he was sound as a bell.
By August, the big guy went into training feeling great. Actually, a little too great, she admits.
“He was easy to train, but was very, very hot, so that when you got on his back it felt like he could explode at any time,” she says. “This was not the horse we picked up. He suddenly had all this energy and was feeling good.”
Making the hard decision that it would be better for Joey and for herself if he went to a more qualified trainer, LaCombe sold him to another Texas trainer and regretted it the minute she dropped him off.
“I took him over to his new place, signed over ownership and while I was driving away, I had this horrible feeling that I wasn’t doing the right thing for him,” she says. “I told them if they ever need to get rid of him, to call me.”
And a few months later, her same friend called to let her know that Joey needed to come back.
A third owner—who had purchased him from the second owner— claimed he was unfit to ride and was again lame, and though it took her an entire day to make the round-trip to bring him back to Richmond, she did it without hesitation.
“I was so glad someone contacted me, because when he stepped off the trailer, he couldn’t walk. He looked almost worse than he did when I first got him. He had cuts everywhere, was skinny, and I had that sinking feeling that I never should have let him go in the first place.”
Of course LaCombe now knew just what to do. Fatten him up, take care of his wounds. Give him a lot of TLC and bring back the beautiful horse she knew he was meant to be.
His lameness was identified as the result of feet that had been trimmed too short, and he required a few months to re-grow the soles of his feet. She made sure he had the best of everything in the process, including adding a medically treated substitute sole that cushioned his sore feet while his real soles regrew.
Joey is just entering training again, and LaCombe has made a permanent home for him at her barn. By boarding one of her other horses at a nearby facility Joey even has a stall close to home, where she can keep a close eye on him.
“He’s just such a good horse. To me, he’s perfect,” she says. “I don’t necessarily believe in fate, and that everything happens for a reason. But I’m glad that he’s back. He’s never going anywhere again: he’s with us forever.”
18 responses to “Ragamuffin T’bred finds someone to love him”
Hi everyone! I want to clear up that Joey went to a trainer who sold Joey to another lady. That’s where he lost all his weight and she must have decided to skimp on his care and pulled his shoes and left him barefoot. In turn I believe his fronts fell apart and her farrier butchered what was left. He went from a very warmbloody looking horse to skin and bones in a matter of a few months. He left me in May and was back in August . I’m so happy to have him home.
I read your note and made the paragraph clearer, that it was actually a third owner who had him, and where he lost his form. 🙂
I have a “Joey” too as far as nicknames go. With him – I followed my heart and did what all the books told me not to do…green rider and a green horse. I have never, ever regretted it. Some discouraging days when I wish I was a better rider but he has made it clear that I am his human despite fact he is a barn favorite and everyone else who has ridden him is a better rider. Sounds like you listened to your heart – and ended up having to do it twice for the same guy. Sometimes – your better angels know more than all the conventional wisdom. Sounds like he has his human…
Sometimes the horse picks you.
I’m glad she took him back! And I would definitely not keep quiet on the name of the ‘more qualified trainer’. If they were really qualified, the horse should not have ended up back to being underfed, overtrimmed and lame again.
This story made me cry. He is beautiful and knows the person whose loves him and he loves her in return. What a wonderful ending. May they have a long and beautiful life together as best friends.
This is how so many of these horses end up at a auction being sold by the pound. The owner decides the horse would be better off with someone else thinking they can do a better job with the horse than they have done, which has and will be a mistake. You begin to wonder too just why did the trainer starve the horse? I don’t get that one. And just why was his feet trimmed to short? Did the person that he was sold too try to trim his feet themselves not really knowing anything about it? That is what this looks like. After all trimming a horses feet is not like trimming your toenails.
There are lots of bad trimmers and farriers out there. Some take off too much heel and no toe, others leave the heels too long, etc. I had a well respected farrier put shoes on my horse. He didn’t trim them first. Won’t be using him again. At least the people that had Joey recognized that they were not providing adequate care for him and returned him.
I could have never sold him to someone else in the first place. OTTBs (and TBs) are hot by nature and training. Yes, they can feel like a ball of energy underneath you. All of that is true. Eventually, they settle down (most of them). I have 8 and 15 year old TBs. They 8 year old mare will probably calm down by the time she is 10. The 15 year old OTTB is ridden by a 14 year old girl and has really calmed down since his race days. It just takes a while. You can try giving him a diet of reduced alfalfa to help with hotness. Turn to Timothy, etc.
Never give up on them, never…
I agree, reducing alfalfa will can make a huge difference. I have one thoroughbred who also gets too hot on alfalfa. What feed and/supplements do you give. I am sure you know, nutrition can have such a positive effect on attitude. Bless you for rescueing him!
So glad Joey is back home ! We all love Joey 🙂
Just look in his eye…what a nice guy!…great story!!…I would love to see a follow-up.
Oh, Joey, you are amazing and thanks be to Caroline and all the fickle pieces of fate (believe it or not) that brought him home to you again!!
GEEZ!!!! I almost cried when Joey left Corline for the new home!!!! So glad he made his way back. Some things are just meant to be…
Another awesome story with a happy ending!
I’m curious to know what the “medically treated substitute sole” was she used on his feet. My mare has thin soles. So glad she got him back.
He’s so handsome!!
Yay, Joey!! What a great story, Susan. Sometimes these OTTBs know what’s best–and where they belong–and do what they can to get US to see it, too.