Born with two bad legs was one lucky t’bred

Palmer scopes out the scene at a small hunter/jumper show.

Palmer scopes out the scene at a small hunter/jumper show.

When Palmer’s Approach was born into the top-tier racing stables of Kim and Nick Zito in 2005, he had only two good legs to stand on. Fortunately, the “scrawny chestnut” with a bone cyst in the right stifle and a fracture in his left knee had many two-legged friends to lean on.

Beginning with the Zitos themselves, both outspoken opponents of horse slaughter, the couple balked at suggestions they euthanize the animal, and sought the opinion of Dr. Scott Palmer. Palmer, for whom the horse was eventually named, treated the horse over the next year at the New Jersey Equine Clinic, and says the animal emerged “like a butterfly.”

“I remember him well,” Dr. Palmer told Off-Track Thoroughbreds. “I gave him a look and I said, ‘Don’t kill him.’ People were advising him to put the animal down … but we were able to treat the cyst with medication and the fracture with stall rest and a controlled exercise program.”

Palmer’s Approach
Sire: Najran
Dam: Spotted Feather
Foal date: March 26, 2005
After a year Dr. Palmer called Zito with good news. “I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this horse. He turned out to be really beautiful.’ In the long run, I guess he was a success.”

Palmer went on to a racing career that included a win at the 2008 Suffolk Downs MassCap. Palmer wound up running at the East Boston track with MassCap winner Commentator, another Zito horse, after the Hall of Fame trainer announced his support for Suffolk Downs’ decision to ban horse slaughter. Zito told the Associated Press he wholeheartedly endorsed the track’s decision to become the first in the nation to take a zero tolerance toward slaughter.

Palmer returned to Boston two months ago to start the next leg of his career.

Palmer trains during a race career that seemed unlikely when he was born with two bad legs.

Palmer trains during a race career that seemed unlikely when he was born with two bad legs.

Lorita Lindemann, Suffolk Downs Stall Superintendent and champion for the track’s anti-slaughter policy, adopted Palmer and has put him on a path to successes as a hunter/jumper.

Already, he is off with flying colors. “He literally came off the track on April 1st of this year and he just won two blue ribbons, two third-place ribbons and a championship of his division,” Lindemann says. “This is his first time at a show.”

While Palmer was winning ribbons with rider and track pony girl Jaime Mustapha, Lindemann was on the phone with Kim Zito, reporting the horse’s progress. “It was amazing. Here’s a woman whose husband has two horses in the Belmont Stakes and she’s on the phone screaming for Palmer’s Approach,” Lindemann says.

Well known for her work with Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields, and his family foundation to end slaughter practices in East Boston, the volunteer with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to rehabilitate ex-racehorses.

She is a firm believer that many of them possess the temperament to move into next careers.

“Racehorses are handled so much” that they are very adaptable to new situations, she says. “They’re temperament and attitude changes so much when they go from the track to farm life. Palmer is literally like a dog now!”

His rider Jaime Mustapha agrees.

“He didn’t do a thing wrong in the show,” she says. “Palmer is a just a classy horse to ride, and it’s like he was born to be a hunter.” — This story was originally published on June 6, 2010. ♥

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5 responses to “Born with two bad legs was one lucky t’bred”

  1. Susan Kayne

    I truly do not understand why anyone knowing the issues this was horse born with would put him under the stress of training for racing….( maybe greed?)…why not just let him growup and head to a life in an easier career. Sure glad he survived the racetrack and found his way into the life he was destined for.

    1. Viktoria KS

      I don’t speak for the Zito’s or this particular situation, but I can say, after breeding and rehabbing a beautiful filly that everyone said would be nothing but a pasture pal, I can tell you…when you see a thoroughbred (born to run) blossom and full of energy, chasing it’s pasture pals in the fields and winning every race, THEY TELL YOU they want the chance to live out their best potential. When you love an animal you have bred, like it was your child or part of your own self, you do everything you can to help it be the best it can be, all while protecting it, nurturing it and proudly defying all doubters. And when heads turn when that “child” prances onto the track…so proud of itself…you know you did the right thing.

      Greed and money has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    2. jo-claire

      I have to agree, the racing industry kills horses every day, to take a horse born with these kinds of problems and still put him on the track, we can only be thankful he survived the track.

  2. tbdancer

    Another fabulous story and this one including one of my favorite trainers, Nick Zito. He and his wife Kim have been on the forefront of rehoming–I read years ago that they put a sticker with their contact information on the papers of horses that leave their barn, informing anyone “down the line” to give them a call when the horse’s race career is over. That is the right way to insure the welfare and well-being of horses they have known. Thanks, Susan!

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