Against the clock, a TB raced on home

Cruisin Dude was given exactly one week to be off the backside of the Arapahoe Racetrack. So he picked his person and hasn't looked back.

Cruisin Dude was given exactly one week to be off the backside of the Arapahoe Racetrack. So he picked his person and hasn’t looked back.

Racing against time like he never had done on the track, Cruisin Dude crossed the most important “finish line” of his life, literally, by a nose.

It was in the 11th hour that he reached out with his velvet muzzle and touched Dianne Kingsland on the shoulder. A gesture that would save him from a suspected unhappy fate, as the deadline to vacate the premises ticked down on the backside of Colorado’s Arapahoe Racetrack.

“I had no interest in buying a horse that day,” Kingsland recalls. “A bunch of us were told about a horse who had a deadline of a week to leave the track, or face an uncertain future, so we all went out to look at him.”

Cruisin Dude
Sire: Black Mambo
Dam: Lets Go Ona Cruise, by Weekend Cruise
Foal date: Feb. 8, 2007
Standing among eight women in a loosely knit circle, the vacant-eyed gelding was led over to them by Joanne Pavlis, a trainer and Kingsland’s riding coach who had organized the meeting.

“We were all kind of standing in a circle when he walked over to me and put his nose under my arm, and then he put his head on my shoulder,” Kingsland says. “What could I do? I had to take him.”

Pavlis, who had worked with the Colorado track, and knew Cruisin Dude needed to land quickly in a new home, adds, “It’s always nice to see when a horse asks for a person, rather than a person trying to choose a horse who isn’t the right match.”

Being picked by a horse was an honor Kingsland took to heart.

Like a bashful school boy, he hung around her when she and her husband Richard first brought him home, preferring to hang back away from her other three horses.

Dude now runs free, loved and safe.

Dude now runs free. He is loved and safe.

“He was just so shy that he’d stand behind us and just hang around,” she says. “Then one day you could see the look on his face change, like he understood he didn’t need to be afraid, and he just took off running,” she says. “Once the others figured out that he could outrun them, that was it. They all settled down.”

As Dude settled into the herd, he also eased into a new routine with his new friend. They enjoyed trail rides and taking formal lessons as life ambled along pleasantly.

Then in June 2014, an innocuous looking bump Kingsland had been monitoring began to grow.

A diagnosis of low-grade melanoma soon followed, and suddenly Dude and Kingsland were tossed headlong into a scary, painful battle. The cancer was easily removed during a routine surgery, but two days after the procedure all hell broke loose.

Dude's legs underwent careful treatment during his illness.

Dude’s legs underwent careful treatment during his illness.

Dude spiked a 104.9 fever and soon his legs started to swell like balloons, ultimately causing the skin to split open. He was in so much pain that the veterinarian treated his raw flesh with a burn cream, and for weeks the condition diagnosed as immune mediated vasculitis, wreaked havoc. “He’d seem to get better and then he’d have a relapse,” she says. “It went on this way for nine weeks. And during this time my vet consulted with many large-animal hospitals for guidance, and he was on so many drugs. His condition, we learned, happens sometimes when a melanoma is removed and it sends out feelers into the system, which shock it.”

Night and day Kingsland was by Dude’s side. She treated him with a an oral, liquid Banamine, and the vet worked diligently removing dead skin from his legs, and bandaging them again in fresh wraps. This went on for nine weeks. Dude wasn’t hospitalized because he was eating and drinking well, and Kingsland planted herself by his side. “I practically lived down in the barn. I kept a fan on him and kept him cool. And he would put his head on my chest and sigh,” she says. “I knew he hurt. I didn’t know what else to do for him—we had him on so many drugs—that I just scratched his neck and rubbed the tops of his legs.”

There was a point in the battle when Kingsland’s husband Richard was out of town, and upon getting the latest update on Dude’s condition, he quipped, “Just don’t let him sleep on my side of the bed!” It was the first chuckle she’d had in the whole long mess, but not the last.

When he isn't enjoying hacks through the woods or riding lessons, Dude pals around with his herd.

When he isn’t enjoying hacks through the woods or riding lessons, Dude pals around with his herd.

Just when Dude appeared to be on the mend for good, Kingsland awoke one morning to find the gentle horse walking very slowly and stiffly. Thinking the battle lost, she phoned the vet, who rushed out to examine the tired animal. Like her, the vet was suspicious that the infection, which would abate and return, had come back with a vengeance.

And then they realized it wasn’t the infection at all this time. It was just an abscess in his front hoof! And they both let out a huge laughing sigh of relief. “An abscess I could handle. After all we’d been through, it was a cakewalk!” she says. “We soaked him in lavender Epson salts.”

A few days later, the Thoroughbred who first touched her heart on the backside of Arapahoe Track was tearing around his field like he’d rejoined another horserace.

“Some people ask why and how I kept him going. But watching his transformation, from when I first saw him as a withdrawn shell of a horse to what he became, well, I just love that horse,” she says. “During the worst moments, he would have his head in my chest, and I felt like he said to me that he knew I loved him, and I should do what I needed to do” to make him well.

13 responses to “Against the clock, a TB raced on home”

  1. Jay Romig

    The good guys win another one, good job and an exhibition of perseverance

  2. Wendy

    I could’ve used a heads up about maybe needing a Kleenex for this story!

  3. Lani Bryan

    A beautiful story about a beautiful horse and his
    beautiful owner…..Dianne, you are wonderful inside and
    out and Dude is a very blessed horse!

  4. Sandy Carr

    Sniff….wonderful story. Thanks for staying with him all the way.

  5. Linda McGill

    What a great story! And, what a fortunate horse to have chosen such a devoted human!

  6. Michelle Y.

    Great story of a horse picking his person and that person being faithful to him through the bad times. So wonderful to hear stories like this.

  7. Pam

    I love this story! And I love this horse! This made my day.

  8. Kitty

    Thank goodness he chose her and that she honored that choice! He’s so beautiful, it’s hard to believe that he was in danger of being sold at auction or having some other bad outcome. I understand how the love of a horse can motivate somebody to literally do anything to save that precious life. Ms. Kingsland is awesome for saving this sweet, beautiful boy!

  9. Mary Savage Tibbetts

    He’s such a special boy. Divine intervention, call it what you will. There are no accidents! Both of you, trusting your hearts and intuition, once again, proves that LOVE is the greatest healer. You never gave up on each other. It’s an honor to know both of you.

  10. Linda McDowell

    I love this story. He picked you and you never let him down. He will be your buddy for ever. I had a OTTB like this. His picture was faxed to me while working on a warmblood breeding farm. I took a look at his picture and thought he might be a good dressage prospect and went to see him. My two year old daughter and I walked into his paddock and this skinny 17H black OTTB walked up to my daughter and licked her. I spoke to the owner and she let me take him on trial for a month. He would not go on the trailer with my trainer and I said let me try, and he walked right on. After my trial I kept him. A week after my trial he tore his suspensary and was layed up for 8 months. I hand walked him everyday and we spent a lot of time together. He was mine for the rest of his life. He passed away last year at 21. He will be greatly missed. He was awesome

  11. Canter Michigan

    It’s touching that Cruisin Dude saw something in Dianne Kingsland’s eyes or manner that must have made him feel trust in her. To think that he joined up with her out of a group of others and thankfully Dianne followed her heart. And she never gave up on him. You both have the heart of a thoroughbred!

  12. Wendy Scott

    A huge Thank You from the boy for your dedication.

  13. SusanA

    🙂 :-):-) Dude is beautiful. Thank you Ms. Kingsland for listening to your heart! Lovely story.

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