Blue is a 1995 Thoroughbred mare off the track has been part of our lives since she was 2 years old. This is part 1 of Blue's story.
I have been married over 20 years and with my husband since 1996. We have owned Blue since early 1998. In 1997 when Blue was a 2 year old, my Husband looked after her on the racetrack, so he has known her almost her entire life. It was fun looking back through pictures for this blog but some of these things do not seem over 20 years ago. Life is strange sometimes. We take for granted things that have always been there.
Technically, Blue belongs to my Husband. It is his name on the bill of sale. A fact I tend to remind him of when she needs money for something. Harriette and Mav? they are/were mine on paper but Blue? Blue is actually his. His/mine no difference I realize as same pocket, but this comes into play when something goes wrong. I do things like teach at night school to pay for Mav's extra activities (lessons, vet stuff, farrier, shows etc.). Therefore, he is reminded Blue is actually his when it comes time to square up for her, as my extra work pocket is not crazy deep and Mav drains it regularly. Mercifully, Blue was pretty low maintenance over the years and he rarely had to dig into the communal pocket for extra expenses.
In fact, I had no idea we owned Blue at first. I was off at University you see. Super husband was working at the track.
We met at the track - his uncle was a trainer but that is a story for another day. We had a brief stint as trainers at the track before realizing even the most successful there did not actually make a decent living. We chose a different path and have not looked back.
I came home from university, for a reading break, and he took me to her stall and said she was ours. She was injured and 3 years old. During a race at 2, while no longer in the care of husband, she had broken her sesamoid bone. They had turned her out to heal and brought her back. She no longer wanted to run and asked if he wanted her. He thought he did, so there we were with a mostly sound 3 year old racehorse. We half heartedly tried to train her but really she wanted no part of it. What it did do, was buy us time to find a place to board her. Stalls at the track were free and feed was not that expensive back then. Board was not that much either. Things have drastically changed in 20+ years. My board the other day for one was almost as much as I used to keep 3 for, and it does not seem that long ago. Granted, the facility is much nicer and the care is top notch, but even the "less fancy" facilities are creeping up there.
I had taken a couple of years off riding after showing in the hunters as a kid. Now I had a horse again.
We found a place to put her and I dusted off my tack and climbed on. It was not pretty. In no way did it resemble anything pretty but I stayed on and that may be the most important part. In retrospect, I never came off Blue. Which is surprising.
In her best years, she flew around jumps in a hackamore or a short shank Mikmar - which she weirdly loved. She disliked snaffles. Anything broken in the middle was a no-go and usually ended up with her standing on her hind legs. It took me WAY too long to realize this and I could have saved myself a lot of discomfort had I just tried different bits earlier. She liked jumping, was very athletic and as long as everyone committed to the jump, we were going. I was not always committed. We did not always go.
In her early years she carted me around but was not #1 horse. We bought another horse a few months later and he was the one I took back to university with me. Thor. You know the saying Pretty is as Pretty does? This was written for Thor. He was lovely to look at standing still. Big name trainers stopped and talked to me about him excitedly but only if he was standing still. When he started moving they shook their heads and walked away. He was a sewing machine and jumped with legs in all directions. There is no video of Thor (happily?) but I dug up a few pictures.
(Shortly after acquiring Thor, the whole family there for a visit. Back then super Husband actually put his hands on the horses and did things. Now, he does hold a lead rope with horse attached if I hand it to him but that is about the extent of it). Ironically, we discussed the other day about how he will need to relearn grooming if I am to have two horses showing in the future. I have excellent ground crew members, but they have their own horses too!
Look, more proof I once jumped things. Small things mostly.
Apparently my pictures of Thor are even fewer than I expected. But digital photography did not exist then. All pictures had to be developed and could not be seen until then. How weird to think of that now as I scroll through thousands of random horse photos on my phone.
Blue was relegated to second horse until I broke my arm from a fall off Thor and decided to sell him. He is the one horse I lost track of - I have no idea what happened to him after he left me. I hope he had a long, happy life looking pretty.
Blue had 2 babies fairly early on at 5 and 7 - breeding seemed like a good idea right? spoiler, It was not. Although the people who ended up with the offspring might disagree. Baby #1 "Denim" was a dismal failure on the track. Sorry Husband, but my main memory of him is standing at the paddock gate as he ran around uncontrollably after ditching his jockey. It took them 15 minutes to catch him and we hung our heads in shame. By the end of that racing season, despite winning one race and placing well in others (with other horses), we had packed up and decided it was not for us.
Denim was sold to a local family who still owns him to this day. He did an amazing job of landing on his feet and I commend them for still owning him all these years later with very little return on investment. I do not think he ever relaxed under saddle and while he had jumping ability, seemed to be borderline unrideable between jumps.
Photo taken from owners fb page. Sorry, not sorry about that, but he looks lovely in this one!
Foal #2 was Jeanie (later known as Lacey). Her first hour of life included a basically life or death struggle to place a halter on her and force some "imprinting". If it was not her idea, it was not worth doing and death was better than submission. Her first farrier visit, with TWO of the best farriers in the area, ended with both being kicked or struck and Jeanie on the ground (no animals or humans were actually harmed in this situation). Starting her involved a local well-known cowboy/horse whisperer type (these were the days of Monty Roberts and "horse whispering" was a a big thing). I feel like this particular guy kind of disappeared after meeting our Jeanie. Maybe he realized not all wizards are good. Anyways, rather than submit to pressure and move forward with tack on, she would throw herself on the ground. after about 2 hours she did kind of submit, he sat on her and called her started. In hind sight, She likely needed more work to accept things. But the propensity to fight was so instinctive in her, it probably would not have made much difference.
Jeanie did not do needles or syringes. Or vets. I do not know how her later years went, but the dosing syringe I bought for her (and passed on when she left) was the only way to medicate or deworm her. It was a godsend. At one point she had an eye ulcer. If we could hide the vet from her and they got sedation in without her seeing them, we could treat her. Otherwise all bets were off. I remember having to stain her eye myself once as the vet could not get within 20 feet of her.
(Jeanie in her borrowed Guardian Mask after sustaining an eye ulcer doing her best impersonation of "the fly")
The weird thing was that anyone could lead her around and she tied well. Literally we had children lead her and she was the quietest horse on the ground as long as everything was her idea. I rode her for a couple of years but she was never "my horse". My mom bought her off us and did ride her but that ended badly when Jeanie looked out for herself and there was an injury (this is a whole other long story). Jeanie eventually found her person and they excelled together. She sadly passed away last winter after a fall on ice - I can not help but think perhaps she pulled her old trick and decided she knew best.
(Lacey with her person). I also "borrowed" these pictures. Also sorry, not sorry, because they are excellent!
I tell these stories because Blue was the sweetest horse ever known. She was kind and would never hurt anyone intentionally. She used to go out of her way to keep me on her back even when I was sure the ground was coming. She was respectful and easy to care for (if you do not count the incredible amount of calories she required). Yet her offspring were another thing altogether. You really do not know what you are going to get with breeding - I will not likely ever breed a horse again.
Back to the real reason for this story. Blue. Blue was a jumper, a trail horse, a road riding horse, a dressage horse and a friend. Despite having an early injury she was remarkably sound until her hocks fused at roughly age 11. She jumped up to 3'9" with me and frequently left out strides. She later jumped fences sometimes in her retirement homes, much to the surprise of those caring for her. She once jumped a fence over 4' in the snow fully blanketed. I still feel like aliens came and placed her in that field. If not for the kerfuffle of snow showing where she landed, I would be suspicious to this day.
(Blue Jumping a tiny jump, me clinging on. Sadly there is ZERO proof I ever jumped bigger than this. Since there is no proof, I am not actually sure it happened either.)
She required shoeing every 5 weeks with pads and rubber under them. She also required more food than several other horses put together to remain slightly round. This part never changed.
My frequent view for all those years. Blue's ears and a trail in front of us. We often called her "Arial Ears" as she had large ears that were nearly always pointed forward.
One of my favourite pictures is this one. It also shows the height of the fence she jumped in full winter blankets. The 3 amigos. Harriette was 4 here, Jeanie 6 and Blue 11. Blue was relegated to mostly trail rides at this point after having her hocks fuse and a nasty joint infection in her knee.
Blue lived so long retired that we joked that at the end of the universe there will be Bettie White, Steven Tyler, the Queen and Blue. There now is only one of that group left and ironically it is the one who has done the most drugs. This is probably not a good advertisement for the anti-drug campaign.
I am calling this picture “and then there were none”
Blue, in what were actually probably her roundest years. She was retired to only trail riding by this point due to a bad hock and knee. But she loved going on occasional rides! The girls really likes this living arrangement. They had a pretty big paddock with a nice shelter and grass access in the summer. The downside was, they were a fair walk to the barn and indoor. I think at the time, it was worth the trade off.
Before she was fully retired, with her good friend "Emma" enjoying some turn out.
Blue lived so long, this needs to be 2 parts. So prepare for the next instalment, where I can't promise you won't need tissues.
Part 2 coming soon.