Thursday, February 23, 2012

Diary of Dexter: One Year Together

For years, I have wanted a Thoroughbred – an ex-racehorse. As a result of my fascination with the sport of horse racing, I wanted to have my own Thoroughbred that had graced the historical, enchanting place we call the racetrack. It didn’t have to be a horse that had been exceptionally prosperous at the races, or even a horse that had superb bloodlines. I just wanted a retired racehorse to call my own.

My involvement with Remember Me Rescue had brought me very close to that dream. Several horses had passed through the rescue that I wanted to adopt, but they’d slipped out of my reach. My family already owned several horses – active or retired 4-H show horses, none of which were Thoroughbreds – and it didn’t seem as if we had the room for another horse.

It was that way for a while. Then, in February of 2011, my mother and I made yet another trip to Remember Me. Two new horses had just arrived and I was eager to see them, as well as a few of the other horses currently at the farm. In fact, I had my mind set on a certain horse available for adoption. Little did I know, I’d leave the farm with my heart set on another.

Fate stepped in when I reached the farm. Something did not click with the filly I’d come there with my mind set on and though I fell in love with a gelding on the farm, he was unsound and would not be a suitable riding horse for quite some time. Destiny was nudging me in a different direction.

Wet Paint being ridden at Remember Me Rescue in February of 2011
Photo: Terri Cage
I found out what direction that was as I watched one of the new arrivals, Wet Paint, being ridden in one of the pastures. My eyes were riveted by the chestnut Thoroughbred as he glided over the dull-colored grass. His stride was long and fluid and his eager expression was drawing me in. I’d fallen in love with a Thoroughbred.

Not only was he impressive under saddle, but even while many activities were going on on the farm, Wet Paint stood serenely. As I listened to his story from Dallas and Donna Keen, the tall chestnut gelding remained motionless, his handsome face fixed on us.

After Paint’s racing career had ended, he had found a home with an outrider at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. That outrider claimed the grandson of Storm Cat to be uncontrollable and headed to Florida without Paint, who the Keens then acquired. Once the chestnut’s teeth had been floated, the Keens realized the retired racehorse was not irrepressible in the least. He caught onto lessons very quickly and was soon up for adoption.

Upon returning home from my visit to Remember Me that February day, I told my father about the gelding I had met. Unexpectedly, my dad agreed to adopting Wet Paint. I was beyond thrilled. I would soon own my very own Thoroughbred!

We began preparing for his arrival, purchasing many supplies, including a new halter. In addition, though I loved his name, I didn’t want to simply call him “Paint.” After all, we own three Paint Horses. It just didn’t seem quite right if I called him Paint, despite his unique white markings.

I knew exactly where to find a name for him. My family has a tradition of naming our Dachshunds after towns in Wyoming and so I decided to name my new Thoroughbred after a town in a state I dearly love, Kentucky. I didn’t choose a name of a town I’d been to, let alone a town I’d heard of, but rather a town with a name that I liked. And so the name Dexter was chosen.

Just days later, on February 23, 2011, there was an ex-racehorse on my property – my ex-racehorse. I finally owned my own Thoroughbred that had galloped before the grandstand en route to victory.

Dexter, though a different breed than any horse I owned, adapted quickly. My beloved Quarter Horse mare, Pebbles, who normally does not get along very well with other horses, formed a friendship with Dexter that still continues on to this day. In fact, every horse I own has become friends with Dexter.
Dexter galloping in the back pasture
Photo by Mary Cage

Over the past year, I have ridden my grandson of Storm Cat Western, English, and even bareback. Each time we reach a new goal, I can’t help but be filled with bliss. From the first time I loped him to the first time we had a flawless ride, Dexter has given me an unbelievable amount of delight.

Not only has Dexter given me some very euphoric moments, but he has showed me just how intelligent Thoroughbreds are. He has caught on to every lesson very quickly and even when he has not been ridden in quite some time, he still responds to cues he has not been asked in a while. Honestly, I believe he is the smartest horse I’ve ever owned.

I know Dexter and I have many more adventures ahead of us and I cannot wait to experience them. Owning him has not just been owning my first Thoroughbred. It hasn’t even been owning a horse that descends from some of the greatest racehorses of all-time, such as Affirmed and Secretariat. Yes, it’s been those amazing things, but most of all, it’s been owning a horse that captures my breath every time I see him. Owning Dexter has been having a horse in my backyard that brings I smile to my face each time I’m around him because he loves me just as much as I love him.

"How can a horse take your breath, steal your heart, and make you weak
at the knees in a simple glance? If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand."
Photo, design, and words by Terri Cage

More on Dexter:

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  1. What a beautiful story! Dexter is simply gorgeous, and he sounds like a real dream come true to have around. Love those retired racehorses, every one.

  2. Beautiful gelding!
    I've been dying for an ex-racehorse for quite some time.. ;)
    My own AQH mare wouldn't be nearly so pleased as yours, though. She hates everyone.
    I do own an Arabian soon-to-be racehorse, though. He's only 2, at the moment, so he's got a full year until he goes to the track..

  3. Thanks for sharing more of Dexter's story. While I'm very happy for you, I find myself envious at the same time - lol! Enjoy your OTTB!