Monday, November 25, 2013

Miss Fifty: One Year Together

If you do not know Miss Fifty’s special story, please read my article on here.

Winter has arrived early this year. Icicles hang from the fence as a cold north wind slices through the air. I trudge over the grass in my backyard as I make my way from my house to my barn. Opening the small door on the side of the barn, I am greeted by the shrill whinny of a small, chestnut Thoroughbred. Under the yellow tint of the lights, her coat gleams like copper – a sight far more brilliant than most of the sights outside.

The copper shine comes from the coat of Miss Fifty, a five-year-old daughter of Johannesburg. She lifts her head high as I approach her stall, sticking her nose through the bars to greet me as she gazes at me with kind eyes. I place my hand upon her face as we greet each other. It is a tender moment between a girl and her horse.

And then Miss Fifty begins weaving. She lowers her head as she splays her front legs and begins to sway from side to side. With a sigh and a bit of a grin, I withdraw my hand and shake my head. Along my journey with Miss Fifty, much has changed. But some things never change.

Miss Fifty
Photo by Mary Cage

Over a year ago, I was in California for my third Breeders’ Cup. Meanwhile, my dad led an injured, lanky Thoroughbred out of our horse trailer and into our barn. He sent me a photo of her in her new stall and I immediately called him, asking about my new horse.

But I wasn’t calling to ask him about her characteristics. I already knew much about Fifty, having met her before her racing career – which I loyally followed – ever began. Instead, I was calling to ask how she was settling in.

“Well, she’s doing that weaving thing,” my dad responded.

Days later, I returned home after an incredible Breeders’ Cup. I immediately went into the barn, where my eyes took in the sight of Miss Fifty for the first time in two years. The last time I had seen her, she was at Churchill Downs. Now, she was in my barn. Entering her stall, I placed my hand on her face, gazing at her. All I could think was, “Who’d have known. . .?”

Miss Fifty
Photo by Mary Cage

My year with Miss Fifty as my own horse has been full of ups and downs, but no matter what, I always stop and think about how amazing it is to have her in my barn. If someone had told me as she was breezing down the stretch of Lone Star Park for the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale that she would be someday mine, I would laugh. When she dashed to victory at Churchill Downs in July 2011 prior to being claimed for the first time, I would have shook my head at the thought that I would ever see her again. But now I see her every day.

Unfortunately, Miss Fifty’s racing career came to a sooner end than expected when she fractured the two proximal sesamoids in her right foreleg. Due to this injury, she was placed on stall rest for nearly seven months. These months were incredibly frustrating, as Fifty simply wanted nothing more than to leave her stall. At times, I would grow not only frustrated – for her sake – that she could not escape the barn, but I would also occasionally become irritated by her, as she was difficult and sometimes dangerous to handle due to her pent-up energy. Despite this, however, my heart went out to her and I ached for her to be happier.

An April 2013 vet appointment offered the option of hand-walking Miss Fifty. At first, I was thrilled that Fifty now had an opportunity to be out of the barn. However, the fresh air of the outside world was overwhelming for her and she still wanted the one thing she had not experienced in a very long time: freedom. She remained very difficult to handle and, as a result, the amount of times she was able to be hand-walked vastly diminished.

A month later, however, came the greatest news surrounding Miss Fifty that I have received since she became mine. She had healed enough that she could finally be turned out. Since May, Fifty has enjoyed spending time in a small pen, where she can kick up her heels, enjoy the fresh air, feel the coolness of light rain upon her back, and absorb the sights and sounds of “the outside world.” At times, weather impedes her turnout time, forcing her to stay in her stall, but Fifty is a much happier horse now that she is able to enjoy being turned out.

As a result, she has become much easier to handle. It has become evident that Fifty is the type of horse that loves to please people. Although she still weaves and at times can be overly energetic, she has learned to listen and strives to be on her best behavior.

But most of all, as Miss Fifty has healed and grown to be calmer, the sweetness that made me fall in love with her at the two-year-old sale more than three and a half years ago has returned. Her lips wiggle when I scratch her favorite spot: just along the crest of her neck. Her liquid brown eyes stare softly into mine when I stroke her face. She stares at me fixedly and whinnies when I exit the tack room, as she knows that is where the treats are stored.

It has been a blessing to call Fifty mine for the past year. Never will I take her for granted. Each day, I thank God that her journey led her into my barn. What the remainder of our journey together holds is a mystery, but each day, I will be grateful for having such a special horse in my life. Thank you, Miss Fifty. I love you.

Of course, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone that has made this journey possible, especially Dolphus Morrison, Lon Wiggins, and Nate Vrable. Without your help and generosity, this fantastic mare would not be in my barn. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Please enjoy these videos of Miss Fifty enjoying turnout time, as well as the three previous updates I have posted about her.

Miss Fifty kicking up her heels, November 2013:

Miss Fifty being curious during turnout time, November 2013:

Miss Fifty enjoying turnout time, October 2013:

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