2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner, topped off his racing career by winning the Pegasus World Cup today in Florida. The 5-year old chestnut colt ran a tremendous race, pulling away from West Coast in the stretch and bringing home $7 million of the $16 million purse. This was Gun Runner’s fifth straight win in Grade 1 races.
Gun Runner missed the inaugural Pegasus World Cup last year. He was stabled in mandatory quarantine at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans after an outbreak of equine herpes virus. Gulfstream Park insisted that he pass a blood test and a nasal swab to come to the track. His blood test came back negative but his owners refused to do the nasal swab because the test has a high number of false positives. The cold would have been sidelined for 30 more days if he had tested positive, which would have kept him from other races.
Gun Runner retires with nearly $16 million in earnings. His will go to stud in February.
For jockey Florent Geroux, the win was the final in a trifecta of achievements. On Thursday night, Gun Runner received the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year. On Friday, he flew to Chicago where he took — and passed — the oral portion of his citizenship exam, and on Saturday he won the Pegasus World Cup. But for Geroux, the victories were tinged with sadness. His father, Dominique Geroux, a retired jockey and trainer died after a fall on Christmas morning. The elder Geroux had planned to come to the US to watch his son ride Gun Runner’s last race.
“You ride a thousand horses a year, and this one, there’s just something special,” said Geroux of his connection in Gun Runner. “I’m not a true believer in that, but I do believe now.”
Florent Geroux, after winning the 2017 Breeders Cup on Gun Runner
When I was sitting in the back of the ambulance, going from the hospital to rehab, I realized that the last time I was in an ambulance, was also horse related. When I was just barely pregnant with my son, about 23 years ago, I rode a horse owned by a trainer friend of mine. The horse had been treated for EPM. I didn’t know much about the disease and certainly didn’t know that one of the things that EPM horses did was fall suddenly. That’s exactly what this horse did. He was trotting along the long side of the ring and then he dropped like a stone. To add insult to injury, he kicked me on the way up.
Since my accident countless people have told me about times when their horses fell while being ridden. Some were hurt badly. Some walked away without a scratch. Everyone agreed that it happened in a blink of an eye.
That time I was lucky. I was fine, except for some bruises. My son was fine. I walked away.
This time, I won’t be walking for awhile. I’m learning how to stand on one foot, pivot on my heel and transfer to a second surface that, in the physical world only a few inches away. In my world, it becomes a chasm. I’m learning to trust the PT helpers and nurses. No one has dropped me yet. I’m learning what I can do without aggravating my ankle. I’m learning that it will take a long time before I’m going to be doing anything that remotely resembles “normal.”
I have a window in my room at the rehab hospital. If I look way out over the parking lot, the trails at Fairhaven Bay are off in the distance. On the other side of Route 2, a mere couple of miles away, Freedom and Zelda are hanging out in their paddocks.
One of my friends checked on Zelda yesterday and said she was fine but being very, very careful on the ice. She’s a smart girl. Because it’s been very icy out there.
With the weather warming up, I headed to the barn to enjoy the mild temperatures.
My family told me to take my time, so I decided to ride both horses. The first ride, on Freedom, went fine. Sure, he was a maniac after so much time off, but the footing seemed okay and he didn’t slip at all.
My second ride, not so much. Zelda slipped and fell, crashing down on her left side. She must have hit a patch of ice under the snow. I’m not entirely clear on how the fall went, only that I knew it was bad. Right away I knew my left collarbone was broken, but when I tried to get up, I realized that wasn’t the only thing wrong.
First, I had to find my glasses. The tumble sent them flying and without them, I’m blind. Luckily they were within arm’s reach and putting them back on helped me get oriented. Zelda got up right away and stood next to me (I was surprised because while I was in the ring, there were horses in the pasture that she could have visited). I wonder if she know there was something wrong with me. My left ankle hurt a lot and my knee hurt too. Yes, I hit my head, but it was the last part of my body to hit the ground. Yes, I was wearing a helmet (which will now be replaced).
I managed to hobble to the mounting block — sitting in the snow wasn’t an option — and pulled out my phone. Always carry your cell phone on your person. This is the first time I’ve had to use it to get help for an injury but I was really glad that it was securely in my pocket.
First call was to my husband, who was only about 15 minutes away. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to call an ambulance, but it worked out better because he was able to drive down to where I was sitting so I didn’t have to walk. Second call was to the house on the property where the horses live so that someone could take Zelda and turn her out. She walked off sound so I think she’ll be fine.
We headed off to the ER and the pain was terrible. I was shaking with cold and shock. Probably the worst part of the trip was the hour and forty-five minutes in the waiting room without pain meds. Then, of course was the diagnosis. Basically, I’ll be non weight bearing on my right leg for 6-8 weeks. My left ankle, while broken, is usable (although painful) with an air cast and my broken collarbone means I can only use a crutch on the right side. PT told me I could hop on my left foot while using a crutch. To me, that sounded like a recipe for another fracture. Even standing is like a cruel version of a Twister game: “Stand up using your right hand and your left foot.”
Right now I’m still trying to absorb the enormity of the injuries. While they will all heal and I should be fine, the next two months are going to be tough. And boring. While I’m still in the hospital, my next step will be acute rehab, where they will teach me how to work around my “limitations.” I’m a long way from being able to walk, drive, or even take a shower.
So the next few months of Equine Ink will likely be devoted to the long, slow process of healing. That and some wishful thinking of how I could be out riding.
Riding is a dangerous sport. We all know that and we all choose to take the risk. How annoying, though, to get so badly injured doing something so pedestrian. We were trotting. Slowly. In a ring. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be pushing the envelope to get hurt. I know people who only wear their helmet when they’re jumping, or if they’re on a young horse. With horses, sometimes that accident can happen when you are least expecting it.
Much of the time in the winter I ride Zelda in a bitless bridle. It seems cruel to put a cold piece of metal in her mouth. Today? I could tell that she had some mischief in her. Something about the look in her eye. So I chose a bit that gives me a bit more control: a universal 2 1/2 ring.
There are a couple of things I like about this bit. First, you can see that it gives a small amount of leverage that puts some pressure on her poll. Not a lot, just a reminder. Second, it’s adjustable. On days when I’m sure she’ll be good, I attach the rein to the large ring and it works just like a baucher snaffle — with the stability of the fixed side piece and the slight movement of a loose ring. I’m a big fan of the universal set up because it lets you adjust your ride without having a bag full of bits. Because these bits are not cheap! This one runs about $90 but is hard to find in the U.S. As I recall, I bought it from a tack shop in England that allows you to try the bit and return it if it doesn’t work for your horse.
What Zelda likes about it is the ported mouthpiece which gives relief to horses that don’t like tongue pressure.
I believe I bought this bit for my Trakehner, who had a thick tongue and a low palate. However, when I first started riding Zelda, I had a hard time getting her to accept a true contact. She was very vocal in her dislike of some of the bits I tried. Finally I tried some different mouthpieces. She likes this one, the Neue Shule Demi Anky (I’ll write about that one later) and the PeeWee bit, which is a thin, sweet metal mullen mouth bit.
So, did I need the extra leverage today? You bet.
We worked through the spook, rode the buck and marched through the snow for an hour. By the time we got back, the sun was starting to set and the sillies were almost gone.
Does this sound familiar? You’re standing in the SmarkPak clearance loft chortling over the deal you just got on an 84″ Rhino blanket. Just $97? You run to the checkout before someone else can grab that last, heavyweight blanket out of your hands.
Fast forward a few days when you are standing in Nordstrom’s Rack with your daughter, holding a heavy weight, hip length down coat. Unlike your existing coat,
it has no rips or tears and it has lots of fluffy down. You start to put it back. $119 is too much you say. Your child stares at you in disbelief and suddenly you realize that with arctic temperatures descending on New England, you deserve to be warm, too.
This winter has been tough on horses and humans alike. We’ve ping-ponged from sub-zero temperatures and biting winds to spring like days in the 50s. Now we’re back to “seasonal” temps and snow. The bitter cold really affected me. It didn’t help that I was ill during the worst of it. I was so tired and sick that I often got only half way through feeding the horse when I had to go warm up in my car and rest.
Frost Bitten Fingers
My fingers didn’t actually get frost bitten, but they sure got cold. I mentioned this to my doctor at my annual check up this week, that the tips were getting frighteningly cold. She looked at me with that “duh” expression, the one that says so eloquently, “what do you expect when you’re feeding horses and it’s -8 degrees out?” Her advice? Warm up in the car half way through.
Here’s what’s been working for me:
Start with glove liners. They may not be that warm but when you need fine motor skills to mix grain, they are life savers.
Use hand warmers. These air activated packets are worth their weight in gold. I put them in my pockets on the drive over so that when I get there, my pockets are toasty. Then I slip them in between the outer glove and the liner. Here’s a tip: you can keep them going for multiple days if you seal them in a zip lock back and squeeze the air out.
Outer gloves: I have two kinds. The deerskin gloves are supposed to be rated to -20. That’s not true but add the liners and the hand warmers and they’re pretty good. They also allow for a reasonable amount of dexterity. Unfortunately, they are not water proof so I also have ski gloves that provide less range of motion but keep moisture out. They also have zipped pouches for the hand warmers, but those pouches are on the back. I still haven’t figured out why. It’s my fingers that get cold not the backs of my hands.
For some reason my toes haven’t had the same reaction to the cold. I have Bogs cold weather boots and wear wool socks. My feet, than God, are fine.
Keep Moisture In
To avoid the chapping that seems inevitable on my hands and face, I’ve started keeping a tub of moisturizer in the car. This is my current favorite — First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. The cream absorbs quickly, isn’t greasy, is cruelty free and made in the US. I have the honeysuckle version now but the regular scent is very unobtrusive. I slather this on my hands and face before getting out of the car.
What are you tips for surviving the cold weather? Other than moving south?
They WILL have layers of clothes and muddy boots….either provide a place for them to drop these things or don’t whine about the mess.
Expensive tack is still cheaper than the horse and human medical bills that can result from cheap tack. Good tack also lasts longer than the horse. Don’t question the tack.
One horse is never enough. Don’t even question this. It is a law of the universe.
Caring for the horse is ALWAYS more expensive than the horse. Whining about the purchase price is pointless.
When they say, “I’m just going to stop out at the barn for a few minutes.” you should probably just make plans on your own the rest of the day.
That not-a-morning-person that you are used to will completely disappear on the mornings a trailer must be hooked up for a horse-related event. They will be replaced by a bright-eyed super-intense type-A psycho who will NOT care that you need 5 more minutes for your coffee because they need to be at the barn at 5:45 am PRECISELY.
Vet bills for horses start at 4-digits and go up from there. If it’s less than $1000, pay it quickly and run out of the vet’s office before the horse suddenly develops another problem.
No matter how badly your significant other is injured, you should NEVER blame the horse. In fact, don’t mention the injury or the horse if you can avoid it. Suggesting they should avoid riding until they are healed will probably get you a crutch upside the head.
If you don’t know what to get for a holiday or birthday, a gift card to the tack store is ALWAYS a good option. If you have messed up somehow, this is an excellent way to get out of the dog house. The value should reflect how much trouble you are in. A bouquet of tack store gift cards is generally sufficient to cover very bad mistakes, such as burning down the house or crashing the truck.
Your equestrian will be fine if you have your own hobbies and interests. In fact, you had better get your own hobbies and interests. If you want to spend significant time with your equestrian, you need to develop a useful skill…..such as driving a tractor, shoveling, operating a video camera, leatherwork of any sort, or becoming a veterinarian.
Trucks are not optional. Yes, the truck and trailer rig will likely be at least half the cost of your house. Arguing about this is unwise, your equestrian will happily LIVE in the truck and trailer and suggest selling the house.
Horse craziness is hereditary, generally passed down the maternal lines, but can be present on the males side as well. Prepare for this when planning children.
If you need your equestrian to spend more time at home, we suggest building a barn on your property.
Dates should be planned in a different county from where the horse is located. If the equestrian gets within 50 miles of the horse, they will need to stop by. You will be stuck there, see point number 5 above.
Never make it a competition between you and the horse. New significant others generally cost less money and are faster to train than a new horse. Just saying.