A gorgeous day at the races at Dresden Raceway turns into a tragedy in the 10th race. Mystic Pat, an eight year old bay gelding was doing awesome coming to the half. Driver Donnie Rankin was holding his horse in a great position until something happened. The horse was pulled up quickly on the turn and Track Superintendent Scott Dubuque was there to assist. The horse was in distress, the left rear ankle appeared to be broke, hanging there with just the skin and tendons holding it. Driver Donnie Rankin pulled up the horse and brought it towards the exit and removed the race bike as everyone waited for the groom to run to the rescue. I watched it unfold and I quickly remembered the day when the Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke his right hind ankle/pastern in the 2006 Preakness...the EXACT same thing...the ankle was swinging, only this time, a bone was sticking out. I knew in a split second that there was no hope for this horse....you just know....deep down, the outcome.
The most important thing is to get the horse somewhere quite, away from everything. The horse is still blowing, the adrenaline is still rushing through his veins. He knows something's not right but he's trusting you. His groom rushes to get rid of the equipment, with the hopples being the hardest because of the injured left hind. What do you do? The horse is blowing from being pulled out mid-race and I'm trying to comfort him. Scratching his mane and forehead, talking continuously to him, telling him he did good, and that's it's going to be ok. Where's the vet, where's the vet, I say to myself. The left hind jerking up in pain every two seconds. He knows it's not good. I can tell by looking in his eyes. He's looking at me like, "Tell me the truth, what's gonnna happen?". I can't, as I keep telling him that everything's gonna be ok, and that he did good. What am I suppose to say? "You're gonna be euthanized"?
Odds are, even if they could have stabilized it, which they couldn't have, he would have succumbed to laminitis...guaranteed. I just keep scratching behind his ears and along his mane and over his forehead and kept making a "cooing" noise that seems to be comforting to horses. I felt like throwing up. I kept looking in his eyes and he kept looking back at me as if to say, "Thanks for being here". He knew. Deep down, he knew. The vet arrives with the big needle, again, I felt like throwing up. He's standing there, quiet now, knowing the outcome. He was aware of everything around him. I talked to him and told him that he was gonna be reunited with all the greats...Niatross, Abercrombie, Barbaro, Keystone Raider and I told him to say "Hi" to Martha Maxine for me. I kissed him on the face and told him I would one day see him in Equine Heaven.
I can't explain the feeling you have when one minute the horse is breathing in front of you and the next he's dropped on the ground. Lifeless. You wish to God there would be a way to fix this type of injury. Everything's great on them but the ankle. It seems like such a minor body part to fix. Not the case with horses. A cruel anatomical joke in the equine world. I walk away as the needle is injected. I can't bare to see him fall to the ground. As I'm walking away, onlookers say, "There he goes, he's down."
See you in Equine Heaven Mystic Pat, you were a great warrior, and special thanks to those who assisted:
Scott Dubuque; John Ritchie; Kevin McCorkle; Darell Vleeming
Stay safe, keep your hooves on the ground, and keep reaching for the wire!