Monday, January 11, 2016

answers for Bali

This is a tricky post to write, and might be a little disjointed since my feelings oscillate pretty wildly depending on who I talk to. But you all have been such awesome cheerleaders for our fuzzy-eared buddy Balimurphy Ballymurphy, that it seems only right to share the latest.

teeth like a cartoon character

First of all, I finally got my hands on his pedigree and racing information, thanks actually to his lease rider who figured out that we've apparently been misspelling his name all along. (And his age. He is 7 this year, not 6 as we originally believed.)



Footnotes from his lone win at Delaware Park (via EquiBase):
"BALLYMURPHY chased inside early, angled off the rail to take command before six furlongs then drew off without need of strong urging to win in handy fashion."

Footnotes from his final race at Monmouth Park (via EquiBase):
"BALLYMURPHY raced off the pace inside and did not factor."

Similar remarks from later races: "Off the pace," or "Failed to threaten" (from the race two weeks after his win). Footnotes from earlier races include gems like "shying away" from other horses and "mustered up a mild kick to mainly improve position" and "no threat to the top {horses}."

Or, another funny one from his 2nd place finish at Belmont Park (via EquiBase):
"BALLYMURPHY three wide towards the rear, came under encouragement three furlongs out, angled five wide into the stretch, kicked home belatedly to just garner the place in the last jump."

via EquiBase

One thing worth considering is his racing history timeline. He ran seven times in 2013, from April to October, only skipping May. I don't know much about racing, but that timeline doesn't scream "INJURED" to me.

So. Why do I care?

Well, I'm kinda nuts about this horse. He is the most fun EVAR to jump, and is just an enjoyable ride in general. Despite his greenness and sourness/behavioral issues, I really like working with him under saddle. Plus he's becoming a total cuddle bug in the cross ties.

Given his precarious job security as a lesson horse, I looked seriously at my budget to see what could be done for him. In an ideal world, I'd buy him and keep him forever and ever with no consideration of maintenance costs... but this is the real world and I'm a single adult with limited resources. So I got radiographs of both front fetlocks.

And the results are *not* picture perfect.

artist's rendition
Bali has messy front fetlocks. Bone chips, maybe an old fracture bed, potentially arthritic changes... He is a surgical candidate, but with both front legs needing work, the procedure is cost prohibitive (for me and for the program).

My reaction to the news was deep and despondent heartbreak. Tears, so many tears. And woefully telling his lease rider that Bali is "done," tho the vet said we could keep riding him normally (until our BM re-homes him).

And I was angry at what sounded like a borderline abuse case - a horse that was run on horrific injuries by unethical and unscrupulous trainers only in it for the money, then discarded like yesterday's trash... I know, I know: Melodramatic.

bali's not melodramatic about flexions tho - at least not when brita has BUTTONS to CHEW on lol
But that was before I saw his actual race info. The vet theorized the damage occurred as a 2yr old, but he didn't race until he was 4, suggesting that he recovered then actually stayed sound on the fetlocks while actively racing. His career ended bc he "failed to threaten," not bc he was lame.

Then, to complicate emotional matters more, his lease rider asked to bring him to a lesson at OF for a 'last hurrah,' which seemed poignant to me. And while at the lesson, he was fresh and happy to jump and SOUND. 

We talked about it with Trainer P, who saw no reason to stop riding or jumping him. She said he will tell us when the legs bother him, and that he's (very) clearly saying right now that "OMG I LOVE JUMPING!!! AND GOING FAST!!! WHEEEEEEEE!!!"

pictured: one sound 7yr old OTTB with osselets 
Our lesson director also talked to her vet, who remembers the horse and says he'd expect a horse who has been sound in work to remain sound based on what he saw in the x-rays. 

Regardless, Bali's goose is still cooked as far as the lesson program is concerned. He hasn't morphed into a versatile up-down lesson pony, and the program doesn't have room for a horse that is too advanced for most of the students.

I want so badly for him to stay with us but simply don't have the resources to own him myself. And the farm is making decisions for him now. (Actually they made the decision while I was still laid up with a broken leg, but agreed to give him one more month after I begged and pleaded...)

So Bali will find a new home. Hopefully with a rider who appreciates his luscious mane and tail, and sweet personality (but who can also handle his sour). And hopefully they'll have many many fun years together before Bali ever feels the effects from his racing days.

93 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry. This is a crap situation for all involved. Hopefully the time you put in with him lets him find a good home. Plus if you love him there will be someone else who loves him too. Fingers crossed for the happy ending.

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    1. thanks - that's what i'm hoping too. he is a *really* cool horse and has a lot to teach. plus he's just fun to be around.

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  2. This makes me sad. I totally understand that the farm can't keep a horse that doesn't work for their program, but people aren't lining up for a horse with issues :( I hope he finds someone to love him as much as you do!

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    1. i hope so too! it's such a bummer when business priorities have to beat out emotion-based decisions :(

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  3. Boo, I'm sorry to hear it has come to this. I hope his next people are as awesome as you guys in caring for him and helping him adjust to a different lifestyle. Wherever life may take him *hugs*

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    1. luckily he's an incredibly adaptable horse (he's probably moved through almost every herd we have at our farm with minimal issue and travels beautifully) so he ought to settle in nicely wherever he lands...

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  4. im sorry :/

    i wish i had more to say about it but it's just one of the many reasons i finally bought a horse. i wanted to control a horse's destiny for once in my life. i wish him luck and i hope that since he flexes okay he'll find someone willing to take a risk for an awesome guy.

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    1. yea he actually flexed pretty darn well (for the few that we did at least, silly boy bashed his knee a couple days prior to the appt so that make it hard to get accurate reads on all of it). hopefully someone will see his potential!

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  5. Aw, that's too bad. You're making the right choice though, that's a lot to take on. Of course, as soon as I saw the Danzig in his pedigree I perked up and was hoping for a better outcome.

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    1. his pedigree actually seems to have a couple interesting things going on - even if he was a solidly mediocre race horse lol...

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    2. If you erase the Mr P, I freaking love his pedigree. Definitely some very good sporthorse lines in there.

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    3. interesting that you dislike Mr P - that's one of the names that has stood out for other ppl when they have taken a look. personally i know next to nothing about it - but i'm curious haha!

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    4. Mr. Prospector has a tendency to pass on unsoundness issues... In the lower limb. ;)

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  6. Big hugs! the hardest thing about loving horses you don't own is not being able to decide what happens to them. <3

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    1. ugh that's the truth. or, at least, in this case, the hardest thing is not being able to actually own him since that would fix at least that particular control issue...

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  7. Depressing news, but good to know. I'm sure he will find a wonderful home.

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    1. yup that pretty much sums it up. i hope he finds a good home too.

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  8. *hugs* so sorry, emma. Good on you for getting him radiography tho. It hurts but also good to know what he's dealing with.
    Maybe someone in the barn or nearby needs a killer trail horse. I'm hoping for the best for him and you. ♡

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    1. thanks! sadly there's no place for him at our farm... but actually the vets and trainers who have assessed him see no reason for him to be relegated to strictly trail-riding at this point. maybe at some point in his future, sooner than maybe a different horse with better legs... but for now he can keep going and jumping and having fun with whoever wants to take a shot with him.

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  9. I'm so sorry, Emma. This is a kind of heartbreak that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I know you wanted better news for the both of you. I am glad he is a least sound and feeling good right now.

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    1. i'm so glad he's sound right too ! that definitely gives him a better chance.... and the hope is that he still has many years of soundness ahead of him.

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  10. Oh, poor Bali. Really hoping and wishing his person finds him. If not, can you mail him to me? kidding/not kidding

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    1. ha i bet he would *love* your little farm !

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  11. What an amazing pedigree for sport! I understand why the lesson program and yourself feel he's not a sound investment going forward, but this is exactly why I never do a PPE on an OTTB. To me, getting the history from former owners, trainers, and their race record tells me so much more than digital images. I've been on horses before with ankles bigger than my head (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration) that had been jumping for years and years and never took an off step. I'm sure I'm in a very tiny majority on this, and again, I completely, 100% understand why Bali has to find a new home, but I would feel pretty good about a horse that's still sound after racing on those legs going on to have a fun career for someone.

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    1. Carly, you sound exactly like the little voice inside my head right now that i want so badly to listen to. i think if i could afford his board, i would just do it. bc this horse is SO COOL and wants a job. i could probably lease him back to the program for continued use in lessons for a discount rate on board, and i could continue leasing him to his current young rider - who would LOVE to start showing him... but even with that, the math just doesn't work out if i want to keep isabel, which i decidedly do... ugh why is money a thing tho? maybe i can just live out of my truck and trailer for a while?!?

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    2. I'm with Carly on this one (as soon as I saw the Turn To in his pedigree, I was like YES YES BEST HORSE). Trainer P's assessment that Bali will let you know when his legs are bothering him, and with the attitude he has, I'm sure he's feeling just fine right now. Is he going to Rolex? No, but that doesn't mean he can't be a fun horse for someone who wants to jump! At any rate, here's hoping Bali can find a good home with someone who will appreciate his quirks.

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    3. i seriously hope you're right - this horse really has so much to offer, i hope someone will recognize that!!

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    4. Yeah I'm with Carly here. I didn't do a PPE and I'm sure if I did, he's flunk it with flying colors. I giggle when people tell me he has clean legs, because they've clearly never seen his ankles... yeah. But he ran sound for 6 years and he's sound in work for me.

      But I knew his trainer and his history and that does make a difference.

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    5. yea.... stories like yours and Carly's and Lauren's (and undoubtedly countless others) are a large part of what has kept my hope alive. it's just not enough tho :(

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    6. Kris S is another fantastic sport horse pedigree. This is what my trainer does for a living and osselets are really not a big deal for a lot of buyers. Bone chips can be a problem if they are rough, but often they round off and never bother the horse. I'm sorry that Bali (Bally) didn't make it as a lesson horse though!

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    7. they can also be a problem depending on where they are re: the joint and soft tissue structures... but yea i'm disappointed he didn't make it as a lesson horse either.

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  12. Sad to hear but I do understand. Hugs

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  13. That's such a bummer. Fingers crossed that he finds a great home. I'm sure all the work you've done will help him find a good place to land.

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    1. such a bummer :( i'm hopeful for him tho - he's definitely vastly improved in ground manners for grooming and tacking, so hopefully that alone will help him make a good impression on new potential owners

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  14. I'm so sorry to hear that Bali is having to move on from you. But maybe he will find "his girl" who will love him for all his quirks and take care of him and his legs. And heck, I've got chips in my knees and removed nerves from my feet and that's not stopping me from doing what I love to do. It won't stop him either.

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    1. that's exactly what i'm hoping for him too. he has the potential to make someone a very special horse - hopefully that someone finds him soon!

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  15. Heartbreaking! I'm so sorry to hear this. He's a special guy.

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    1. i'm pretty sorry about it too...

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  16. Bali don't care about his problems. Bali just wants snax. Bali is the honeybadger of horses.

    In all honesty, right decision for you. My theory is to take care of yourself, so you're in the best possible situation to care for the animals you take on. I also think horses for people like you and I are a serious investment, and as such need to be evaluated with a serious eye toward that investment.

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    1. ha he really *is* the honeybadger of horses lol... but yea tho i wish this wasn't the final decision for Bali, i can't seem to work it out any other way. but honestly i really don't view horses as 'investments,' or at least not in the traditional sense, since the only dividends i care about are that the horse makes me happy. if i had greater resources, there wouldn't be any question here. as it is tho, i only have what i have now and can't make any decisions that rely on a future where i have more than what i have now. boo :(

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    2. bahahah I totally can see this now! He is the honeybadger :)

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    3. Investment in making you happy, in helping you reach your riding goals, in being a good companion. They are an investment in whatever you want/need from them. And if they can't work in that way, I, personally, can't afford to support them.

      For me, that train of thought applies when getting the horse. Not so much for retirement. Because, like anything, I took on my horse knowing I'd have to find a way to plan for his elder years. That were the terms of our agreement. He is a good boy, helps me get to my riding goals the best he can and is a good equine therapy/companion, and I take care of him. Them's the rules.

      Would I have bought him if I knew his fetlock issues were as bad as they are? Probably not. And that would have been okay.

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    4. yea i hear ya... i think that's the worst part really, not being able to truly know what the horse's future will hold (barring unforeseen accidents, illnesses etc).

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    5. Educated guesses. It's really all we have to go on in life.
      :(

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    6. I'm so very sorry Emma. I know how much you love him. After dealing with my TB mare's...erm...special skills this past year, I agree with Austen. Even when you have one that would pass every PPE in the books, you get no guarantee of lasting soundness. When you do have a PPE done(or at least lower limb x-rays like you did, which I think was a wonderful thing for you to do!) and the horse doesn't pass straight off the bat, it's more of a gamechanger IMO. Especially given the sport you love: A horse with bad fetlocks might last awhile jumping in the kinder footing of the arena but might break down much faster when negotiating the trickier footing of cross country. Giving up on a sport for the love of a specific horse is not a bad thing either (I've done it before and didn't regret it) but it's something to think about when one invests in a horse they know might develop soundness issues sooner rather than later. Managing soundness issues in fetlocks is kind of a bitch though: it's what we're dealing with with Gracie, and you can barely see the ringbone on x-ray in her case. I think you made a very wise choice.

      Even when things are black and white in our heads though, it still doesn't make our hearts feel any better or hurt any less, and I know how hard it is to let a horse you love go when you have no control over their future. I really was hoping this post would go differently! Things do happen for a reason but that doesn't make the present any easier. I hope with all my heart that he finds a great home where he is loved and that you can stay updated on him. <3 Big hug!

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    7. thank you! and to be totally honest, the radiographs really didn't qualify as a PPE in my mind - i couldn't afford the horse one way or another. really it was more about convincing me of that (sometimes my brain requires the heavy lubrication of hundred dollar bills to be convinced of a thing. it's kinda a problem...). if things were different and i *could* keep bali, i would have aimed him and his lease rider for the hunter ring actually, since i still believe they could be quite successful on our local circuits. as it is tho, the budget *isn't* there and that is kinda that, as sad as it makes me to say...

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  17. I'm so sorry. What's meant to be will happen- hopefully, he will find a home that appreciates him! I can't imagine how hard this must be for you.

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    1. it's pretty shitty, if i'm being honest. tho i'm trying to remind myself that this isn't the first time i've had to part ways with a horse very near and dear to my heart...

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  18. That sucks about Bali but if he is sound, he has a very good chance of going to a great home and find someone who loves him just as much as you do. It is the right decision though, unfortunately horses are too expensive to think only with your heart.

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    1. he *is* sound, definitely a mark in his favor!!! but yea the whole thinking with my head and not my heart thing... ugh totally sucks.

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  19. I've just had some bad news about my own boy, so feeling more than sympathetic. Hoping for everyone involved that Bali finds himself a special person like you!

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    1. oh no Britt, i'm so sorry to hear that :(

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  20. Too bad, I'm sorry it's worked out this way :( Fingers crossed he finds a nice home where you can visit and give him those snax he loves.

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    1. i would love for that to happen, and may or may not have visions of randomly running into him and his new person at shows in the area...

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  21. :(
    I'm so sorry - that certainly isn't the news I was hoping for!

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    1. you and me both. sad, tho also sadly not that unexpected :(

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  22. oh no :( I really wish things had worked out differently. I hope he finds a wonderful new home

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  23. That was not what I was hoping to read. I was hoping to read HE IS ALL MINE, but alas that is not the case. I am sorry Emma, dang it, but I know he will find a good home with you watching over him.

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    1. yea.... i would have much rather written that post than this one

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  24. This might sound crazy, but I didn't do x-rays or any other kind of radiographs on Roger; the vet that did my PPE is a TB racehorse vet. Roger has some minor osselets too, but nothing that has held us back in any way, shape or form...from what I've heard and experienced, most former racehorses have some kind of wear and tear when they are retired from racing; it's just kind of an occupational hazard. Because of this, I've made some small adjustments to Roger's care to keep those precious ankles happy (not jumping 2 days in a row, BoT Quick Wraps after rides, planned days off) and he's stayed sound and happy. I don't think that osselets are a career-ending sentence by any means, especially since Bali loves to jump and has stayed sound and wants a job. It's a bummer that you can keep him for yourself, but I hope things work out for the best!

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    1. that's definitely not crazy, and not even an uncommon attitude, i don't think. it's just one of the realities of loving and caring for our ottbs. really the professional opinion is that bali *does* have a potential future career as a jumping horse. sadly tho, it's outside the realm of my budget - *especially* when we start factoring in those small adjustments to his care :(

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    2. ugh the biggest bitches....

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  25. Well, that sucks. If only we could all have all the money, right? Hopefully he'll find a good home.

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    1. yup a little extra money would definitely make life easier!

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  26. I'm so very sorry to hear this. I hope that Bali finds a great home with someone who really appreciates him - I'm just sorry that it couldn't be you.

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    1. thanks... those are pretty much my feelings exactly

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  27. Sad, sad, sad. I have a thing for bay TBs. :( I hope he gets a sweet home. Horses. They know how to get to our hearts.

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    1. i love me some bay OTTBs too... luckily so do many others!

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  28. Awww this is too bad :( I'm so sorry Emma. It's hard to make decisions like this, but hopefully Bali finds a great home with someone who loves and appreciates him just as much as you do. He's such a cool horse.

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    1. he is so super cool - he'll make a great project and companion for someone out there!

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  29. This is a real bummer. But there is a place in peoples' lives for sour patch ponies (referencing an advertisement here, "first they're sweet... then they're sour!"). My fingers are crossed he will have an awesome home where the workload and his soundness go hand in hand.

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    1. ha that's the perfect description of bali - the 'sour patch pony.'

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  30. :( I'm sorry for you and for Bali, but I'll echo the above sentiments - I bet he'll find a good home that hopefully doesn't push him beyond his limits.

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  31. I'm so sorry :(

    His tail is luscious though

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    1. thanks! i really do love that tail... and that mane.... and the ear fuzz!!! :(

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  32. Sobs! Its hard to give up something you are attached too

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  33. Aww so sorry to hear about Bali.
    I wonder, did the vet say if the chips were 'set', still floating or near a joint?

    My mare now broke her sesamoid as a filly, set properly and healed cleanly with only slightly more calcification than normal, good news, that means it healed stronger than normal too. Lucky I guess that it did not hinder the movement of the joint.

    I did however, take on a hunky German warmblood a few years back on a trial basis. He was large, in charge and had great scope... but he began exhibiting major problems on landing over fences. Culprit? Floating chips from 'trailer' accident.

    These types of injuries are iffy. Can be fine if given proper care and healing time but they can be problematic and pricey if you aren't perfectly lucky.

    Good luck on your decision, it is hard but I am thinking of you.

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    1. thank you. so the unedited x-rays (and there were a few from both front legs) didn't have a floating bowl of potato chips in them haha. we could see specifics of what's going on bone-wise, chip-wise, etc., i just didn't get specific with details since, at the end of the day, it's not my horse. regardless, it doesn't really change the outcomes for me unfortunately :(

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  34. Ugh. I'm so sorry. It's so tough for horses, they serve a purpose and for the most part, they are way too expensive to keep as pets...

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    1. ugh that is the very unfortunate truth...

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  35. Race records are really fun to find and pour over. I did extensive research on my OTTB and was totally geeked out by the whole thing. The ankle thing stinks. :( I would wonder about the safety of jumping him since he is currently sound and happy, wouldn't it be better to keep him that way? Though obviously your trainer and vet know what is best, just a thought.

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    1. thanks. the whole ottb pedigree thing is so interesting to me - i really want to learn more about it! and yes we discussed all options fully with various vets and trainers and have a pretty good idea (relative to what we can actually know about horses at any given moment) about what his future might hold given different levels of work.

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