Was that her way of saying “thanks, and I love you?”

Tory is an Off the Track Thoroughbred that descends on her sire line from the Irish champion Danzatore
and on her mother’s side from the Preakness winner Tank’s Prospect.

She was not very successful at the races, running mostly in allowance and claiming races, however she proved how big her heart is and how strong her will to survive is, in many other ways.

Tory came into my life in the Fall of 2008 when a picture of a bay horse and her rider, swimming in a lake, caught my eye. Her owner, a young college student, did not have the time that she felt her she deserved and needed. We chatted for a while exchanging stories about our horses but the girl wanted more money for her mare than I was able to spend.

About a month later, the girl called back. Her situation had changed. She needed to sell her mare because. The owner of her boarding facility wanted the horse gone and even had offered to take the horse to a sale, saying that she was only good for the meat market anyway. Desperate, the girl said she’d take whatever I could give, and I agreed to come and take a look.

The day after Christmas of 2008 we finally met. When we first arrived, Tory was standing in the barn aisle covered by a thick horse blanket. She was a bay with a pretty head and a kind eye, standing about 17 hands high. She was a little on the thin side, but I felt this was nothing that could not be fixed. Her owner rode her first and then it was my turn: I could hardly believe how sweet and quiet she was. I had pretty much already decided that this was the horse I was looking for.

By now it was January, and we were getting a place ready for Tory to come home to. But, the evening before we were to go pick her up, I received a phone call that Tory was sick. She had contracted a severe case of “bastard strangles” and had a basketball size abscess between her front legs that had erupted, bastard strangles. The girl and her parents did not know what to do and I recommended that they contact a vet immediately. I felt horrible, but given the situation, I told them that until the horse is completely recovered, I could not bring her home.

We sort of lost touch in the time that followed until March 2009, when the girl called me in tears. Tory needed to be moved that day. The stable owner had threatened to get rid of the horse, and even worse, there was also a huge bump on her head now. She said someone at the barn had observed the horse being hit over the head with a shovel. She did not know who to turn to. I relayed the message to my husband who was working outside and he only said: “well, see if you can get someone with a trailer to go get her”. I phoned a friend and within 1-1/2 hours we were on the road.

I will never forget what I saw when I walked into the barn. Tory stood in the barn aisle and looked like a mere shadow of the horse that I had seen just three months before. Her neck was sunken in and there was no spark of life in her once so beautiful eyes. She had a huge lump under her eyes stretching from the right side of her face to the left. Her legs were covered in filth. Her back and hip bones were protruding and you could count every rib. I took Tory by the halter and lead and walked her towards the trailer. Tory stepped into the trailer without hesitation and stood quietly for the trip home. Later on her owner told me that she had never done this before. Tory hates trailers and does not load easily. Well, she did that day.

We brought Tory home and bedded her down for the night. TThe next morning we he next morning we took pictures of her to have a record of her conditio then took her to the vet for a check up. The vet confirmed a skull fracture that was recent and had not yet healed. We were lucky that it did not seem to affect her breathing, but the swelling under her eyes and the tearing were a result of the skull fracture. She was at least 200 lbs under weight. The other concern was the Strangles that she had battled. He saw a large zigzag shaped wound between her front legs still in the process of closing and healing, but felt positive that it was no longer contagious. He felt that with love and care, she’d recover. He also thought that the tearing would most likely persist and that the bump on her head would likely stay or perhaps even get bigger from calcification as it heals.

The weight went back on much quicker than I had expected and within 3 months she started to look much better. She shed out her dull hair coat and turned a nice shiny copper color. Over time even the bump on her head started to get smaller and the tearing stopped. Her emotional scars stayed with her though for some time to come. Whenever I entered her stall while she was in it, she would back into a far corner and watch. To this day she at times shies away from people entering her stall. You can do just about anything with her out of her stall, but there is always a sort of caution and reserve when in the stall.

I did not get to ride much that first year, but I took her out for time spent grazing and we worked on just getting to know each other. We did go on a Poker Ride together and she was the perfect trail horse. Quiet and easy going, she was a pleasure to have around.

I believe we bonded over these months in a way that would not have been possible in any other way. She learned to trust me. When I came into the barn she would softly whinny and stick her head over the side of her stall wall to look for me. While cleaning her stall, she’d walk up to my back and press her head against my back or lean her head against my chest looking for some attention. She loved getting her forehead brushed, closing her eyes in enjoyment. Recently I turned the horses out and all three trotted out looking forward to a day of grazing in the sun. Just as I was ready to leave, Tory turned around and came back up towards me. She stopped right in front of me and nudged my shoulder, turned around and trotted back out. Was that her way of saying “thanks and I love you”?

She may not be a show jumper, eventer, dressage mount or other kind of show horse earning ribbons and trophies, but she won my heart and even though she had been beaten, starved and abused, she never turned on her handlers. She is a champion in every sense of the way to me.

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