Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Gus.

Gusford the Great
 Ok, a slightly more expanded post on Gus:

Usually I am not a fan of "giving" people things that need food and water and $$, but clearly we were going to help Gus out no matter what, and the fact that we were pretty sure M2 would love him only helped the decision along...

Gus has a long (vague) story with what I hope is a very happy ending.

I don't have many details on Gus.  I have his old USEF number and some hints as to where he came from, but his registration and papers didn't follow him from home to home so there are lots of gaps. 

Gus is a 15 year old Trakehner gelding who was bred to the hilt to be a fancy Hunter.  He lived somewhere "back east" and belonged to a wonderful owner who had more than my net worth invested in horse flesh.  When Gus was about 8 he suffered an injury to his DDFT, but his wonderful  owner spared no expense in his surgery, rehab or experimental treatments.  Sadly for Gus the treatments didn't return him to full soundness and his days as a prize winning fancy thing were over.

But his wonderful owners looked far and wide for a good home where Gus didn't need to be fancy (or sound over 4' courses) and he found a new family who just wanted a nice, happy gelding to love.

At this point I'm not sure if Gus changed hands more than once or not (I think he did), but eventually he ended up at our boarding facility with a very nice, but not very horsey family.   At that point Gus had already been behind on his regular maintenance and was suffering a bit for it.  His family loved him but didn't really know how to manage his old injury or how to care for a middle aged horse.  Eventually they moved states but Gus stayed behind with no real "plan" or provisions to pay for him.

In December a couple months after his family left, S stepped in and at least got the poor boy's teeth done and feet trimmed in exchange for getting to use him for lessons, but didn't have the authority to do much more than that.

I watched him go a few times with kids bobbling on his back and totally fell in love.  It was clear Gus needed some more aggressive care to address his feet and to support the old DDFT injury but S's hands were tied and I was pretty convinced the last thing I needed was a

Finally word bubbled up that the former owners were considering sending him to auction ("auction") because they owed too much in back bills and had no ability to ever pay them off (let alone accrue new ones).

Which is when we started brainstorming... and Eric came up with his grand plan to let Gus pay for himself with lessons and then also be a good boy for his Mom.  This was of course contingent on the fact that S could actually use him for lessons and that he would actually be a good fit for his mom...

I opted for a "30 day trial" with Gus to really vet out how horrid his physical state was (super horrid) and how good his brain was (super good).  S threw all sorts of riders on him.  Big, small.  Young, old.  Beginners, better beginners... etc to test his patience and his calm.

I made The Boy ride him (remember that post? more as a test to see how patient Gus really was) and I spent some time on him as well. There are a few pics on the blog (on trails or whatever) that look like I'm on Prairie, but really it's Gus' big butt that I'm on taking him for test spins.  We even hauled him out to that schooling day I took Prair to a couple times in order to see how he hauls (trots on the trailer) and how he was in a new facility (exactly the same).

I got on him about once a week to see how he felt, and also how deadened of a school horse he had become.  I was expecting him to be the typically slow, pokey, moderately grumpy old lesson boy, but holy cow Gus has some serious training, and no qualms about showing it off.

I tested his lateral work. 

Shoulder in?  BAM.
OK, what about a leg yield? SOFT. 
Half pass?  YUP. 
Turn on forehand, done. 
Turn on hauches, easy peasy...

Okay... how about a.....flying change? AUTO

How about..... collecting? responsive (but I could tell it hurt a little).

How about a canter pirouette... No prob, Bob (WHAT??)

Fine.  What's next... tempis???

4's - yes

3's - yes

2's - yes

1's?  not quite...

BUT HOLY COW.  What a dude.  He's totally out of shape and his body is locked up but what a hard worker he was! You should have seen the grin on my face while I was testing his limits.

His lengthenings are non-existent but I don't blame him given the state of his feet.

Speaking of his feet, here's a before-shot of a hind.  Well a semi "before" shot.  They were worse, but this was after one shoeing from a regular farrier at the barn, but nothing overly "corrective."

This is how Gus' feet looked in Jan when I started working with him.

I know there are worse feet out there, but this was by far and a way the worst foot I've ever had to work with personally.  His heels were halfway down the foot and totally collapsed.  TOTALLY.  nothing to work with.  Nothing to trim.

We took x-rays to confirm what angle the coffin bone was broken back to and then went to work.  I'll do a follow-up on his feet but they were obviously step one in getting him more comfortable behind and able to move again.

Additionally, Gus' RF has lots of scar tissue around his old injury and he has done a great job of compensating for the loss of motion. As a result, he's rather locked up and his spine has turned into a board instead of a undulating cable.

His first few bodywork sessions focused on adjusting the right shoulder, lots of acupuncture, and some neck adjustments to limber him back up again (complete with associated massage, ahhhhhh).

There isn't too much to be done for his hind end until we get him some hooves to actually stand on, a process that's already going really well.  I'll take some updated pics for comparison.

When we first looked at Gus in January my vet gave him a 2.5-3/5 on his Right Front.  That improved to a 2/5 and last week at his checkup he earned a solid 1/5.

Here's a quick video from January when I tested Gus out on the trails briefly.  It's fuzzy phone video but you get a sense of how he was in the beginning, and also how uphill this horse still wants to be (even without hind feet under him). 

Initially we thought light W/T/C  (like four days a week) would be the limit of his workload, but now my vet is making whispers (very quiet ones) that she thinks he'll be sound and comfortable enough for some (very small) jumping (SQUEE).  That's something we won't push with him but the notion that he could be that comfortable and that healthy is astonishing and encouraging.

I think he's on the right path so far... Just imagine what more hugs, kisses and love will do.


  1. How CUTE is he?! Sounds like he is on the right path!

  2. That is so cool. He is adorable. It hard to believe a horse with that much to offer could end up in such bad situation. I'm glad it's working out!

  3. What a great story! He is so fancy and lucky to end up with caring people.

  4. Aww he's adorable. So happy you all stepped up and stepped in to get him where he needs to be and gave him a person to love!

  5. Aw you guys are so great! His nose, I want to give it one million kisses!

  6. Aw, he's so lovely! Glad to hear he's making improvements. His canter has so much potential.

  7. this whole story is like a fairytale and with a face like that, how could M2 not fall in love?

  8. I thought he was going to be a big pet, but now I see that he is ride-able and still performing tricks. Wow! What a great opportunity for all.

  9. In a magical world where I end up with my own farm, I will totally take Gus away and retire him in giant green pastures with Cuna in a few years. Then they can be grumpy old men together forever, lol.

  10. He is SO cute! Glad he found you! :)

  11. Awwww! So pretty - I can only imagine what he'll look like in a few months. Great story!

  12. He's so handsome! Can't wait to read more about his adventures!

  13. Gus is the cutest of patooties. So glad you found him. Your MIL is one lucky woman.

  14. This just makes me smile! He is lovely!

  15. <3 this post - totally made my day! He's such a cute guy and sounds like a total trooper. I can't wait to hear how he progresses - it sounds like he's healing by leaps and bounds and is one fancy-schmancy boy! He's so lucky to have you!

  16. So glad things are going well with him. He is such a cutie pie! Can't wait to hear/see more.

  17. He is so gorgeous!! I'm glad you guys are bringing him back to health. He's lucky to have found you. :D


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