From Barn to Stables…adding life to an old barn (part 2)

When you think of Kentucky, there is one animal that comes to mind: The Horse.

The unbridled spirit of Kentucky is the reason we chose it as the place to build our ranch. We wanted horses and this is the place to have them. The state is full of resources that make horse ownership practical, enjoyable and affordable.

The road to horse ownership is still challenging. There are many organizations in Kentucky that have horses available for adoption. However the process is very in-depth. After carefully researching the various organizations, we decided to submit adoption applications/portfolios with The Humane Society (Equine), The Kentucky Equine Center, The National Thoroughbred Wellness Organization, and The Arabian Horse Rescue Mission. The process included background checks, vet and farrier screenings, phone interviews, and a portfolio of our property and barn. We completed every step….and then waited. We waited, and waited, and waited…

As hard as the waiting was, I am convinced everything happens for a reason. Our path to horsemanship only emphasized this.

In late October it appeared that we were finally approved and set to go with one of the rescue organizations. We had set up a fostering arrangement and agreed to take three horses for adoption, and three to be fostered and stay with us until they could be adopted. Nick was through the roof with excitement. I was feeling a little different. In case math isn’t your strong subject, 3+3=6…SIX.

It’s not a secret that horses can be a very expensive animal to keep. I was nervous at the thought of taking on six so quickly. I also was worried about how we would be able to spend time with each of them.

Nick grew up with horses. His family owned a horse ranch in Canada. For him, the idea of six horses was very manageable. I have never owned a horse. Up to this point, my horse experiences included riding push button ponies on trail rides. My excitement was quickly replaced with feeling nervous and overwhelmed as we prepared to take on six horses.

The day before we were scheduled to pick up the horses we received a call. Someone at the farm had tested positive for Covid-19, and we would need to reschedule in two weeks.

Remember when I said everything happens for a reason…

We thought our waiting was starting to be a cruel game, when a few days later we received a call from The National Thoroughbred Wellness Organization. We were approved for adoption and welcome to come to their farm to see the horses available.

The NTWO had a horse listed on the website that Nick had fallen in love with. She was a beautiful chestnut mare, named Copper Lady. He immediately set up our visit to meet this beautiful mare and to possibly set up adopting her.

I will never forget the night we went to the farm in Lexington. We pulled up, and I got out of the car. There were so many horses…so many gorgeous thoroughbreds.

Have you ever really seen a thoroughbred up close? All horses are beautiful, but there is something powerfully moving about a thoroughbred. The athletic build, the shiny coats, the perfect noses. I felt like a kid taking in these gorgeous creatures as we got out of the car.

We met up with Tayja, the woman who runs the farm. She chatted with us and told us that we parked near the geldings, and the horse we were interested in, Copper Lady, was with the mares.

“What’s a gelding?” I asked…that shows you my level of horsemanship at this point. In case you are like me, a gelding is a male horse that has been neutered. You’re welcome.

We stood at the gelding’s fence chatting and Tayja showed us her personal horse. A few minutes later another horse walked over and nudged his soft little nose in my face. I thought he would just sniff me and leave, but this was different. He wouldn’t leave. He rested his head on my shoulder. He played with my coat. He played with Nick.

Something felt different. We spent quite a bit of time playing with him and Tayja told us that she didn’t know much about him, just that he had been brought in a few weeks ago and was born with a disability that prevented him from racing. His inability to race left him without a purpose or home.

My heart broke for the little guy. We walked over to the area where the mares were fenced. I couldn’t stop thinking about the gelding, though.

“Copper Lady” was quite a pistol. She was not necessarily in love with us the way the gelding was. She moved her head away when we tried to pet her and even turned her back to us. She was beautiful though. Despite her attitude, Nick was in love with her.

Everything happens for a reason…

Tayja told us Copper Lady’s story. She was a 5 year old ex-racehorse. She had raced heavily, and won quite a bit before shattering her hip at her last race 2 years ago. The accident left her unable to race, and homeless when the NTWO and Tayja took her under care. Tayja told us that when she first met her she wouldn’t let anyone near her. She had significant trust issues and could have an aggressive side to her towards people she didn’t trust.

As we watched Tayja interact with her, we could see that Copper Lady trusted her and let her guard down. We saw the sweet side of a horse that had many guards up. We knew that with time, we could earn her trust, too, and we could provide the loving home that she needed.

“There’s just one issue,” Tayja said. “She can’t be the only horse. She can’t be alone.” Tayja told us that she had been adopted before and brought back because she was at her worst when she had no other horses to be with. She had to go to a home where there would be another horse.

Almost instantly, I asked about the sweet gelding we had met just moments before. Honestly, I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

We decided to put the two horses in their own paddock, to see how they responded to each other. Although they were at the same farm, the two had never interacted or met each other.

It was love at first sight! The two horses bonded instantly; running and playing together. It was incredible to watch. His sweet spirit calmed her.

“If you adopt Lady, you can have him” Tayja told us, with tears in her eyes. It was obvious to us that Tayja cared deeply for Lady. She had taken a very broken horse and nurtured and earned her trust. This was the ultimate gift she could give Lady: A forever home.

We set everything up, and agreed on the day Tayja would bring them out to us. We drove away from the farm and Nick asked, “is HE your horse?”

I knew what he was asking. “Yes” I said. He is my Bubba B.

Bubba B

Not just any horse was going to be Bubba B. Bubba B was going to be the name of my horse, but it was not a name I took lightly. It was a very special name, and it could only go to a very special horse.

Before I was born, my father owned a racehorse named Bubba B. Although it was before my time, my family talked about the horse often, especially my dad. Our game room was full of horse memorabilia, including a painting of the original Bubba B. Before we moved to the ranch, my mother gave me the original Bubba B’s name plate, along with the painting, and the horse memorabilia my father loved.

It was very special to me. Since my father died, I am always looking for ways to remember him. I can still hear him talking about his Bubba B, and every time I say the name, I hear him saying it.

I knew it was the name I wanted to give my horse, but I also knew it had to be the right horse that got this name. My Bubba B has more than earned this. He is perfect. His precious spirit and loving personality have stole my heart. He’s a baby, and still just learning…everything…but he works so hard, and it has been one of the best experiences teaching him. He can now walk on a lead line, walk gently with just a finger holding his halter, follow commands, and lift his legs for a farrier.

Teaching him has been an amazing experience, but my favorite things he does weren’t taught. He gives hugs. He lets you lay with him. He falls asleep while you hold his head. He dances. He puts his head in your pocket searching for cookies. He’s patient and sweet. He’s the loving friend our Lady needed. He’s the patient horse a girl who never owned a horse, needed. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but imagine someone is hugging your heart. That is how I feel when I am with Bubba B.

When you adopt a horse, sometimes you pick the horse, sometimes the horse picks you, and sometimes an angel brings you together.

Forever my colt

Our Leading Lady…

When we first laid eyes on our Lady, she mesmerized us. in one word, she is stunning. Her hair and mane both illuminate in a radiant shade of reddish brown, earning her the name of “Copper Lady.” Her defined muscles bulge and sculpt her athletic body, and remind you of the powerful racehorse she once was.

Racehorse she was. Copper Lady raced heavily in the Louisiana circuit. Her pedigree includes the legendary Secretartiat, and her personal career includes many first place finishes. Her career, however, was cut tragically short when she shattered her hip coming out of the gate at her last race.

She finished that race.

This is who she is. She is professional. She is disciplined. When she has a job to do, she will do it…with perfection…with a shattered hip. Finishing the race was her job.

Sadly, it was the last she would ever finish. In the racing world, you are gold until you can’t win, and then you are nothing.

When Tayja and the National Thoroughbred Wellness Organization received Lady, she was a very broken horse. She doesn’t trust easily. She has been through a lot. At only five years old, she has gone through intense training, heartbreaking injury and several homes.

These are the reasons we love her, and all the reasons we are honored to be a part of her world. It is the most important role we can play, to give this sweet girl a safe and loving home she deserves.

She does not cuddle the way Bubba B does, and she probably never will. Her eyes show sadness, and tell a story far different than his…but her eyes are changing. Just like Tayja earned her trust and love, we are too. Working with her everyday, we have come miles. We can now be in her stall, with her. Nick is even able to groom her in the stall. She comes up to us in the field, and will run into the barn when she hears us there. She “tolerates” our kisses.

Everyday, she seems happier. She loves her “brother” and she’s pretty fond of the goats, too. Perfectly broken, Nick has been able to ride her, and she thrives under saddle. She looks like a living Carousel horse. Pure beauty and grace.

Nick had a beloved horse, as a child, named DeVille. We decided to rename Lady, as Lady DeVille. Lady, to honor her past and the racing career she once held, and DeVille to establish the new home and family she will never leave.

Our Bubba B and Lady DeVille have changed our lives in so many ways. It’s hard to think, but a year earlier, we were living in Florida immersed in the hustle and bustle of our lives. Today, life is very different. We started an evening routine called Bedtime in the Barn. It is one of my favorite parts of the day.

Every night we bring the horses in for their evening grains and oil. We brush and groom them. Then, we bring them out to the center of the barn (individually) and work on something. For Bubba B, this has been groundwork and training. We had to start from the very beginning. This included learning to walk on a lead line, and to lift his legs and balance for a farrier. He has done amazing. Next we will work on breaking him for riding.

Lady’s nightly time with us is a bit different. She is a professional at her skills, so instead we work on gaining her trust. We are patient with her as she slowly lets her guard down. We end each night with a special prayer, and cookies…they will strip search you for cookies, by the way.

As special as our bond with them has become, their bond with each other is equally beautiful. They are inseparable and each has developed a role in the relationship. Lady is the wise, older sister. Bubba B watches her so intensely. He is the sweet baby brother. The gentle heart she needs when she is scared and nervous.

They are everything we could have ever dreamed of, and this adventure is only just beginning…

If you are interested in learning more about the National Thoroughbred Wellness Organization, and the incredible work Tayja does, please visit www.NTWO.org

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