Plans Change: Brandy & Fancy

Training horses is never straight line from point A to point B — especially when you’re training on a deadline. Detours happen and our plans must change. Brandy Stevenson discusses just that.

For 616 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, has begun! Over the next eight months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Horse Nation readers. Today, blogger Brandy Stevenson talks about how plans can change and we need to be prepared to adapt with them.

Plans change. Especially with horses — and doubly so with athletic youngsters you are training on a deadline. Fancy (What’s My Doin) pulled both front shoes two weeks ahead of her farrier schedule. I took it as a sign it was time to start re-educating my girl. Her six-week pasture vacation was over — or so I thought.

I moved Fancy and her pasture mate to a small paddock with an attached barn at the front of our property. The ground was soft and the grass was deep. It was a great place for a thin-soled, weak-walled horse to await the farrier.

Winter grass in Fancy’s new pasture. Photo by Brandy Stevenson.

Two evenings later Fancy was shod and the next morning she was lame. Her leg was cold, but her foot was warm. I prayed for a hot nail and when the shoe was removed, the mare moved sound after a day of stall rest. It was later concluded she did not have a hot nail, but with her thin hoof walls the nail was pressing in on the delicate laminae of the foot causing irritation. Now we were back where we started — shoeless. Fancy was sound but needed shoes to maintain soundness through work. Luckily, my partner’s father is a master farrier. He was passing through on his way home to Colorado after the winter season in Wellington, FL was cut short due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The setbacks in Fancy’s training started in her feet, but her injuries didn’t stop there. I am a huge believer in turnout. As we are currently replanting our pastures, we have more horses in stalls than ever before.

Cultivated pasture ready to be plowed and planted. Photo by Brandy Stevenson.

That means being creative with where I can put horses. As a sane and soon-to-be sound horse, I figured the front lawn would be a great place for Fancy. How wrong I was. While mowing the lawn, I looked up and had a feeling that something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific, but I just knew I needed to go check on this filly. She stood quietly swishing flies with her tail as I approached her right side. She turned and walked over to meet me. There was blood everywhere. She scraped her neck, took all the hair off her inside right front above her knee, and took hide and tissue off of her lower left front and rear legs. Injuries to the lower limbs can bleed a lot and my first thoughts were that she would never make the Makeover because she just cut all the tendons on the outside of her left legs.

Fortunately, first impressions can be wrong. After a good cold hosing, it was revealed that the injuries were not severe or even going to result in lameness. A tetanus shot, compression bandaging of the lower limbs, a round of antibiotics and we would be back on track to the Makeover in under a week.

Fancy’s legs all bandaged up. Photo by Brandy Stevenson.

With the world on lockdown combating the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us find ourselves on stall rest.

This was not in anyone’s plan, but we need our horses more than ever to keep us from becoming cribbers or weavers ourselves. With Fancy on stall rest with one good leg, the work has been light and slow. We have been hand walking, practicing leading respectfully and setting her up for a successful vet check at the Makeover.

Ponying her has been a great way to introduce obstacles, like tarps, that can cause explosive reactions. With the leadership of a calm, ranch gelding, Fancy’s confidence has been growing calmly and steadily. Grooming has taken a primary role in the time we spend together. We get busy and we neglect spending time with our horses outside of their work. We become so focused on our goals we forget what hand grazing, sneaking a cookie and good scratch can mean to our horses. If we want a true partnership with our horses, we have to put their needs above our own.

Hand walking Fancy in her show halter. Photo by Brandy Stevenson.

My partner, Caleb Hindi’s parents arrived. Fancy received her shoes and four days later she was sound through all three gates. Now that we are cleared to begin riding, I want to remember not to forget the little things that make a big difference to my horse. It will be a long road to Kentucky with many ups and downs along the way. Plans will change, but if we can focus on the simple joys and put our horses first, we will win in the end no matter where we place on the podium.

Brandy Stevenson was raised 100 miles from nowhere in the rural community of Glacier View, Alaska. In her twenties, she traveled the country honing her colt starting skills and riding with top professionals. She now resides at her north Texas ranch where she trains a select number of horses and conducts horsemanship retreats throughout the country.