It’s Never What You Expect: Catherine & Nova

“As soon as I saw the name on the phone, I knew this vacation wasn’t going to be what I expected… I knew there was a problem. “

For 480 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2021 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 Catherine Eagleston discusses pushing through even when the unexpected arises. 

As soon as I saw the name on the phone, I knew this vacation wasn’t going to be what I expected. I was so excited to finally be able to get away from the hecticness of life. The day was full of flying and driving, but we finally made it to our destination. It was beautiful and I was excited to enjoy the next four days kid and responsibly free. Then the phone rang. As soon as I saw my teammate’s name, I knew there was a problem. I answered the phone quickly and the first thing I heard was, “Nova’s sick!”

I could feel my heart start to race and my anxiety rise. I have never been away when a horse I owned was sick or injured. Now I’m over two thousand miles away in a hotel with spotty service. Our best guess was a reaction to her spring shots. Nova (JC Care About This), who is always bright eyed and full of personality, was quiet and reserved. My teammates and barn staff were on it. They contacted the vet, gave her meds and kept an eye on her. All I could do is wait for updates. My teammate Ann drove to the barn multiple times a day to check on her and send me constant updates. The next day she seemed a little better and started to act herself again, so I tried to enjoy my trip as much as possible. By the afternoon, however, she was back to not feeling well. It was time to get the vet out.

I waited impatiently by the phone for the vet to call. I held my breath waiting to hear what she had to say. We didn’t have any answers so we made a new plan with new meds and ran a bunch of tests. I just wanted to rush home and be by her side, but I knew that was impossible. I felt so lucky to have such amazing team members and barn staff to help me during this stressful situation. As soon as my plane landed, we headed straight to the barn to see my girl. Thankfully by then she was feeling a lot better. I was so relieved that I had my sassy mare back. Now we can move forward and get back to our normal routine … or so I thought.

Catherine and her daughter hand walking Nova. Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston.

When she was finally ready to go back under saddle, I excitedly tacked her up and brought her out to the ring. There is no better feeling than walking around on your horse for the first time after a break. As soon as we went into the trot, I knew something wasn’t right. She wasn’t pushing off or moving like she usually did. I had the chiropractor out and the vet scheduled. We did a lameness exam and the flexions were showing hocks. The vet asked to see her on the lunge line for a couple minutes, so out to the ring we went. Although she had a little sass, she was great going to the left. We changed directions and away she went. She leaped, twisted and bucked in the air, kicking herself in the tendon and landing only on three legs.

I started to panic when I saw her holding her leg up refusing to put weight on it. Thankfully my vet witnessed the whole thing. He checked her over and nothing was broken. After a few minutes she put her leg down and was able to walk out of the ring and right into her stall. For the next week we watched for heat, swelling and increased lameness. This was the longest week of my life. What if she injured the tendon? Will we have to pull out of the Thoroughbred Makeover? By the end of the week her tendon looked so good you couldn’t tell which tendon she hit. I left like I won the lottery! We went back to her hocks and after new flexions and x-rays she got her injections. Now she had to rest from her injections. During all this time off she was loving all the extra attention, treats, hand walks, and grazing. We spent a lot of time bonding with each other and our vet!

Nova watching the x-ray equipment getting set up. Photo by Catherine Eagleston.

Today I finally got to sit on my girl again and it felt amazing. This last month has felt like a crazy rollercoaster ride. There are times the road to our goals will have some bumps or detours. It is easy to talk about how amazing everything is going but sometimes things go wrong. We may have to push back some training goals while we take our time getting back into the swing of things but I’m just incredibly thankful that she is happy and healthy again. In the end that is really all that matters.

Nova’s first ride under saddle. Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston.

Catherine Eagleston grew up in Massachusetts riding and competing horses in a local 4-H group. Her love and addiction to horses only grew from there. She attended Post University and received a degree in Equine Management and Marketing and while competing on both the IHSA and IDA teams. She bought her first OTTB, named Wild Willy, while in college. He started her love and passion for Thoroughbreds. Since then, she has operated multiple equestrian facilities, including her own. Catherine has trained and competed in the hunter, jumper, equitation, and dressage ring over the years in both rated and non-rated competitions.

She took a break from working full time in the industry to start her family. Currently she is teaching courses at Post University in the equine department and riding lessons at Oakendale Farm LLC, a local eventing barn. Catherine has a small farm at her home called Eagles Equestrian, where she keeps her two OTTB mares and POA gelding. She is excited to share her ups and downs as she navigates this Thoroughbred Makeover.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Eagleston