Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Got "The Call"

It's that early morning call we all dread as owners. "Ted, Miss Belle Express broke down this morning. It's her knee and it's bad. We may have to put her down. Call me back as soon as possible. It's urgent."

I was upstairs getting ready for work as the message played out on my cell phone downstairs. I was blissfully unaware until I got into the office and unpacked my bag. I pushed the button on my iPhone to check e-mail as my computer was booting up and there it was staring me in the face "One Missed Call: Bernell Rhone - Cell; One Voicemail". I knew right away it couldn't be good. As that message payed out in my ear I was shattered. Our brave girl had worked through so much to get to the point where she was just two weeks from racing and now this. I called back as soon as I listened to the message but only got voicemail. I know Bernell had a previous commitment today that would have him away from his cell so I efforted all morning to gather information.

I wanted to have all the information I could before I started notifying people, but one person I wanted to reach before she went out to work was Janet Weber, Missy's breeder. I hated calling her with less than complete information, but I also wanted her to be aware before she got into an office full of people. I gave her the news - all that I had at that time - and she took it hard. Janet is a wonderful person and takes care of her homebreds (and all living creatures really) like they were her own kids. I wanted to make it all better but there is so little to be able to say other than "I'm sorry".

I was able to track down the vet a little while later and to say he was straightforward would be putting it politely. We think human docs have no real bedside manner. To be fair, he probably is used to owners who stay more detached than I do. In any event, she shattered her knee after her work. There was no support to it whatsoever and no way to repair it. She was in an obvious amount of pain and the decision was made to euthanize her.



Bernell and I were able to connect this afternoon. This isn't the first time a horse has broken down on him. Anyone who has been training horse for 30+ years has seen it before. But you could hear the hurt in his voice and the concern in his tone. Sure enough, as Missy was being pulled up exercise rider Lianne Rhone said she switched leads and as she did she took a bad step. Thankfully she was able to get clear and safely dismount. She tried to make Missy as comfortable as possible until help arrived.

The all engulfing sadness is horrible. I will never forget the day I met her at Russ Rhone's training center last fall. I was standing in the barn watching another horse get saddled up in front of Missy's stall. She popped her head out and hung it over my shoulder, sizing me up with her big expressive brown eyes. I reached around her beautiful head and gave her a little hug and a scratch and she leaned into me letting me know she approved. We connected, she worked well and the match was made.

Eight Belles and other high profile breakdowns were very public tragedies. Miss Belle Express is a private one, but one that is no less significant to her breeder, ownership group, trainer and barn staff. I'm also not looking to assign blame. People will scream "surface", "trainer", "rider", "racing" and on and on. This does happen. It's painful. It's miserable. But it does happen. We always erred on the side of caution with her. The slightest ache gave her a few days off. She didn't gallop unless she was sound. Even after coming back from the farm, Bernell waited a week longer than the vet recommended before galloping her back to be safe. A hard thing to understand is that this past week she was sounder than she had ever been. No aches or pains, a good attitude and her head was most definitely on her business. Her morning gallops were excellent and her schedule was being shifted to point to her debut on April 22.

That race will go on, of course. The world keeps turning. The sun keeps rising. Racing goes on. Outside of a handful of people who were very much attached to this Minnesota-bred filly, no one will know that in the third race that day there should be one more entry on the track - a Janet Weber homebred daughter of Mocha Express with a big heart and a sweet disposition that never got her chance to shine on the afternoon stage. Thanksfully, for too short a time, she was able to light up the lives of those of us that knew her.

13 comments:

Kevin said...

Sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this, Ted

wendyu said...

I am SO sorry Ted! My thoughts are with you and with all of Miss Belle Express' connections. You know that I'm well aware that stuff happens. My horse raced 71 times, retired sound at the age of 9 and had the legs of a 3 yr old! He broke down in his own paddock when he probably did a "yee haw I feel good" move. You just never know and you certainly can't blame anyone.

Thank you for being a good owner and for caring like you do.

dana said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss.

dana said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss Ted.

Elizabeth said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Miss Belle Express. She sounds like a wonderful filly. You wrote about her so eloquently. My condolences to you and everyone involved with that special gal.

Superfecta said...

So sorry to hear about this - but eloquently shared, as ever.

Teresa said...

Oh, Ted, so sorry, for you and all who were connected with the filly. Brutal.

Wind Gatherer said...

Sincere condolences, Ted.

Godspeed.

Cleone said...

Ted, I'm so sorry to hear this. I feel like I know your horses from reading about them, you paint such vivid pictures of them with your words. My condolences to all who loved her.

PEM said...

Man that is horrible. God I hate this business so much sometimes----it's bad enough when it happens to the "other guy" but eventually the fickle finger lands on you.....

You know the right thing was done--not much consulation in that but at least some.

Don't know what else to say...just I feel for you guys.

Gino

Jack said...

Ted, so very sorry for your loss as I could tell in following your blog and emails how much Miss Belle meant to you. - Jack

Ted Grevelis said...

Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate it. It's been a rough couple of days. We will, of course, persevere and move on, but it'll never quite be the same.

G. Rarick said...

I didn't see this post until just now. So sorry to hear about Miss Belle. Just as much as it was the phone call you never want to get, it's also one the trainer never wants to make. Bon courage for the future.