A Life Full of Thoroughbreds: Meant to Be

In today’s makeover blog, Dr. Cle Toledano shares her accounts of the journey to add her 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover mount, Mavis, to her family. Don’t forget to read part one to see where Dr. Toledano’s story left off.

My friend/client was interested in Roseau, and I had a hankering for the free- jump video and the name of Mavis. Our husbands were game, the seller was game, so off we went to Delaware on a July Sunday. Who gets motivated enough to go to Delaware from Virginia on the weekend?  We were not motivated by anything but the horses themselves (I mentally justified that it was a pre-purchase opportunity for me). At this point, the Thoroughbred Makeover was not even part of our lexicon.

It ended up being a great trip, especially since my husband helped me take the 30 plus radiographs of two horses.  The moment we arrived Roseau seemed to say, “I am for your friend, but you can examine me for her.”  I became preoccupied and excited for my client and started the exam right away. While passing through Roseau’s stall door, the neighboring horse caught my eye for a beat and made me smile inside.

“Oh! And there is Mavis!” the seller shared. I was relieved and could continue focusing on work because at that moment I knew I liked Mavis and Roseau was getting vetted. The blind date was working out so far!

I rode both horses and could ride Roseau on the buckle instantly. Decades back, Red Revelle and other horse starters taught me that a rider should not mount/or ride a horse feeling a need to hold anything in. Mavis gave me a moment when I felt I needed to have reins and some (fake) sense of control, but when I stayed calm, she let out this groaning sigh as she stretched her nose to the ground. To this day she is very vocal about relaxing her thorax. After the rides and one pre-purchase, I still had to examine Mavis objectively. Here was the hard part, and thank goodness her seller had a good eye.

Mavis was off on the straight away on firm ground. Instead of this being an antagonistic moment, we shared disappointment. As good looking as Mavis’ feet were, it became pertinent that her hair-line was sticky with magic cushion, so the seller was obviously tending to Mavis’ feet to make her more comfortable. This openness was such a relief since I am used to dealing with high-pressure purchases where people pile on pressures.

Mavis’ foot after eight months of growing out white line toe defects. The syringe nose used to be buried. The oblique radiograph shows the two defects at the toe of the coffin bone. (Clequine LLC)

Thanks to the seller’s good attitude I was happy to pursue my interest in Mavis. We started with radiographs on that foot and I found that she had sites of coffin bone rarification. Nevertheless, I continued and was geekily enamored with the rest of her radiographs. I am such an anatomy and bio-mechanics buff that I obsess over the anatomy of horses—even if there is a fault. I love comprehending that fault and nurturing it so the fault does not lead to injury. My un-motherly mother once declared when referring to her own kin, “nice nose, nice mouth, nice forehead etc., but you put it together, it adds to summ ugly!”  Well, this Thoroughbred has some stellar parts but she does not add up to a dreamy Warmblood sporthorse, and she was off.

So Mavis had a clinical deficit that logically matched her radiographic deficit. I did not block the lameness to be sure it was just the foot causing her wee limp. Any way you play it I had to take a chance, and the knowledge I had of her sire made it harder. His racing career ended due to a keratoma that appeared as an abscess, but was actually a tumor-like mass that crushes the coffin bone. I weighed the risk benefit, came up with a price and it matched the seller’s—really feeling thankful to her for marketing this mare and being refreshingly reasonable.  In any case, I have done so many foot cases for clients that a failed back surgery has left me partially paralyzed in my left leg.  I crushed the sciatic nerve to my leg inside my back for the sake of others’ horses, I should help a horse of my own!

Mavis (right) meeting her WB counterpart, Avis. Photo by Cle Toledano

The next six months involved turning these two mares out in a big grassy field with a run-in to eat and vacation. My job was to trim their feet, clean the defects in the white line, pack the defects and wrap the feet over and over with hopes that the defects would grow out.  Because of my back, I kneel on one or both knees while working. While treating Mavis (trying not to consider her more work) I never put a halter on her, and she never stepped on me or made it difficult. She let me swat green heads on her hind legs while her front foot was on my thigh. She never spilled my meds or stepped on the elastikon. She made working on my own “stupid purchase” a joy!

Some friends were certainly negative about my choice of a Thoroughbred. I was not too worried; if Mavis was not a match for me, she would make an amazing polo pony.  Come December when she was sound barefoot I considered sending her South with the polo crew. However, what I felt after a few rides led me to press pause on that thought. Mavis was quiet, willing and she stretched into contact with that signature groaning sigh. This is not a spit the bit out polo pony. Mavis wanted to extend her frame and use her back. She took to trotting over poles so smartly—no leaping. But when I greedily put the obstacle higher to feel her jump, she stayed smart and gave a jumping effort that felt so cool.  Despite my initial positive feelings, I felt that I needed further confirmation from the pros.

Mavis at one of her first outings to Rutledge Farm this February. The pea gravel was awesome on their bare feet as we walked to the indoor from the trailer. Photo by Dheva Raja.

After working with Mavis on a handful of basics I presented her to Joe Fargis, Julie Ulrich, Sonya Crampton, Ashley and Martin Douzant and the Mansmanns to help decide Mavis’ path, and they all said “BUT she can jump!” She quietly performed way beyond her education, which won me over. She was called “just a weed” due to her slightness, but I decided to keep this weed.  It was at this time that Roseau’s owner directed me to the Makeover. The RRP Thoroughbred Makeover is a fun goal for us, but my real goal is not to push her (especially literally before a jump!! grrrr).  I want to allow Mavis to express herself.  She has plenty to say.