Cimarron is a 1975 16.3 hand chestnut thoroughbred gelding. He was raced until he was 5, but his track earnings totaled less than $2,000.
He spent the next 3 years or so changing hands and in the spring of his 9 year old year I brought him home from the local auction.
He was in sorry shape. His hooves were overgrown and the bars completely concealed the soles of his feet. He had a thick silky coat, but underneath there was no muscle whatsoever. His head is very long, and at that time his neck was so underdeveloped that it looked ewe-necked. The large head didn't help the picture. Within a week he developed a fungus that defied identification and before we could find an effective treatment, his whole face was bald. I really wondered where my head had been to bring home this big, skinny thoroughbred. To make matters worse, it was a long time before he gained some weight and condition because he was totally disinterested in anything other than a little hay for the first few months. He did grow back his face hair, however.
Everything went well for the first year while he was used for trail riding. Trouble started in the second year, when I decided it was time to put some serious training into him. Within months of starting arena work, Cimarron was showing intermittent subtle movement problems. When I called my vet out to check him, he could find nothing wrong.
As we moved up through the levels over the next few years, my vet still could not diagnose anything specific, nor could other vets I consulted. Yet the intermittent movement irregularities continued, and Cimarron was beginning to exhibit symptoms of back problems. We would often get comments from the judges we showed in front of, saying they thought Cimarron was not 100% sound. Still the vets shrugged their shoulders. Cimarron did pretty well in shows considering his gait irregularity. He must have been pretty uncomfortable I now realize, but through it all he was out there giving it his all. He had the most incredible attitude, he was always eager to be ridden, and it was only his huge heart that allowed us to do so well at shows in spite of his problems.
Cimarron when he was 11 years old
In addition to his chronic movement and back problems, Cimarron was also a hoof abscess machine. I could count on at least 3 or 4 a year, and they would always take weeks and weeks to resolve. It was very discouraging. Many times friends urged me to cut my losses and replace him. But I couldn't. I loved this big gentle horse and I wasn't about to just give up on him and I couldn't afford two horses.
Over the years I tried everything I could, within my budget. By the time Cimarron was 15, I had learned more about saddlefit than I ever wanted to know, had bought a new saddle, and I had tried various types of bodywork in an effort to help Cimarron - acupuncture, electro- and biomagnetics, chiropractic, massage, etc. It all helped a bit, but none of it permanently. He was still struggling, and by then the only thing keeping him going was weekly massages and magnets. Later that summer, I was competing at one of the area's bigger dressage shows. Cimarron wasn't feeling like his usual spunky self in the warm up, and during our first test my heart sank when I asked for a medium trot and he scurried across the diagonal... I should have stopped him then and there, but I finished the test, knowing before I left the arena that he had nothing more to give. I scratched him from the rest of the show and took him home, heartbroken. I guess I had seen it coming, but had not allowed myself to acknowledge it. Watching him play with his pasturemates in the weeks that followed, I realized that even at liberty he could no longer function properly. His range of motion was greatly restricted, unable to bring his forelegs past his chest. I realized that full retirement was the only kind thing I could do for him. It was a crunch for me...keeping a horse I couldn't ride, and unable to afford a second one. But euthanasia was never even a consideration.
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Last updated October 11, 2003
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