CANTER Mid Atlantic is more than just a listing service

It has been such a stressful week or two for CANTER. I’m not the best writer in the world but I am going to do my best to illustrate why I think CANTER Mid Atlantic is an amazing organization and not just a listing service which is what most people think we do.

Tonight, I had this guy standing in the cross ties while I rubbed poultice on his legs, wrapped him and gave him a good grooming. Then I tucked him back in with a deeply bedded stall and some bute mixed in his dinner.

At my farm

This is Hey Byrn a 6yr winner of $300+ k. Perhaps you remember him from his 4th place finish in the Florida Derby, winning the Holy Bull Stakes or maybe even running 7th in the Preakness?

We were at the track taking listings one Saturday morning when the owner called us over and said this horse was a giveaway. They had claimed him and he had been quite lame and wasn’t getting any better. They injected him but he wasn’t going to pass the vet who inspects the horses who run. He wasn’t sound and they really didn’t know why but he had to move off the track. They told me his name but I couldn’t quite understand it so I went home and called the trainer. I looked him up on equibase like I do all the horses we list and saw that he had a pretty impressive history.

He had fallen to the $5k claimers and although he had padded the retirement accounts of his owners/trainers over the years there was nobody there to help him retire. Allie and I are both complete suckers for these horses who have been at the top of the game and fallen all the way down. It’s not to say we don’t care about the others but these horses just hit you a bit harder. They have given all for their connections and at the end they are left with nothing. They can’t be ridden and are destined to be pasture pals if you can keep them comfortable.

I immediately send the email to Allie and we start the process of getting him home. He wasn’t sound in the stall and his x-rays showed an ankle that had what looked like a bomb went off in it. There are just pieces all over and absolutely no cartilage left so it’s bone on bone. The x-rays showed what appeared to be a joint infection.

Joint infections that are left untreated almost always mean the horse isn’t going to make it. They tend to go septic quickly and we feared the worse. I was sure that I was bringing him home just to put him down but finding comfort in the fact that it was the right thing to do. It seemed like everyone else was so busy just trying to wash their hands of the situation. He had to move off the track NOW. I’m not saying his last connections caused this because the reality is that everyone had a hand in it. I respect that his last connections reached out to us to help which is more than many people do. We really do our best to help those who reach out to us. We can’t always help everybody but we do try.

The fact is that a horse does not race on an ankle that looks like his without a lot of injections and careful nursing to get him to earn one more pay check. It takes a lot of cortisone to wear away every bit of cartilage away. When he stands in the stall it is the most disgusting sound as you can actually hear it grinding on itself. My vet came and we ran the joint fluid which was very bloody but not infected. That was super news and as of right now he is very comfortable and doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is weight-bearing and walks with a lameness but isn’t what I would call at the stage of needing to be euthanized. Over time, the ankle should fuse and he will have a mechanical lameness but should remain comfortable.

I have been spending a lot of time with him getting him settled in and introducing him to life on the farm. I take him for walks, groom him and do my best to remove the heat and filling out of the ankle. He thinks he is hot stuff and prances around acting like he is the toughest horse on the planet. He is not ready to be euthanized and we are going to give him a shot at becoming comfortable as a pasture pet.

CANTER has minimal funding for these types of horses. CANTER does not own its own facility and stall board for a horse who can’t hang out in a field runs $350 a month. You are looking at $4200 in board for one horse which doesn’t include vet bills, farrier, dentist and anything else he will need to keep him comfortable in his retirement.

I have never known Allie to beg for donations or shout out that we are awesome and deserve funding (even though we are :)). CANTER MA works quietly behind the scenes on a daily basis carefully managing our funding and making sure we only take as many horses on donation as we can care for. We are careful that the majority of horses that we take on donation can be rehomed so that we spend our money, saving as many horses as we possibly can and helping those who might take up more of our budget when it is needed. Not to mention the sound horses that we retrain and sell help to pay for those who might not be able to be rehomed or those who won’t bring a larger adoption fee.

Allie and I spent all last week making sure Hey Byrn had run his last race.

My husband dropped his plans to go and pick him up. My vet rearranged her schedule to come out and see him right away. It’s a team effort at CANTER Mid Atlantic from our great director, farm owners, volunteers at our various tracks, farriers, vets, dentists and everyone else who drops everything to help out any horse who is in need. It doesn’t have to be a “Hey Byrn” but he is an illustration of just how we work.

Hey Byrn is a lucky horse to land with an organization who is dedicated to doing the right thing whatever that may be. It could have been euthanasia, it may still a be surgery or it may be just paying his bills to make sure he lives comfortably.

CANTER Mid Atlantic’s Director, Allie Conrad, is not the type of person to beg for donations or even say that we need help. She will probably kick my butt for this post 🙂 I have no qualms about coming out and saying that we would really appreciate the public’s support because CANTER is a great organization. should take you to our donation page where you can find various ways to donate money if you would like.

17 responses to “CANTER Mid Atlantic is more than just a listing service

  1. Wow. A donation (not as much as I’d like but what I can spare from my own beasties’ upkeep) is on it’s way. I can’t say enough good stuff about what you and your group are doing to give him a soft landing. I wish, wish, wish every horse who gave his/her all on the track had the same opportunity. But even more I wish – and I know that’s all it is – that those who are earning their livelihoods from racing would make what you’re doing for Hey Bryn a rare exception. Really, why is it SO tough for people to forgo a few $$ for doing the right thing?? I don’t understand.

    • jessicamorthole

      We appreciate any size of donation as they all add up over time. I am going to post a great article that Allie wrote for the Chronicle of the Horse on the difference that one last race can make when it comes to having a lame horse or a horse that might be able to have a future. I do wish people would put the horses first but sadly they all don’t follow that logic. I have a lot of respect for those that do retire the horses at the first sign that something is wrong rather than injecting them or making them run with an ongoing problem.

  2. Pingback: Hey Byrn | CANTER Mid Atlantic's Calabria Rose

  3. You guys are the best, I will see what I can do this year!

  4. Wow, I do want to make a contribution. It won’t be much, as I don’t have much, but please let me know where to send it etc. This guy really tugged at my heart strings!

  5. The heart of a champion! Please keep us posted on his progress…

  6. God bless you—I remember him because of the story behind his name. Byrn is a warrior, and your kindness is admired. My favorite horse author as a child was C.W. Anderson,whose quote” Courage is that rare coin that returns twofold to the spendthrift but leaves the miser penniless” could have referred to kindness as well. My prayers are with all of you.!

  7. This one really got me. This horse was passed around by people “just wanting their money out of him” until he was permanently crippled. No hope for another career, ever, as a 6 year old. Hes got 10-20 years, easily, of maintenence. Nobody until the very end cared enough about this horse to do anything other than send him on, like he was nothing but a liability. Shame on his trainer, Eddie Plesa, Jr & his owner/ breeder at the beginning – Bea Oxenburg for dumping him instead of helping him when he began to lose form. The time to move him on was then, before the first injection- not now, when the joint is destroyed. Thank you to Jess and the wonderful horsepeople at CANTER for taking him in, and giving him a future other than an auction house. I’ll send what I can, when I can, for as long as possible.

  8. Just sent you a donation.Keep us posted on his progress. Will help more latter.

  9. Wow! I think what you are doing is very great indeed. Some of us just cannot be bothered to care for animals who are way past their prime, especially not animals who need constant work. A donation will be forthcoming, though I doubt it would make a difference. But I guess, one drop at a time will do it.

  10. Any updates on Hey Byrn?

    There is an auction for his benefit on eBay, just search “hey byrn”

    • jessicamorthole

      I posted a new blog recently but his condition is likely remain the same with no improvement due to the nature of the injury. Right now we are just trying to see if we can get him comfortable enough to live a happy life.

  11. I think if your organization contacted Eddie Plesa at Monmouth Park he would make this situation right. On the person who made the remark about Bea Oxenberg she passed away a year and half ago and had nothing to do with this.

  12. Hi there Calder Owner, Mr. Plesa was contacted very early on and offered to send a little bit of money. We have not heard from him since reaching out and have not received his small donation as of yet.

  13. Hey Bryn is living his life out with me. He has a best friend in Spicy Bull, and they are inseparable. He is comfortable and happy, and I will keep him that way till his last day. He is very loving, and has a heart the size of Texas, which is probably why he was so tough on the track. I am very lucky to have him and will be making him a Facebook page soon, so everyone can follow his updates.

  14. Hey Byrn has a Facebook page I made for him and I’m trying to keep it up to date. Please check him out! And I also adopted Advice who ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and had about the same trip Hey Byrn did, but he was fortunate and Winstar Farm helped get him back and I got him from New Vocations.
    Eiserman Equine played a big part in Hey Byrn being able to recover as well. Many thanks to them. He was a baby there and they helped him out to heal and recover.

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