Injuries — they can happen to any horse at any time but for many, seeing that a racehorse retired with a “bowed tendon” or a “bone chip” can scare them away from taking on the horse for a second career.
While ideally a racehorse retires sound and almost immediately goes on to a second career, most injuries don’t limit a horse’s career choices once they’re done healing.
Over the next few months, we’ll follow two horses going through New Vocation’s rehabilitation program as they work their way toward adoption. New Vocations has seen more than 7,000 retired racehorses go to new homes since it opened in 1992, with many needing some time in the rehabilitation program — sometimes weeks and sometimes a year — before joining the “Adoptable Horses” list.
Horses who come off the track and have to be rehabilitated not only take more time, but also more money to prepare them for a new home. The average cost New Vocations spends on a horse who goes through the program from rehabilitation to adoption is $3,500 with most of that cost covered by donations, grants, and fundraisers.
If you remember the original article in this series from last year before it was paused due to COVID-19, you’ll be happy to hear London House was recently adopted after completing his own rehabilitation process. For this year’s series, we’re following last year’s Kentucky Derby 13th-place finisher Money Moves and the winning 5-year-old gelding Doctor Victor.
Doctor Victor arrived to New Vocations in early April and had knee surgery on April 15.
After examining him, the vets weren’t sure what exactly they would find when performing surgery on his left knee but it was a case where their scans looked worse than the knee itself. The surgery turned into a straightforward, routine one to remove the bone chips they found.
Of course, injuries aren’t always as straightforward as they appear and that’s the case with Doctor Victor. He also was diagnosed with extensor tenosynovitis in the same leg, but that is being addressed as well.
“[It] seems to have been a major driver of the swelling that was evident in his knee pre-surgery rather than just the chip,” said New Vocation’s Leandra Cooper. “We will [treat] that by having the extensor tendon sheath and knee injected with hyaluronan (HA) approximately one month post-surgery.”
Doctor Victor is currently on 24/7 stall rest a little over a week after his surgery but will soon be able to leave it for limited activity. He’ll be hand walked for two weeks, starting next week, before he’s allowed to first spend time in the round pen and then graduate to small paddock turnout.
He’ll be monitored throughout this process to make sure everything is going as planned with the schedule for recovery ultimately up to him. So far, the gelding seems to be quiet and sweet, making the stall rest an easier adjustment than for some other horses.
While Doctor Victor enjoys resting up after surgery, Money Moves has been at New Vocations since January and is in a more active part of his rehabilitation.
Last seen winning an allowance race a month and a half after his Kentucky Derby run, Money Moves suffered a bowed tendon in a workout after the race and his connections decided to retire him. It was found out after he retired that he had some other minor issues that New Vocations will also be rehabilitating.
“He retired due to a left front bowed tendon,” Cooper said. “We also found that he has proximal suspensory desmitis and mild medial suspensory branch desmitis on his right hind.”
(For more information on that injury click here)
While Money Moves was more laid back when he first arrived, his temperament has changed as he’s gone through rehab. One of his favorite tricks is sticking out his tongue more and more until someone pulls on it.
“He's been really mellow and sweet but recently he's become a little mouthier and goofy. He's turning into the class clown,” she said of how his temperament has changed in the four months he’s been at New Vocations.
The last few months have been all about letting him heal on restricted turnout. They have also put specialized shoes on him to help correct his hoof angles and make sure he has the support needed to heal. The gelding’s rehabilitation recently stepped up a level as he was put back under saddle to help him regain his fitness.
“He is starting rehab rides now, which just includes walking, and then we'll add small incremental workloads as he becomes more comfortable and fit,” she explained. “He's allowed to be in a medium-sized turnout as well!”
Both horses still have a few more months of rehabilitation until they enter the adoption pipeline with Money Moves also playing the important role of aftercare mascot this Triple Crown season. In fact, it was a busy day for the gelding during our first check-in on his rehab with TVG out earlier that morning to film him for an upcoming segment.
In coming articles in the series, we’ll be checking in with both boys monthly as we follow them through the rehabilitation and adoption process.