16.2 hands high; 1200 lbs; DOB 01/10/01; 9 starts, 2 wins
Those are Doc’s stats. Racing Form called him, among other things, “a speedball on the rail.” Well-bred and stocky, some people thought he was either gelded late or an Appendix Quarter Horse.
To me, he’s “D.”
Once in a while, I google Deputy Doc Renzi, his registered name. My most recent discovery is that his trainer was fined for giving him a banned muscle relaxant for his last win, his last race. It makes sense, as over the twelve years he’s been with me, certain common racehorse injuries have become a problem.
I was looking for a horse, a safe, reliable horse. “Don’t get another off-track Thoroughbred,” I told myself. “You’re getting older and don’t need to come off another horse. Get a fifteen-year-old Quarter Horse, a ranch horse who’s been there, done that.” However, on dreamhorse.com, I found myself checking the boxes for “Thoroughbred” in direct opposition to my wiser self. I couldn’t help it. I was raised that way. It’s hardwired into my brain.
I checked the boxes for Thoroughbreds about five years old within 20 miles of my home in Los Angeles. It was a pretty safe bet there would be lots of them, and there were. I’m drawn to bays, as well, so that brought the total possibilities to … still a lot. I guess I liked that he was stabled in classy Rancho Palos Verdes, so I emailed the owner and made an appointment to take a look.
Not including Spooky, an unruly black pony, my first full-size horse was Mr. Murphy, a bay-Morgan cross. Years after Murph was Dark Victory (named after the Bette Davis film), a beautiful bay as well. Victory was a registered, but unnamed, Thoroughbred bred for the track but never raced. He was “over at the knee,” which I didn’t recognize at the time, and it likely wouldn’t have mattered if I had known.
There’s a lot I didn’t know about racehorses, but I’m learning. You’d think I’d have known that racehorses are gotten very cheaply at the track at the end of their careers, likely broken down, and flipped for a profit. You’d think it would have occurred to me that most are raced beginning at the age of two, at a point in which their bodies are nowhere near fully formed. You’d think it would be a concern that they are bred and trained to run in a straight line as fast as they can. “Track broke.” You’d think all of that would have colored my decision-making process when it came to getting my next horse.
I drove to Rancho Palos Verdes and wound my way through the upscale homes and stables, searching for the address. I found it and parked. The directions said to walk down a hill to the barn. It had rained. (This was twelve years ago; it rained in LA then!) Down below was a round pen and a foot of mud, and a big bay pacing inside. I slipped and slid down the hill and, as I got closer to the horse, we made eye contact. I didn’t schedule a vet check. I didn’t even ride him. Both no-no’s when you’re taking on a horse that you’ll care for forever.
I passed over the cash, and Deputy Doc Renzi was mine.
Our many adventures I’ll detail in subsequent articles, but suffice it to say that the compressed vertebrae and bone spurs in my neck and back are a result of my love affair with Doc.
His physical challenges from being on the track are apparent now. Although, considering his trainer drugged him to keep him running, he got off fairly easy with arthritis in his sacrum and stifles and very loose patellas. He’s stiff all over if he’s made to stand for long periods, but so am I. And now he has osteitis in his front feet, tends to develop abscesses, and is often lame on his right front. (As I write this, I’m remembering that he was “off” on that same foot after our first ride. Hmm.)
I do have a wish to ride him again someday. He loves trails, and his natural curiosity has taken us off the beaten path. The first thing is to get him comfortable. I’m working on his feet with a local farrier who’ll apply the Easycare Glue-Ons that keep him “sound.” Concurrently, Doc is getting craniosacral sessions for his musculoskeletal structure.
What was at first a kind of grief is now a blessing. What I learn about myself from being on the ground with him is something I’m too dense to learn from life, it seems. Doc’s a “hot” horse, meaning that his energy level is very high and can quickly escalate. If I’m not grounded, sparks fly. So I breathe and remain acutely aware of my breath and the tension in my body. It carries over into the rest of my day. Like I said, a blessing.