An ex-racehorse is getting a second chance thanks to a local couple who discovered him on their Etlan farm.
When Jerri Ward received a text message with a picture of a horse from her fiancée she was a little puzzled, as he had promised to go to work on the farm the couple had just purchased in Etlan.
“I got the text with a picture of a horse so I immediately texted back asking where he was,” said Ward. “I was really surprised when he said he was next to the garage.”
The horse, skinny and neglected, had wandered on to the couple’s new property. Ward assumed the animal belonged to a neighbor or possibly someone that had been trail riding and reported the wayward equine to the Madison County Animal Control officer on duty and posted several notices of a ‘found’ horse. Ward learned quickly that finding livestock is very different than a stray kitten or dog. Because she had pasture and a barn, Ward agreed to house the horse until his owner was found or until the four-day stray hold allowed her to turn over the horse to a rescue.
“We aren’t horse people so I did some research about the local rescue groups and eventually found Hope’s Legacy,” said Ward. “Maya [director of Hope’s Legacy] suggested that I contact Samantha Martynowski to get some help caring for him. Samantha came out and helped us select feed for him and took some pictures to continue posting to try to find his owner.”
Despite a report to animal control and multiple postings on local, regional and national Facebook pages, no one came forward to claim the horse.
“I couldn’t believe that someone abandoned this animal,” said Ward. “He seemed so sweet and gentle but you could tell he hadn’t had any attention. His feet were in terrible condition and he was pretty skinny. We called him Cayden because it means survivor.”
After the holding period ended, Ward made arrangements to transfer ownership of Cayden to Hope’s Legacy rescue.
“As much as we liked him, we weren’t in the position to keep a horse,” said Ward. “We donated him to Hope’s Legacy and he is being fostered by the Martynowskis here in Madison. Samantha has kept us updated on his progress.”
As foster caretaker, Martynowski arranged for the horse to be checked out by a veterinarian and have his feet trimmed and has been pleased with his progress.
“He’s been a perfect gentleman and his condition has improved,” said Martynowski. “His skin has healed, he’s gained weight and his feet have improved enough that we’ll be able to ride him to evaluate what he knows pretty soon.”
The veterinary exam yielded a clue as to the horse’s identity. On the underside of the horse’s lip was a tattoo. All thoroughbred racehorses have their registration number tattooed on the underside of the lip so racing officials can positively identify horses entered in races are the correct ones. The tattoo on Cayden’s lip identified him as CL Prince, a winning 8-year-old Florida bred gelding that raced up and down the east coast and made his last start at Charles Town in 2015.
While who he is has been discovered, how he got there is more of a mystery.
“It’s really odd that he would just appear there,” said Dr. Chris Robertson of Blue Mountain Equine, the veterinarian that examined the horse for Martynowski. “I’m familiar with the property and it was not one with easy access. Really all things considered, the horse was in pretty good shape for one that appears to have been running free for a while. There was a stream and plenty of pasture so he was able to survive. He seems to be a young, healthy horse. Hopefully, he will find a home.”
Both Martynowski and Ward echoed that thought.
“It’s a little confusing how he got from the racetrack to the edge of the park,” said Martynowski. “But people do all kinds of crazy things.”
“If only he could talk,” said Ward. “I’m sure he’d have quite a story to tell.”