Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Zodiac: Nine Months Later

-Sarah Andrew

 September 2010: I met Zodiac at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon, Maryland. The stakes-winning gelding retired from racing a year earlier with earnings of over $200,000 in 26 starts.

I walked into his stall and he gingerly turned his head to greet his visitor. The weight of his body was supported by an Anderson Sling, he was receiving round-the-clock intravenous fluids, and his legs were bandaged from top to bottom. 


Zodiac's body score on the Henneke Scale was a 1, which is severely emaciated. He suffered from ulcers both in his digestive system and in his eyes, and the staff battled his lymphangitis with ice wraps and medicine. He ran sporadic low-grade fevers, and received blood plasma to aid in his recovery.



Days End took Zodiac and seven other Thoroughbreds into their care as the most critical starvation cases in a West Virginia cruelty case which resulted in the seizure of over 50 horses. I met the veterinarian who was caring for the horses, some local Animal Control officers, and the primary caregivers. They all knew their jobs very well and knew every lump and bump on the horses’ bodies. The volunteers of Days End worked day and night to care for these horses. A day sheet hung from each stall door, marked with notations from every visit to the stall: “Filled hay.” “One manure pile.” “Cleaned stall.” “Filled water. Drank half a bucket.”

One day later, I was at the World Equestrian Games, photographing some of the greatest equine athletes in the world. Six hours east, seven mighty Thoroughbreds fought their own daily battle for their lives and they never left my mind once while I was in Lexington.

November 2010:  Once again, I was on the road to Kentucky, this time to photograph the Breeders' Cup. I stopped by Days End to pay a visit to Zodiac. He and the other Thoroughbreds were all showing improvement; most of the other horses were already on a turnout schedule and had shown great improvement in their weight and overall health.

Zodiac was still in his sling, but looked much better. He had gained weight, and did not look as drawn and gaunt as he did in September. So many horses could not have endured what Zodiac had been through, but there was something about this horse that would not quit.


All winter, I read updates on the Days End website, and Zodiac began to improve in leaps and bounds, literally. He was strong enough to stay out of his sling after a few months, and then there was the joyous video posted online of Zodiac taking his first walk outside (Video).

May 2011: Preakness weekend. The horse who greeted me on my latest visit had regained much of the fire and elegance that he had as a racehorse. Zodiac yawned and luxuriated as his personal grooming team readied him for his photo session. It was clear that the volunteers took great pride in showing off their horse, and Zodiac was basking in the attention.

When he was turned loose in his pasture, Zodiac romped like he was making up for lost time... and he was.

Much has been said in praise of the heart of a Thoroughbred. Zodiac showed heart on the track, and again when he fought the hardest battle of his life

Please visit Days End Farm's website or Facebook page for more information about the work they do for horses in need, like Zodiac, and so many others.

27 comments:

MP Hedges said...

Isn't he something? And I'm not big TB person. I was one of very many who took care of him at his most critical and I must say he was the most gentlemanly patient - human or equine - I have ever cared for. The only thing that cannot be conveyed in the "before" pictures is the smell of the infection in his many wounds. The first hour of my first night I doubted I could finish the shift...then I fed him and the combination of eagerness to eat and good manners not to knock the pan out of my hand won my heart. Love that boy.

The_Knight_Sky said...

Wow! What a good looking horse he turned out to be. A great job by the caretakers.

What's his pedigree?

Equibase does not have a Zodiac listed for some reason.

Cindy said...

Sarah, thank you for the update on Zodiac. His is an amazing story of courage and heart and the will to live. Days End did an amazing job of rehabilitating him. You did an amazing job of chronicling his recovery! And made me cry again but with gladness this time!

Anonymous said...

Truly amazing care and an incredible heart and will to live on Zodiac's part. The dedication of his caretakers was inspiring. I remember the pictures of 8 women literally picking him back up after he collapsed. Just blew me away. Very glad to see someone write about this story.

Anonymous said...

@The_Knight_Sky = Zodiac Zar is the name given to him by Days End Farm when he arrived. His registered name is Rhythmic Moves.

Gina said...

I was fortunate enough to finally meet and groom Zodiac just this week. What a sweetie! Thanks everyone.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics of a beautiful horse. THANKS to all the caregivers that helped save this wonderful horse. Still can't understand how people can do harm to animals.

yatima said...

Wow. How did he survive that? Just wow. Kudos to all his caretakers.

The_Knight_Sky said...

@ Anon - Thanks.

Rhythmic Moves was a pretty good racer with 7 wins in 26 starts while racing from 2005 to 2009. A West Virginia bred sired by the precocious sire Luftikus out of the mare Hot Rhythm (Explosive Red).

It looks like something went wrong in his last race at Charles Town as he "bore out into the turn" according to the chartman. Hopefully those aches have been tended to.

Anonymous said...

The Knight Sky - yes, I am not sure what happened during that particular race, but I do know that he had surgery on one of his front legs. I visited Zodiac last December and he is truly an amazing horse. What a will to live!

Robin V said...

Oh I love this horse and your photos have captured his journey to fight for life. So wonderful to see him just enojoying life again.

Robin V

Kelly U said...

Cannot tell you how much these photos make my day!

Dawn said...

What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing! This is the ultimate example of the thoroughbred's will and courage. A big THANK YOU to all of those who are caring for him.

Anonymous said...

Through many a cold night during recovery, Zodiac warmed many hearts.

Anonymous said...

It's so wonderful what is being done for all the horses. Such beautiful creatures...sentient beings....job well done!!!

Anonymous said...

Zodiac made my day today! Thanks to everyone that cared for him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sarah, for telling a story that needs to be heard. I too, have followed Zodiac's rescue and recovery on the DEFHR facebook page. Throughout his amazing progress, I have never been able to let go of a simmering anger at those who allowed such a magnificent animal deteriorate in such an inhumane way. Reading your blog and now understanding that, one year after being an earner on the track, Zodiac was reduced to the condition he was found, is nothing less than criminal. Unfortunately, unlike his offender(s), Zodiac traveled a hellish path to find his new beginning. Based on the photos you've posted, he's also been blessed to find his happy ending. I can't express the admiration I have for this horse and his caregivers at DEFHR, who saved not only his life, but restored his spirit and dignity as well. Thank you.

Tim Wohlford said...

To say that "I am not a horse person" is an understatement. Horses take one look at me and think "sucker" even if they behave like total gentlehorses with every 11-year-old girl who rides them.

But the story -- shocking. The pictures -- stunning. Thank you for your time and passion.

Anonymous said...

God bless those who took a tragady od human cruelty . Than turned it into a victory for life.
Thast one mighty happy horse.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know Zodiac that well, but well enough to notice the great improvment! I'm very greatful to DEFHR to take their time to help Zodiac! It was definately worth it.

Debrosi said...

i've had the honor of being able to volunteer for days end farm for 2 years and they do phenominal work!! they love the animals and they love what they do. zodiac is living proof of that. so happy to see him romping in the fields with his buddies and being a happy horse again. Bless him and Bless Days End Farm!!!!

Anonymous said...

Zodiac is my hero.

Cheryl Ann said...

What an amazing story and Zodiac sure is an amazing horse! LOVE the photo of him running and enjoying life again! I have two rescued thoroughbreds myself and they sure have heart! GO ZODIAC!!!

katey said...

Sarah, the way you told Zodiac's story was amazing and inspirational. I love seeing your photos on fb, too. You really do have an instinct for the instant to snap the shutter. I remember one thing most of all about Christmas Day this year, and it is the feeling I had seeing Zodiac out in the front pasture as we drove by on our way to yet another obligation of the day. That short moment really made my day. Since then, my life has changed in a way I never imagined it could. The last day of April, I woke up with my lung 75% collapsed & was admitted to the hospital. The biopsy came back pretty bad and the doctor said my lungs look like an 80 year old's who has been smoking for 40 or 50 years. I am only 31. Simple daily tasks are a whole new animal. Your words and phenomenal photography has given me hope. Thank you!!!!!

Anonymous said...

zodiac is doing awwesome now, he is on stall rest right now since he got cut in the field, but he will be going back out on monday

Anonymous said...

Stunning pictures, thank you for showing him galloping in the fields.

Anonymous said...

Days End Always give the horses new names - new name, new life!