I want to tell you about Zuper, my “right hand” helper here at the ranch. We first met in 2004, as I walked along the shedrows of Sam Houston Race Park.
“Hey, lady!”, an outrider reined his horse by me as I walked along the track shed rows. He was tall and hard faced, with a grim scowl lined on his face. “Lady!” Startled, I looked up, feeling like a naughty cocker spaniel.
“Barn J – there’s a trainer gal there named Robin. Her horse got injured last night – he needs a home.” I nodded, wondering why he was going out of his way for this horse.
I soon met Robin and her injured horse. Zuper was gorgeous. A tall bay with an endearing splash of white on his nose, he radiated wisdom and Buddha cheer. Zuper was nine years old, ancient for a working racehorse. His right front leg was grotesquely swollen at the ankle – like a cartoon character hit by an anvil, the injury had created a triple sized ankle.
Robin explained that he needed months of pasture rest, that the ankle would never be the same. Zuper looked calmly at me, with confidence and poise, an expectation of good times in his eyes.
“I don’t want to sell him” she said emphatically. “Just want to give him to a good home” Zuper arrived at our adoption ranch soon after, one of the first arrivals there.
I felt sorry for Zuper – he was handsome and intelligent but so limited. The type of horse most people would dismiss as “useless” with his permanently injured ankle.
But then unexpected things happened – every previous race owner of Zuper contacted me, asking how he was doing. A racetrack gambler emailed, to thank Zuper for all the times he won. In spite of his ankle, Zuper quickly established himself as the herd boss. He is masterful at calming down the younger, more nervous horses.
Zuper is also an early detection warning system. If a neighbor’s calf wanders on to our place or a horse acts ill – Zuper will stop suddenly, frozen in an alert posture, staring. And he is our best equine supermodel, posing shamelessly whenever a reporter or camera crew appears.
I soon realized that this “useless” horse has had a tremendous impact on many people. And that I have come to rely on him for many key duties.
I promoted Zuper to assistant ranch manager – a wise move, as more and more racehorses arrived at the ranch that first year. And I needed all the help I could get.
Zuper is now indispensable here – the exact opposite of a “useless” horse – we can’t imagine running the ranch without him!