It was during our Saturday night tradition of watching our favorite recorded “Brit-coms” with a generous gin and tonic each that my phone rang and I made the motion to answer it.
“Why don’t you turn off the ringer?” Paul asked, slightly annoyed as he put “Doc Martin” on pause.
Because, I reminded him, as both our moms reside at a retirement facility, we always want to be available in case of an emergency. But this number, I squinted at the phone, was coming in from New York and I’m sorry to say my curiosity got the better of me and I answered it.
“Hello, Pam, my name is Andy, and I used to own your horse, Forrest,” came the kindly voice on the other end. “I tracked you down through Rerun Thoroughbred rescue and thought you might like to know Forrest’s backstory as it’s quite amazing.”
“It’s about Forrest!” I mouthed to Paul, who rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oh, great, horses. Again.”
“We have a few race horses that we’ve bred and raised ourselves, and when Forrest was born,” Andy began as I turned my back on Paul and listened hard, “it was a difficult birth and my trainer called to tell us he showed no interest in nursing and didn’t look good. We took him to the clinic in Rhinebeck and the vets there told us his kidneys were in bad shape and he was failing.”
“When Forrest was born, he was dying!” I whispered hoarsely to Paul who, now checking Facebook, replied, “Well, we all are, after we’re born.”
“I asked the vets if they could save him,” Andy continued, “and they said, ‘We can try,’ and I asked how much it would cost because if it was going to be hugely expensive, like, $10 grand, then, you know,” he trailed off.
“Sure,” I agreed.
“But they said it would be about a thousand a day, so, I said, ’go for it.’ ”
“A thousand a day!” I eeked to Paul who said, “You do realize you have a speaker button on your phone, right?”
“So Forrest stayed there for awhile and, after a few days, he began to rally and surprised everyone by recovering, but the problem was, because of his difficult delivery, his front legs were so crooked, so ’over in the knee,’ ” Andy explained, describing a condition where the front legs look bent at the knees even when a horse is standing as straight as it can, “that then the vets had to custom-make special braces, splints, for him to wear on his legs for six months.”
“Just like Forrest Gump!” I gasped to Paul who reminded me with a pointed finger that I had the speaker on.
“And I thought, this horse is just like Forrest Gump as a kid!” Andy echoed.
“And when the braces came off?” I urged, leaning forward slightly.
“When the braces came off, he was turned out with the other youngsters in the field, but was pretty much the low man on the totem pole, and it was even more like the movie, getting picked on all the time. However, he was completely normal and galloped around, so I thought I’d call him Run Forrest Run, but that name was already taken, so we chose Go Forrest Go. Anyway, it’s just amazing that he survived at all. He did race at Belmont and finished fourth, and I had an offer on him, but I didn’t want to see him go to the minor leagues, in claiming races, and be raced ’til he broke down, so we just gave him and his brother, Eli, to Rerun and asked Lisa to find good homes for them, and we’re just delighted he’s with you.”
Even Paul looked moved at this last bit of information.
I thanked Andy, not only for this wonderful tale about my new horse but for being one of the good guys: the race owners that truly care about their animals. The ones that don’t send them to auction to be bought up by the slaughterhouses, the ones that don’t grab a quick buck, but are true horsemen, in every sense of the word.
And, Andy, Forrest sure thanks you, too.