As prescribed by Paulina Constancia
Today we listen to the story of horse trainer Kevin Noltemeyer and his faith in and commitment to an injured colt.
Keeping Faith In An Injured Colt
by Kevin Noltemeyer
Working on a layup farm in Lexington Kentucky, we see horses of all conditions. We have horses with bowed tendons, torn tendons, laminitis, to mention a few, and many routine surgery patients. The experiences have been great, some sad that end happy and others that vets, blacksmiths and others in the industry say that there is no chance of the horse making it back to the races. When those horses do make it back to the races and compete is the greatest thrill for someone in our position. The story that has given me the most thrill and was a wild ride that almost brought me to tears the day that he ran the first time; the owner, vet and many trainers in the business told me day in and day out that the horse does not have a chance and I was beginning to believe it myself.
During the September sales at Keeneland in 2012, a 3 year old colt arrived on the farm. He was a big, beautiful, fully in tacked colt by Grand Reward. The owner called and told me to give the horse a chance and whatever I do, DO NOT LOOK DOWN. Of course, I looked down and found that his back leg was slightly bigger than a softball. He had torn his tendon 99% when he was acting up as a two year old and almost completely severed his tendon in a wheel barrel. This was going to be a long process and everyone laughed when they saw the size of the tendon that could be seen as injured from a distance. I spoke with the referring vet and she said that the tendon was restructuring properly but the chance of him not making it back to the races was the same percent as the tendon was torn.
We started him back under tack and jogged him for 2 months before beginning to gallop. During the time that he was jogging, people that were passing through would laugh and tell us that even if by some miracle he were to get back to the races, he would never pass the prerace exam. He did, he finished third in his second lifetime start and won his third time out.
The most satisfying part of the story is that people that I have not seen since they were on the farm ask about him and still laugh while asking the question. It always gives me great pleasure in telling them that he is now 12-4-1-1 lifetime and he is still on the track running and has won an allowance race and ran in a stake finishing 6th of 12. I even ran into the vet that was making sure the tendon was holding together strong through the duration of his training, and she was the most surprised of them all. She is solely a tendon specialist and has seen cases all over the world and the look of surprise on her face when she found out that he made it back to the track was priceless.
This story is why we wake up early in the morning and stay late into the night. Horses can give you so much and ask someone that is full of stories like this and they will tell you that working hard while with horses makes it all worth it.
About our Contributor: KEVIN NOLTEMEYER
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky about 10 minutes from Churchill Downs where I fell in love with racing at a young age. I attended Churchill Downs meets on the weekends and never missed an Oaks or Derby. After graduating from high school, I began following my love for horse racing and transitioned from front side to the backside. While in college at Indiana University Southeast for Business and Finance, I walked hots and groomed in the morning for Paul McGee while attending classes in the afternoons. After working for Paul, I was given the opportunity to move to New York and work for Todd Pletcher at Saratoga. Following the Saratoga meet, I worked for Dallas Stewart at Churchill Downs. When Dallas moved his string to Louisiana, I pulled my trainer’s license and began a string of my own for a year before heading to southern California where I worked for Barry Abrams and Eoin Harty. In 2010, I moved back to Kentucky and joined the yearling division at Lane’s End before accepting my role as Farm Trainer at Margaux. I have been with Margaux Farm for the past three years.