Thursday, January 01, 1998

Gusto's Rescue - Heidi Smith DVM

Ten days ago, a post appeared on ridecamp (the endurance list) from someone named Michelle Eddy (someone I don`t even know) forwarding the plight of an Arabian stallion in a feedlot in California awaiting slaughter. Imagine my shock and horror when I scrolled down and discovered that the horse in question was Aya Gusto, a wonderful colt that I was responsible for breeding, that I had foaled out, and who I had no idea was in danger of being sold into such dire straits!

Gusto`s story began long before his conception. I was trying to gather a group of good mares to breed to the stallion Argonaut, who came to central Oregon at a very advanced age, hence was not likely to be around for a lot of years. I contacted a very good friend of mine in southern California who had a group of mares he was willinig to lease to me, including Gusto`s dam Aya Augusta (Aurab x Tueyma). This mare was particularly special to me for several reasons, one being that she was the daughter of the only full sister to my foundation stallion Surrabu, and one being that she was one of the kindest, nicest mares I have ever had the privilege to know. She had been through a rough life--she had suffered founder from a retained placenta, and then had been mistakenly confined, with the thought that she would do herself more damage if she were free to exercise.

Consequently, when she came here, she was a bit on the unlovely side, with poor muscle tone, underweight, and in dire need of foot care. Still, the hand that life had dealt her did not alter the fact that she was an absolutely lovely mare in her day, nor did it change the quality of her genetics. Augusta also had some problems producing Gusto; because of her age she suffered from a condition called uterine insufficiency, and Gusto was born with badly contracted tendons. He also nearly did not get born; his nose hooked on his mother`s pelvic brim during delivery, and I was fortunate to be able to grab hold of it and get it pointed out before contractions drove his head further down and out of reach. He spent two days in leg braces before he could stand on his own, and one of the braces slipped off of its padding briefly and cut his foot, leaving a scar on his coronet band. Still, he was a dandy colt, and a real sweetie--I felt fortunate to have produced him and to have gotten him up and going, and he never seemed to look back once he got through his immediate troubles at birth.

Four of the mares from this lease had foals by Argonaut; as part of the lease, I was able to keep two, and two returned to the owner of the mares in southern California. Gusto was one of the two who went back. Both his owner and I agreed that he was stallion quality, and I expected to be able to breed to him at some point on down the road. I was startled when his owner sold him as a three-year-old to a woman in Escondido--I had seen him a few times and he was growing up nicely. The owner was trying to regroup his program somewhat, though, and felt secure that the colt had gone to a good home. That was the last I had heard of Gusto until I saw the horrible post on ridecamp.

Needless to say, the keyboard started humming here! I contacted Gail Garrett (whose post Michelle had forwarded) and was eventually routed to RoseAnn Nemes of Arabian Horse Rescue Network. It has been a real privilege to work with RoseAnn over the past ten days to get Gusto rescued, and I have come to admire her hard work and professionalism. Normally, it is RoseAnn`s policy to geld stallions that she rescues, which I applaud. (Lord knows there are plenty of good geldings out there masquerading as stallions!) However, RoseAnn was impressed with Gusto and really did her homework checking into his background. She found folks that I have never heard of (as well as several who I know) who told her that Gusto`s CMK lines were being preserved by many of us, and not to be in a big hurry to geld this boy if she could place him in the right hands. I will be eternally grateful to those folks for their advice to her. I was also impressed at how carefully RoseAnn checks out her adoptive homes. If you are not already acquainted with what this lady does, check her out at her web site ( She works on a pretty tight budget, and can always use donations.

To make a long story short, I just returned home from a 2000-mile round trip to bring Gusto home for good. He is a bit thin and has a case of ringworm around one eye, but otherwise does not seem too much the worse for wear. (I found out during my various e-mail and telephone conversations that his odyssey started approximately two months ago when he went through a sale in Pomona; he later went through another sale in Bakersfield before ending up at the lot where RoseAnn was eventually able to rescue him.) He is friendly and was definitely looking for a person; about the third time I climbed up on the fender well to check on him, I started to see "ears" and recognition, beginning to hope that perhaps I would be a permanent fixture that he could depend on. He is a gentleman, hauled well, ate and drank well in the trailer, and is at this moment chowing down in my isolation paddock. (RoseAnn forewarned me that the feedlot where he was is notorious for strangles, so he will stay isolated until he is past the incubation period--we will all keep our fingers crossed, but he seems healthy other than his ringworm.) He even seemed grateful for the attention when I stopped at a drug store on the way home for a tube of miconazole to start treating the ringworm--must have felt good having it applied!

I owe a debt of gratitude to Michelle and Gail, who I have never met but whose posts brought Gusto`s plight to my attention, as well as to RoseAnn for helping me get this wonderful horse back where he belongs.

Heidi Smith, DVM--Sagehill Arabians (Oregon)

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