Luke~The Power of the Spirit
by Kim Santamaria
How often do we take the time to truly honor the gifts we have been given through the connections with our horses? How do we meet up with them and is there a greater plan that we are not even aware of at the time we decide to acquire them or do they acquire us?
In March of 2015 I was totally missing my equine connection and started looking for an equine partner to love and grow with. I believe the horse will show up when the time is right and that is the start of the gift. Not having a lot of money to work with, I went on Craig’s List to see if there was anyone locally that might fill my need. I skimmed the ads and found one that talked about an OTTB that needed a home. The ad was short and said he walked, trotted and cantered and needed a home immediately. Like many I like to feel I can help one, but my mind was also reminding me I was not a bold rider and the thoughts of an OTTB did unsettle me a bit. I called and the woman shared his story. He had been retired from the track in 2013 and was sold. The person that had bought him then abandoned him and had quit paying his board. The stable owners then moved him to a back barn where he was put in a pony stall. If anyone remembers last winter in western New York, it was subzero in January and February. This horse had his blanket ripped off by his pasture mates and was pretty much naked in the coldest part of the winter. The plan, I was told, was that the stable owners were planning on sending him to auction to try to recover some of their lost board money. Luckily, the young woman I was talking with had her race horses laid up in this back barn for the winter and her boyfriend recognized “Loopy” from the track. She told me he was known as a “Good Guy.”
That was the start of my encounter with Loopy de Loop: The Good Guy. I did go over that day and met a horse that had a terribly sad look in his eyes, was thin and had many places where his hide had been stripped off by those pasture mates. It was hard not to cry looking at him. Of course my heart wanted to take him immediately, but again, my head was playing the fact he was an OTTB. I went back for the next three days before I finally had the courage to say okay I could take him. In those few days he started to trust me and look in my pockets for the goodies he knew I would bring him. I could feel him saying “just trust me, just trust me.” I did just that and off we went to our new life together.
Those of you that have a little age on you will recognize the name Loopy De Loop as the wolf cartoon character that was once popular. I decided to look up that wolf and found he worked with the Three Musketeers and was known as the “Good Wolf” or the “Good Samaritan,” another connection to the “Good Guy” from the track he was known as. I had a hard time calling him Loopy and asked him if he would like a new name since he was starting a new life. He seemed to smile at me and touched my hand with a nod yes. My research led me to the story of the Good Samaritan that was found in the Gospel of Luke. From that I found the meaning of Luke, as the Power of the Spirit. It seemed to fit and when I asked him, I was given the same yes nod. So from that point on he was known as Luke.
I traced back his racing records and found his owner when he was a race horse. I reached out to her to let her know he was not with the person she had sold him too. She asked if she could come to see him. The next day she, her mother and grandmother showed up with bags of pillow soft peppermints. She sobbed at the sight of him. The whole right side of his back had no muscle tone, his back vertebrae were sticking out between the skin and his hips had room for your hand to fit into the space. His head looked too big for his body and his sores were numerous, but luckily none were infected. We had quite a road of recovery ahead of us but we were supported from his past owner and her family. I spent the first month and a half just brushing and loving him, and we played games in the indoor so that he would build his trust and confidence. I am a holistic nurse that does energy healing work and I found Luke totally enjoyed that as well.
The day came when he was ready for me to climb aboard and I took a deep breath and climbed on and off we went. Our mounted time began and I found he loved it. We progressed and were completely enjoying our connection. I moved Luke to another barn after going there to watch a clinic with Nikki and Paul Alvin Smith. I was so excited at the thought of being able to work with people of that caliber and to allow Luke that kind of expertise. His body was starting to fill out and muscle was developing. By the summer, the right side of his back was rebuilding as well. His head now fit his body. He was a total joy and truly was enjoying his new life as a beginning dressage horse.
In September we had the opportunity to clinic with Gabrielle Armando and Luke again stepped into a new realm of his training. His race owner was often in communication and was thrilled at his progress and how well he had come back. I was enjoying my connection with Luke and he with me. He would look in my pockets for a treat and would come across the pasture when I went out to gather him for time together. His eyes were full of light and he seemed to smile as he worked.
The third week of October 2015, I noticed Luke was not quite himself. He seemed to worry when we rode and he felt different underneath me. A few times he seemed to lose his concentration and would go sideways or backwards. In the past he did not do things like that. I checked for anything that might be bothering him. I felt like something was not quite right, but he would not share anything with me. One day I climbed up and froze. My trainer asked what was wrong; I did not know I just knew something was not right. The chiropractor checked him and found nothing specific. A week after that he acted very strange and I put out a call for the vet. I found his head was tender on the left side behind his ear and in the temple. I noted in his stall at times he would have a blank stare and then when he came out of that space he would walk backwards. From my nursing back round I was pretty sure he was having petite mal seizures. I noted the muscle on the left side of his brow was enlarged as well. When the vet came she did numerous head x-rays, but because x-rays only show bone there was real answer to his issues. She prescribed pain medicine and stomach meds as an ulcer preventative for a week. At the end of the week I could touch his head without him getting upset but his brow seemed larger. One night as I brushed him in his stall, something I had done since I got him, he turned and bit me in the side of my head. I was shocked as he had never done anything like that. My stomach dropped as I felt it was a validation that there was something very seriously wrong with him. About twenty minutes after that incident I went back in his stall and he was very apologetic for his actions. I called the vet yet again and gave her the details of his increased behaviors and the increase in his forehead size. The vet said she wanted to do more diagnostics such as an MRI before she could make a decision of what to do. I could not afford to do an MRI. The stable owners noted his behavior in the pasture was more aggressive and he was not himself at all. My heart ached as I knew he had something growing in his head. In my work as a nurse I have had to advocate for a patients or their families. I reached out to another vet and shared all my information with her. I needed to advocate for Luke as I did not want him to start with grand mal seizures to hurt himself or someone else. Her response validated my thoughts. She said when you see an enlargement in the muscle over the brow like that it usually suggests a brain lesion or tumor. My heart was broken, but I knew I could not let him suffer and I must honor him with a crossing over before some emergency situation presented.
On November 23, 2015 Luke crossed over to the other side. From March to November I had an experience one will never forget. Luke opened doors for me I had not touched upon since the 1990s. I grew and I watched him go from a sad horse with a loss of pride to one that was filled with pride and eyes filled with joy. I am so humbled to have traveled the path with him even if only for a short time. Were our paths meant to cross? I believe so. He was a gift.