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Witt Way's Second Chance

Witt Way's Second Chance

By: Alexis Arbaugh

Beginning his racing career as a two-year-old in 2012, Witt Way developed chips in both knees during his three-year-old season. His connections opted for surgery to remove the chips, and after some downtime to heal, he began his racing career again as a four-year-old. Although he was completely sound, he just wasn’t progressing in his training, and after just fifteen career starts, it appeared that Witt Way was not destined to be a great racehorse. Fortunately for the young Thoroughbred, his thoughtful connections all agreed he would excel in another career and in 2014 Witt Way retired from racing and began looking for a new home.

That is when Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) decided to take him. “His racing connections thought he had plateaued at that point,” Founder and Executive Director Lynn Reardon said. “They felt he needed a new career and donated him to LOPE. The vast majority of our horses are donated by their racing connections, which is really cool to see.”

The four-year-old gelding arrived at Reardon’s Driftwood, Texas facility in October of 2014 and made his presence known right away. “One of the things that stands out to me was how friendly and kind Witt Way was,” said Reardon. “He was of course tall, dark and handsome — with a splashy star too! But Witt Way was truly a case of ‘Handsome is as handsome does’ — he was sensible, willing and just a sweet guy all-around.”

From his arrival at LOPE, “Witt,” as he is now called, exhibited his natural abilities and proved to be a nice mover on the ground. His knee chip removal could prove difficult for any future jumping or Eventing homes, but Reardon and her team were confident that he could excel on the flat. “He had the perfect build and movement for dressage,” stated Reardon.

A tall, dark, and handsome natural mover was just what Roxanne Ellingsworth was looking for when she began her search for a new dressage partner in 2015, that’s when she happened upon the LOPE website. “I found him online and fell in love with him,” said Ellingsworth. “He looked like a diamond in the rough to me.” So Roxanne hooked up her truck and trailer and headed to LOPE. “[I] had to have him,” she said.

Although Reardon and the rest of LOPE had witnessed Witt’s natural movement from the ground, he had yet to have his first ride off track, which didn’t sway Roxanne at all. “He was never ridden at the rescue,” she said. “I was the first one on him after the track and he was a perfect gentleman.” So together they began Witt’s retraining in dressage. “He was taking to it [Dressage] like a duck to water,” Roxanne recalled proudly. “[He’s a] complete Dressage diva!”

The pair trained and competed in lower-level dressage successfully for the following seven years, until just last year when something about Witt didn’t feel right to Roxanne – her beloved gelding was suddenly struggling at the canter.

“We just kept thinking it’s his feet, he has typical Thoroughbred feet – thin soles no heel,” she explained. “But it was getting worse, and I know him so well, something [was] wrong.” Knowing her partner better than anyone, Roxanne began to do some research, looking for a solution to what was ailing Witt. “Sure enough he fit the bill for kissing spine disease,” she said.

Overriding dorsal spinous processes, also known as “kissing spine”, occurs when the vertebrae in a horse’s spine are too close together, causing the small bits of bone that extend upward from the vertebrae to “kiss” together. The lack of space between these bones reduces mobility in the back and in turn causes pain and/or discomfort as the spinous processes interfere with each other. It is one of the leading causes of back pain in equines, but can be treated in a variety of ways, one of which includes surgery.

While Witt begun his rehab and recovery and Roxanne is happy to look to the future. “Once we are back fit again it’s off to 1st level and my goal is my USDF Bronze Medal with him. That will take us to 3rd level,” she said proudly. “He is gorgeous in the show ring and just struts his stuff. He was born for Dressage.”

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