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☛ Retirement home for cutting horses 5-6-17

BEYOND THEIR PRIME

 

INJURED CUTTING HORSES FIND A RETIREMENT HOME

 

By Robin Fowler
May 6, 2017

Pete May Jr. and his wife Amanda operate Cutting Edge Retirement Foundation in Springtown, Texas.

As equine competition becomes increasingly specialized, so do the injuries valuable cutting horses endure.

And that’s where Cutting Edge Retirement Foundation of Springtown, Texas, and farrier Pete May Jr. step in. Cutting Edge is dedicated to caring for performance horses that have suffered career-ending injuries and are no longer able to compete. Call it assisted living for horses.

While injured mares and stallions still have value as breeding horses into their old age, injured geldings – which make up the bulk of the residents at Cutting Edge – have few prospects unless they can be rehabilitated for light riding or remain comfortable enough to serve as companion horses. Many of their problems involve stifle, suspensory ligament injuries or other lameness issues.

Some 70 to 80 percent of horses at Cutting Edge are retired cutters that can benefit from May’s 20-year expertise as a professional farrier. About 99 percent of his customers are cutters, including some of the top cutting horses, trainers and owners in the business. Some horses have landed at Cutting Edge from as far away as California and Colorado.

Spookys Catmando, a 2001 gelding (High Brow Cat x San Starlight) gives Petre May Jr. a hug. The gelding earned more than !65,000 during his NCHA cutting career.

“We have had cutting horses who have earned six figures, but they’re all special to us,” May says, noting that former show horses in residence at Cutting Edge have averaged $70,000 in earnings. The herd has included a few other types of performance horses as well, including an AQHA World Champion rope horse. One of the early horses that inspired May to form Cutting Edge was an abandoned pony whose hooves were so long that she could hardly walk.

Since the beginning of his career as a farrier, May’s attention has been focused on crippled horses that needed more help than others. He attended farrier school in 1997 at age 16, then apprenticed with legendary farrier Gene Cunningham. From the beginning he was concerned about the dilemma faced by the industry’s most famous injured performance horses and wanted to learn how to help them live a productive retirement.

“We give them a good retirement,” says May. “Some are still rideable for kids, some are not rideable at all, and some are suitable only as companion horses. Some are adopted out,” he says, but those with significant injuries spend the rest of their lives with May and his family at the foundation’s Springtown facility.

“We adopted out five at the end of last year,” May recalls. One couple, he says, wanted a companion for their 15-year-old gelding whose pasture mate had died. May showed them three that he thought were appropriate – two former show horses and a former turnback horse – and the couple couldn’t decide which they liked best. “So they took all three,” said May with a smile.

Some arrive in pairs or buddy up quickly – but for some, it is the first time in their lives they have had friends — human or horse. May likens them to professional athletes and believes many have been confined to stalls too long. In some cases, that can lead to atrophy both of body and mind, he says.

“At first they often don’t interact with other horses or people,” said May.

Pete May Jr. and his mother, Toby May. Most of the residents at Cutting Edge are geldings and Widows Peek, a 1985 gelding (Docs Borrego x Chunky Widow) found his way there in his old age.

During their show careers, horses may have had brief daily contact with each of the various handlers that feed, clean, lope and train them but may not bond with any of them.

“Too valuable to risk injury at play, some have not been turned out with other horses since they were yearlings,” May says.

“Sometimes when we turn them out here, they really don’t know what to do. They just stand in a corner,” adds his wife, Amanda, who is also a director for the nonprofit,

May has the advantage of having handled the shoeing needs of several of the horses, both during their show careers and later in retirement.

“Their disposition changes so much here,” he says, pointing to one that didn’t like people much when he was a show horse. “Now he’s a totally different horse.”

Cutting Edge is situated on 23 acres in Springtown and has the use of another 20 acres owned by family friends five minutes away. Horses that are new to the facility are carefully placed with compatible companions on ground that best serves their needs. For example, arthritic horses occupy level pastures and geldings that need more exercise are assigned to hilly terrain.

“Horses are grouped according to what their needs are,” May says. “Lower-maintenance horses occupy the 20-acre pasture down the road, while horses that need more attention live a few steps from our May residence.”

May can take 20 to 30 horses at a time and notes that he must turn away just as many due to lack of space. One recent arrival had been on a waiting list for three years.

Cutting Edge is a godsend to owners who have professional trainers but no horse facilities of their own where they can keep injured retirees. And with some resident equines requiring special shoes costing $300 to $400, May’s foundation allows owners to concentrate their finances on their healthy limited-age event horses. But many of his customers also become major financial supporters of the nonprofit.

“We get a lot of support from my customers., says May, noting that recent donations have included a much-needed grain silo and financial gifts that paid for eight new loafing sheds. In addition, supplements, wormers and equipment often are donated. Brazos Valley Equine Hospital provides veterinary care, and other area veterinarians have been supportive. Dennis Moreland Tack recently designed a sling for horses with stifle injuries to keep them comfortable during shoeing.

“We haven’t paid for hay in at least three years,” May says, “It’s remarkable how much help we’ve had. There’s a need for it.”

The Foundation also recently received a breeding to High Brow Cat, which May hopes to auction during the NCHA Futurity this December. But its biggest accomplishment is the future carefree, and hopefully pain-free, days in the pasture due these appreciated former athletes.

Noteworthy is that horses that are or have been residents include Dualin Jewels, Spookys Catmando, Widows Peek, Hick Of A Mate and Very Special Bet, among others.

“They just get to be horses – that’s what they’re here for,” May says. “If we can find them a good home on top of that. We do that as well,” .

Those who are adopted out continue to be shod or at least monitored by May or other farriers who work with him. The nonprofit’s contract requires that if adopters can no longer keep their horse, it must be returned to the foundation. Adoption fees average $500, more if the horse can be ridden and less if not. None is capable of continued competition.

As to those who adopt the Foundation’s horses, “It’s been pretty cool to see how much these people fall in love with them,” says May, who has been shoeing horses for 20 years this summer. “That’s something many of these horses don’t experience in their lifetime. Ninety percent of these guys have never had anyone give them a treat.”

Cutting Edge incorporated four years ago and filed as a Texas nonprofit in 2012. It initially operated under the umbrella of another nonprofit but recently received its own 501(c)3 approval.

For more information: Look for Cutting Edge Retirement Foundation on Facebook, call 940-390-9209 or email cuttingedgeretirement@live.com.

 

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One Comment

  1. GREAT READ!!!! AND GREAT PEOPLE!!!! MORE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS!!

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