Journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover, Part 4: Sven’s Story

Kaitlin Harford, a 16-year-old eventer from Callahan, Florida, is blogging about her journey to competing in this year’s Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover  with her OTTB Family Foundation, better known as Sven. Click here, here and here to read her first three blogs for EN. 

This is where we started... Photo by Jessie Harford

This is where we started. Photo by Jessie Hartford.

I never actually explained how I got Sven. This is the story — we can call it far from a fairytale. A tale of blood, sweat and tears is more like it.

I got both Sven and another OTTB named Evie on November 23 of last year. Mom hurt her knee the day we picked the two horses up so I got to drive the trailer down to Ocala to get them.

When we got home we gave Evie and Sven a few days to relax into their new settings then hopped on them just to see what they were like. Being a mare person I clicked with Evie, a sweet chestnut who also may have bucked me off the second day I rode her but ya know, whatever!

Evie (Jockey Club name: Harborton) was definitely not the bravest horse in the world, but she did try for me. We only worked them once a week to keep them eligible for the Makeover. When we found out I was accepted we decided that Evie was going to be my horse and started listing Sven because I didn’t have time to ride everyone at this point.

We took Sven to his first three-phase, which I wrote about here. Shortly after that I walked out in the field to feed one morning and found Evie laying down, a bit colicky. So we used a concoction our vet told us about to settle her stomach and after a few hours she was good. She was pooping and it seemed like we were in the clear. We kept an eye on her all day and that night she was still fine so we let her be. The next morning my brother came in and told us that Evie was down again.

Evie Head 1

Evie left, Sven right. Photo by Kaitlin Hartford.

We immediately called the vet. Of course that day of all days I got sick — I was in bed and didn’t feel well when the vet came. But the vet tubed her and said she should be good in a couple hours once the oil took its course. I went out to sit with her and just be with my mare. A few hours later she perked up and was acting quite normal, but at around 4 o’clock she hit a downhill spiral. FAST.

Evie and I

Evie and I

There was no time to wait for the vet. We loaded her in the trailer and made it a box stall so if she went down she would be somewhat safe. We drove down to the University of Florida veterinary hospital as fast as we could.

They did everything they could to save her, but the sedatives were wearing off so quickly it wasn’t fair to her and she was suffering way to much. I made the decision to put my beloved redhead mare down. I had watched our dog die in my arms earlier that morning so that was one of the worst days of my life.

A memorial I made for Puppy and Evie:

I couldn’t ride Sven for two weeks. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When I did get on I bawled my eyes out for 20 minutes. One of the hardest things in a horse owner’s life is to transition to another horse after losing one who means the world to you. Sven understood though. He took the time to love on me and slowly convinced me to fall in love with him in return.

Like I said: blood, sweat and tears. We have found tears so far. A lot of them.

We started prepping Sven for a hunter/jumper show and bought some decor for the jumps from Michael’s. Mom came home with flowers and pink sparkly hearts. The flowers went off without a hitch. The hearts … not so much.

My mouth came up bleeding and I thought I had broken my jaw. But two days ago, we had a major breakthrough. We mastered the hearts!

Don't worry, We cleared them Photo by Jessie Hartford

Don’t worry, we cleared them. Photo by Jessie Hartford

Sven’s training has been progressing amazingly and he has come so far in so little time. Remember the first picture from when we started?

The Halfway point Photo by Jessie Hartford

Five months left — halfway point! Photo by Jessie Hartford