This story of Shotgun’s has been waiting to be told for some time. We feel that now is the right time to tell it.
How many times do we hear “It’s only the good ones that get hurt”? Well, here on our stud we have many horses around us and, if any one of them become sick or injured we are devastated, as we consider them all to be special and precious to us for one reason or the other.
One particular calamitous event that precipitates this story was when we lost our beautiful foundation stallion Montcalm Luke in a freak paddock accident. You know, you really can’t appreciate how the loss of such a good stallion can leave such a big black hole in your breeding programme until he’s gone. Luckily we had opted to retain and campaign his fillies and later retire them to the broodmare paddock, which meant that years down the track, our Luke mares are consistently producing lovely elegant and athletic types.
However, there we were, faced with the dilemma of what to do as a result of Luke’s death. We decided that retaining a colt by Luke was the way to go – we had colts born in 2003 and 2004 and mares to foal in 2005. It was going to take a long time to get back on track, but that’s part of the uncertainty and joy of breeding isn’t it?
There were one or two colts that were possibilities but on August 16, 2005 Haydon Avril, a mare that we were hoping would produce a colt, foaled the one that we were waiting for, Silverthorn Shotgun.
Avril was a wonderful producing mare, she had nine foals for us – Carbine, Derringer, Winchester, Ladysmith, Standout, Sniper, Springfield, Showgirl and Shotgun. Her first foal was Carbine, a gelding that many people reading this item would remember. Carbine was a consistent winner in the show ring and before he was five had won Best ASH Gelding at Sydney Royal Show three times! Carbine’s siblings have all had their share of success and we felt that this new foal could be the one we were waiting for.
And what a great type he was! There was no question now of which colt would be retained to take Luke’s place. When Shotgun was four months old Avril died suddenly – another shock loss. We brought the colt in to be reared as a weanling and from that day he was being groomed for our show team. He was a playful colt, always into mischief, getting into scrapes, but luckily nothing too serious. We campaigned him as a yearling colt the first year and had a tremendous amount of success in the led ring. At Sydney Royal Show 2007, Paul rode him in the grand parades – he’d only had a couple of rides previous to this – and he took it all in his stride with all the aplomb of a seasoned horse.
Then the Equine Influenza hit – a national disaster that affected everyone in the horse industry. One day before the Department of Primary Industry completely stopped all movement of horses, our own personal disaster struck. Shotgun, in play, had managed to get his near-side foreleg caught between a six foot high gate and panelled fence. He was trapped and just hanging there by his foot. To free him we had to use a chainsaw to release him – to his credit, he was calm and allowed us to help him out without too much trouble.
Oh, but when we saw the damage to his foot – the fetlock was dislocated and rotating right around and at all angles. It took about two seconds for us to make the decision to try to save him as a sire, if nothing else. We bound the fetlock tightly and loaded him on the float for the two hour drive to Maitland, so that our friend and vet Ian Gollan could have a look and see what could be done to save this brave little colt.
After a great deal of consideration and consultation, Ian decided not to operate but to relocate and realign the foot. Shotgun was brought home the next day with a plaster cast on his leg up to the knee and for the next four months was confined in a loose box to restrict his movement. There was always the question as to whether the uninjured leg would stand up to the enforced pressure of weight distribution compensation, and we were ever mindful to monitor this possibility. He was a most amazing patient and spent his days playing with the milk bottles set up for him on the stable walls, with an old pony in the next stable to keep him company.
The day the plaster came off was the day of truth – how would the leg look? It looked good – puffy, but nice and straight, the cut sustained in the accident had healed, and there was not too much damage caused by the plaster cast. We still had to keep the leg firmly wrapped to give support, and he still had to be confined while the fetlock strengthened up. Eventually the bandages came off and he was allowed more freedom and as the ligaments and sinews re-fused his lameness started to improve. He had many bad days and some good days, then he had many good days and a few bad days, until he was having mostly good days. We were finally getting confidence in the idea that perhaps we’d saved him as a sire after all, and then it wasn’t long before we decided to put him into light work. We consulted with a professional farrier who suggested that we use a breakaway shoe with a roll over toe that would assist the flexion of the affected fetlock.
This was about the time young Elizabeth McKelvey came to work for us and we felt that with her diminutive weight and in the sand arena, it would be a good test to his increasing soundness to have her up on him. He came along so well that we were able to put more and more on him and last year we decided to put him back in the show team. During 2009 and 2010 Shotgun won numerous champion hack and working events. Of late we’ve put him in led stallion classes where he has won champion stallion – although we don’t make a habit of this, as he still bears some thickening on the coronet that, in our opinion, detracts from the presentation of him as a led horse. At the 2009 Cumberland Branch Show Shotgun won the four year old futurity – a great boost to our confidence in his recovery, and at the 2010 Canberra Royal Show, he took out the blue ribbon in the working stallion event. This event certainly tested his soundness, and as well as that was a very prestigious event to win in anyone’s language.
We recently had our broodmares in for pregnancy testing by Ian Gollan when a flashy young colt came forward, catching Ian’s eye. So much so that he had to stop what he was doing and step around to more closely view this youngster who had so drawn his attention. Not only is he the image of Shotgun in every way, he also exudes an innate sense of calm mixed up with a natural curiousness. “What’s this one?” he asked, to which we replied, “that’s Son of a Gun, our first foal by Shottie.” “Well”, he said, “he’s passing on the trait that most certainly saved himself.” Meaning, it was Shotgun’s wonderful temperament and acceptance to his treatment and confinement that was his saving grace. In retrospect, we realise that it took a special horse to rise above all the trials and tribulations thrown at him to bring him back to full recovery.
Progressive X-rays of the injury show the healing process is almost complete and that we can look forward to a total recovery. We were told at the time of the accident that this type of injury is far worse than a break and that there are no documentented success stories to our knowledge on record worldwide, other than a few horses being saved for breeding purposes only.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this account of Shotgun’s accident and recovery and take heart if such a blow comes your way, and know that many things are possible when you are faced with a challenge such as this.