I have been meaning to share Gallon's entire story (or what I know of it), but it's really quite the story and deserves much recognition, so I thought a blog post was necessary. I think that if Gallon had a movie written about his life, it could be a huge box office success, but you can let me know what you think at the end of reading it. Let me emphasize, this is only what I have gathered from several sources since I met Gallon in October of 2017, so there could be (well, there is) so much more to his story that I don't know yet, and perhaps I will never know.
Early Career / 2005-2010
Gallon was foaled April 1st, 2005 at a thoroughbred breeding farm in Tennessee, USA - an April Fool's Day foal! He is by the 1998 Belmont Stakes winner, Canadian-bred thoroughbred Victory Gallop, and out of a thoroughbred broodmare, Bellehop. (Click here to see Victory Gallop's '98 Belmont run).
In 2006, he was taken to the Keeneland Yearling Sale in Kentucky to be auctioned. He was hip #4710. He was bid on for $34,000, but this was below the minimum price set by his consignor, so the status of the sale was RNA, or "reserve not attained". I do not know how much he ended up selling for to the owner's he started his racing career with, just that he was appraised for over $34,000, and he was eventually sold to a couple who owned multiple thoroughbreds in Washington.
On July 1st, 2007, Gallon raced for the very first time as a 2-year-old in a Maiden special weight at Emerald Downs, Washington, USA. Gallon was bumped near the starting gate, but challenged his rival for the entire race, then ended up being bumped again near the quarter and wasn't able to win, but placed 2nd, showing a promising future in racing.
Gallon continued to race at Emerald Downs for the majority of his race career, but also raced at Bay Meadows, Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Fields, Oak Tree and Hastings. The 'biggest' race he won was the Emerald Downs Derby, with a purse of $55,000. Click here if you would like to read the race chart, which includes footnotes on what occurred during the race - Gallon actually placed 2nd, but was bumped twice by the winner, who was disqualified. By 2010, he was 5 years old and retired from his racing career with 26 starts, 5 wins, 6 places (2nds), and 5 shows (3rds). He had won over $250,000, and his highest racing class achieved was "Multiple Stakes Horse". The three years he spent racing as a stakes horse was, I believe, with the same owners who purchased him as a yearling.
It doesn't appear Gallon was injured in his final race in 2010, but he may have injured himself soon afterwards, or it's possible he was just retired due to his age and not being able to compete strongly like he did in 2007 and 2008. Gallon appeared to have fallen off the grid after his retirement from racing in 2010.
Late Career / 2010-2016
He changed ownership at some point soon after his "retirement" and was given with papers to his groom, and according to records, officially appeared back on the racing scene in 2015, when he was 10 years old. This time, he was no longer competing in races of any prestige, but instead was being entered in claiming races in Montana and Idaho. Claiming races are for the the lowest-class horses on the track. Every horse has a price tag in a claiming race. It can be bought or "claimed" out of the race for this price. If someone wants to claim the horse, he or she may put a request in before the race. They become the new owner of the horse after the race, regardless of whether the horse wins or finishes last. The original owner gets the purse or winnings if the horse finishes in the money, and the new owner gets the horse — even it is injured or dies in the race. Gallon raced in these claiming races four times. His owner technically changed after each race, but, a family that dominates these claiming races in Montana was claiming him back and forth, so he never really changed owners; to get around losing him they would pass him back and forth between family members - among loads of other thoroughbreds they collected and entered into claimers. Although ownership was legally being "transferred" to different family members after each race, it seems that Gallon stayed with the groom he was given to for this entire period of his life. Gallon performed poorly in these races, placing 3rd once, 4th twice, and 6th, in relatively small fields. His first two claiming races were incredulously close together, as were his final two claiming races. His first and second were July 18th and July 25th, 2015, and his third and final were July 24th and July 30th, 2016, as an 11 year old. In Gallon's final race on September 10th, 2016, an allowance race, the next step up from a claiming race, he placed 6th and was finally retired from racing for good. Or so it appears from his records.
It was terrible finding out that a great racehorse went from running nobly to running in claiming races as a 10 to 11 year old after 5 years off. What is worse, is that with the help of several of Gallon's connections, I was able to find out that he wasn't retired those 5 years between the stakes races and the claiming races (2010-2015), and was given to the groom with knowledge that he would continue to be raced, and that Gallon was running in unrecorded bush track and Indian races before the recorded claiming races in 2015 and 2016. It is likely that there were many more races unrecorded between those four claiming races, and potentially after his "final" allowance race.
From approximately 2010 (when he changed owners after his original retirement) to late 2016, when he was sent to California, Gallon was living in hellish conditions on an Indian reservation range. He had no shelter, no food other than the "pasture", which was dried up or under 6' of snow part of the year. He was given no blanket in below zero temperatures. He was also barefoot this entire time, was racing barefoot, and most likely didn't have any veterinary or farrier care. Some of the races he was run in for this 6-year period of time were also bareback, without any proper tack, and commonly with heavy male jockeys.
I am unsure if the groom finally decided to end the racing because of his poor performance, or if Gallon injured himself and was unable to race again.
Officially, Gallon ended his racing career with a total of 31 starts and a total earnings of $262,999, but I don't know how many starts he really had from 2010 to 2016 - I am certain; however, that it was more than the 5 which are recorded. 6 years is a long time. Unofficially, I have no idea how many starts he really had.
Rescued - A Breeder's Love / 2016-2017
What makes Gallon's story all the more special is what happened when his breeder and her family found out about what Gallon was enduring. This family took full responsibility for Gallon, a horse they had brought into this world, and were able to save him from his life on the Indian reservation. I cannot imagine what they went through to get him safely away from his situation, but I know it was not easy and I am so thankful for them. If it were not for them, I would have never met Gallon, and like so many other racehorses, he could have fallen through the cracks.
In November 2016, Gallon was sent to Santa Cruz, to a close friend of his breeders, straight from the reservation in Idaho. Gallon was immediately fully assessed by Edgewater Equine. He was in such bad shape physically and emotionally that he would fire at anyone who tried to walk behind him. He had his teeth floated for the first time in a long time - potentially years. They were in horrible shape, so horrible that the vet knew it was going to take multiple appointments to get them back to being right. He was started on a better, high quality diet, and for the first time in a long time, allowed to just be a horse for 30 days and begin to mentally, physically, and emotionally rejuvenate.
After those 30 days, Gallon started into a rehabilitation program. He was being walked on a eurocisor for 30 minutes per day, put on the vitafloor for 30 minutes twice per day, and was allowed on grass pasture turnout for 5 hours per day. His amount of time on the eurocisor was slowly increased, and he spent time learning how to behave in the cross-ties and wash racks. Gallon was eventually reassessed by a veterinarian at Steinbeck and was cleared to start work under saddle.
He had about 10 rides under his belt when his breeder came to visit him in person in California. Knowing about CANTER, she decided that she would like to place Gallon with CANTER so that somebody could keep tabs on him and he would not fall through the cracks, and he could eventually find his forever home. She knew though that for Gallon to have a better chance of adoption, he would be better off with more training. Gallon was sent to a trainer in Watsonville for 90 days. Unfortunately, while Gallon was with this trainer, he had trouble keeping weight on and was not excelling in their program. CANTER California's NorCal program had space, and he was brought to Davis.
To Davis - Our Story / 2017-Present
Gallon was transported to Davis, California (where I live!) on October 26th, 2017.
When Gallon arrived in Davis, he stepped off the trailer looking rough. His coat was lackluster, he was underweight, he was unsure of the world, and he had a mechanical lameness in his right hind limb. His body told the tale of the life he had endured.
Gallon was un-trusting, reactive, and threatened those who tried to get close to him with two hind hooves. Knowing Gallon now, I can only imagine how unsure he must have been to be changing environments again - He didn't know that it was because there are people who love him. When CANTER's veterinarian was able to examine him, she found the right tip of his pelvis had been completely broken off (known as a 'knocked hip'), he had a fracture in one of the vertebra in his neck, kissing spine syndrome, and Osselets (traumatic arthritis of the fetlock) in all four of his legs. Upon his dental exam, his teeth were also still severely hooked and cutting into his cheeks, most likely making it painful for him to eat. He also had gastric ulcers, and fungus growing on his legs.
The first time I saw Gallon was on Halloween, a few days after he had arrived to Davis. I saw him from across the yard, and noticed two things about him - First, the right hind lameness, that was almost equivalent looking to my horse Dante's, who suffered from a large gluteal tear as a yearling and from a right stifle fracture in his 20's. For those of you who know me, you know how I adore Dante, and how seeing a horse with something so oddly similar, I was immediately drawn to him. Second, was his massive frame for a thoroughbred. I knew that although he looked rough, there was so much potential for him to bloom with love. Gallon only stands at 16.2, but he's incredibly uphill with a massive shoulder and girth, making him seem so much larger. I called my mom after leaving the barn, not even having met Gallon yet, and told her CANTER had received a new horse. "Mom, you know how I believe in love at first sight? I have to find a way to afford two horses. Gallon has to be Dante's brother!" I exclaimed wildly. She was probably rolling her eyes on the other end.
I expressed an interest in Gallon, and began spending time with him. My friend Jody, who is a coordinator for the CANTER Northern California program, told me I was welcome to spend time with him every day, if I was interested, even though he couldn't do much aside from walk on a lunge line. Of course, I was interested.
Just looking at Gallon, you can tell he has a great story to tell, so I made it my job to know it. I don't know if horses can feel vibes from people or not, but I have always felt that they do understand intention. Gallon must have understood mine, and how much I just wanted to get to know him, and listen to him, because I was the only person who he never once threatened to kick or to bite.
After a couple of months of hand walking, easy workouts on the lunge line, body work, and shockwave therapy, Gallon was cleared by his veterinarian to start work under saddle. Jody messaged me and asked if I wanted to ride him - of course I did. It was December 21st and I was incredibly ill at the time. My horse Dante's health was declining rapidly and between the stress of that and the time of year, I was struggling to stay upright with a pounding head, terrible sore throat, and congestion everywhere. If it were any other time, I think I would've said "I can't ride", but I remember thinking, "I need to be there for him today". A couple of DayQuils and a lot of fluids later I was at the barn and getting Gallon ready for our first ride together.
I think I already loved him, but fell in love with him more that day. We trotted for maybe 2 minutes each direction and walked the rest of the time. I could feel what an odd gait he had, but he was so kind and soft under saddle, just happy to have a job, and willing to take any direction I gave him. His ears never flickered back and stayed pricked forward, unless it was one coming back to listen to me.
A few days later, on December 26th, I had to euthanize my horse Dante. I flew to Hawaii the next day and spent 10 days grieving in Maui - the best thing I could have done for myself. Gallon had other CANTER volunteers to care for him, and when I returned home, there was G, ready to begin 2018 with me. He had also apparently missed me quite a bit; all the CANTER volunteers told me: "He just tolerates us".
Gallon helped me heal and was a face at the barn who was always waiting for me to arrive. He amazes me, (in many ways), but one of the ways is because as his exercise routine increased he never faltered. He continued to become sounder, fitter, and better than any of us could have predicted when he arrived in Davis. We had hoped we would rehab him to be adopted out as a light riding horse, but what had seemed more likely was that he would be adopted as a pasture pet.
In early April, Gallon was cleared by his veterinarian to be adopted out as a riding horse that could withstand moderate work. I had to decide if I wanted to start fielding emails and showing him to interested people, or if I wanted to fill out the adoption application myself. It wasn't a hard decision. My friends at CANTER told me my adoption application had been approved and Gallon would be my horse on April 12th, 2017 - Dante's birthday. My boys never got to meet, but now they are forever tied.
I can't imagine the things that Gallon has seen in his life - I know he has seen more in his 13 years on Earth than I have in my 22. I don't know how long he will remain sound enough to ride, or even to be worked, but that doesn't matter. The absolute only thing that matters is that for the first time in his life, that is the only uncertainty Gallon faces. He will never be used for personal gain, have his voice quieted, or be without love ever again. He will be with me for the rest of his life, and I know that even once his riding days are done, I will continue to learn from the wisdom he has to share.
Gallon is a war horse, my diamond in the rough, a flicker of light in the darkest of nights, and a reminder that love can transform you, and make you better than you knew possible.