Horse racing is alive and well in the BVI and the BVI Horse Owner’s Association is a proud and active part of promoting the sport. But animal lovers wonder, what happens when these beasts of burden retire? Where do they go? Who takes care of them?
This is the story of one such creature who retired to find a loving new owner and a new ‘afterlife’, post racing. Stetson was born and raised here in the BVI. He was a valiant racehorse in his day, a thoroughbred. He is 11 years old now. At seven, long after he was put out to pasture, he was found and eventually adopted by Dr. Nicolle Schultze, chiropractor, healer, animal lover.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and milked cows with my dad. I was raised on a farm so I baled hay, did chores twice a day, snow, rain or shine before and after school, holidays, weekends, you name it. My dad’s family were always horse people. When I was a little girl, my uncle Pete gave me two-quarter horses, Prince and Ginger. I was in LOVE. When you rode one it was like riding them both, inseparable to the end.
“They passed away when I went away to college. I would then meet my first thoroughbred. Some time after, I gave up that thoroughbred to go to Chiropractic school and come here to the BVI. And then…I met Stetson. He had the same heart on his forehead that my thoroughbred had, which is rare. That is why I knew, when I saw this boy, that I had to try to help if he wanted to have a good life as he aged. God gave me a sign: the BVI was my home and Stetson asked me to stay. I wasn’t finished here.”
When Dr. Nicolle met ‘Stetson’, he was aged, weak and barely walking. She went up into the hills five times a day to visit him. She bathed him, fed him, gave him love and built up his trust. “I used to walk in and put my hand out and say “Momma”, “Momma Kisses”. He started to trust my voice and the repetition and slowly learned that he would only receive love from me. Now, when he gets upset, I just say “Momma Kisses” and he drops his head, gives me his left eye and I kiss him.”
Dr. Nicolle started down a road four plus years ago that would change her life. Forever. She decided that she wanted to own this horse, take care of him, give him a life of retirement that a thoroughbred deserves. She found a place to move him, fixed fences, cut down the bush, got the grass to grow for his new home. She set up a medical care plan for him, angle ground his hoofs, spent countless hours cajoling, building trust, loving him.
About a year and a half ago Stetson was strong enough, able enough to start to run. She started to run him for a mile and a half, swim him off the beach at Fort Recovery, and then run the mile and a half back home. Dr. Nicolle did this three times a week at minimum. The owners of Fort Recovery, Anita and Sonnie, and their guests, would wake up and see Stetson and Dr. Nicolle in the sea and not believe their eyes. They would come out and take pictures, talk to him, pet him, just sit with him. “Big Man Stetson” was making amazing strides alongside his new owner. Their first swim together was only 2 years into his rescue and he had a long way to go. His strength and determination were powerful and paramount. The trust and love he learned and taught Dr. Nicolle is “EPIC” in her words.
But in order to keep him healthy, happy and on a continued path of well-deserved retirement and recovery, Dr. Nicolle decided it was time to move him off the island. As difficult as the decision was, she researched, found help, found a new home for him where he can continue to live a fulfilled life. A beautiful creature like this has health needs, food requirements, exercise regimes that most times cannot be met on a small island. All of these essentials come at a cost, both emotionally and financially. With donations from friends and fans, Stetson was moved to South West Florida Horse Rescue earlier this year. Dr. Nicolle painstakingly organised his relocation and will now visit him monthly from the BVI to be with him the rest of his life. He is now in the hands of even more loving caregivers where he is thriving and making new positive strides every day. But the journey continues. And more help is needed. To read more about Stetson, to follow him, to meet Dr. Nicolle or to donate to Stetson’s continued rescue and recovery, check out http://www.gofundme.com/stetsonsrescue or follow StetsonRescue on facebook.
By Annie MacPhail