As of June 1, 2016 The Great Gonzo is an official graduate of the Changing Leads program. Always a gentle yet firm companion for program newcomers since retiring from racing and entering the Changing Leads program in May of 2014, Gonzo will have a new job helping to introduce newly rehabbing horses to life at Cross-Country Farm in Gray Court, South Carolina, where most Changing Leads horses will rehab prior to beginning retraining in the future. Gonzo will also be lightly used in walk/trot/canter lessons at the farm as long as he is sound and enjoying that part of his job. Jessica Prescott - Board member and resident "barn mom" to the Changing Leads horses in South Carolina - started arena work with Gonzo upon arrival back in the winter. Several months later, Gonzo seems to have the mind and work ethic to be useful in farm owner Sherry Traynham's lesson program with intermediate dressage students.
The Great Gonzo came to Changing Leads after a career-ending injury that very well could have also ended his life. With a completely displaced condylar fracture and displaced sesamoid fracture in his right hind, Gonzo underwent surgery in May of 2014. Read on to learn more about Gonzo's journey with Changing Leads through a letter to The Great Gonzo, written by Changing Leads President, Ali Goodrich.
It has been two years since you entered our program and our lives. It has been two years since you abruptly took us for that pivotal ride through joy and dejection, fear and despondency, determination and prayer, relief and gratitude, pride and admiration, and, ultimately, inspiration and overwhelming love. You taught us that, as a group, we are powerful. You embody the timeless adage “where there’s a will there’s a way,” the truism that we embrace when we’re feeling powerless. Because of you, we know that we will always be most proud of the selfless decisions that we make—and that we should not be afraid to make them. For two years, you have been our steadfast reminder that every life is significant, precious, and beautiful.
For nearly two years, we have sought the perfect home for you. You are too fragile for many disciplines and too exuberant for many others. We knew there would be challenges in finding the right place for you, but we failed to foresee the quiet burden of guilt that we would carry. With each setback, our hearts have broken a little more because, for two years, we have been ever mindful that we didn’t save you only to fail you in the end.
Well, sweet Gonz, we finally realize that we are your people. We will give you a most wonderful life! You get a big South Carolina field to frolic in, retired racehorse buddies to romp with, and all of the love and attention imaginable. Although you are now a graduate of Changing Leads, to us, you will always be Changing Leads—as a mascot, as a big brother, and as our inspiration to stay hopeful and always see the amazing possibilities. Looking back at the past two years, we can’t believe we didn’t recognize this sooner. Silly us—you were always meant to be ours.
Ali, Kirstin, and Jessica