BY DANI SCHNEIDER
Prior to Morgan Osbaldeston purchasing Preston, a five-year-old Oldenburg/ Thoroughbred gelding, her previous horse had just passed away at a young age. “My gelding had a big personality, so Preston had some big shoes to fill,” Osbaldeston shared.
When Preston was purchased in 2004, Osbaldeston was just entering her senior year of high school, “it was hard moving into senior year with a new horse, but we finished senior year and went to college together.”
“We joke that he got a 4-year degree with me. We travelled from Atlanta to New Jersey for college, making the trek with me. We would go to New Jersey for Fall semester, back to Atlanta for Winter break, go back to New Jersey for Spring semester, and go home to Atlanta for the Summer,” Osbaldeston shared.
Preston was a failed dressage horse that Osbaldeston taught to be a Hunter. “He’s not the best-looking horse,” she shared. “He is kind of lanky and put together weird, but he could really jump.”
Throughout the years, the pair moved up through divisions to the 3’6 Hunters. They competed mostly on the local Georgia Hunter Jumper Association (GHJA), with a couple of rated shows here and there.
“I would show for a year then take some years off because being a young professional in the workforce, you don’t have a ton of extra money because you’re trying to get situated while working and riding,” Osbaldeston shared. “Preston was always there whether I wanted to go on a trail ride or a hunter pace.” In addition to trails, lessons, and shows, the pair has cliniced with Nona Garson, Shelby French, Buck Davidson, Rob Gage, Greg Best, Joe Fargis and Kevin Babington.
Just shy of Preston’s 18th birthday, the pair entered the 1.20m at a show and achieved Osbaldeston’s goal of competing in a 4-foot division. “It was such a nice show. By chance, one of the barn moms captured some really beautiful photos of me and Preston jumping, waiting at the in-gate, with my family and dog; they turned out amazing.”
The next show Osbaldeston went to, she noticed Preston wasn’t acting himself and was having a hard time moving up out of the corners, so she planned to have the vet come and check things out. Right around the same time, Preston had developed a runny nose and was coughing a lot, even just walking from the pasture and back caused him to wheeze. “I took him to the vet to get scoped, thinking he had a respiratory infection that needed some antibiotics,” Osbaldeston said.
That was not the case.
The vet discovered a very rare cartilage deformation known as Arytenoid Chondritis that caused 30% of his windpipe to be blocked. “The vet just looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry but this horse’s career is done unless you want to do a tracheotomy.’” But with a tracheotomy, the vet felt Preston would need to be in a stall-board situation forever so his airway could be fully monitored. It meant he couldn’t have a pasture retirement.
“At that point, I said ‘This horse has done so much for me. He filled those big shoes, we went to college, we had a blast together,” Osbaldeston shared. “The least I can do for him is to let him enjoy his retirement and retire him now.”
“I just didn’t walk into the clinic thinking I was going to be told ‘that runny nose means your horse’s career is over,” Osbaldeston commented.
Osbaldeston asked if Preston could be a trail horse but the vet recognized how much heart this horse had and was concerned the pair could be out on a trail and have a medical issue due to Preston wanting to continue working for Osbaldeston.
“The vet recommended that I don’t ride him anymore, and have him go out to pasture and do self-decided exercises,” Osbaldeston shared, “If he wanted to canter to keep up with his buddies, he can. But if he’s tired, he can just walk and hang back.”
Osbaldeston does body clip work for the barns in her area and after speaking with one of her clients who owned a retirement/ young horse pasture, she was able to put him out on 100 acres.
“I think when you retire a horse, especially for those who compete or have been in a program, you have to accept a new normal at some point. A lot of us feel like we can’t afford to retire a horse or we can’t afford to get a new horse and give our horse a retirement but I think if you can accept a new normal and a new level of care, it is a lot more feasible than most people think sometimes. Whether it means a farther drive and you don’t get to see them as much or maybe they can stay close and you do more of the work, it can be done,” Osbaldeston shared.
Osbaldeston had Preston in that pasture for the first year of his retirement. “The retirement farm was a great opportunity that I was able to find through connections.”
Her trainer started leasing another property that had more turnouts and Preston was able to move from the self-care facility to her current program. “It is nice that every time I go to the barn to ride my young horse, I am able to see Preston instead of having to switch off days between the retirement farm and the show barn,” Osbaldeston said.
“My trainer’s retired horses are on the back 40, along with my young horse,” Osbaldeston shared, “We joke it’s the old men in the backyard.”
Preston has been at the new property for two years and recently turned 21-years-old on May 17th. “We put some Bud Light in his feed that day and told him, ‘this Bud is for you, Bud.’”