Blue Love: The Story of Blue Blue Sea

Maryland resident Miranda Prather, a lifelong horse lover who adopted a retired Thoroughbred named Blue Blue Sea, has an amazing story to tell about how her horse overcame odds by surviving a malabsorbtion disorder and several other health issues. I decided to do a little question-and-answer session with her to find out more about Blue Blue Sea, who is living proof that a disease like malabsorbtion doesn’t have to mean euthanasia. Because of Prather’s dedication and patience with Blue Blue Sea, he is now living life to the fullest.   

Thanks for sharing Blue Blue Sea’s story with us, Miranda! Remember, if you are interested in guest blogging on Beyond the Blinkers, or you feel that you have a story to tell about an ex-racer or a behind-the-scenes experience in the Thoroughbred industry, feel free to email me at emarr@bloodhorse.com.

EM: Tell me how you came to own Blue Blue Sea…where and why did you decide to acquire him?

MP: Since the first year I watched horse racing (Seattle Slew's Triple Crown races), I have been hooked on Thoroughbreds. I grew up riding them and was fortunate enough to own a first ex-racer when I was in high school. After college, I knew that one day I would have a Thoroughbred again, but had to be sure I had the money first.

In 2003, I stumbled upon the CANTER Mid-Atlantic site. It was like a candy store for a Thoroughbred lover! I looked for months.

In early 2004, I found the listing for Blue Blue Sea, described as a chestnut gelding by Sea Hero out of an Alysheba mare. He was a chestnut, my favorite color of horse since watching Alydar run, and he was out of a mare (Alytude) who was by my favorite son of Alydar, which of course, meant he was descended from my favorite racehorse of all time. I looked at his picture and was hooked.

Blue Blue Sea

I've had the luck, too, of meeting both of Blue's grandsires. I met Alysheba in January of the year he passed at the Horse Park and I met Polish Navy twice at Old Friends.

*************************************************************************************

Prather went on to explain how she inquired about Blue Blue Sea, but was told his owner had already received several other calls, and that he most likely was already headed to a new home. Prather was disheartened, but kept faith that something good would happen.

A little background on Blue Blue Sea: he raced in the claiming ranks throughout his 41-start career on the northeast and Midwest circuits, winning six times, and retiring with earnings of $53,078.

Blue Blue Sea during his racing days at Charles Town in West Virginia

A few weeks after Prather’s initial inquiry, she received a call from Blue Blue Sea’s owner informing her that none of the other interested people had committed to purchasing the gelding and he still needed a home. Visiting Blue in person confirmed Prather’s love for the gelding, and she promptly adopted him and made arrangements to board him at a nearby farm. In March 2004, she took the gelding home.

EM:  Is Blue the first Thoroughbred you have adopted or are there others?

MP: After owning a Shetland pony stud when I was around 5, I started taking lessons in Kentucky when I was around 8. The first horses I took lessons on were either Thoroughbreds or Arabians. I owned one other Thoroughbred, a 1979 Argentine-bred chestnut gelding named Beble that went by Jo Jo. He was also an ex-racer.

EM: At what farm do you board Blue?

MP: When I first got Blue, I was told "no" by a lot of farms because he was just off the track. Luckily a friend of the family had a farm and he was there for seven months. It' been a bit of a challenge finding a good facility for overall care in the area. Currently I have him at C&M Farm in Sharpsburg, Md.

EM: Tell me about your experiences with Blue since you’ve owned him. What challenges have you faced and how has he dealt with his malabsorption disorder? (Blue was diagnosed around four years ago with the disease).
 
MP:  Blue has been the ultimate horse learning experience. He popped two abscesses soon after getting him. He has a club left foot. His jaw is misaligned--both a parrot mouth and side to side, and he is missing two front teeth.

Then after a few months of owning him, a couple of fillies came to the farm and it became quite clear that something was up. His interest in them went beyond the regular gelding-mare interaction. At one point, he even tried to jump out of his stall over the half door and ended up getting caught. The fire department still talks about having to come out and hoist the horse up to get him off the door.

After testing Blue’s blood, it was discovered he was only “proudcut” meaning some hormone producing parts were left in. With those removed, he became much better about that sort of thing.

In 2009, Blue had to have surgery to remove cancer from a portion of his right third eyelid. So far, it has not come back in any way, thankfully.

Also, just before his start of the malabsorption disorder, he survived a slight case of laminitis, probably an earlier indicator of the malabsorption disorder to come.

Of course, the biggest challenge has been the malabsorption disorder. In August 2006, Blue had the first colic episode since I owned him. With several doses of banamine, fluids, and spending the night with him to walk him, he recovered. But two days later, he was colicking again. In a four-week period, he colicked five times and lost around 300 pounds. His regular vets at Valley Equine Associates referred him to the Marion Scott Dupont Center. He spent one night there while they did a battery of tests. The diagnosis came back that he had a malabsorption disorder. Without a biopsy, there is no definitive way to determine which of the bunch it is.

Blue Blue Sea during his struggle with malabsorbtion

Euthanasia was recommended. If I opted to not go that route, I was told he would be on steroids and would likely only live one to two years. Of course, this is not the news any horse owner ever wants to get. I took Blue home and opted for treatment. Since then I have read more veterinary articles than I ever thought I would. The biggest key to his success was getting him off hay. Hay triggers the over-reaction in his gut and is guaranteed to put him to trouble. He was accidently given hay this past December and ended up in the vet hospital for seven days.

Blue will colic, that's a fact of life with him. As best I can, I try to limit those episodes, and providing he does not receive hay or anything else off his list of what he can have, he generally only has a handful of episodes each year. He maintains his weight and his coat and eyes are bright and shiny. Unless you see him having an episode, you would never suspect he has such a serious illness. When he is well, he is an exuberant, inquisitive, and happy horse.

EM: What tricks have you taught him and what do you enjoy doing together?

MP: He's learned to do some basic ones so far-- kiss me, hug me, nodding and shaking his head, and pushing me around (not just when he feels like it). Now we are moving on to some more difficult ones that will involve things like bowing and tricks with bottles and other props. He is a bit A.D.H.D. sometimes, so it takes him a little longer to learn, but once he's got it down, he never forgets. I've seen him give "kisses" to strangers who walk up to him and accidently give off the cue.

EM: What would your best advice be for someone that has acquired a Thoroughbred that has special needs or physical ailments?

MP: Really, the single best advice I would give anyone for owning any horse is to think about the not-so-pleasant topics that you will likely be faced with some day. Consider financial limitations, emotional limitations, everything you would have to consider if you suddenly were hit with bad news about your horse. You don't need to make that decision at the moment, but at least be thinking so it doesn't hit you unaware.

When Blue was diagnosed, friends gave me all sorts of advice. Some came in the form of old articles clipped from magazines. One in particular has struck me as the best advice I received in this journey with Blue. It was about having a horse diagnosed with a chronic disorder and your options. It stated that you first needed to answer one important question: Do you want "a" horse or "this" horse? Small words, but they make a big difference. For me, I wanted "this" horse.

Also, you need to be prepared to be your horse's advocate and voice if you do opt for treatment. Most vets are unaware of treatment options beyond steroids for such disorders. You have to push and continue pushing to find new information and discussing that with your vet(s).

You need some good luck with that to in connecting to the right vets. I have been very fortunate to have a network of vets and equine professionals who have helped me with Blue--Valley Equine Associates, especially Dr. Brown who has never once yet given up on Blue; Dr. Barton at the University of Georgia whom I first contacted about options beyond steroids; Dr. Stratton-Phelps, Blue's nutritionist vet who has worked up a life-saving diet for him; and Rebecca Douglass, his dentist who keeps his messed up mouth in order and offers insights from Chinese medicine that may assist him.
 
Be prepared for the emotional toll, too. Never before Blue had I had a time where I dreaded going to the barn. I still get that way sometimes, especially if he's going through a rough patch, since you can never be sure what you will find. That said, I would never go back and change my decision. He's more than doubled the life expectancy he was given, and I have had many more enjoyable days than bad with him.

EM: Tell me about some of Blue’s personality traits and what you like about him.
 
MP:  He's definitely got the TB pride. He carries himself like a million-dollar race horse, loving to show off his speed to anyone who is interested. Sometimes I will race him or play tag with him in the paddock. Other times he will nip his pasture mates into a race. He's never lost that competitive edge.

If he deems you worthy, he will be loyal and protect you as best he can.
 
He is still a ladies’ man. It is not at that “gotta have” level, but he sure does like the mares.

He also has a trickster side. He delights in taking brush bags in his mouth and scattering them in all directions. And other little things to keep you on your toes.

He can get jealous if I pay attention to another horse or if I am with him and start talking to someone else. He will try to put himself between me and the other individual. If that doesn’t work, he will remind me that he is to be the center of the universe by stomping his feet in disgust.

One really interesting thing about him is his bucket preference. When Alysheba returned to the states, I remember reading in an article that he would only drink from a blue bucket. I wondered about that and my more skeptical side wondered if there was any truth to it. Blue has always been a bad drinker. He doesn't drink much even in the best of times, which can lead to more colic issues. I finally broke down last year and tried the blue bucket. Blue went over right after I filled it and drained it. He still doesn't drink as much as I would like him to, but he drinks far more now that he, too, has a blue bucket. Maybe it seems more like fresh water that way, who knows, but really interesting that they both did that.

Overall it's that "big" Thoroughbred personality with a heady dose of fire that I absolutely love.

Blue hanging out in Maryland

EM: Anything else to add about Blue?

MP: Just that to me, Blue's greatest gift to me and others is education. Personally, I've learned to give injections (both IM and IV), deal with equine emergencies in a calm and controlled manner, detect little signs that point to bigger trouble ahead, learn how to manage a diet for such a horse, and a thousand and one other little things that are medical related.

I've also learned the importance of thinking on important decisions before the event happens-- euthanasia, plans for the horse's body after death, and all that sort of thing.

The children and adults who Blue has touched at the barn and through my network of friends have seen firsthand that there are some very serious things you will likely have to consider when owning a horse. Thinking about those things doesn't put a damper on the enjoyment, but will make those moments--if and when they should arrive--all the more easy.

47 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Blue Blue Sea

Thank you so very much for sharing Blue Blue Sea's story on yoru blog. I truly appreciate it.

15 Feb 2011 1:16 PM
Claudia Prather

I am so glad that someone finally put this out to the public. My daughter has gone through so much and yet she continues to learn and make life good for Blue. I only hope that others faced with a similar situation will take the time to think it through before opting to euthanize.

Blackie, What a Twist, Jojo and Blue were lucky to have known Miranda and she lucky to have known them.

15 Feb 2011 1:19 PM
Dusty

Great interview. I used to board my horse where Blue is now and he's a beautiful, sweet horse. He's been through a lot, but then again, he has a lot of heart. :)

15 Feb 2011 1:56 PM
Soldier Course

Oh, I enjoyed this story so much, and the Q&A format is a great way to let the salient points sail through. Esther, your blog is always so fresh in style and substance. Love Blue's heartwarming history here.

15 Feb 2011 2:18 PM
Alexandra

Having met Blue a few times, it sure seems like Miranda and all the equine professionals who have consulted and helped in his particular case have done an excellent job because he is a very happy horse for all he has been through.

15 Feb 2011 4:30 PM
ALB

Awesome story for anyone who loves OTTB's and also for anyone who is interesting in giving these loveable animals a home later in their lives!! Thanks for sharing!!!

15 Feb 2011 4:44 PM
txhorsefan

What a wonderful story!!  Thank you for sharing Miranda's experience with Blue.  So many people would have gotten too easily discouraged and found it easier to go the route of that least desirable option, euthanasia.  It is beautiful that Ms. Prather found it in her heart to keep searching for answers to help her horse.  Specifically her question of do you want a horse or do you want *this* horse says it all.  Thank you!

15 Feb 2011 6:34 PM
Mike Relva

We need more individuals like yourself that places the horses welfare FIRST.

15 Feb 2011 7:17 PM
Rebecca

Wonderful interview and such an inspiration.   What a great way to share how Mirandas dedication saved Blue Blue Seas life.  Now that's a love story!  

15 Feb 2011 7:55 PM
nina

That Blue is a lucky boy...and so is his owner.

15 Feb 2011 8:02 PM
MRO

Any relative of Alydar's is a friend of mine. Thanks for taking in & taking care of Blue Blue Sea. Loved seeing the pictures too.

15 Feb 2011 8:49 PM
LM

that is one LUCKY LUCKY HORSE!!!!!

15 Feb 2011 8:59 PM
laurie covert

Bless you and dear Blue !!!!!!!!!!!

15 Feb 2011 9:29 PM
Karen in Indiana

How blessed Blue is to have landed with you, Miranda. With all of his issues, he looks like a sweetie. Thank you for sharing his story. I've been working towards being able to afford an OTTB, with all that might entail. And to be honest, there is a fear of not knowing what kind of shape the horse would be in - would there be injuries or illness that wouldn't show up until we've become attached to each other. Your story is encouraging, it shows that even if there is something severe, the rewards are there anyway. To give such wonderful animals the possibility of living a life with love and peace when there are other much worse possibilities that could have happened to them is an honor.

15 Feb 2011 10:26 PM
Dani

I love how you talk about Blue's personality traits. There is so much tenderness and love in your words. And Blue seems to pay you back with love in so many different ways. You are gifts to one another.

15 Feb 2011 10:52 PM
NancyP

What a lovely woman, horse and story!

Given all of his physical problems, Blue looks amazing in the last picture above.  God Bless Miranda for her loving care that gave Blue another chance at a decent life.  May they have many, many years together.

15 Feb 2011 11:34 PM
Brite_Star

What a wonderful horse & you are just as amazing for working with Blue as you do. May I ask what feed he is on ? You mention his not being able to get hay. What exactly does his feed consist of ? I am a horse owner & there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Thank you for sharing & please keep us posted on the two of you. God Bless !!!

16 Feb 2011 7:52 AM
Denise Steffanus

Claudia, I wrote about Blue's story in my Horse Health column in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred in 2008. I'm glad to see he has continued to do well.

16 Feb 2011 8:36 AM
Giddyup

After reading so many depressing stories about how badly Life at Ten was managed at the Breeder's Cup, I can't tell you how great it was to find this blog. People like Miranda are the true heroes in this sport and we must all support that effort.

16 Feb 2011 9:03 AM
Jean in VA.

This was a very inspiring story.

I feel like I have met Blue through Miranda's eyes.  I am not able to own a horse, but if I did, I would have hoped that I would be as wonderful owner as you are.

He was so lucky to find you.

So glad that you have used every option available to Blue.

16 Feb 2011 9:56 AM
horseracinglover

Blue is one of the lucky ones. Everyday hundreds of horses are shipped to Canada or Mexico. OTTB's make the greatest horses. There are several OTTB rescues, please donate to them to help slow the flow to the killer pen. Even some racetracks sponser local OTTB rescues. Finger Lakes has a great adoption program. Everyone thinks OTTB's are only for "English" riding but I know of several that go "Western" easily. Some even go into barrel racing and pole bending and yes they beat the stock horses at their own game. Camelot in NJ right now has 6 or 7 OTTB's waiting to be rescued before Friday before they are loaded on a truck to Canada. Voice for Horses, is another that pulls OTTB's out of the killer pen for adoption. Second Chance for Horses is another one. Google or search Face Book you will find several rescues. Please support these and other horse rescues so that more stories have a Happy ending. It sure beats being loaded on a cattle truck going to Canada and a "bolt". God Bless Blue and his human.

16 Feb 2011 10:06 AM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

Thankyou so much for sharing our story.  It was an extremely enjoyable and educational read.

God Bless you, Miranda and your very special horse, Blue Blue Sea!

16 Feb 2011 10:17 AM
Ross Peddicord, Ex Dir. Md. Horse Industry Board

Miranda & Blue's story just reminded me once more why I just took this job at the Md. Horse Industry Board.Maryland's horse racing industry is going through a particularly challenging time. But it is because of the passion and resilience people in this state have for horses that we have to do everything in our power to make sure our industry thrives here.I see Miranda's story as a metaphor for what can be done if we face problems head on, are persistent in finding solutions and have faith in the magic of and love for horses.  

16 Feb 2011 10:57 AM
Blue Blue Sea

Thank you all for the wonderful comments! I wish everyone could meet Blue because he is a good ambassador for the breed.

@Brite_Star: Blue's feed:

he gets hay pellets each day instead of hay

Triple Crown Low Starch with:

ground flax

flax oil

Vit E

Mineral supplement by Purina

Canola Oil

Whey (yes like the bodybuilders use - I'm on every musclehead mailing list around since I buy it in bulk) :)

16 Feb 2011 10:59 AM
Blue Blue Sea

@Denise, good to see you on here! How is your horse with similar issues doing?

I still thank you for being the first to tell Blue's story and get it out there!

16 Feb 2011 11:05 AM
AnneatETC

A horse or This horse - What a difference one word makes.  Great Story!!

16 Feb 2011 11:05 AM
Don D

Wow!! What a suprise to read about Blue Blue Sea and you, Miranda. I was the owner whom Miranda aquired BBS from. I still remember how happy she was to get him. I did have others interested and am so glad she ended up with him. If it were any other owner, this story would likely have had a different ending. I still have 2 of his winning photos that hang proudly on my wall. I can't tell you how happy it makes me knowing that after giving his all racing for me and others, he has someone like you to care for him and appreciate his tremendous heart.

I believe retired races horses deserve a worthy retirement. They try with everything they have on the racetrack.

If you have a good home or know of someone willing to give a good home to a retired racehorse please do. They are special!

16 Feb 2011 12:24 PM
Blue Blue Sea

Hello, MR D. What a nice surprise to see this comment from you here! I've never forgotten the kindness that you showed to Blue by first listing him and then being a patient person when showing him to me and the other person looking at him that day. We need more owners like yourself who care about what happens at the end of the road for them. Thank you for being one of those owners.

16 Feb 2011 1:49 PM
Seabiscuit

Thank you for sharing this heartwarming as well as informative story about Blue Blue Sea. What a handsome and lucky boy! It is not often that you see such devoted owners but I know Blue will repay you every day with his love and antics:) Wishing you both the best!

16 Feb 2011 4:29 PM
sandieh

What an inspiring and heartwarming story! Sounds like both both Blue and Miranda are very lucky.

Mike Relva is right, we need more individuals who place the welfare of the horse first.

Don D-it was meant that Miranda was the one to acquire "this" horse. The fellow with a big heart!

16 Feb 2011 5:45 PM
quarterhossgal

Miranda you are what I call a "Horse Lover" not just a horse owner. Blue is one lucky gelding. I know there are challenges that come when your horse has a chronic condition. My mare developed hives and my vet tried several different things before he put her on dex, sadly because of the dex , she has laminitis.  Now we no longer have hives to deal with but a more serious condition chronic laminitis. I,too, learned many differnt methods of treating her condition, some work for awhile and then we go to Plan B.  She is a delightful bay pleasure mare when a sweet temperment. As long as she is enjoying her life I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep her going.

Hope Blue has a wonderful long life with you!

16 Feb 2011 8:16 PM
Vet-to-Be

What a great story - I myself have owned off-the-track Thoroughbreds, and they are the best...they have so much to offer.  

@ Blue Blue Sea's owner - thank you for sharing your heart with us.  Your statement about "do you want a horse, or this horse", is a powerful dose of reality for many people.  Currently I am in vet school, going into equine medicine, and many times we have to deal with life and death situations.  I've often heard clients asked that very question - and it is wonderful to see you have such a realistic view.  We're not superheroes, but we can sure try with owners like you.

17 Feb 2011 9:55 AM
Blue Blue Sea

Vet-to-Be, I think *good* vets are superheroes! You might not be able to save every horse no matter what, but I have seen true dedication, compassion from some of the vets I've had the pleasure of working with. Good luck to you!

17 Feb 2011 1:48 PM
Z Fan

Thank you so much for your wonderful descriptions of Blue.  I loved your thought "a" horse or "that" horse.  so true.

thanks, Cindi

19 Feb 2011 12:09 AM
Karen in Texas

What a sweet story! Blue is a handsome guy, especially considering his medical history. (I love the unusual white marking pattern on his face!) I have cared for many special needs animals myself, and understand the mindset and bonding required. Good wishes for the future!

19 Feb 2011 11:55 AM
Paula Higgins

Miranda, you are a gem. He looks like a sweetheart and he is one lucky horse to have such a dedicated owner. Sometimes I believe things are meant to be.

19 Feb 2011 2:10 PM
Freetex

Much of your story reminds me of what my daughter has been through with her horse who has EPM.  They have persevered together through a very tough past year.  

Good luck and health to Blue and Miranda.

19 Feb 2011 7:28 PM
Clare

Only a person who is truly dedicated to the care, protection, and love of the horse knows that you must always plan ahead for all contingencies as soon as your "Blue Blue Sea" comes into your life.  Mirand is one of those true horse people.  With eyes wide open (but knowing the potential costs) and the determination to constantly learn and work with some very good vets, she has given Blue the best chance she can for the best.  Those of us who have these wonderful creatures in our lives own a piece of our hearts, no matter how long they are here, and if we have prepared ourselves appropriately - it will still heart deeply but the preparation will help with the physical tasks that have to be done.  Miranda, you are an inspiration to those of us who have horses that are both healthy and speical needs who look to the future and prepare for all of the possibilities to care for our friends.  Thanks for sharing your story and good luck to you and Blue Blue Sea.

20 Feb 2011 10:20 AM
Southern Chris

What a great way to start the weekend. This story just made me happy. Miranda sounds like a woman with a beautiful spirit and Blue sounds like an absolute character. The blue bucket thing is very strange in a good way.

25 Feb 2011 12:28 PM
Oldie

Esther, thank you for bringing us this story, and Miranda, thank you for persevering with Blue; he and the equine world are better for it.  I wondered whether you might share some reasons boarding facilities are reluctant to accept OTTBs.  Thanks!

25 Feb 2011 1:40 PM
Blue Blue Sea

@ Oldie, the big reasons that I got from boarding facilities locally were that:

1) steroids - most wanted them out of the system before having the horse come

2) fear of destructive bad habits - cribbing/wood chewing

3) no training - many were afraid the horse would go through the fence or be a danger to handle for caretakers on the farm. some of this was also just the usual thought that TBs are psyco.

27 Feb 2011 7:45 PM
magoobear

I got a horse that I thought was a quarter horse TB cross. Come to find out after having him about a year that he's a pure blood OTTB!! To me the first time beginner rider I found this to be amazing that I didn't know one bit til my new trainer looked for his lip tattoo. Mylo is truely my love... he's a wonderful calm boy that puts up with my beginner rider antics patiently. He took this past winter off and wow this boy has some energy I've never seen in him before. I'm proud to have an OTTB even if it was by accident

My point is TBs are wonderful thank you for taking in blue blue sea!  Never give up on your boy. He's a lucky horse to have you. I will never have another breed!

13 Mar 2011 11:30 PM
Pam Lund

So glad I read this! My mini stallion Hot Wheels has been diagnosed with malabsorbtion and was going downhill. We were ready to start steroids when I saw that alfalfa works. He'd always been on alfalfa cubes but all of a sudden he wouldn't eat them after a tooth issue. That's when he started downwards. Anyway, I put him on alfalfa pellets and he started to gain like mad. My vet couldn't believe it. We decided that his problem dated to colic surgery as a foal (before I got him) and was masked as I feed alfalfa cubes to my minis. Now he's back to his energetic, ornery self! Thanks.

22 Mar 2011 9:26 PM
allie conrad

Miranda is the greatest, and I'm so happy to know she is out there supporting not only Blue, but all other OTTB rehoming groups who help others just like him!

28 Mar 2011 2:14 PM
Aaron Lazar

What a stirring tale. I could just picture Blue doing his tricks with his faithful owner. An absolute delight. Thank you for publishing this!

29 Mar 2011 12:36 PM
LINDA MARIE

THANK YOU FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL STORY ABOUT BLUE BLUE SEA....AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING HIM ON FACEBOOK! I FOUND HIM THERE JUST RECENTLY AND HIS PAGE IS A CALM OASIS AND ATTRACTS A LOT OF VERY NICE PEOPLE!

30 May 2011 10:29 PM
Jrlews46

Just read Blue passed away this weekend.  RIP Blue, my sympathy to Miranda Prather on her loss!

10 Feb 2013 11:35 AM

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