Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: A Bond Like No Other - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: A Bond Like No Other

“Sarah and Iggy were and will always be soulmates in the truest sense of the word.”

Last week, we lost one of the good ones. He was a big, red curmudgeon of a horse, who in many ways was the catalyst for this weekly “OTTB Showcase” column.

His was a story of extreme highs and lows. Racing as Bayou Brass, he started his career with a pair of easy wins, and after two separate stints of a year and two years off respectively, he finished it running three times in 13 days. After pulling up in distress in his final race and being vanned off, he was tracked down by his breeder, Patricia Ziefle, with a badly bowed tendon, headed to auction after being traded for a load of hay.

After a lengthy recovery process, he found his way to Sarah Coleman, a regular contributor to the Paulick Report, Horse Illustrated, Young Rider, and other publications and websites, and as of last year, the director of education and development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption.

To put it in the simplest of terms, the two of them just clicked.

With Sarah as his partner in riding and in life, Iggy, as he was affectionately known, went on to achieve great success in the show ring. They won more blue ribbons, hardware and year-end awards than most horse and rider combinations could ever dream of.

“I have always been amazed that Sarah gets up at 5:00 every morning just so she can ride and care for her horse prior to starting her work day,” said Anna Ford, Thoroughbred program director at New Vocations. “Her dedication and energy to serving our retired racehorses, as well as her own, is a true inspiration to all of us.”

Iggy, or Iggy J as he was often referred to, was the first horse to be featured in the “OTTB Showcase” (read that original story here). He is truly the horse that made me start looking into the backstories of retired racehorses to find out what their eyes have seen, hearts have felt, and the stories they have to tell. To put it mildly, Iggy's story was inspiring. What was more inspiring, however, was the bond that he and Sarah shared.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the amount of love and quality of care that Sarah gave to Iggy. She helped him overcome EPM and the many residual long-term effects and reoccurrences of the vitality-robbing disease. She doctored him through a suspensory injury that would have put most horses on the shelf permanently. She put up with his very clear disdain of farrier visits to make sure his less-than-perfect feet always provided him a solid physical foundation. She made sure that whether it be from a veterinarian, osteopath, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist or otherwise, the horse had everything he needed when he needed it, even if that meant she survived on hot dogs and mac and cheese for a few weeks to make ends meet, all the while tending to his every need and desire, including keeping his favorite snack – Peeps – on hand.

"There was a deep level of mutual trust and respect between those two, one to which we should all aspire with our own horses.”
“There was a deep level of mutual trust and respect between those two, one to which we should all aspire with our own horses.”

Iggy was a trooper, and each time he came back, he was just as strong, fluid, and eager to work as he had been before. In the past few months, however, that started to change. At 22 years of age, life was catching up to the gelding. He was having trouble digesting his food; he was having trouble staying sound. He was in and out of the clinic with episodes of colic, and on June 30, he showed Sarah the signs that told her “it's time.”

“In my 35 years of being involved with horses, I have never met a more devoted horse owner,” said Nori Scheffel, owner of Scheffelridge Farm, where Iggy was boarded and is now buried. “Iggy was so very lucky to be smothered with Sarah's love, kindness, understanding and knowledge. Never have I experienced the dedication to the health, soundness and overall well-being of anyone's animal. Sarah and Iggy were and will always be soulmates in the truest sense of the word.”

“Iggy had that quiet, quirky demeanor that immediately drew you in, and it was easy to see why Sarah had fallen in love with him,” said Dr. Martha Rodgers, Iggy's primary veterinarian. “What is harder to see from the outside was how completely Sarah and Iggy could communicate without the convenience of words. I think they both were such keen observers of one another that subtle changes were immediately obvious to them long before the rest of us would catch on.”

The bond Iggy and Sarah shared wasn't lost on her friends and colleagues, many of which aspired to share the same relationship with their own horses.

“When some think of the most famous duos of all time, they think of Batman and Robin, Bonnie and Clyde, Simon and Garfunkel, but I think of Sarah and Iggy J,” said Jill Stowe, Director of the University of Kentucky's Ag Equine Programs, who worked with Sarah for years in a professional capacity, adopted her own horse from New Vocations, and considers Sarah a close personal friend. “They formed a true partnership. There was a deep level of mutual trust and respect between those two, one to which we should all aspire with our own horses.”

As much as Sarah's friends knew of the love she and Iggy shared, possibly no one had more insight into their relationship than Sarah's boyfriend of nearly 10 years, Ryan Hayes.

“No horse has ever hit the jackpot like Iggy. He truly lucked into the best owner a horse could find,” said Ryan. “Whether it be the two-a-day visits, the return farm trips to make sure he had just the right sheet or blanket, the chiropractors, masseuses, acupuncturists, or unlimited supply of Peeps, Iggy lived a life of relative luxury.

Bayou Brass (aka Iggy J) - 1993-2015
Bayou Brass (aka Iggy J) – 1993-2015

“Iggy's fate was sealed months before and it wasn't a matter of if, but when. You could feel the sense of dread, stress and apprehension in Sarah that the end was near. When his time came, Sarah handled it with a determination and certainty that left me in awe. Godspeed, Iggy J. Thanks for the years of being Sarah's true companion,”

As for me, through knowing Sarah and Iggy over the years, I truly learned firsthand not only what it means to be a good horse owner, but a good friend to both humans and equines alike. Iggs and Sarah taught me selfless compassion, putting the needs of others before my own wants and desires, and that actions truly do speak louder than words. They showed me that what you put out there in the world really does come back to you in spades, and that you can truly be the change you wish to see in the world, even if it is simply in the world of a single person or animal. These and countless other lessons I learned simply by observing the two of them, and in an odd way, the bond they shared changed my life for the better.

I started this week's article by saying we lost one of the good ones. I must correct myself. He was so much better than good. We lost one of the great ones.

Sarah said it so poignantly on her Facebook page. “Grief is the price we pay for knowing a love that runs so deep.” I am so sorry for your loss, Sarah. R. I. P., Iggy J.

Name: Bayou Brass (a.k.a. “Iggy J”)
Born: May 8, 1993
Color: Chestnut
Sire: Dixieland Brass
Dam: Sadair Royalty
Sale History: Sold in 1994 as a yearling at the Keeneland September Sale for $7,000
Race Record: 28-9-5-1
Race Earnings: $96,390

If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.

Jen Roytz is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days.

Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.

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