Written on November 27, 2022

The story of Charlie – a broken pedal bone and an unbroken heart

Make yourself a coffee and get comfortable – this is going to be a long one.

In 2020 I travelled a few hours south to go a see a beautiful chestnut gelding for my next project to produce and sell. On arrival he was a lot smaller and weaker then I’d expected but he grabbed my jumper and wouldn’t let me go and in true Jo Marsh style I fell in love.

As with lots of the horses that arrive here we have to take them right back to basics but Charlie more so than the rest. He was a very broken soul, but it didn’t take long until he realised that Kaitlin and I were his new best friends. From the moment he let us in he grew from strength to strength and his personality really started to come through. He’s literally the Labrador of the horse world, you’d invite him in for dinner if you could. We were like two proud parents all over again and we knew this one was going to be extremely hard to sell.

After lots of successful outings, Charlie had ticked every box there was the tick, so I knew it was time to do an advert for him. I cried the entire night writing it (another Classic Jo Marsh thing to do) it went live and within 48 hours he had a very successful viewing and a vetting booked. He flew through his 5* vetting and the day had come to drop him off to his new home. We always try and drop our horses off so we can walk away knowing they’re happy and settled. However, I’m a firm believer in gut feelings and this was the first time I’ve walked away thinking, I think this is a mistake.

This industry can be extremely judgmental at times and I try my absolute best to always think everyone has their own way of doing things and fundamentally as long as the horses care is at the forefront of everyone’s mind there is no right and wrong way to do things. However in this case, something seemed amiss. And low and behold 2 weeks after dropping Charlie off I had a call from his new owner. We were travelling back from an event with another horse and we both looked at each other and thought ‘o no- this doesn’t look good’

The call basically said Charlie had broken his pedal bone, and was going to be put to sleep as they didn’t have the knowledge/ time to rehab him. Which you can imagine, firstly was a complete and utter shock, and secondly broke my heart.
The biggest lesson I’ve taken from all of this is to trust my gut in where my horses end up.
We very quickly turned around and headed back down the M5 to go and collect Charlie to work out if we could fix him or not.

Between our incredible vet and farrier, which at this point thought I’d lost the plot, we come up with a plan to make him as comfortable as possible and start the heeling process.
Lots and lots of months later it was time to see where we were at, the fracture had slightly gone into the joint which was our main concern, at initial thought Charlie was coping well in his walk work, then his trot work but then the more the loaded the foot we were back to square one.
We were totally gutted and I felt helpless, but we thought we would give him more time before looking further, we were X-raying every 5 weeks for Liam (farrier) to shoe accordingly and on X-rays we were seeing slight improvement although they never look fantastic on xrays even when heeled.
More time, a different shoe and we were ready to look again, it was clear we needed a different plan as we were still no better. So off Charlie went for an MRI, it was the most awful few days waiting for these results and all I could see was a very lame Charlie in front of me, as ever he was an absolute dude at hospital and everyone fell in love with him.
A few days later I waited by my phone the entire day feeling VERY sick, the specialist called me saying it wasn’t amazing news. We had 1 very risky option only, they wanted to pin the fracture but the risk of infection is huge.
Duncan our wonderful vet was on holiday on results day but knew how important this was to me so between ski slopes managed to call me and tell me not to totally panic and he would be on the yard as soon as he’s back to make a plan.
My head was a mess, I couldn’t see the positive, but I knew if we had 1 remaining option then we had to do it.

Fast forward a week, and we decided although expensive, and potentially a pointless exercise we would try to stem cell the joint, it just gave us another option that was a lot less invasive than surgery and we would still be able to operate if the stem cell didn’t work. I’ve had incredible results with stem cell so I thought we’ve got nothing to loose.
So the waiting game continued- it genuinely broke my heart every day watching Charlie remain the most upbeat character although his chances were looking slim. I really do wish we could talk to them.

The day had come, had it worked? Thankfully we were Duncans first call of the day so it meant we only had to cry for about 2 hours waiting, we were all extremely nervous. Off we walked into the school, the next thing we knew Charlie was trotting around as sound and as happy as he’s ever looked, I will never be able to describe that feeling. After 18 months of doing everything I possibly could to fix him, it seemed we had done it. But as ever it’s never as simple as that.

The next mission was to turn him out for the first time in a year. I still to this day do not know how he happily stood in his stable for over 12 months and watched his friends go to parties and he was never allowed to even leave his box. My stomach was in knots knowing I could turn him out, he could go loopy and do more damage and we’d be back to square 1. It was a team mission to get him out safely, but we did it and he had the best day of his life, and was SO sound even with his antics, it made me so happy watching his little face munching on grass again like nothing had ever happened.

I’m a little bit of a geek when it comes to rehab, and it’s an area I’ve always wanted to explore further with the business, so that leads us to today. I’d started the rehab and then decided it would be a great idea to break my arm fairly badly which put us back a few months, so much to Charlie’s delight he went back to chilling with his pals in the field. But no matter how many times he explodes in the field and plays with his friends it’s such an incredible sight seeing him mess around on 4 sound feet.

His rehabilitation is back in full swing now that I am fixed and I still pinch myself every day seeing him trot around. We still have a long way to go, but I’m so proud of him and I’ll never have any expectations for him, I just know I’ve done the right thing by this horse and he remains the happiest face I’ll ever see.

Honestly I couldn’t of done any of this without my vet and farrier. Having such an incredible team behind out me allows me to be brave with my decisions with all of my horses knowing there’s a plan in place with each and every one. And a HUGE thank you for Kaitlin for spending hours and hours in the car talking through my thoughts and being my shoulder to cry on throughout. It’s been a bloody tough 18months but Charlie Boy- you’ve done it buddy! We fixed you ❤️