BARNETT, Mo. – An injured race horse is sometimes a dead race horse, as many are euthanized before they ever get a chance to recover.
A Missouri woman is working to change that mindset, one horse at a time. Just like every child learns how to tie their shoes in a different way, injured race horses must re-learn the feeling of their shoes on a race track.
It takes a lot of time, money, and someone willing to bring them back from the dead. It takes someone like Ashley Messengale.
“I didn’t expect for him to ever be able to race,” Messengale, who owns a horse training and rehabilitation business, said. “I treat his legs like they’re glass.”
Just last year, Spotty became useless to nearly every other owner, trainer and jockey, when he tore two tendons in his front legs.
“The plan was to rehab him and get his legs feeling good and then re-train him and sell him as a riding horse,” Messengale said.
But then last month, Spotty finished first in a race at Fairmount Park, taking home the purse. Messengale’s business, called “Beyond the Rails,” takes injured horses from the race track rails, to the country terrain she calls home in mid-Missouri
“Six days a week, all year long, from their stall, to the track, back to their stall,” Messengale said about their training during racing season. “Well, here, we work cattle, we run on the trails, we ride them through town.”
Her unique rehabilitation style hasn’t gone unnoticed by her peers.
“On the race track, I am like the crazy cat,” she said. “So they just say, I cannot believe you do this. I cannot believe you take these horses and you ride them out there, you’re crazy, who does that?”
But that is her secret. Messengale takes the horses out of their stressful environment and treats them like they’re her children. Some, like Spotty, are. Others are sent to her for rehabilitation.
“This is Elsie, she just got here, she’s really thin,” Messengale said.
Messengale works to make them stronger, and only sends those who are willing back out on the race track.
“Only the strong survive in the racing industry,” she said.
While Messengale certainly has the magic touch to expand her business into a large rehabilitation facility, she told KOLR10 she wants to stay relatively small to give one-on-one attention to her horses.