By Susan Kayne
For Capital Region Independent Media
In the heart of Unbridled, a sanctuary where volunteers tirelessly attend to the unique daily needs of each horse, a captivating love story unfolds — one that transcends the ordinary and unveils the extraordinary connection between Laurie, an exceptionally dedicated volunteer, and Liam, a horse in need of a person to call his own.
Liam, a horse of breathtaking beauty, is the equine doppelganger of an Italian supermodel, Fabio. His striking features, complete with a long, flowing mane and a wide white blaze adorning his face, are enough to leave anyone wonderstruck. Standing at an impressive 17-hands tall and weighing 1,200 pounds, Liam exudes both strength and grace, reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s famed steed, The Pie, from “National Velvet.”
Liam’s journey began at Woodford Thoroughbreds in Florida on March 3, 2016, under the ownership of John and Susan Sykes. With a lineage of winners and impeccable conformation, he seemed destined for a promising racing career. From the ages of two to four, Liam raced tirelessly 17 times at seven different tracks, amassing three victories and earning over $125,000.
However, the unrelenting rigors of the racing world took a heavy toll on Liam, leading to irreversible osteoarthritis—a result of the repetitive pounding his limbs endured on the unforgiving track.
Amidst this backdrop of racing glamour, New Vocations, an aftercare facility supported by the racing industry, welcomed Liam into their rehabilitation program. However, Liam’s life would take a precarious turn when, three or four months into his stay at New Vocations, he faced the grim prospect of euthanasia — a bleak moment that would change the course of his life forever.
In a desperate plea to save Liam, his former owner and trainer reached out to Unbridled. On a cold winter day in 2021, Liam took his first step towards the rest of his life as he disembarked at Unbridled. His imposing presence, striking in its own right, melted our hearts with a simple “Hello!” It was a moment that marked a new beginning.
Imaging of Liam’s right foreleg revealed the damage he had suffered while racing. Although irreversible, surgery held the promise of comfort and an extended life of soundness for this majestic creature. The skilled team at Rhinebeck Equine successfully operated on Liam, offering a glimmer of hope for future pleasure riding. As inquiries for adoption flooded in, each harboring grand aspirations for Liam, Laurie entered the picture.
When Laurie first laid eyes on Liam, she saw beyond his striking exterior. Liam, still a young horse, had given his all during his early years, doing everything that was asked of him, only to be left with the weight of unspent energy in his big, powerful body. The palpable frustration he must have felt became a silent language understood all too well by Laurie. She recognized the echoes of a horse who had given his all and had been left to grapple with the emotional, mental and physical aftermath.
Laurie’s compassionate understanding went beyond the surface. She comprehended the constraints imposed by his past, the toll racing had taken on his body, and the quiet potential that lay beneath his stunning exterior.
With weekly lessons, Laurie patiently worked with Liam on the ground, building trust and nurturing a profound connection. Gradually, she reintroduced him to a saddle and embarked on riding lessons, not merely to fulfill her lifelong dream of having a horse of her own, but to recognize Liam’s potential for a life filled with love and compassion.
Their bond deepened with each passing day, culminating in a momentous day on July 15, 2023 — National I Love Horses Day — when Laurie officially adopted Liam, a testament to the love that had blossomed between them.
At the core of Unbridled lies an unwavering commitment: to prepare each horse under its care for a life where they can truly be themselves, embraced and cherished by partners like Laurie. These partnerships transcend utility; they represent profound connections with sentient beings who share our world.
In the love story of Liam and Laurie, Unbridled’s mission comes vividly to life—a poignant and beautiful testament to Unbridled’s dedication to these majestic creatures and its unwavering belief in their intrinsic worth, transcending any role they might play in our lives.
Laurie and Liam’s remarkable journey stands as a testament to the favor that shined upon them. Liam’s chance at life against the odds serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of proactive measures to safeguard equine soundness and the significance of aftercare facilities in protecting retired racing and breeding stock.
The journey of Laurie and Liam is a powerful reminder that love has the power to conquer even the most daunting of obstacles, forging bonds that are unbreakable and inspiring new perspectives on our relationship with horses.
Susan Kayne operates the horse rescue organization Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation, on the border of Albany County and Greenville.