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  • Bonnie McRae

Graduate Spotlight: Cackle the Cuda


We don't often get horses from the West Coast, but Cackle the Cuda would be the exception. Cuda was owned by a syndicate and it just so happened that one of the members of that syndicate lived and owned a horse farm in Lancaster County, PA. Even though he was claimed, Sylvia kept tabs on him and made it known she wanted him when he retired, even if it meant shipping him all the way back to the East Coast. His last of 43 races would be at Golden Gate, and she received a call after a poor finish. Not long after, he was on his way home. After giving him ample time to let down, she decided she wanted someone with more connections and a better safety net to help place him in a forever home, and that's where After the Races, and subsequently adopter Erin, would come in. Cuda took to his retraining without drama. He was biddable and lovely to ride, even if he didn't love being brushed. After a relatively short stay, less than two months, he was matched up with adopter Erin, who I'm very excited to follow up with today.


Thank you so much for your participation in our spotlight series. Let's start with how long have you had Cuda now.

I have had Cuda for just over 3 years now. I adopted him in October of 2019.

Photo taken at ATR by Bethany P Photography

What drew you to him when you were searching for a horse? How did you know he was "the one?"

I was looking for a horse that I could take trail riding with my family. The main thing I remember is feeling completely safe when I rode him at After the Races. He was very calm and I felt comfortable with him, in both a physical and emotional sense. I also remember him pinning his ears at me from his stall the first time he saw me. That really won me over! Cuda and I have been through a lot in our time together, all of which has brought us very close. It seems like we can read each other's minds, which is an amazing feeling. You obviously have quite the bond. I know you've been pursuing endurance with Cuda. What drew you to endurance and how has he taken to it?

I didn’t know anything about endurance before I got Cuda. In fact, I had always been a little nervous about trail riding because I was used to riding slightly “spooky” horses. But with Cuda, I realized I could just relax and trust he wouldn’t do anything crazy with me. I had a ton of fun trail riding him and going on longer and longer rides with him. I even felt safe enough to take him out alone.


Some of my happiest memories are galloping down the trail, just me and Cuda, all alone in the middle of nowhere. I started tracking our rides and setting monthly mileage goals and began learning about endurance riding.

I rode Cuda in our first 15 mile competitive trail ride in Vermont and got hooked on the sport. Cuda has taken to it very well. He seems happiest when he is out on the trail, especially when he is in the lead! I find the sport really motivates me to set goals and to get out and ride, even on days when the weather isn't great or I just don't feel like it. When you spend that much time with your horse, you learn a lot about them and become very in tune with each other. It's a constant learning process trying to figure out which hoofwear, electrolyte methods, and riding strategies work best for your horse, and I love it. How does Cuda like "camping," literally or at endurance events? Cuda is a great camper! He loves going to new places and settles right in.

Camping at a ride - looking pretty happy!

A lot of people have this (mistaken) belief that Thoroughbreds don't make good trail horses. What's your experience been?


Cuda is an amazing trail horse. He is brave, sane, and above all safe. I think there are a lot of OTTBs out there with great brains. They have seen a lot in their time at the track that will prove helpful when they are out on the trails.

If I remember correctly, you had some gut issues you've been working through with Cuda. Can you share what you've been through with him and what you've done to work through it?

Since I’ve had Cuda, he’s had frequent colics during the winter. Last winter was the worst of all. Cuda started colicking almost weekly beginning at the end of November. I had him on Omeprazole, thinking maybe the winter caused ulcer flares for him. One of the colics lasted on and off for an entire day and didn’t fully resolve with antacid and banamine, so the vet came out and gave Cuda Buscopan which took care of it. I asked the vet at the time why he thought Cuda colicked so frequently, even while on Omeprazole. The vet mentioned the possibility of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

I got a referral from my vet to bring Cuda to Tufts for a full “recurrent colic” workup that included abdominal ultrasound, radiographs, gastroduodenoscopy, colonoscopy, abdominocentesis, and biopsies from his duodenum and small colon. The ultrasound showed a large amount of fluid in Cuda’s abdomen and thickening of his small intestine. The biopsies came back showing multiple types of inflammatory cells.


The IBD causes Cuda’s stomach to get upset easily and produce too much gas, leading to gas colics which are very painful. It also causes thickening of his small intestine, making it so he does not absorb nutrients efficiently.

I think it's important to spread the word about IBD since the symptoms mimic ulcers, but management is different. For severe IBD flare-ups, steroids are needed to get the symptoms under control.

Since his diagnosis, I have taken Cuda off of his commercial feed and have been modifying his diet to see what works best for him. I’ve found that giving him human gas-x at meal times and splitting his meals into small rations helps keep him more comfortable. The last meal of the day tends to be the one that is most likely to bother his stomach. I now break his dinner into smaller portions and will usually take him on a "mid-dinner walk" or at least give him about an hour between the first and second half of that meal.

Any advice for someone considering adopting a Thoroughbred? Go for it! Once you get a Thoroughbred, you'll understand... Nothing compares. Anything else you want people to know about Cuda? Endearing quirks, favorite memories, etc?

Can't imagine trading views like this for the world.

Cuda is a grumpy boy. It took me a long time to believe he actually liked me. I always say I feel safer on his back than on the ground with him. When brushing and blanketing Cuda, I am constantly saying, "please don't kill me." While he occasionally tries to bite me, I know he loves me. When he see me, he nickers and comes right over and looks super happy. He will then proceed to pin his ears and nip at me if I actually have the nerve to touch him. But I've gotten used to his ways and affectionately call him "Grumplestiltskin", "Grumpy-Pants", or "Cuda-tude". He has a lot of nicknames!




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