Today's story is about Midnight Justice, a 2014 gelding who retired from racing in 2020. Midnight Justice came to us in partnership with New Start For Horses, the track-based retirement program based out of Penn National.
Justice is by Midnight Lute - and out of an Irish mare by Alhaarth (IRE). He sold as a yearling for $35,000 before going on to race a respectable 20 times, ending his career with trainer Kate Demasi.
When he retired, he had a chip in his knee that New Start paid to have surgically removed before he came to ATR. He came to us straight from surgery for rehabilitation, but quickly caught the eye of his soon-to-be adopter Ali, all the way in Maine.
1. How long have you had Midnight Justice, and what do you call him in the barn?
I've had him for about two and a half years now. While he was on stall rest at my trainers barn all the little lesson kids would go visit "Mr. J" to give him treat. It stuck, and now he's known as Jay.
2. What drew you to him when you were searching for a horse? How did you know he was "the one?" He literally just had surgery to remove a chip from his knee when you contacted me. Did you have any reservations about that?
Not really. I watched his offloading video and could see he was massive. I'm a quite tall, leggy rider so I tend to gravitate towards the mammoth-sized horses. I think the shock on your face while walking him off the trailer really sold me.
(Click HERE to see the video in question!)
He had just come back from the hospital when I saw the video and I immediately talked to my trainer who said, "we'll support you with whatever you need." I then called my vets office and set up his post-op appointments before I even put in the adoption application. I knew as long as I had the support of both my trainer and vet, we'd be just fine. I think my favorite memory was actually his first time getting field turnout with his friends. After months of rehabbing him, seeing him run around so happy and sound with his friends was such an unbelievable feeling. I definitely shed happy tears that day.
3. Was adopting a horse in rehabilitation more challenging or more rewarding than you expected?
It was definitely both. We were progressing through a pretty standard rehab plan until the day he was supposed to graduate to small paddock turn out. He fractured his splint bone in the stall. Unfortunately he was pretty lame and it extended his stall rest for another couple of weeks. I wouldn't change the experience for anything though. I spent everyday at the barn doing his care, which helped us forge an incredible bond. Since completing rehab he's been completely sound on the knee with no limitations. 4. What are the two of you up to these days?
We're currently schooling dressage in the ring. He's quite a fancy horse but is really sensitive, so we've been taking it slow for him. His brain has really not caught up to his body yet. Some days it feels like I'm sitting on a three year old colt, so we adjust and I work with the horse I have for the day.
He really enjoys trail riding. He's a very confident horse so he's been great for a lot of solo adventures this summer. We're hoping to start doing beach rides this winter. On trails, he always move with a purpose. He’s not a horse that will quietly mosey anywhere. That said, he doesn’t bat an eye at things. He will go through wet footing, over logs, you name it and he’ll do it; he's just going to do it at a fast walk! It felt intimidating when we first starting trail riding, but I’ve learned to really trust him. He always takes care of me, so it's just a little quirk I now find endearing. 5. Do you find dressage and trail riding compliment each other?
They really do. We often refer to Jay as a spicy dragon in the ring. He's really forward and easily offended. Trail riding seems to bring him mental peace, so I like to mix it into his work schedule often. We still do lateral work here and there on trail rides, and use the hill work for his fitness.
6. I know you started Justice through long lining. How did he take to it and does it continue to be part of your toolkit?
When we first started I often joked, "I'm going to fly my kite," because quite frankly we spent more time airborne than with our feet on the ground. My trainer was incredibly supportive throughout the process. Long lining was a great tool to teach him how to steer, move away from pressure, and how to stop. We actually taught all his lateral work to him on long lines. It really gives him a chance to figure out what you're asking without being physically on him. We still continue to use it regularly, sometimes we'll even long line on trails. I highly recommend it being in everyone's tool kit.
7. Any advice for someone considering adopting a Thoroughbred?
Have a good village of supportive, kind people and take a chance on the rehab horse. It's a rewarding road and often they're the gems that are overlooked. It's important to have a vet you trust throughout the process, but it is so worth it.
8. Anything else you want people to know about Midnight Justice?
He's a really quirky horse. He nibbles everything. It used to really annoy me but I've learned to let go and appreciate his silly side. We often take things too seriously but he reminds me to take a breath and just enjoy each moment. He also loves his tongue to be rubbed, so you'll often catch him sticking his tongue out hoping someone will grab it!