By Kent Baker
Wayne Paul just couldn't let him go.
For nearly two weeks, he was advised by the veterinary staff at the George D. Widener Hospital Center for Large Animals at New Bolton Center that euthanasia might be the proper option in the case of his gelding, Beenonabender, which had been diagnosed with plural pneumonia. For the same length of time, Paul kept saying, "one more day."
"He was a phone call away from being destroyed," said Paul, who maintains a small stable on Fox Hollow Farm in Monkton.
Although the future looked bleak for Beenonabender, Wayne Paul (right) stuck with the horse, which resumed competing in the fall.
Finally, the horse's temperature, which had reached a life-threatening 105 degrees, began falling when a new medicine was administered. Beenonabender started biting. And eating. But medical people still gave him "only a slight chance of making it."
Two years and thousands of injected pills later, Beenonabender is standing in his stall, hale and hearty. The massive gelding, who stretches to 17.2 hands, has returned to racing, is working lightly over the countryside during the cold months and will resume his career in the spring.
Paul is so confident in him that the now-turf specialist will be pointed toward the lucrative Dixie Handicap, the second richest race on the Preakness card in May. To win that event -- or even to pick up a paycheck -- would be an achievement beyond Paul's wildest dreams, considering what the horse has endured.
Purchased privately, Beenonabender, bred in Canada, had flashed promise with strong workouts at Pimlico over the main track when Paul entered him in a race at Penn National two winters ago. But his scheduled jockey came down with flu, the trainer couldn't find a last-minute replacement, and the horse was scratched.
Back in the barn, Beenonabender rubbed noses with another horse who had contracted a virus that could be deadly. Later, at Manor Equine Hospital, the gelding was diagnosed with pneumonia. Off he went to New Bolton in Pennsylvania, long known to horsemen but a facility that acquired world-wide recognition with its care of Barbaro after he broke down in the Preakness.
"In my mind's eye, I could always see him making it," said Paul, a former coach of the semi-pro football Baltimore Bears. His persistence was rewarded, but the horse wasn't out of the woods yet. For a year, Paul had to inject Beenonabender twice daily with shots containing 75 dissolved pills each, a number that gradually declined to 60, then 30, before the treatment ended altogether.
"He was then re-evaluated and found to be totally clear with just some minor lung damage," said Paul.
Ami Troxell started exercising the horse lightly, then galloping him. But last July, she was involved in an automobile accident, and Paul engaged David Reese (pictured left) to take over the reins. There was an instant rapport between them, and Reese began taking Beenonabender, now 7 years old, on cross country jaunts. From there, it was back to competition in the fall.
"We were getting this horse to the point where he was acclimated to racing again," Paul said. "He needed that because he had been away so long. The only thing now is he has very challenging feet, and he needs special shoes."
By Whisky Wisdom out of Lefabuleux, Beenonabender's support was far-reaching. Paul wanted to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Nick Mettinis of the Maryland Veterinary Group, Dr. Terese Martinelli of Manor Equine, rider Reese, farrier Chuck Lucier, horse owner Mary Evans, Dr. Andrew Van Epps of New Bolton, and Rose Ann Harbaugh, who advised Paul on the financial end,.
"Not too many people would have saved this horse," said Paul, whose business is building restoration and remodeling. Asked how much it cost to do so, he replied, "Let's just say it was extremely pricey. But what is it worth in dollars and cents?"
Because of his affable disposition and responses to direction, Beenonabender is attractive to show-horse interests but Paul "turned down some offers for him. All my efforts are now directed toward him. I had a string [of horses] before at Pimlico, but I feel now you have to put your focus on one or two."
No greater focus exists than the decision to save the horse's life.
Issue 3.4: January 24, 2008