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Saturday, July 07, 2007

When Good Things Happen to Good People: Hoofcare's Connection to the PanAm Games

The pink ribbon on the Hyperion Farms saddle cloth signifies Judy Guden's long struggle to beat breast cancer. Judy is from Lubbock, Texas and an old friend of the late farrier Burney Chapman.

Al and Judy Guden are the nicest people I've never met.

About ten years ago, I sent out an email announcement to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal subscribers to tell them about the death of Texas laminitis specialist farrier Burney Chapman.

I was surprised to hear from Al Guden, the owner of a Thoroughbred racing stable on Long Island who asked if he could post my bio of Burney on his web site.

I was even more surprised to see that his web site was the first on the Internet to be dedicated to laminitis. It was filled with links and names and where to go and what to do if you had to deal with the disease.

By email, Judy, Al’s wife, was from Lubbock, Texas and they had brought Burney to Long Island back in the 80s to try the heart bar treatment on their foundered horse.

But the contact didn’t end there; I kept sending people to the Hyperion Farm web site. And Al started offering me some friendly advice on web technology. Before long, he had taken over the Hoofcare and Lameness email list and added all sorts of enhancements. And he wouldn’t accept payment, even after he had to hand-sort out all the America On Line addresses.

Al and Judy retired and moved to Florida. They gave up Thoroughbreds in favor of Dutch Warmbloods. They have the farm in Wellington and all the trimmings, but have remained interested in hooves and horseshoes and laminitis and still offer me help and advice (and boy, do I need it) on technology and horses and the international scene.

In the past few years, they have been on the ownership side of some of the top Dutch Warmbloods (KWPN) in the world, including the young dressage breeding champions Uptown and New Holland and now Washington. In Europe, their horses are ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud.

Al could write a book about the health problems he has encountered with his horses. More importantly, at the same time that his horses were soaring to the top, Judy Guden was on the sidelines, battling breast cancer, in recent years.

Yesterday, Al and Judy's eight-year-old US-based gelding, Sagacious HF, the mount of New Jersey rider Lauren Sammis, flew to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to represent the USA at the Pan Am Games. Lauren has brought this horse from training level to Prix St Georges.

Lauren qualified for the Pan Am Games with a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness sewn into her saddle cloth in Judy's honor. She’ll now trade it for the USA emblem of the US Equestrian Team.

I’m sure Judy approves of the switch.

If you have a minute to turn your thoughts toward Brazil next week, check the web site (The Thoroughbreds may be gone but the farm name remains rooted in the racing lore of the great racing sire Hyperion.) Al will keep us filled in on how the horse is doing.

Sagacious HF is shod by Don Later; his vet is Dr Rick Mitchell of Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Connecticut (and the world).

The bad news: Al and Judy will be at home in Florida while their horse competes in Brazil, since Judy is going through another chemotherapy series of treatments.

Hoofcare and Lameness has survived for 20 years because of people like Al Guden: busy people who somehow were never too busy to stop and look and see that the journal/website/blog/bookstore needed help with our educational mission and they had the expertise to give it. People like Al Guden have had answers for me before I even knew I had questions.

I admit that I had to open the dictionary and look up the exact meaning of Al and Judy’s horse’s name. They’ve had him since he was four months old, so I know they named him. Sagacious means having sound judgment and farsightedness, keen perception.

I can understand why Al Guden would know that word.

By the way, Hyperion was euthanized because of laminitis. He remains one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history and is at the head of bloodlines like the Northern Dancer line.

Al Guden with his gelding Sagacious HF. If you double-click on the image and view this photo in an enlarged window, you will see that the horse is hooked up for IV treatment. He is not sick; a few hours before the horse was to leave for the airport, veterinarian Rick Mitchell began to hydrate all the Team USA horses with 10000 mL of saline along with some vitamins, according to Al.

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