It was in early 1991 that my husband, Mike, and I attended that auction. January 25, 1991, a cold wintry day and his birthday which is why I remember the day so well. The auction was held at the Ellington agricultural center in their indoor ring. We toured the barns looking at barren broodmares and crooked legged babies. The unwanted or past their prime Thoroughbreds whose owners didn’t want to or could no longer afford to feed them for the winter. There is no doubt in my mind that we bought Zookie away from the killers. Even as thin as she was $600 equaled about 50 cents a pound.
Of course we didn’t bring the trailer. We figured that we would look. I had my criteria for the purchase of a broodmare written down and didn’t want to impulse buy and settle for anything less. Nothing in the barns struck my fancy. They were too old, too small or too barren for me to be interested. So we settled into seats in the indoor arena to watch the auction.
While we sat and watched my husband browsed through the sale catalog. I thought that we had walked past all the stalls but apparently we hadn’t. In the sale catalog he found a horse named ‘Marie’s Favorite’. We would have remembered looking at a horse with that name since my name is Marie. As I recall her statistics looked fairly good and I figured it was worth a run out to the barn she was in to take a look at her. The stalls were on an outside row that we had missed when we were walking through the barns looking at horses.
As I passed each stall, I looked at the information for each horse posted beside the stall. Most of the horses at this auction were quite a bit smaller than I was interested in so it caught my attention to see a big grey in one of the stalls. As I was looking at him a guy who was there with them told me that his mother was in the stall next to him. As I looked at her information sheet, he told me that he would pull her out for me. So he did and that was when I got really excited.
Zookie’s Girl was a big chestnut mare. She was much larger than anything else at the auction. She stood 17 hands but was quite thin. The guy apologized for how she looked. He told me that she had been out in a field with other mares and she wasn’t very assertive about eating her share of food. Her breeding history was OK, not great. She was 13 and had had several foals but she had been barren for the last 2 years. I thought she was a pretty good risk.
So I headed back to my seat in the arena, a bit breathless about my ‘find’ out in the barn. Mike tried not to let me get too excited. He did the bidding and when the gavel fell, Zookie’s Girl was ours for a whopping 600 bucks. We later found out that there was a rumor that she was a cribber running around the barn which also might have attributed to her low price. Mike confronted the owner about this in the office since this habit was supposed to have been declared up front and the owner told him that it was not true. She might chew a little on the wood but she didn’t crib and he was correct, she didn’t crib.
Well, now we had purchased the horse and we didn’t have our trailer with us. So off we headed on an hour’s drive home to get the trailer and an hour’s ride back to pick up the mare. When we arrived back at the agricultural center everyone was gone. There was not a soul around, other than Zookie’s Girl. She was all alone in the stall. Left without even a water bucket, which was supposed to have been left there for her by her owner.
All I could think was ‘Boy, I hope this big girl loads.’ So we took this horse we didn’t know up to our trailer which she had never seen before and she promptly climbed right in. She must have known we were going to take her home and feed her.
When we got her home we fed her by herself so that she would get all of her food and wouldn’t have to compete for it or rush to eat. We also discovered that someone had taught her to bow. We noticed her holding up one of her front feet and lowering her head toward her knee one day at feeding time. We went into the stall because we thought that she might have an injury to her foot and that was why she was holding her foot up and looking at it but we found that her foot was fine. Then we noticed she would do it with the other foot too and that’s when we realized that she was bowing for her food. During the time we had her we never asked her to bow for anything but anytime she wanted anything she would bow. When we were getting ready to feed she would be standing in her stall bowing. We reinforced the thought that was in her mind that bowing got her something by feeding her. We would have fed her anyway of course but in her mind she made the connection that bowing got her food. She also made a connection that bowing got her whatever she wanted. When it was time to come in she would stand at the gate and bow. Once when she had a foal and wanted him to get up she stood in front of him bowing for him to get up.
We sent Zookie out to Stone Crop Farm in the spring to be bred to the Hanoverian stallion, West Coast. With the services of a skillful reproductive vet Zookie got in foal on the second try. Zookie had quite a good career as a broodmare. She was inspected and made the main mare book for the Oldenburgs and then at age 21 was accepted into the Hanoverian book. Zookie produced 3 Oldenburg foals by West Coast for us. 2 of the 3 Oldenburg foals were premium foals. The first foal was not registered until his second year so he could not qualify for this award. At age 21 she was inspected and accepted by the American Hanoverian Society and produced 2 Hanoverian fillies, one by West Coast and one by Walldorf. We later found out that prior to us owning her, she had produced a thoughbred gelding who was long listed for the Olympics in eventing. We even met the lady who had owned him.
We lost Zookie in 2001 5 hours after she delivered her Walldorf filly. We thought that she was fine after the birth but a few hours later her uterine artery ruptured. It occurred while the vet was there checking on the foal. I was getting ready to go to work when he called me from the barn to tell me something was wrong and she was gone before I even had a chance to get down our hill from the house to the barn. She did live long enough to give her filly a good start at life.
I had no illusions about Zookie. She was an aged mare and had had a difficult life prior to our owning her. I knew that one day we would lose her and I did not want to lose her foal. The baby was immediately taken to Special Care, a facility that specializes in orphans and broodmares. Bobby and Judy at Special Care knew exactly how to care for an orphan.
Today ‘baby Zookie’ is doing great. She looks a lot like her mother. Just a bigger, more elastic moving version. We named her ‘Wish From Zookie’ since I wanted a filly out of Zookie to replace her with and that is what she left us with. This is one we'll never sell and we’ll always have a Zookie in the barn.
Orphan pictures of Zookie
Pictures of Zookie as a 2 year old.