Windsor Park Stud last night paid tribute to the tremendous courage of its stallion Thorn Park, who was euthanised after a three-month battle with illness yesterday morning.
The Waikato stallion, who endured first the pain of infection in the navicular bone of his near-hind foot, then resulting laminitis from offloading weight on to his off-hind foot, had been coping well with the ordeal. But stud manager Steve Till said it became apparent that it was "game over" when his appetite disappeared and his heart rate became elevated.
"We knew from the outset it was going to be a rollercoaster ride, but we always said that while the horse showed us he wanted to live, we'd do everything we could to help him.
"At times it appeared we were getting on top of things, then he'd have setbacks, but throughout it what stood by him was his great courage and his ability to handle high levels of pain. Lesser animals wouldn't have been able to cope.
"Every day he'd still get into his tucker and he was standing up to things really well until recently when he had another setback." Till said the loss of Thorn Park, whom they affectionately called "Thorny", would be felt not only by stud owners Nelson, Sue and Rodney Schick and its team of workers, but by the entire industry.
"He was a beautifully conformed animal and a magnificent horse to deal with - strong willed but lovely to do anything with. He was a real part of the family. Our stallion manager Callum Jones was particularly close to him. Champion sires are hard to replace - so few get to that level.
"He was the youngest stallion since Zabeel to win the premiership and at 13 he was still relatively young. Star Way got to 31, Kaapstad was in his 20s and Volksraad the same."
Till said every conceivable effort went into saving Thorn Park, who had struck it big with Group I winners Veyron, Jimmy Choux and lately, Ocean Park.
"We had a fantastic team of vets helping us, including Dr Rick Redden, a leading authority on laminitis in America. We'd managed the laminitis and it was responding really well, but what got on top of him was the infection in his other foot."
The infection had started out all very innocuously in September.
"We thought we'd got on top of that with standard treatment but we didn't realise it was so deep seated and it spread from the bursa [a small sac between the tendon and the bone], into the navicular bone."
- Sunday Star Times