A New Path

A career-ending diagnosis could’ve sent Kiss This Gentleman into retirement. Instead, owner Susan Butler found him a new calling.

By Amy Olson

After years of supporting her daughter’s horse-showing dreams, Susan Butler was ready to sell everything when her daughter sold her last horse. Some good friends, however, convinced Susan she could step into the saddle, so at age 47, Susan bought her first horse.

She began her journey in Western dressage after moving to Florida in 2014; she needed a horse that could step up to her competition level. After eight long months of searching, Susan found Kiss This Gentleman. “Goody’s” previous owner had been in a serious horse accident a few years earlier, and the kindly 2011 sorrel tobiano gelding had boosted her confidence to get back in the game. Now, that rider was ready to step up too, which meant Goody was looking for a new home.

“I was getting older and had a fall or two myself, so he was perfect for me,” Susan said.

Susan immediately began showing Goody in Introductory Level Western Dressage; by the next year, they had stepped up to Basic Level, earning loads of awards and their bronze medal from the Western Dressage Association of Florida. Goody also helped Susan earn her first trophy buckle in dressage through APHA’s Paint Alternative Competition program.

A Drastic Diagnosis

Just two years into their partnership, Goody began struggling at the lope and resisted picking up his left lead. With veterinary care and joint injections, they were able to continue competing. At a show in May 2021, Goody won both of his Western dressage classes on Saturday; but on Sunday, however, he refused to lope at all.

Susan enlisted the help of a lameness specialist to take X-rays of Goody. The results were heartbreaking: at only 10 years old, Goody’s hocks were full of arthritis and bone spurs, the joint space was too small to attempt more injections, and his left hock was beginning to fuse. The diagnosis brought Goody’s show career to a screeching halt.

Forced to consider retirement for the gelding, Susan struggled to find an option that would meet her high expectations and provide Goody the care he needed; she didn’t own land on which he could reside at pasture, nor could she bear to keep him cooped up in a stall forever. She reached out to Stirrups N’ Strides Therapeutic Riding Center, who agreed to take Goody into their program.

“It all happened very fast, but it was the right thing to do for Goody and all of those special riders,” Susan said.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2022 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.