Selestial R, An Avoidable Tragedy

It is with a sadness that has broken my heart many times over that I announce that Selestial R died in June of 2021. It has taken me many, many months to accept that this wonderful horse is no longer living.

I met Seleste as a young 4 year old, and the second that she arched her neck over the stall door and engaged me with her expressive eyes, I was a goner. I just got a feeling from looking into her eyes and face, and after I rode her, I felt that she would be something special. She was a gangly, awkward looking youngster, but once she started moving, she was light and graceful on her feet.

Over time, she transformed from the awkward duckling into a beautiful and magnificent horse. As a five year old, we rode in front of Charlotte Dujardin for the first time, and she told me, “Don’t be surprised if she turns out just as nice or better than Quin.” Quin is superstar, Quintessential Hit. Seleste proved Charlotte right, and Seleste went on to win three USDF Horse of the Year titles over the years (First Level, Fourth Level, and Intermediate I). Seleste made her Grand Prix debut at 9 years of age, scoring over 73% from an FEI 5* judge in her first outing. I believed wholeheartedly in Seleste’s talent, training, and disposition. I believed that she would be very successful in international competition. Without the deep pockets to fund an international career for Seleste, I made the extremely difficult decision to sell Seleste.

I sent Seleste to a top rider in Germany, and from there, her story becomes one of extreme tragedy. The sordid details of Seleste’s experiences in Europe revealed all of the worst of people. In writing of Seleste’s passing, there is no way to escape the bitterness and anger that the treatment that she received brings forward. It would be unfair to Seleste to not disclose the injustices that she suffered. Her vet records in Germany were put in another person’s name, and all of the care that she received was hidden from me. It appears that she received treatments for conditions that were never disclosed to me. The vet who treated her, even upon knowing that I was the owner, has refused to give the complete records to me despite numerous requests from me to obtain them, a complete violation of a veterinarian’s legal and ethical obligations. 

Sensing in my gut that something was amiss, especially after another American horse tragically died of laminitis in that German barn, I moved Seleste to a barn in Holland. Eventually, it was revealed to me that Seleste had laminitis, but the laminitis was hidden from me for three entire months by the broker and trainer in charge of her care, as well as by the vet in charge of her care in Holland. She was being ridden on about 8 degrees of rotation before I was notified that she was not well. The tragedy is that had immediate and aggressive steps been taken to combat some inflammation in one foot, it’s entirely possible that Seleste would not have experienced laminitis and rotation. She should have been on ice around the clock, received anti-inflammatory treatments and been rested completely. Instead, they chose to continue riding and training her, exacerbating the inflammation to the point that the structures in the foot were damaged beyond repair.

It was a whirlwind of stress after that. As soon as I knew that Seleste was not well, I did everything that I could do to save her life, bringing her to Florida to receive the best care in the world. In Florida, Seleste was treated by a world renown podiatrist with corrective shoeing for laminitic horses. She was under the care of one of the best vet hospitals in the world, and she received the best supportive care possible. Unfortunately, despite the amazing efforts of everyone involved in Florida, they were unable to save her, and she was ultimately euthanized. A venogram was performed before the recommendation to euthanize was made. The results of the venogram were conclusive that there was no hope. On June 15, an amazing friend FaceTimed me from Seleste’s stall at the vet clinic, and I had to say goodbye to my beloved Seleste who had always given me her best. Seleste deserved a long and happy life with excellent care and a lovely retirement. She didn’t deserve to die young at the hands of people in Europe who valued something, I don’t know what, more than the life of a precious living being. A necropsy confirmed what we already knew: she had severe rotation in both front coffin bones and proliferation of both front coffin bones. She was in excruciating pain. 

I have tried long and hard to make sense of it all, and I have experienced anger, bitterness, guilt, sadness, and grief. The only thing that would make things right is for Seleste to still be alive and well. She cannot be brought back, and that is a bitter pill to swallow. My only hope is that the people who wronged Seleste will change their ways. I hope that they will always act with the horse’s best interest first, and I hope that they will be honest in all of their future dealings. I hope that every horse in the world will be valued as a living, sentient being, and that the life and well being of every horse will be considered first above sport and above business interests. In my experience, I saw the people at the top of the sport behaving abhorrently, and that needs to change. My memories of an absolutely magnificent horse are tarnished by the horrible end that she suffered at the hands of dishonesty.