A registered Thoroughbred born on March 25, 2004, Disco raced seven times under the name Colega, but a prolific racing career wasn’t in the cards for him.

His life took an unfortunate turn, and in 2010, he was rescued by Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) of Woodbine, Maryland, after he was discovered in desperate conditions along with seven other Thoroughbreds in Berkeley County, West Virginia. Help had arrived just in time.

Upon intake, Disco was scored as a one out of nine on the Henneke Body Condition Scale, meaning he was extremely emaciated. He also was fighting an aggressive sinus infection that required surgical intervention to effectively treat. It took six months for Disco to recover and to rehabilitate to an ideal weight. Despite hardships, his outgoing demeanor shone through.

Disco arrived at DEFHR with a body condition score of one. Credit: Days End Farm Horse Rescue

“Disco was a fun guy with a goofy personality right from the start,” recalled DEFHR Operations Director Brittney Vallot. “Even when he wasn’t feeling great at the beginning, he was still personable and interactive with everyone who gave him attention.”

Disco grew strong and learned how to get along with his new equine and human friends, and once his health had stabilized, DEFHR staff began to look for his forever home. He had all his life to live and all his love to give, and now it was just about finding him his perfect match to go from scarcely stayin’ alive to happily ever after.

We Are Family

During the time Disco was rehabilitating at DEFHR, Karen Scott, a mom to two horse-loving children, was exploring equine adoption to fulfill the desire of her daughter Shannon who had always dreamt of taking a horse of her own to college.

The Scotts, of Frederick County, Maryland, were experienced equestrians but had yet to make the leap into horse ownership. Karen had grown up taking riding lessons and later became a volunteer with a local 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program. When her daughters were young and first expressed interest in horses, Karen set them up with Mary Shunk, an equine rescue advocate and founder of and trainer at The Retreat at Beckleysville in Hampstead, Maryland.

Shunk provided the Scott daughters with a strong riding and horsemanship foundation, which further solidified Shannon’s dream of owning a horse. While Karen was supportive, she also wanted to be prepared.

“We are pretty dedicated to rescue animals in general,” explained Karen. “As a family, we volunteered with a small animal rescue and fostered hamsters and rats for several years, and our dogs were adopted, too. It seemed like a logical step to adopt a horse and DEFHR really checked all of the boxes. I wanted to be sure that they managed both the horses and adopters with care, and I realized early in the process that they were spot on.”

Shannon closely monitored the available horses on the DEFHR website, looking for her soon-to-be partner. She and Karen took several trips to the farm to get to know the horses. On one fateful visit, they spotted Disco. He looked like a pony Shannon’s sister had been riding, so they knew they had to meet him.

“[DEFHR Head Trainer] Sara Strauss was really wonderful in providing opportunities to meet and greet as well as ride the horses,” said Karen of the process of finding the right horse. “I was looking for a horse with a good brain and I never expected to go for an off-track Thoroughbred. We really were just drawn to Disco.”

“He had the best, kindest face,” remembered Shannon. “You could tell he was totally a people horse and loved human interaction. He came right up to us on our first visit.”

While their hearts seemed to already have chosen Disco, Karen and Shannon took their time with the adoption process. They received training at DEFHR to help prepare them for the life-long commitment and agreed to foster Disco for a month to ensure it was the right fit. From the moment he stepped off the trailer, Shannon was so excited, and she couldn’t hide it—she knew this horse was going to be a partner for life.

One month later in July 2011, seven-year-old Disco was made an official member of the Scott family.

The assistance from DEFHR didn’t stop there. Early in their time together, Shannon and Disco were facing some challenges. DEFHR staff recommended trainer Ali Calkins, of Forward Strides, who immediately connected with Shannon and Disco and was able to provide the experience, instruction, and encouragement needed to bring the best out of the new partnership.

Later on, Disco battled some physical and health issues at the same time Shannon was beginning to deal with the demands of navigating young adulthood, but with Ali’s support, they paved a constructive path forward and managed to turn the beat around.

“We started working toward dressage, learning new riding skills, and figuring out the best way to support his strength and fitness under saddle,” shared Shannon of her training with Ali. “Disco has never failed to bring a smile to my face. He is my happy place. Through all the ups and downs, riding, grooming, and simply hanging out with him has always been my safe place. He is very important to me for so many reasons.”

Disco has proved to be a family guy and enjoys spending time with Shannon and her goddaughter. Credit: Shannon Scott

Now, 12 years into his happily ever after, Disco continues to enjoy the good life. He loves scoring an extra treat—especially carrots, turning out in the field, eating his hay while laying down, and making friends with everyone he meets. That’s the way uh huh uh huh he likes it.

Adopting is a long-term responsibility that the Scotts did not take lightly. Karen emphasized the importance of gathering knowledge about horse care, connecting with equine professionals, and planning ahead to manage costs. Shannon agreed with her mom’s practicality, and also expressed that adopting and owning a horse is more than just saddle time.

“Disco turned out to be the horse I wanted but I didn’t know I needed,” she said. “I envisioned our journey differently—probably more competitive with more shows, more jumping, and those kinds of things.

“However, the lessons I’ve learned through having Disco are irreplaceable. He has taught me it is okay to ask for help, and that everyone benefits from support and sharing experiences. He has taught me to laugh at the joy owning a horse can bring even during the unpredictable circumstances that we are never quite fully prepared for. Although it is good to have expectations and to take your time to find the right horse, it is okay to accept the journey that having a horse can take you on in all the best and challenging ways.”

Thanks to their special bond, Shannon and Disco have created a fulfilling life together. The pair has dabbled in a few schooling shows and they continue to work on being the best they can be—whether that’s under saddle or in the barn. There ain’t no stoppin’ them now; they’ve got the groove. They’re gonna boogie oogie oogie til they just can’t boogie no more.

Feature image: Shannon has found dressage to helpful in supporting Disco’s strength and fitness under saddle. Credit: Shannon Scott