In July 2021, Top Gun, known as “Topper” and “Mr. Top” in the barn, was found abandoned at a boarding facility in Cecil County, Maryland, and subsequently seized by animal control officers.
The Cecil County officers contacted Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) and the Thoroughbred-cross gelding was swiftly transferred to the Woodbine, Maryland-based farm for rehabilitation and care.
When Topper arrived at DEFHR at the age of 18, he was emaciated and suffered from severe rain rot along his topline. He was immediately treated for his dermatological infection with a mild antibiotic soap bath and later with a topical anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ointment that was reapplied as needed to soften the hard scabs so that they could be curried away. He was also dewormed and had visits with the farrier and equine dentist to trim his hooves and float his teeth.
Scoring a two out of nine on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System meant that the older gelding needed to be fed carefully and slowly.
“We started by feeding Topper small portions of hay frequently throughout the day and began to turn him out on pasture for limited periods each day,” explained Lynn Garvin, Equine Health Manager at DEFHR. “We slowly increased his time on pasture and eventually introduced grain in very small portions three times per day. Within a month, Mr. Top was eating 12 pounds of grain split up across four meals per day.”
In total, Topper was in DEFHR’s rehabilitation program for six months. Garvin noted that in that time, despite arriving as an anxious gelding, he was always kind and gentle.
“We learn a lot about new horses when we go through this process and we found that Topper was a gentleman,” she shared. “Initially, he was anxious when he was alone. After a quarantine period, we were finally able to turn him out with other geldings and we found that he was much happier with companions. Mr. Top is a playful, goofy member of the gelding field.”
Once Topper was rehabilitated, he moved into DEFHR’s training program. From the start, it was clear to DEFHR Assistant Trainer Leigha Schrader that Topper had a previous career under saddle.
“He accepted tack and rider without batting an eye,” Schrader said. “When I picked up the reins, he went into what I consider over-collection. He was curling behind the bit likely because he was out of shape and potentially used to having a bit with more leverage.”
Schrader’s initial priority was building Topper’s muscle and improving his overall physical fitness. To do this, DEFHR’s trainers focus on balance and encouraging proper self-carriage to promote a strong topline. Topper’s training regimen incorporated trot work, resistance bands, transitions, and hill work across fields and along trails.
Because Topper is an older horse, Schrader took her time and, throughout the course of several months, helped the gelding build muscle across his entire body and especially along his topline.
Once back in shape, Schrader found that the gelding had a zest for jumping.
“I pointed him at a small cross rail, and he was so excited to do the job,” she commented. “He tucked his knees and despite the cross rail being only 12 inches off of the ground, he cantered over it with his ears perked ready for the next fence. At his age, I do not jump him often and never higher than 18 inches, but he enjoys it all the same. Sometimes he likes to jump big to show his scope and prove that he is above such easy work, but I also think that he is enjoying this new, more laid-back pleasure career.”
Having been in DEFHR’s care for more than two years, Topper is ready to find his forever family, ideally in a home where he can enjoy casual pleasure and trail riding. Both Garvin and Schrader speak volumes about the gelding’s fun personality and hope he’ll find his match soon.
“Topper is a wonderful, charming horse. He loves mints and will continue nickering while he is eating one as if he is saying, ‘yes, this is so tasty,’” laughed Garvin. “He’s also greedy and will pick your pockets and investigate zippers and bags to be sure you aren’t keeping any treats from him.”
“You can’t train personality,” concluded Schrader. “Mr. Top is simply a kind-hearted gentleman who is going to make his adopter very happy. You can’t be around him without smiling. He radiates positive energy that is absolutely infectious.”
For more information about Topper and DEFHR’s adoptable horses, visit DEFHR.org/available-horses/.