It started with an ad on Kijiji in the fall of 2008 and ended in a lifetime of memories.
The fall of 2008 will always be a memorable one for WPCA driver Jordie Fike. On a sunny afternoon in September, Jordie received a call from his uncle Todd David informing him of a horse up the road advertised for $1,200.00 on the buy and sell website Kijiji.
Having just finished his rookie year as a wagon driver, Jordie did not have a big herd of horses and knew if he was going to be competitive, additional horsepower would be required.
Jordie jumped in the truck to go look at this horse with anticipation and when he finally saw it he wasn't disappointed. "The horse was a big thick horse called Joey" said Fike, "he looked like a wagon horse and had a pretty decent race record."
Registered as "Favour For Joey", Joey was bred in British Columbia and foaled on May 17, 2000. Joey's first race was on May 3, 2003 at Hastings Park in Vancouver, BC. Joey would run 24 of his 25 career races at Hastings Park before retiring on June 17, 2007 with career earnings just over $98,000.00 US.
According to the owner, Joey had a bad experience during a trip from Vernon, BC to Crossfield, AB and was tentative around strangers. Impressed by the horse and needing to add to his herd, Jordie Fike wrote the $1,200.00 check, loaded up the horse and headed home.
Upon arrival at the farm, the next question was how Joey would react to the other horses and it didn't take long to find out. "Joey was a warrior right away and fought any horse that came his way" says Fike, "he was hard on his back legs and occasionally kicked the fence. He was a pretty proud horse."
Over the winter Joey got used to the other horses then in early 2009, Jordie brought Joey into the barn and put him in a tie stall to get used to being tied up. Most thoroughbred horses off the racetrack are not tied up in their stalls so there is a training process required in wagon racing to get thoroughbreds comfortable in being tied up. This ensures a horse is calm and safe when a saddle and tack is being put on him or when he is being hooked to the wagon.
With the new experience of having the leadshank from his halter tied to the inside of the stall, Joey started fighting and pulling back. Fike could tell Joey wasn't going to do anything he didn't want to so Fike decided to play on Joey's terms.
Jordie stood up with Joey in his stall. A position that could be dangerous especially if Joey decided to jump ahead. Luckily for Jordie, Joey was not that type of horse. "He wasn't really pulling back because he was panicking" said Fike, "he was trying to show me who was boss."
Sweet feed and oats are hard to resist for horses so Jordie held some sweet feed in his hand while standing inside the stall where Joey's lead shank was tied. It didn't take long for Joey to step up and start to settle in.
After a week of following that process, Joey became comfortable, so Jordie decided to hook him to the training wagon to see how the horse would drive.
Joey went to driving right away. He tucked his head as low as it could go and he drove great then went on to being Jordie's best left leader.
Joey would be a key horse for Jordie's first show win in Saskatoon, he was on the outfit that qualified Jordie for the WPCA Pro Tour in 2009 through the run off and eventually into the 2011 Calgary Stampede.
Midway through the 2011 Calgary Stampede Joey's right hind leg started to swell which was fairly common for him since he always seemed to be kicking with his back feet.
Like many times before, Jordie and his wife Tamara wrapped Joey's leg and once again expected the swelling to be down in the morning. This time however, the Fikes woke up to find Joey still very sore so they called the professional veterinarians to have a look at him.
On day 7 of the 2011 Calgary Stampede, Joey was still sore and they couldn't get the problem figured out so they transported him to an off-site equine care facility.
After a few days of care and evaluation it was determined that Joey's problem was a septic joint possibly from an old injury before Jordie ever purchased the horse. It was suggested that horses usually don't come back from this type of injury and that Jordie may be wasting his time investing in any extensive care when the survival rate is rare.
It was an emotional day for the Fikes but they knew that any money they had earned wagon racing was because of Joey so they decided to invest it into caring for him and his surgery. Prior to Joey's surgery his condition worsened so the equine clinic contacted Jordie and Tamara and suggested they come say their goodbyes as they didn't think Joey would wake up from his surgery.
Filled with emotion, Jordie stopped by the clinic to give Joey some mints since the horse loved mints, but Jordie wasn't saying goodbye because he knew Joey was a fighter.
The surgery was performed then 2 days later the veterinarian called and said they did the surgery and it would be a long road to recovery. Jordie says it was about $15,000.00 in veterinary care and post surgery care by the time it was done.
Having to continue on the WPCA Pro Tour, the Fikes left Joey with former WPCA driver Norm Cuthbertson and his wife Judy who would take care of Joey until Jordie returned.
The goal was to get Joey healthy enough so he could be pasture sound and retire with the Fikes.
Later that fall Joey came home from the Cuthbertsons and was put in a small pen with his buddy Kap. Over the winter Jordie and Tamara continued to care for Joey and would let the horse determine what he wanted to do.
When spring training started in 2012, they fired up the training truck and Joey ran up to the gate and almost ran through it wanting to come train with his partner KAP.
Jordie decided to try it and says Joey trained as hard as he ever did like he had something to prove.
Joey was back to driving on the wagon again with his partner Kap and it added some excitement for the Fike team.
In 2012 Jordie took Joey on the road to start the season in Grande Prairie but didn't drive him until the last day. Joey went on to race all the way through to the Strathmore Stampede. In the back of Jordies mind he always remembered the veterinarian saying the swelling could always come back so they watched it carefully.
At the conclusion of the Strathmore Stampede Joey loaded up and headed for Dawson Creek, BC. When Joey came out of the trailer in Dawson Creek he showed signs of soreness and similar symptoms he experienced a year prior.
After 6 days of consultation with the veterinarian in Dawson Creek and the veterinarian who did the surgery on Joey, it was unanimous that there was no recovering this time. This time Joey would not be coming home from Dawson Creek and the Fikes would have to load up their horses with one empty stall.
Tamara and Jordie went with Joey to the clinic and were by his side when he crossed over.
"We think about him alot especially when we are up there racing" says Jordie. "The toughest part was watching his partner Kap looking for him afterwards."
Joey's story is just one of many in the WPCA that exemplifies the saying "you will forget alot of good people in this world but you will never forget a good horse."