A European champion racehorse and sire of 129 stakes winners, Nureyev has faced many difficult obstacles during his racing and breeding careers. In 1987, Nureyev struggled valiantly to overcome a serious right hind leg fracture. Mainly through the efforts of attending veterinarian Dr. J.D. Howard, the stallion recovered and returned to the breeding shed.
While the 24-year-old Nureyev has not been the most fertile sire, he has make his mark with outstanding sons and daughters, including major sire Theatrical and two-time Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner and champion daughter Miesque. The stallion has covered a limited book in recent years because of his age, and it was reported that seven of his mares were impregnated this year. However, mare reproductive loss this spring caused several of those mares to lose their foals, so he ended his year with only two mares in foal.
The most recent problem to face the 24-year-old stallion started in mid-August. Nureyev became acutely lame in his right fore, said Dr. Howard.
"It was atypical of an abscess, so we did a venogram," which allows the blood vessels of the foot to be visualized on X ray. "The venogram indicated that there was a mass in the front part of the foot."
The mass was surgically removed by Dr. Ric Redden, who had taken the venogram. The mass was determined to be a keratoma (tumor) of the hoof wall that was impinging the vascular system of the foot.
"For a month (after the surgery), he was pretty sound," related Dr. Howard. "Then a couple of weekends ago, he became acutely lame again in that foot."
Another venogram was taken, and the tumor was seen to be growing back. Work on the foot revealed that there was poor blood flow and clots in the vessels. There also was concern that Nureyev was putting too much weight on his "good" left foreleg, which could lead to laminitis. A decision was made to perform a tenotomy on both forelimbs to relieve the pull on the coffin bone and the stress on the front of the feet. He is in the process of recovering from surgery.
"It's a day-to-day battle with his age and other obstacles he's overcome," said Dr. Howard. "It's another bullet to dodge."
When asked if Nureyev would return to the breeding shed next year, Howard replied, "His retirement is imminent.
"He deserves a quality of life where he can be comfortable," added Howard. "I don't care if he breeds another mare, as long as he's happy."