Taking the Reins
story by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Horse veterinarian Bambi Fox sits at a flickering computer screen and exhales a short breath as she turns her head to the window. In the closet hang her husband's clothes, and on the walls are red and blue horse racing ribbons and a temperature gauge that says, “All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay … and he’ll listen to me any day.”
James "Jim" Fox passed away on Oct. 3, 2015. He and Bambi shared 31 years of marriage and 39 years of working together as horse trainer and groom. After his death, instead of selling the farm and horses, as many thought she would, Bambi took on her husband's role as a trainer. In doing so, she found a way to work through her grief.
Bambi, 56, found her passion for horses at a young age. She and her nine siblings grew up on 50 acres near Paducah. Each sibling had a job on the farm, and her's was to take care of the horses. When she met Jim at Carson Park fairgrounds while applying for a job to be his groom, it was not love at first sight.
"I thought he was the meanest man I'd ever met in my life," Bambi says with a laugh.
Their mutual understanding and respect for horses soon bridged that gulf and an attraction formed.
"He had that little extra that it takes to really connect with a horse," Bambi says. "That was the attraction. I wanted that."
Eight years later, they married and continued to work together. Jim would train his Standardbred horses for harness racing and Bambi continued to learn as much as she could. She also ran her own veterinarian business after graduating from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
But Jim's death last year brought a change to their tightly interwoven life.
"When he died, I really didn't know how to deal with everything," she says. "I thought, well I've got a farm full of horses and I know kind of what to do with them, so, well, I'll just put one foot in front of the other and I'll work on the horses. We'll get through it somehow."
With help from her two sisters, Robin McKenty and Kym Lyles, and groom Cresencio Andrade Garcia, Bambi began training horses. She did it so well that they won multiple races and enough money to pay for themselves.
Taking care of horses has been "very good therapy," Bambi says. "It kind of helped keep me focused, kept me from being too depressed. It makes you get up in the morning, because some people, when they lose their spouse, have days when they won't get out of bed. But if you have something that makes you get out of bed, it makes you keep going."