Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why we write our plans in pencil with horses

Oh the joys of horses. I love horses, I love horse, I love horses. After the last month, a few too many tears than I care to admit, sometimes I have to sit down and remind myself as to why I do this crazy career. For those who don't know, my top horse, Man in Black or "Jag" or Black Horse, came in about a 3 weeks ago with a HUGE hock (Think size of a cantaloupe...) as he was JUST getting back to work for the season. It was in our last blast of horribly cold weather, and he's been living outside since November just being feral with Red Horse, enjoying their vacation while I got settled at my new facility. Now mind you, he was TOTALLY sound, WTC. Promising no? So I treated it like a muscle pull or strain, lots of cold hosing, icing, hot packs, you name it. Nothing brought the swelling down. Not even a little. After about a week I called my vet, and we agreed to x-ray it following the holidays with a pre-purchase for one of my clients. Out she came, and she watched him go on the lunge and was quite impressed at just HOW sound he was. We decide to X-ray JUST to be safe... and low and behold, first image we shoot. BIG ugly white thing blaring up the shot. Unfortunately, not a blemish from the machine. Very much an ugly bone chip floating right there plain as day. Cue water works for my poor baby horse who literally has no idea why I'm hugging him and sobbing. After a few more shots (only visible on one angle, so for those thinking of trying to get by on a cheaper vet visit by just shooting one view, here's a great reason why NOT to). The next logical step is to get that bad boy out of there. Now, I am BEYOND fortunate to have such a fabulous vet, (If you're in Northern Illinois, Dr. Lukas of Lukas Equine is second to none who called all the local (and not so local) Surgeons to find the best one we could get Jag in front of the soonest, with the best course of action. After handling all the arrangements, we planned to take Jag to surgery on January 3rd at 9 am.

And I thought I missed riding him after 6 weeks.....

For those of you not in Illinois right now, January 3rd at 9 am was about -12 degrees out. Needless to say my truck didn't start. I tried to jump that for 30 minutes, nearly gave myself frost bite, cried twice (frozen tears hurt) , called every mechanically inclined person I knew, eventually my mother saved the day and borrowed a friends truck and we were off to the hospital. Thankfully, we decided on Dr. Downs at Merrit Equine Hospital, which is just a short 40 minute trip up the road, and they were quite flexible with us. Dr. Downs had suggested STRONGLY that we ultra sound prior to laying him down to make sure we understood what we were going up against. We had HOPED that he had chipped it in a place where we could simply go in, pull it out, no ligament damage and he could be back to work in 6-8 weeks. As per the Ultra sound, it looks like the ligament pulled the bone off the joint, thus rupturing the small collateral ligament at the joining point. Not the good news we were hoping for. HOWEVER! There was a lot of swelling that made it very hard to see really what was going on, so I'm choosing to stay cautiously optimistic. We decided to delay the surgery a month (yayyyy more time to fundraise!) to get that (and I quote) "giant bolder out!" to wait for the swelling to go down, but he warned me that the most likely course of action wouldn't see Jag back to work for 6 months, and probably not competing until next year. Cue another round of water works.

Can you tell he's really suffering through this? 
I've just become an automated treat dispenser. And to think he didn't eat treats this spring....

As I've said to those who have expressed sympathy to me, the one thing I keep saying is that I'm just thankful that there is something to operate on. He has helped me to reach some of my major goals this last season, we have gone from unridable, to mountable, to finishing in the top 3 at all three of his preliminary events this last year at just 5 years old. He has a (hopefully) VERY long career ahead of him, and this is just a speed bump. I am in no rush with him, and we will take it one step at a time. He has nothing but time for me, and owes me nothing. I am thankful for a recent partnership with Revitavet, which I'm confident will expedite his recovery! I had great success with this product when he took a chip out of his knee this winter (have I mentioned I do love this horse.... most expensive $500 I've ever spent...) while working for Katie, and am very excited to offer this product to my clients as a PREVENTATIVE measure... hopefully no one else decides they need to do anything exciting for awhile. It made a HUGE difference in his recovery time, and we used it to MUCH success on horses that were tight through their back prior to dressage, and each time saw a change in their scores. I will be using it on all my horses (and myself) to keep them in top shape.

His version of hand walking... Have I mention I think he's part dog? 

Now, with all of this. I look at my goals I wrote out for my 2014 season, and I must admit there will be some reevaluation. I am hugely fortunate to have started working out of a great facility here in the Midwest, and I have some great clients here with me, and with that I have decided to pass on a full month in Aiken this year to focus on growing my business here. Instead I will take a short 10 day trip down there with Red Horse and hopefully a few other sale horses (if you're interested in possibly sending your horse along, please don't hesitate to contact me!) . Thanks to the generosity of his owner, Qui (Red Horse) will be stepping up as my main focus for the year. Our goal with him (this is like pencil right?) is to see him get some mileage in Aiken, and work on bringing him out this spring at Training Level, with aims at a summer move up to Prelim. He has really grown since his vacation, and his dressage is improving with leaps and bounds. His jumping is more relaxed, he's more self confident, and just over much more mellow than last fall. He's like riding a whole new horse. He's truly going to be a special one, and I'm thankful to have the ride on him.

Hard to believe this is even the same horse! 

I have also gotten the ride on another lovely OTTB, My Barbs "BeBe" thanks to the generosity of another client of mine! I sat on her this summer to try her for a client, and was just blown away by this little mare! SUPER athletic, an absolute blast to ride on the flat. I'm very excited to see where we can go this year!

I'm so excited....

I do still have an opening possibly for another competition horse, so if anyone knows of a horse looking for mileage, experience, campaigned for sale, or a stallion looking to be campaigned possibly. I'd love to finish my bronze in dressage this year, so would love something that could get through 3rd level. I've decided to really use this year to get more competition miles under my belt, and hopefully to keep building a great string of competition horses for my long term goals!

Your horse could join in on the collage of wonderfulness! My current group of horses! 
A pretty stellar group if you ask me...

Horses are a hugely humbling sport, and I keep reminding myself to find the positives in all of this. This gives Jag PLENTY of time to grow up, lots of time to bond, time for me to focus on my current group of sales horses, who with each day come out better than before, and time to focus on my clients. Sometimes we get caught up in our own goals, and forget those around us who are trying to accomplish their own. I'm hoping to help my working student Kayla get to Prelim this season with her Wonder mare, sell some horses so that some of my clients can move onto the next step in their careers, spend some time in Springfield with my lovely contingent down there, and get my Pony Clubbers prepped for their ratings. I know a year will fly by, if that's how long it'll take till I'm back galloping my big black horse. In the mean time, I'm going to make myself the best rider I can be so we can hit the ground running. I've made my self a promise, to not take a single ride for granted any more. I get on each of them with a very decisive purpose. Whether that purpose is a relaxing hack, or an intense dressage school. I want each of my horses to reach their goals, and then exceed them. And like I tell my students, any and every horse that you can ride is a learning experience. Get better. Hold yourself more accountable for each horses success. Make each one the absolute fanciest, fittest, and happiest horse that you can produce. So here's to more hours in the saddle, more days without stirrups. and a very happy and exciting new year :)

He must touch all the things... note the feed bucket he's helpfully placed in our way.
The next few months are going to be full of adorable Jag pictures... be prepared ;)