A Lost Year

I’ve been putting off this post for awhile since everything has been so up in the air over the last four months. Right after my last post, Boss came in with a swollen hock and a small puncture wound. I called the vet out to treat him, and she administered what I, and other vets I’ve since consulted with, considered an appropriate treatment plan of steroids and antibiotics to bring down the cellulitis he’d developed in his hind leg.

The swelling went down over 48 hours, but by Monday July 12, it was clear he’d foundered in both front feet. I called the vet out again, and got the same one who’d seen Oh So when he’d come in neurologic. She diagnosed him with laminitis, and we think the steroids caused it. It’s a one in a million chance of something with dex in it causing this reaction, especially in a young, healthy, thin Thoroughbred, and that mistake has cost me thousands of dollars, riding time, my horse’s health and well-being and my mental health.

I can’t really blame the vet because he wasn’t overdosed (although maybe he would have been fine with just an antibiotic and no steroid. Lesson learned), and there’s no way they would admit they did anything wrong, so I’m stuck with the consequences.

We tried stall rest for about 2 weeks until he got so upset he jumped out of his Dutch door, then out of his small paddock, but thankfully a friend offered to take him for rehab at a reduced price. Unfortunately she’s an hour and a half away, but she’s been taking good care of him, and he has a nice big stall and lots of hand grazing time.

We got a farrier from my old practice, Woodside Equine Clinic, to come out to fit him for some special (expensive) clogs that are drilled into his foot then glued in place with heel wedges to hold his coffin bone in a comfortable position. He wore those for about 8 weeks, but about 6 weeks in, he got very lame up front.

Until then, I’d been honestly wondering if I wanted to continue with any of this. Laminitis is a horrible disease that he’ll have to live with the rest of his life, and I’ll have to manage. I barely had 2 months with him and was starting to connect with him, but who knows if we would even be a good match in the future or if he’d like eventing? His entire future and resale value and ability is now in question. From what I’ve read, steroid-induced founders can recover and be just fine compared to those caused by predisposition or metabolic issues. We haven’t tested him for metabolic issues yet, but will eventually.

At the time, I was still unsure if I even wanted to start over with a new horse after the tragedy with Oh So, and this was just too much to bear. I cried for a week and could barely function when it first happened, then when he got very lame 6 weeks in, I started making arrangements. He has a mortality policy, so I thought it might be best to just let him go and start over again, and my vets stood by me, but couldn’t get out to see him for a week, so we gave him bute and waited.

Then he blew an abscess.

So that was that, and then he was walking better. We had him checked at 8 weeks, and the vet was pleasantly surprised at the amount of hoof growth, so decided to keep the shoes on a bit longer. At that point, insurance had told me if he could be pasture sound, they wouldn’t pay out, so I felt like I owed it to him to keep trying, even though this situation as brought my entire life and everything I know crashing down.

I’ve been fortunate to always have a horse to ride, even when one was injured, and now I have no horse of my own to compete and train on, which has been the focus of nearly every day of my life since I was a kid. For better or worse, horses are it for me and my life with them is what makes me whole.

Boss has his recheck last week and got a new set of clogs to wear for another 8-10 weeks. At the beginning of all of this, the vet estimated I wouldn’t be riding him for a year, which makes me sick to even think about. I truly hope he’s wrong. This entire year has turned out to be a lost one. People keep telling me to be positive, but I can’t find one thing that’s been positive that’s happened this year. The hits just keep coming and the progress is slow.

Unfortunately he can’t be turned out because of how high the shoes are, but he is allowed to start walking under saddle for some mental and physical exercise. My friend has ridden him a few times, and I’ll start trying soon and with lots of Ace. He was quite sore after having the shoes changed last week. but otherwise has been very lively while hand walking and seems to be striding out OK. We may try a small paddock with him on sedatives to see if he can handle it.

The whole ordeal is just so unfair, to him especially. He was a happy, healthy young horse with a bright future, and I feel like I’ve let him, his former connections and my parents who bought him down, and it’s entirely out of my control. I should have just said no to the vet when she asked if it was OK to give him the steroids and if he was prone to founder. How was I to know when I’d only had him 2 months? If he does come back, every day will be a question of if or when he’ll have a relapse, and I think it will be difficult to try to sell a horse with this condition. I was just starting to get excited about him after our first dressage and jumping lessons.

For now, I’m seeing him a couple of times a week and trying to catch rides on horses wherever I can, but I feel like I’m floating with no anchor. Just drifting and waiting for the tide to change. Without horses and being at the barn and showing and taking lessons, I’ve lost touch with people who were in my circle, and I feel left out while everyone else seems to be thriving. I need my own horse and that partnership and bond to feel whole Right now there’s a part of me missing, and I don’t know when I’ll get it back. This has been the worst year of my life, and I hope things will start turning around soon.

Introducing…Who’s My Boss

It all happened pretty fast after Oh So died. I was still grieving, but my trainer Lisa had come across a young horse the same day when she went to meet a student at Loch Moy to school cross-country. She’s seen him before and liked his look, but obviously wasn’t thinking of me at the time. She waited a few days before mentioning him to me.

We went up and watched him do his first little show at Twilight Eventing at Loch Moy, and he was pretty quiet and willing, then a couple of days later I went to try him at Destination Farm in Maryland.

Two weeks to do the day that we said goodbye to Oh So I drove up and picked up Who’s My Boss.

For the first few weeks I was still in such a daze about everything. Was I ready to take on a young horse again considering my past trauma with Thomas? Was this too soon? Did I need more time to grieve? Should I have looked at more horses first? Was it a bad sign I was ambivalent? Should it have been love at first sight? Should I have asked more questions to his previous owner? But he was a good deal for the amount of experience he had, and I trust Lisa, so we took the chance.

He’s a 7-year-old OTTB who race 33 times at Charlestown until June of last year. He even won six races. Destination Eventing let him down and restarted him in the winter. He’d been schooling a few times, and they said he was very kind and willing, which is what Lisa wanted for me for my next project.

Our first couple of weeks we longed in the round pen to see what he was like, then got on and walked out to the ring and gradually to the fields and down the driveway. He’s been fairly willing under saddle, and we’ve had a couple of jump lessons now where we’ve introduced one gymnastics and canter poles.

Unfortunately a couple weeks after he came he got bit on the back, so I couldn’t put a saddle on for two weeks. Then I was traveling a bit for work, and now this week we’re dealing with a puncture wound on his hock, so even though it’s been about 7 weeks, I feel like we can’t get off the ground, so to speak. I would like to be able to be consistent. Luckily, he seems to pick up and retain information easily, so I think he’ll come along quickly.

I took him to a friend’s farm close by while he was healing his back wound to do some trailer practice, and he had a meltdown in the trailer, breaking my butt bar and scraping himself up, so I feel like we’ve had a pretty big setback. I would feel comfortable starting to go places for lessons now, but we need to do some more confidence-building work first at home before we try that.

My dressage trainer Heidi came for his first lesson with her last week, and we worked on getting him to start softening and bending. She says he’s 7, so it’s time to stop babying him. I’ve been doing flatwork in a jump saddle for now until we can get him his own saddles, which was supposed to happen the day he came in with a swollen hock. Horses….But at least I have a few with me to try when he’s better.

She also helped me with the loading, so we’ve been practicing getting on and standing and backing off when I say so. Next step is to close the butt bar and take a short ride around the farm. I’m nervous about it. I’ve never had one who has a problem with the actual travel. Loading issues can be fixed, but he has to stand quietly while we’re moving. I think I’ll be getting a trailer camera for my own peace of mind.

It’s a little strange looking through a different set of ears.

I feel like we’ve been bonding slowly. He seems a little aloof at times. He doesn’t love grooming, but Oh So didn’t either when he was first off the track. He definitely watches me and is attached to me in his own way, but he doesn’t have that soft, kind eye that Oh So had. But I think it will come. He’s not a cuddler yet, but Oh So wasn’t either until much later.

I don’t think he’ll have much problem with different types of jumps. He seems very willing to jump the panels and things we have in the ring at home. I think the biggest thing will be independence. He came from a very busy barn and always traveled and hacked with other horses. I’m alone a lot of the time at the barn, so he’s getting used to it.

So for now it’s just leaning about ground manners and trailer practice, and once I can get back on, it will be full speed ahead with the flat work and grids. He needs a lot more strength and more weight, but we’re slowly working on that too. He seems a bit gangly at the moment, but I’m confident it will come together.

This all still feels like some sort of alternate reality. This is not how I expected my life to go so soon. I still feel like a piece of me is missing. I miss Oh So and our partnership, and I miss competing. At least now I have some goals to work towards. With Oh So I felt like I was coasting along because he was such a schoolmaster, and we had such a great partnership, and building one with a new horse takes time and patience. I’ve had to get back into “training” mode a bit, and consider everything I do from the perspective of a green horse, and it’s been awhile since I’ve done that.

Part of me wishes I was more excited about this new journey, but the truth is, I’m nervous. Breaking my ankles after Thomas dumped me while I was getting on four years ago still gives me anxiety every time I put my foot in the stirrup of a new horse, especially an OTTB. So far this guy (barn name TBD) has been pretty good about that part, but I think it will take me awhile to trust him.

Change is always difficult for me in every aspect of my life, but I’m grateful to have the chance to continue doing the thing that gets me out of bed every morning and what I’m most passionate about. I’ve got amazing friends and family around me cheering me on and telling me I can do this and helping me through my grief about Oh So. No horse will ever replace him in my heart, but I’m trying to keep it open to new possibilities.

Farewell, My Friend

I’ve been putting off writing this post for awhile because the last few months have been so traumatic. After my last post Oh So got miraculously better, and we even had six rides together. The vet said to take him off the meds after six weeks, and maybe in hindsight that was a mistake. He relapsed within 10 days and just never got better, even after six weeks more on the same meds.

I’m copying the post on Facebook that I made on the day I said goodbye to him, May 4, which was ironically four years to the day that I broke my ankles.

“This is not the news I was hoping to share about Oh So, but sadly, I had to say goodbye to him today.

We’ve been dealing with suspected EPM since he became neurologic on January 29, and he made a seemingly miraculous recovery after six weeks. I was even able to hack him a few days before he relapsed again in March.

After trying more meds for six weeks, he wasn’t responding, so I took him to Morven Park on Friday to see their neurologist, Dr. Estell. Both she and their sports medicine expert Dr. Kelleher looked at him and determined that it could be a few things; severe arthritis impinging his spinal cord which can cause them to walk like he has been, EPM pending a spinal tap, which could come back negative at this point because he’s been on meds for it and it can skew the results, or sidewinder syndrome.

But before that, they wanted to look at his left hind hoof, which had developed a fever ring over the last month. He’s been getting progressively lame on it and also had a bruise on the sole .Unfortunately, it was the news I had dreaded—he’d foundered badly from leaning to the left. His coffin bone was very close to the sole, which was causing the bruise. If it was arthritis causing him to lean, he couldn’t be treated with corticosteroids because of the founder. If it was EPM, it was too late to try new meds. There was no hope.

They sent us home to keep him in “hospice care” with lots of pain meds until I decided it was time. As much as I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, it truly was the only option, so I decided to take him in today so I didn’t prolong his suffering. Coach Lisa Reid and his friend Meghan Schott Corbitt were by his side with me with plenty of peppermints to say goodbye.

This morning he was his usual self, rolling in the mud and then trying to trot in his small paddock. He was fussy while I groomed him and annoyed he couldn’t go out with his friends. As hard as it was for him to walk onto the trailer, he did it because I asked and because he knows whenever he gets on the trailer we’re going to have an adventure. Over the last few weeks, I could see it in his eyes. He was in pain, despite trying to be his usual wild self. He’s 21 going on 5, but his body wouldn’t let him be himself.

I wish I’d made the decision to take him to Morven sooner. Then maybe he would have had a chance. It still doesn’t feel real that he’s gone. Driving an empty trailer back to the barn was devastating.

Oh So has been my partner for the past 13 years, and it feels like a part of me is missing. It wasn’t his time. He deserved another 10 years in retirement after everything he’s done for me. He had that warhorse Thoroughbred spirit, racing until he was 7, taking me through preliminary and earning me my USDF bronze medal, and I expected he’d still be packing me around at 25. He’s never lost enthusiasm for his job, and before this, he’s never felt better in his body.

I’ll never be able to truly express in words what he’s meant to me. I’ve had him for most of my adulthood—he’s just always been there. He’s made me the rider I am today, and we were partners. We anticipated each other’s moves and were so in tune with each other. Almost everyone I hold dear in life I met through Oh So, and I know he has a huge fan club. I’ve appreciated everyone’s thoughts and prayers through the last few months.

After he had a suspensory injury in 2013, we gave him an easier job at novice and training, and he always had the same joy for his job that he did jumping the bigger fences. Our last two years of competition together in 2019 and 2020 were the best in my life. We rarely came home without a blue ribbon, but of course, it’s not just about that.He taught me to be brave and patient and to relax in the dressage and show jumping. With Oh So, there was never a fence too big or scary—if I didn’t want to go, he didn’t care and took me anyway.

Lisa always said he had that “look of eagles”—the thing that great cross-country horses have. Once he found a job he loved, he gave it everything he had, the same way he approached everything in life, and that’s a lesson I’ll keep in mind for the rest of mine.I’m not sure I’ll ever have another horse like him. He can never be replaced in my heart, and he’ll never be forgotten.”

It’s hard to believe it’s been four weeks since he’s been gone. I had him cremated and have some of his remains in a box they sent me. I think I’ll scatter his ashes at some of his favorite places. I have his tail hair and his front shoes and will find an appropriate way to honor him some day.

My friend Meghan took these photos on our last night together.

None of this feels real. This is not how I expected my 2021 to go. He was so full of life. After we took him to Morven, it was a very quick decision because we had to do it, and I think that’s what’s been so shocking. The worst part if we’ll never actually know what was causing the near symptoms, but what we do know is that it was the founder that was the end of it. There was nothing to be done.

The last several months I’ve been an emotional wreck, stressed and anxious and worried. I’ve had some other personal stuff going on too that’s just made me not want to get out of bed some days.

My spirits have been lifted by my friends and family though, and all of those who knew Oh So, either from real life or on Facebook. I didn’t realize how many fans he had!

But it’s still been so hard to feel like my normal self. I’m not there yet, for sure. He’s just always been there in my life, or at least for most of my adult life. I can hardly remember a time before him, and there’s a huge void. He changed my life and my riding in more ways than one. I haven’t been able to bring myself to look at photos or videos of him yet, but I’ll get there eventually. I just can’t believe that I might forget the feeling he gave me, from just hacking to flying over jumps, and all of his silly little things, like biting the cross ties and drinking from the hose.

He deserved a happy retirement, and I feel like I failed in some way by not taking him sooner.

The same day we said goodbye, my trainer Lisa happened to come across a young horse she’d seen a few times out schooling while she was up at Loch Moy. He impressed her again, and she kept him in mind. I spent the rest of the week grieving and in a bit of a trance, but she sent me a long email saying she thought I should get back out there sooner rather than later to have something to take my mind off my grief.

I went to watch the horse at his first Twilight Eventing at Loch Moy, and he was definitely quiet. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but I went to try him anyways a few days later, and it went well, so we vetted him and brought him home on May 18.

I still feel like I’m stuck this sort of alternate reality or in some haze. I can’t believe I brought a baby horse home two weeks after Oh So passed. Maybe it was fate that Lisa saw him on the day we said goodbye to Oh So? I don’t know. I’m trying not to look too much into it. I’m not sure I’ve made the right decision, but if I didn’t make this one, I would have had nothing to ride really. My barn owner has been kind to lend me one of her fox hunters, but I’m not into trail riding. I like to have goals, and I like doing the work. But I still have some anxiety over my accident and didn’t want a super green OTTB. Luckily this one has been restarted well and seems to be sane and kind.

I’ll introduce the new guy in my next post.

A Shocking Development

I had kind of been putting off a Happy New Year update on the blog because honestly, not much has been happening since my last post. We’re just trying to make it through winter, and we had some really nice schoolings at Loch Moy over their arena cross-country course with friends and a few good jump schools at home.

My friends had started to ask if I was thinking about the next season, and I had a general plan in my head. We had a nice lesson at Morningside with Lisa on Jan. 24, then I decided to give Oh So two days off. We hacked on Wednesday, and I thought he felt maybe slightly weird in walk, tracking with his haunches a bit to the left, but he got better as we went. The weather was terribly cold that Thursday, so he had a day off and a nice groom in the stall. By Friday when I went to get him in the field, he was acting neurologic in walk, so I immediately called the vet.

His haunches were to the left in walk, and he had a tail tilt that way too. She diagnosed him with EPM based on visual symptoms and a neurologic test, so we immediately started him on the anti-protozoa medication Protazil and Vitamin E.

To say I was in shock was an understatement. Where the hell did this come from? He’s been perfectly healthy with no signs other than on Wednesday.

It felt like my life had come crashing down. I know he’ll be retired eventually, but he’s been going so well, and shows no signs of slowing down. If he retires, I’m left with nothing other than a mountain of debt and no savings to get my next horse. My life revolves around him and has for the last 13 years. I’m just not ready for it to be over.

I spent a week crying at home and every time I saw him. We put him in a small paddock because we’ve been having back to back winter storms, and we didn’t want him to slip. He didn’t seem to be getting any better 10 days in, and was starting to be in pain from shifting to the left all the time. It was hard to watch. I took him for hand walks to the nearest patch of grass, but he would trip while grazing and began to be lame from behind.

I finally decided to get a second opinion just to rule out anything else, which I learned from the first vet could be neck arthritis, although being on Banamine for a few days hadn’t helped, and he was using his head and neck fine, so that was unlikely. We do know he was arthritis in his neck based on X-rays from when he had strangles. His bloodwork came back about a week later and confirmed his numbers were 1:500 for exposure to EPM, which is not high, but the vet explained to me that the number doesn’t correspond to the severity of the disease.

The second vet took one look at him and was fairly certain it’s EPM. He recommended a compounded drug made of DMSO and toltrazuril, which is something a few friends had mentioned they’d also tried with success after he recommended it.

About two days after the second vet came, I started seeing improvement in his walk. It was less crooked, and he seemed slightly more comfortable. The new meds arrived on Friday, which was two weeks since his initial diagnosis, and I decided to try them. The second vet said he’s never had luck with Protazil and that it’s being trialled as an EPM preventative these days, so at least I could continue to use it after he’s better twice a week to use it up. $800 for that! The compounded medication was $180, and since he’ll likely be on something for a few months, that seemed like the better option.

As of today, he’s walking almost normally. It’s kind of miraculous. He’s able to walk over poles and is very eager to go on hand walks down the driveway. He’s not tripping while grazing, and I can now pick up all four of his feet without a problem. A week ago I was considering what would happen if he got down and couldn’t get up. Where would I bury him? Would I cremate him? How would I be able to go on without him in my life?

I’m thrilled that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This is something I have no experience with and never would have expected in a million years. I have no idea where we go from here, other than finishing up a month’s worth of Toltrazuril. When will he be safe to ride? Will he ever be? With the progress so far I feel like there’s hope. I don’t think he deserves to be forced into retirement because of this terrible disease, and I believe he’s strong. I’ve never been an optimist, but I’m learning to be strong through this horrible situation. The second vet believes there’s a chance he can be ridden again because he didn’t start out with any muscle atrophy. That can be harder to come back from.

This horse is keeping me connected to the sport I love well past his peak because he loves it. I’m not sure what my future will be, and to think about not being able to ride and compete is devastating. It’s in my blood. It’s a part of me. I’m so thankful I’m able to ride a nice mare at the barn, and we’re hoping to get to some dressage shows this spring, but running and jumping is my real passion. It’s a privilege to get to ride Oh So, and I’ve learned to never take one day for granted at his age and after all we’ve been through. His enthusiasm for life is infectious, and he’s given me more confidence over the last 13 years than I think any horse ever could.

This still feels like some nightmare I can’t wake up from, but to go to the barn everyday and see him acting more like himself and happier makes me hopeful I’ll be able to look between his ears again.

The worst of it. Leaning against the wall to take pressure off the left hind leg.
Not too happy about being in a small paddock away from his friends.

Winding Down For Winter

The 2020 season went out with a bit of a whimper for us, but I guess that’s just the theme of 2020 isn’t it?

Oh So came sound after about 10 days, but I took him to the vet anyways just to have him checked out, and he was perfectly sound with no pain upon palpation anywhere and nothing that came up on flexions or the lameness locator.

We had lost a bit of fitness, so we chose to do a CT at Loch Moy, which went well. I picked a bit to the third fence in show jumping, but then got my act together!

We had a nice cross-country schooling the following week and I entered Morven Park. Unfortunately that meant foregoing a trip to Tryon for the big CCI4*-L, which ended up being the biggest event in the U.S. this year, but I decided I wanted to compete once more before the end of the year.

When we walked the cross-country on Saturday, Lisa and I were taken aback by how big the course was. There was a huge drop to a cabin about six strides away, and at that point, we started to think it wouldn’t be a good idea to run.

I emailed with the course designer and tried to communicate with the TD because I felt that a bank shared with prelim was inappropriate for the level, but I was told it’s been used on the course in the past. I consulted the rules which said a novice bank can be 2’9″ and a drop can be 3’11”! I guess they were considering this fence a drop. I have never seen a drop that huge novice anywhere. We know Oh So will go down any bank, but he hasn’t seen one that big since his prelim days, and we know if he launched off it we’d be worrying about his legs. Considering the footing was also iffy, we withdrew.

It ended up causing a lot of issues, unsurprisingly, but Lisa and I were OK with our decision, as much as it sucked to pay that much money for a CT and not be able to have a final cross-country run this year. I’ve since filled out an event evaluation.

So now we’re into winter and will hopefully be able to get up to Loch Moy to school the arena courses.

It’s been a frustratingly short season, mostly due to COVID, but I’m glad we were able to get out as much as we did and even win a couple of events.

Two For Two! But Third Time Is Not The Charm.

It finally cooled down enough for us to survive eventing this fall, but things are a bit up in the air right now as far as where we’ll go next.

Let’s get to the good news first.

We headed up to Seneca on Labor Day weekend to compete with my friend Meghan in tow as groom. It was fairly warm and humid, but our times were pretty quick, so at least we got it done. We’d had a lot of rain in August, but not widespread, just lots of heavy pop-up storms in places, and apparently Seneca got the brunt of it, because when we got there, trucks were towing trailers in! Yikes. The footing for dressage was horrendous even though they shifted the rings to dry to find better ground. Just very sucky. I’m surprised we didn’t lose a shoe. But we ended up doing OK despite me cantering in the wrong place (ugh, I hate test B) and him just generally moving less fluid than he could because of the footing.

We won the dressage, which was great, but I was so nervous for show jumping for whatever reason. Maybe because our round at Loch Moy in July was so inconsistent, maybe because we hadn’t been out in awhile, maybe because Meghan was there, maybe because it was hot. Who knows?

The round felt OK though, and the ground miraculously dried up enough to be acceptable. The whole day, Lisa and I had the attitude of, take it one phase at a time, which also made me nervous. If the footing was too deep, we’d scratch.

Luckily, we deemed cross-country OK. It was a bit churned up on some takeoffs and landings, but not enough to be dangerous. The place is fairly flat too, so that helped.

Everything went well, and he was full of running to take the win and the TIP award for novice!

We had three weeks until Middleburg, so we went cross-country schooling at CDCTA, which was very good. Everything felt nice and out of stride, and we even accidentally jumped a training fence!

Being able to watch Meghan school for the first time in two years on her borrowed horse was really fun too. He’s a prelim schoolmaster, so he and Oh So were totally cool about traveling together and getting their game faces on when it mattered. Otherwise they were napping, haha!

Middleburg is now held at Great Meadow, so it was exciting to do a new course with Oh So. I’d done the old CDCTA event there for many years with Sam and Palais, but this was held on the backside with the nice arenas. Unfortunately we ended up having to do dressage on the grass by the highway and a polo field, but he was OK with the distractions. The footing was a bit deep in spots because they’d had some rain earlier in the week.

Show jumping felt OK. I had one little pick to a vertical, which stayed up, but otherwise it definitely wasn’t the worst round we’ve ever had, so that was a positive.

Cross-country I was a little inconsistent to some things, and I had to think a lot about my track when I walked because there were some holes, rocks, dips, etc. to dodge. He was pretty chill in the startbox, but his blood got up once we started off. We ended up winning our division!

It was also the weekend of our 13th anniversary together, so it was nice to think back on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve been though together over the years.

Now for the bad news. We went schooling at Morven Park last Tuesday, and he felt awesome. He loved the cool weather and was really jumping well. We had a nice flat day on Wednesday, then he had a day off on Thursday. Lisa and I had a jump lesson planned for Friday, and he felt a bit funky from behind in trot. We cantered a bit and it felt OK, then jumped a couple of things and stopped to talk. When I picked him up, he was way off on his left hind. OK. So we’re thinking he may have done something in the field. It felt pretty high up, so maybe a pulled muscle.

Unfortunately he felt the same on Saturday, so the Area 2 Championships at Loch Moy on Sunday was out. I’m pretty devastated not only because it was a $300 entry, but because I really thought we had a chance to do well this year. Now I’m just not sure what to do next. I’m giving him a few days off and will see how he feels.

I panic every time I feel something with him because at age 20, retirement could be tomorrow, you just never know. But at least it’s not a front leg, and at least we know it wasn’t caused by the schooling at Morven. So now it’s a wait and see. There are two events left we could do this year, so I’m just crossing my fingers he’ll feel better soon.

Fancy Prancing

Oh So and I have spent the last month working on our Third Level tests at three dressage shows. We started off at By Chance Farm in July. It was pretty hot, but we got up before dawn to get there and ride before 9am! At least we were done early.

We rode Third 1 and 2. Last year we only ended up getting to one dressage show, and we scored in the low 60s in both tests, so I was hoping to see some improvement this year.

Heidi and I know he’ll never have a clean right to left change at this point, so we accept it will be a 3 or 4, but there’s so many other things he does well.

At By Chance Farm. InFocus By Bruce photo

I struggle to sit his medium/extended trots, so those are always a weak point, but I was surprised how well we scored on our canter half passes and our good change. We got 8s!

He has a pretty good rein back, but he kind of resisted in the test, so that ended up with a 6. He got a 7 on his gaits, but 6.5s on the other collectives. His poll can get low in trot, so the judge commented on that. It’s not that I’m forcing him down that way, it’s just that he naturally wants to leave his head there, so I constantly have to remind myself to lift him up.

The second test we got a few more 8s, including on our entry and our shoulder-in right and renvers right. We ended up with a 63.81 on test 2 and a 64.45 on test 1! Our highest scores yet. We won one class and were second in the other.

The next weekend we went to Loch Moy and ended up with a 63.78 on test 1 and a 64.07 on test 2. So, consistent! Heidi was able to be there to warm us up, which was nice.

We turned a few 5s into 6s and 6s into 7s, and got another 8 on our left to right change from one judge. Similar comments though–keep him more up and more engaged. I got a 7 on my position and one judge commented that I had good hands. We ended up second in both of our amateur classes and won the TIP award for our level!

Yesterday we did our last show of the summer at Beverly Equestrian. I rode in the indoor for both tests, and he did feel slightly tighter for the first test. We weren’t able to trot around the outside, so we started in the ring. I saw our reflection in the mirror and thought he looked more up in his frame.

We ended up with a 62.36 on test 2 and rode test 3 for the first time and got a 60.87. I was disappointed with the marks because he felt pretty much the same as the last two shows. Unfortunately I didn’t have a video to compare. Maybe the first test felt slightly less polished in the transitions. The judge dinged us for the extended/medium gaits and the transitions. Fair enough when he doesn’t have huge extended gaits to start with. It makes it harder to show a clear transition. She saw some irregular steps in the trot half pass right, which Heidi had actually noticed too during our lesson this week. Not sure what that’s about.

She said his haunches were leading in the canter half passes and while I felt the rein back was smoother in test 3, she said he wasn’t square behind. In test 2, she wanted more flexion and bend in the renvers and more bend but less angle in the shoulder-ins.

We were first and fifth in our classes and won the TIP award for our level. One rider walked by before our test and asked who Oh So’s sire was! That was quite the compliment.

So, not the improvement I’d hoped to see after three shows, but I know what we need to work on. More power in the extended/medium gaits, show more change in the transitions between gaits, and watch the hindquarters and bend/angle on lateral work.

My goal had been to reach 65 percent, and we got close! I think he could get maybe 67 percent if everything went perfectly, but isn’t that what dressage is about? Trying to put everything together on the day. We’ll keep working, but for now, back to running and jumping!

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Back On Course

It’s been a really bizarre last few months since the world has been on lockdown. What I assumed might be two months at most is now stretching into July with no end in sight. For me, it’s been lonely and stressful at times, but I’m so thankful I was able to continue visiting my horses and riding.

We’ve been able to regularly cross-country school, and Oh So has been feeling really good. Now that things have started up again, we’re fit and ready to go, but it’s so hot! We did a mid-week combined test at Loch Moy back in June, and he felt pretty good in the jumping, but I let him get a bit low in the poll in the dressage, and I wasn’t happy with the test.

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The new normal.

We went to Morningside for a few jumper rounds 10 days later, and the first round was awesome, which is what I wanted since we only get one shot at the events. The second round I started to get a bit picky in places, but it was still good.

My parents came to town last week to visit, and we had a nice time wandering around Frederick, Maryland, and Harper’s Ferry and visiting in Annapolis with my aunt and uncle.

They groomed for me at our first event of the season at Loch Moy, which was still hot, but mercifully not as humid. We were third after dressage with a 28. The judge noticed his head tilt to the right going left, but really only commented on it and didn’t mark us down for every movement. He felt relaxed and steady though, so that’s what mattered to me.

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We’ve been cross-country schooling a lot.

I had a decent warm up for show jumping, but once I got in the ring I felt like I was a bit off and couldn’t see a distance! I started taking some long spots in an effort to not pick, which is my usual issue, and I had the most embarrassing miss at fence 7. I asked for a long one, he added, and crash!

We finished up OK, but I was kicking myself. I said I get one of those a year, so at least I got it out of the way!

I felt a little off on cross-country too. It was a pretty simple course, but had a big hanging log off a turn as the fourth fence, then directly to a half coffin. They reversed the course in a way I’d never been, and I felt it didn’t really flow as well.

With the rail we ended up fourth.

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Happy days schooling!

Now we have a dressage show next weekend and two more planned for August. I didn’t get to do much dressage last year, so I’m hoping to see where we stack up with our Third Level scores this year.

It’s been a real adjustment working from home. I do appreciate being able to workout a bit easier and just get up an do some exercises or stretches without being looked at strangely in the office! But it’s been a process to find a routine and stay motivated without being able to travel. I thrive on being busy and changing things up, and it’s dragging on me a bit. But I’m definitely thankful I’m gainfully employed during this time.

I really don’t know what the plan is for the rest of the year, like most of the world. It’s looking less and less likely that we’ll be traveling for work, which is a bummer. We’ll be lucky if shows are able to continue with the different COVID-10 spikes happening across the country now. I’m crossing my fingers I’ll be able to event more in the fall.

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Rocky celebrated his 21st in April!

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Cricket is settling in well.


Life On Pause

Wow, who would have thought I’d be writing this post? It’s April 1, and normally I’d be getting ready to start competing and be in the swing of a busy travel season for work, but instead I’m stuck at home, like the rest of the country and much of the world, on a lockdown from a global pandemic.

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve been working from home full-time, which I’m very fortunate to be able to do in these crazy times, and it looks like we’ll all be stuck through at least April and likely May.

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We won this lovely cooler for being the CDCTA TB of the Year!

I’m not mourning being unable to compete my own horse so much as not being able to have a normal routine and schedule and to travel and earn overtime. That’s what’s truly hurting me. I feel like Oh So and I accomplished a lot last year, and since he’s 20 this year, I’m not putting my hopes and dreams into any lofty goals. It was just going to be trying to improve our third level tests at dressage shows and competing at novice when we can.

It’s also the social aspect of competing and traveling which I miss. Seeing my media friends, talking to the riders in person and going to fun places. I thrive on being busy, and maybe sometimes I’ve used that as an excuse to not try new things in the past. Now I have a ton of free time, but can’t try new things because everything is shut down and meeting new people isn’t possible!

Before all of this, I was able to have a lovely trip to Wellington where I covered all three disciplines, and a trip of a lifetime to Sweden to visit the MIPS offices and Swedish show jumper Peder Fredricson.

I also ended up getting a new trailer in March after we had one too many problems with our 19-year-old Bison. I found a lovely Adam two-horse which I’m now not sure when I’ll be able to get registered and inspected since the DMV is closed!

I’m so glad I was able to see my parents and Oliver before all of this went down because my next trip was supposed to be for the Land Rover Kentucky in April. Not happening. In fact, pretty much everything through May has been canceled. It seems that most people have kind of accepted what’s happening and are doing their best to practice social distancing, but it’s still so weird to go out to the grocery store and not be able to find what I need or to see another human completely avoid being near me while out on a walk.

I’m so thankful to be able to continue to go out to the barn during all of this and ride. It’s definitely keeping me sane and giving my days a sense of purpose. Even if I don’t ride, just sitting in the barn and listening to the birds and the sound of the horses eating dinner is so relaxing after dealing with all the noise of the news cycle throughout the day. I’ll continue to go on walks every day too and do some at-home workouts to work up a sweat.

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We won this quarter sheet for being the MD TB Series year-end champions!

Unfortunately, Morven Park canceled Oh So’s spring check up and put us on a wait list. I was hoping to have his neck injected and do a soundness exam to see if he needs any help in his back, hocks or SI. He didn’t last year, which was great for my wallet, and he feels pretty good right now, but I don’t want to miss something and have him be uncomfortable. I’m contemplating having Piedmont, who usually only does his shots, do the neck injection at least.

It feels so weird to have no plans for the future and not know when this is going to end. How much fitness do I keep him in? For now, I’m keeping it sort of the same as I’ve been doing over the winter. Lots of hacking, a couple days of flatwork, maybe a flat lesson every other week, and a jumping lesson once a week with two days off. We’ve thankfully been able to go to Morningside and Loch Moy to jump and do some easy gallops and hill work, which is about where we’d be at this time of year anyways. We tend to not compete until late April or May because the footing can be wet this time of year, but it’s actually not been too bad this year.

Because my roommate went back to her parents’ house with the cat, I’ve been left completely alone, which sucks. I had been hoping to try to meet some new people through dating apps, but that’s also been halted for now, and I can’t go to the gym either. I’m lucky to be able to have a couple people to talk to at the barn, but it’s still lonely in my little apartment, so I decided now was the time to get a cat. With Oliver retired in Kentucky with my parents, I haven’t had a cat to call my own since August, and I’ve honestly been debating it since I moved here almost five years ago. Since I travel so much, I’ve felt guilty about getting one and then being gone all the time, but I think this is the best time to do it so I can get to know it. As of now, I won’t be traveling at all until the fall most likely since I had nothing in June or July scheduled anyways yet.

So, here’s introducing my new friend, Precious (new name TBD!). She’s about a year and a half old and came from Middleburg Humane. She came home on March 27 and spent the first 24 hours under my bed, and still likes to sleep there, but really enjoys following me around and being pet. We’re still not on the same sleep cycle yet, so I’m getting woken up between 4 and 6 a.m., but we’ll find our rhythm soon!


Looking Back At 2019

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted! Not much has happened since our last event in October, which is a good thing!

I was honestly just a bit burned out at the end of the year with traveling and showing basically every weekend from May through early December, so it was a relief to make it to my final work trip to Boston for the USEA Convention and just be home for awhile (aside from a trip to Kentucky for Christmas).

Boston was a city I had never been to, and I really enjoyed it. I saw most of the historical sites and got a good gist of the layout. I think I’ve been inspired to do a New England road trip now to knock off a few states I’ve never been to like Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. Maybe a summer trip idea!

Since I’ve been back and had some free weekends, I’ve just been enjoying spending time with Oh So and Rocky and not having a schedule. I’ve been doing a little organizing and decluttering and working on making some life changes, but isn’t that what everyone does in the New Year?

I was really excited to go up to Pennsylvania last weekend for the Area 2 annual meeting and awards luncheon to receive our year-end awards. We were high point novice amateur, novice Thoroughbred, overall high score and second place with our team. We got a lovely halter, a glass bowl, four giant ribbons, a saddle pad and I got a Redingote winter bodysuit, t-shirt and hat. We definitely brought home a lot of loot!

We also ended up fifth in the country for USEA in the novice adult rider and novice adult amateur leaderboards and won the novice for CDCTA. Whew! It was a good year.

As far as work, I traveled to 11 states and Canada for a total of 17 assignments, including a few new ones like Pony Finals, Dressage Finals and the Washington International Horse Show.


I went to Burghley for the first time on vacation and spent more time in one of my favorite cities, London, and planned my own itinerary for the first time in a foreign country, and it mostly worked out! I drove on the wrong side of the road and made my way through England, which I was really proud of.

Looking ahead I’ve got a very exciting trip to Sweden planned for work and some play next week, then down to Florida, and the usual events in the spring leading up to Land Rover Kentucky. I’m not sure if I can afford a true European vacation on my own this year, but I’m keeping an eye on flights to Amsterdam as a possibility should I find a deal, or may Pau in France in the fall.

Oh So and I went up to school at Loch Moy on the derby course this weekend and had a lot of fun, so as long as he’s still excited about life, we’ll keep plugging away and think about plans for the spring. I’d love to be able to do some more third level shows this year and work on improving our scores.


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