Coming Full Circle

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It’s been just a few days shy of a year since I bought Thomas, and the year has turned out to be nothing like I originally expected.

On Tuesday Thomas went to his new home with a young professional. I’d convinced myself over the summer and early fall that I was going to keep him; he was too nice of a horse, and I knew he had so much potential.

But after riding him for five days once I was physically and mentally able, I decided he’s just not for me. Maybe it’s something I communicated to him, but he was still nervous when I went to get on, despite being fine with my friend and Dusty, so that was it.

In the end, with me riding alone most nights, I just didn’t feel it was the right decision to keep trying. If I had more experience with different kinds of OTTBs and green horses and help every day maybe I’d feel differently.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bear recently and how easy he was at just 3 years old when I got him off the track. He was just the total opposite of Thomas, who’s sensitive, but then fairly simple on the flat. Maybe something happened in his previous life that contributes to his sensitivity, and combined with my distrust of him, it makes for a bad combination.

I feel a little put off by Thoroughbreds directly off the track now, which sounds silly, but this whole year has made me just a little more aware of my own mortality. I also just don’t have the experience, or the time frankly, with travel and also riding and competing Oh So. One thing that I felt was really missing was being able to spend a lot of time with Thomas. When I first got Oh So and Bear I had them at home, so I learned their ins and out and saw them multiple times a day.

I know most adult amateurs board their horses and face the same challenges, but I think Thomas needed more time than I could give him.

Maybe I’ll save for a couple of years until Oh So is ready to retire and then buy something that’s already been started like he was, but I’m just never going to be able to afford a going horse.

It just feels like this year was a colossal waste of time and money, and that sucks. I haven’t had dozens of horses over my lifetime, so I get pretty invested in the ones I have, and none of them have ever not worked out in this way. It’s a weird and demoralizing feeling, to be honest. There’s a lot of what ifs–what if I hadn’t come off, was this my fault, what’s he like to go cross-country, how would he have handled his first show? I just didn’t get to experience all that fun baby stuff after the work I put in in the beginning.

But I’m happy he’s found a rider who seems to adore him, and I’m excited to watch their progress. He looked really good when I saw him go with Dusty, and I feel like he’s just on the cusp of being ready to compete this spring; I just kind of wish it was me in the saddle.

People have been telling me, you learn something from every horse, and I guess I learned the hard way what the right horse is for me.

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Thomas Goes Schooling Again, And I Go To A Show!

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy busy and exhausting. It all started at the American Eventing Championships at Tryon where I drove 7 hours with our intern and put in four 15 hour days before driving 7 hours home.

It’s not often that I get stressed on assignment, but I can say I was extremely overwhelmed and fatigued by the end of each day with 21 divisions plus trying to pay attention to other interesting people. There just wasn’t enough time or manpower to get to everyone. I made a dozen or more trips up and down the media center steps every day, so I can say I’m getting better at that with my ankles!

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A rainbow at Tryon!

I went to the barn when we got back on Monday and was unpleasantly surprised to find Oh So with a nasty puncture wound on his upper leg.

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Thomas Goes Schooling!

On Sunday Lisa and I took Thomas to Hunt Club Farm for an outing with my friend Meghan riding him. I’m still not quite ready to get on him yet because I’m not mounting and dismounting without a very tall water trough, and I’m not as strong or quick as I want to be in the saddle, so Meghan’s been riding him and doing very well.

He certainly enjoyed posing for some impromptu photos and did very well over some of the little intro jumps on cross-country. He seems to have no problem with water, faux ditches and banks, and that’s the hard stuff! He just needs to trust his rider over the actual jumps without looking at them first, but we’ll get there.

It’s definitely an interesting but fun experience to be an owner on the ground. I get to take pretty pictures of my horse and use my skills to capture his personality, which never gets to happen when you’re on them!

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Back In The Tack!

About 10 days ago I decided to get back on Oh So, and so far it’s been going better than I expected. The surgeon didn’t exactly say no, he just wanted me walking 100% first and asked if I could wait until the end of August. I stifled a laugh. If I wait any longer I won’t be able to get to any shows this season, so the sooner I can start the better!

I’d say I’m about 85% back to normal and I just tend to get stiff walking if I’ve been sitting. My range of motion and strength is not quite there yet, but I feel fairly normal when walking once I’m loosened up. Going down stairs is a bit of a challenge, mostly due to calf pain and some pain/stiffness on the inside of my right foot, and that’s been manifesting itself when I ride too.

There were no fireworks or fanfare on the day I got on. In fact, no one was around but the barn owner’s son, who was working on his car. But at about 12 weeks since my accident I wanted to at least try to get on and see what happened.

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Book Review: New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

This review originally appeared in the July/August issue of the Chronicle’s Untacked.

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New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

By Kimberly Godwin Clark

This book came across my desk at exactly the right moment. I’d just picked up my new off-the-track Thoroughbred and was excited to start his retraining. I’ve brought along two other OTTBs in my life—one straight from the track who was quite simple and sweet, and the second who came to me with walk, trot, canter and knowledge of basic jumping, but after reading Kimberly Godwin Clark’s book, I realized there was a lot about the breed that I didn’t know.

Clark has galloped, trained and owned Thoroughbreds for 30 years and has been promoting them for adoption since 2007, both on her own and through her non-profit, Thoroughbred Placement Resources, so she brings a wealth of detailed knowledge.

Before I bought my OTTB, the only time I’d ever been to the track was to watch a race on a summer evening, so Clark’s step-by-step description of how the track works was extremely interesting. She describes the details of everyone’s job at the track, what kind of tack your OTTB wore, and how they were ridden and trained. She then walks the reader through a first trip to the track and what to expect—researching the horse online before you go, etiquette in the barns, evaluating a horse for sale, and how to make an offer.

In the second half of the book, Clark offers advice on everything from how to start a recently retired race horse to what to feed, how to deal with turnout, behavior modifications and when things go wrong.

If you’re new to OTTBs, it’s always a good idea to get help from an experienced person. But before you embark on the journey, New Track, New Life is an educational read to help you have a positive experience with your new partner.

A Thomas Update And Good News From The Surgeon

I haven’t said much about Thomas since my accident, mostly because I’ve only been able to see him a handful of times on the weekends, but also because I’ve had a lot of thoughts floating around in my ahead. Unfortunately I’m a chronic over-thinker, as evidenced by my last post, which is the worst thing I can be in this situation.

I’ve found that just not thinking about him is helpful, which sounds awful and is completely against my nature! I can’t control what’s going on with him, which is hard, so I just don’t even think about it. But I know he’s in good hands with Dustin and Michelle Craig at WestWind Farms in Upperville, learning all about the world.

He’s gone to a couple of local schooling facilities with a group of horses in the trailer and by all reports has been getting on the trailer fine and standing to wait his turn and when he’s done.

 

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Thomas on May 21.

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Finding A Purpose

I just passed the three-week mark since my accident, and I’ve had (way too much) time to reflect on what happened and what’s next.

Since I began riding as a kid, I’ve never gone more than two weeks without being on a horse, and now I’m looking at mid-July for the next opportunity.

Unable to weight-bear for now, I feel like a totally useless blob. I’m unable to groom (except one side of the minis!) or bathe the horses, or mess around in the barn. I can’t exercise, go shopping, visit with friends in person or travel.

I feel like I’ve lost purpose without riding in my life. Each day blends into the next, and I just feel like I’m wasting time. All I’m able to do is work, then stare at a screen some more, either reading a magazine on my iPad or watching TV. I’ve taken to eating my lunch outside and sitting in my wheelchair in the barn while watching my mom feed and turnout the horses but that’s all the horse time I’m getting.

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