Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saving Samson - A Love Story

I am utterly speechless at the final results of the project my little sister put together.  For those of you who don't know - a big part of the reason I have been able to have so many amazing pictures of my journey with Samson is because of my lil' sis Courtney, who is working on her photography major down in Florida.  She needed a meaningful topic to use as her final semester project, which was a video/audio/photography collaboration; and a huge undertaking.  I am always happy to let her click away with the camera, as I have gotten pretty used to my redheaded paparazzi.  The part that tripped me up a little was her requesting an interview - not just audio, but video.  Yikes...  I was pretty apprehensive, but she ended up making it conversational, and before I knew it, I was simply having a conversation with my little sister.  What she put together, as a final result, left me speechless.  I am honored to share her amazing talent, in the video she appropriately titled, "Saving Samson - A Love Story."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Present, Yet Absent

I have thought a lot about sitting down to write a blog lately.  I just haven't quite been able to pull together the time or the words to come up with much of anything.  Life has been INSANE.  In November, I got wind that a farm a mile down the road was coming available for lease.  Terrifying as it was, I ended up taking the gamble and signing a lease to expand the farm.  It has been nonstop ever since.  We have spent hours there - replacing fencing, remodeling fields to suit our needs, fixing the dirt floor stalls and raising them up to stop leaking, repairing a moldy tack room, roof leaks...the list could go on forever.  We moved in on December 1st, and it is finally is getting to a point of functionality - at least to where the eleven o'clock weeknights are over.  We are still managing to pack the weekends full of to-do lists, but it's getting there.

With that accomplishment, I have been able to finally shift my focus back to riding, which unfortunately took a bit of a backseat throughout the farm preparations.  I feel so much more complete with my rides being part of the daily schedule again.  It's something I knew I was missing, but I didn't realize how MUCH.  It can be frustrating, having to back off from the riding, to make the farm work - but at the end of the day, it all works together anyway.  So it is a necessary sacrifice, at times.  Hopefully those times of sacrifice can be officially over.

I have been having fantastic rides.  I think we are finally starting to make a little more progress on the flat - at least to the point that I am not feeling like I am hitting the same brick wall on the time.  There are days where it is still challenging, just to get the basics - but it isn't every ride.  I feel like the journey is starting to travel forward, and it is really exciting.

The day that we moved to the farm, I schooled April in the new jump field.  I had set up standards the week prior, and just put the poles wherever the cups were currently set.  I was having a fantastic school over fences, and before it was over, I had attempted a fence that would have sent me into a downright panic attack.  Of course, I have to be honest - we did pull the rails.  And I was too lazy to put them back up and school it again.  But really, how fair is it to be schooling around a 2'3"-2'6" course, and then throw in a fence that was 3'9"???  Okay, admittedly, I had no freaking CLUE until last night that it was that big....and that's when I realized, we've come a long way.

That's right - me and the redhead are starting to head towards bigger and better things.  Mostly because I have finally learned to not be scared of my own shadow anymore.  And probably also because I have learned to trust that funny little mare of mine, and in return, I think she is trusting me more as well.  A new boarder and I were talking about showing the other night, and I have found a lot of newfound encouragement to get out there and have fun with it.  I think that is the part I really need to focus on at this stage of the game.  The thing that has always gotten in the way is ME.  So I am ready to get out and enjoy it, and quit worrying about what everyone else thinks.  Criticism is inevitable, and sometimes you have to figure out how to brush it off and soldier on with a smile.  And I gotta say - so far, so good.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Breaking the Silence

I have been noticeably absent from blogging for awhile.  It isn't that things haven't been happening, it is more a matter of not knowing how to say everything that is going on.  I have been in total overwhelm mode, and in all honesty have been a bit hesitant to lay things out for general consumption.

I have been navigating what feels like a series of minefields - in my work life, personal life, the horse world - pretty much everywhere.  It is exhausting to say the least, so I have done a bit of hiding, as it is my general defense mechanism.

I may be losing my job.  Even typing it sucks, but the truth is, my property is being sold in the next few weeks.  And nine times out of ten the new management companies lay off existing staff members - usually from the top down, which doesn't bode well for me as the manager.  I am hoping and praying that this isn't what happens, but so far things are not looking promising.

Samson is holding steady in terms of his recovery.  He had a fantastic week or two where we was perky and upbeat, even galloping in for breakfast in the mornings.  The last day or two he has been markedly depressed and not quite himself.  Clinically he is fine, but something is not quite right.  I have a sneaking suspicion we may need to get the EPM treatment underway.  He was approved for the clinical trial for a new drug called Oroquin-10, so his treatment will be significantly cheaper; but still not inexpensive by any stretch.  I am really hoping to see him perk up soon, and for the moment, I am monitoring things very closely.

There hasn't been much to report on the April front.  My poor girl took a backseat during all the chaos with Samson, and about the time he stabilized enough that I could get back to work with her, she started up with an adverse reaction that took her out of work for the better part of a week.  So now we are trying to get back to our usual training routine amidst massive weather swings.  Needless to say, last night's ride in what FELT like subzero conditions was rather interesting.  :-)  We had a bit of a conversation about which of us was going to be in charge, but got to a great note to end on.  I am still mastering the art of when to use a firm hand, and when to allow and give to her when little issues crop up.  It can be such a delicate balance, especially with a mare...sometimes it seems their moods change more frequently than my own!!

So, obviously there have been plenty of stresses and worries going on, but through them all, I am trying to focus on the positive, which lately has been the farm.  For the last few weeks I have been undergoing research and negotiations to expand the farm to a bigger location - and as of today, we officially hold a lease for a new property!  It is right around the corner from our current location, but we will be expanding to 25 acres of actual pasture, as well as many other upgraded features.  I am ecstatic, even though I know it is going to be a LOT of work to get it set up the way we have envisioned it.  Thankfully, the farm expansion has been an excellent distraction for me to pour my worries into, and it gives me a major positive to focus on instead of all the negatives.

I even set up a website, so if you're interested, check it out here!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Still Speechless

I don't really have much to say lately.  Samson is hanging in there, and I am still taking things one day at a time.  I have been researching EPM with a frenzy, and am looking into a new drug that is being used in clinical trials - so far with a very high success rate.  I discussed the option with one of my veterinarians yesterday, and he is consulting with the vet/PhD in charge of the trial to learn more about the possibility.  In the meantime, I find myself submitting the poor guy to endless scrutinizing, amateur neurological exams, and lots of tearful hugs.

He hasn't been quite himself the last few days.  It isn't horrible, but his general attitude is markedly depressed from what it typically is.  It started the day we trailered to the vet for the follow-up, and I have this sinking feeling haunting me that maybe the stress of the ride induced a flare-up, if he is indeed EPM positive.  Clinically, he is remaining pretty solid - vitals have been normal for over a week, appetite is fantastic - on paper, he looks pretty good.  His last round of bloodwork showed an elevated white blood cell count, so it has gone to the opposite extreme.  I am a little worried that it showed an increase, although I am curious to see if it had anything to do with his catheter site reaction.  He developed a lump the size of a grape at the base of the catheter, so it was pulled at the last vet appointment.  We are now doing hot compresses and DMSO, which helped at first - but the inflammation has remained stagnant the past two days. 

Tonight will be his last dose of the antibiotic, and then his immune system will be depended on to do the rest.  The next round of bloodwork will be done most likely on Monday to see if there has been any resolution in his white count.

I am uneasy.  I have this unsettled feeling because of his overall attitude; and I don't know what to make of it.  I'm not sure if it is a flare-up of EPM or what is going on - but something is causing him to act withdrawn all of a sudden.  The only time I see him act like himself is at feeding time - that is something that NEVER changes!  :-)

On a side note - I entered my favorite picture of us in a photo contest the Dover holds.  You don't have to do anything, other than click a "vote" button.  You can vote once a day for the next week and a half, til the contest ends.  I would truly appreciate anyone who might be willing to take the time to vote - Dover has a pharmacy that carries one of the EPM medications in consideration for his treatment - and every penny helps.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Three Letters You Never Want to Hear in a Diagnosis....


Also known as Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis.  Sadly, it's a disease I have encountered before.  As a matter of fact, the first horse I ever saw put down suffered from EPM.  "Curtain", short for Curtain Call, was an older Thoroughbred at Robin's farm in Iowa, where I had my first job as a working student.  He was diagnosed somewhere around seven, after having two falls cross country - one in which his rider's leg was broken.  Over the years, the disease slowly progressed and attacked his neurological function.  He eventually sucumbed to colic, and it saved everyone from having to make the decision of whether he would make it through another tough Iowa winter.

That was the last time I encountered an EPM horse.  Until this morning, when I received a voicemail that Samson's titer results were back.  The vets at NC State decided to send it off after he exhibited some obvious ataxia after his seizure-like episode.  I didn't hesitate to let them send off the test, especially since he has a long history of being "wonky" - he has always had a bizarre unsoundness that could never quite be pinpointed.  In all honesty, EPM and Lyme disease have always piqued my curiousity, because either diagnosis would explain a lot of his weird symptoms over the past year.  So I let them send the test.  Then I proceeded to more or less forget about the whole thing, since I have been buried in the constant bustle of checking vitals, administering medications, trailering to follow-up's been an endless stream of one thing after another, which I have gratefully accepted simply because he is still HERE.

But back to the voicemail.  The attending veterinarian left me a message that the panel had come back with a greater than 95% chance that he is EPM positive. 

All of a sudden, the cloudy feeling of doom I have been dragging around all day seemed to make sense.  Have you ever woken up just KNOWING things weren't going to go well?  I woke up with that feeling this morning.  Did my best to shake it, and then three hours later, the phone call comes.

I know it isn't the end of the world.  I really, honestly know that.  It is a fairly treatable disease.  But it's not cheap.  At this point, I feel like I am in so deep I don't know how to get out anymore.  I also feel like my poor boy has so many strikes against him at this point, it's just a matter of a ticking clock.  The instability in his feet that could shift at any point and cause a debilitating lameness; the EPM we have to decide whether or not to treat...How could I not treat?  I have watched a horse succumb to neurological disease.  It isn't pretty.  I don't know that I could watch my heart horse fight that kind of battle. 

I have already made the decision to fight for this guy - mainly because he keeps showing the will to fight on.  So I suppose the only obvious choice is to take this in stride with the rest of the problems that face us.  I just feel like this poor guy can't catch a break, and I wish I could just make it all go away for him.  All I can do is continue to make the best decisions possible for him.  And hope and pray that I will know when enough is enough. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Week in Review

I know I have said it more than once in the last post or two; but what an overwhelming rollercoaster of a week it has been.  It is just over a week now since the nightmare began, and I am finally seeing signs that it is coming to a close.  I still can't believe he made it through Friday - I was right on the cusp of calling it quits.  When I arrived that morning, it was the first time I didn't see even a hint of his personality. But sure enough, as I was about to tell the vet it was time to call it quits; the plasma arrived.  After returning from an emotional exhaustion-driven nap in the parking lot, my boy was back.  It turned around that quickly.

He was discharged from State on Monday, but still had to be hospitalized through Tuesday. His personality has completely returned when I stopped for a visit Tuesday morning; and he has hit the "cranky" phase of recovery - where he feels good enough to protest the oral meds, shove people around during feeding time, and generally act like a cantankerous turd.  Ladies and gentleman, the PIG is back!!!!  (Note - this is the ONLY time I will look upon these behaviors as a "good" thing!!!!) 

We still have a week and a half left of medications, and he was sent home with a long-term catheter to ease administration.  I still can't believe he made it.  I know I keep saying it, but I REALLY thought I was going to lose him.  I knew by about the third day in that it wasn't good - I had this general feeling in my gut that no one could talk me out of.  I am so glad we made the decision to take him to State.

They still are stumped at the initial cause of the pneumonia.  Three types of extremely rare bacteria were found, one of which is a pretty icky strain.  I have racked my brain, trying so hard to find the signs I missed, the blame that I feel the need to shoulder....just SOMETHING to point me in the direction of how to prevent another event of any similarity.  I have discussed it to death with the vets at State and here; and we will more than likely never know.  But here is what I HAVE learned; with unfailing certainty:

1.  A fever is not something to be taken lightly.  Not that I did; by any stretch.  There were plenty of sleepless nights in the barn, fighting endlessly to keep it down.  The area where I "failed" is in letting it go on so long.  As one vet who consulted on the case told me - if you have a fever that multiple doses of banamine fails to even bring down to normal; you have a major problem. 

2.  You HAVE to trust your gut.  This is scary, and I will be the first to admit it.  But with that comes a responsibility to EDUCATE yourself.  If you don't have a scrap of knowledge behind your gut instincts, I will be the first to admit that you probably should rely on the professionals.  I have spent many years knocking myself down because I am still very new to this; and learning new things on a daily basis.  I have buried my own instincts to not cause waves; and in this particular instance, I failed.  I use that word lightly; because anything that carries this valuable kind of life experience really isn't a failure.  But it very well could have been.  I truly believe that one more day could have meant the difference between life and death for this horse.  It was touch and go for a full 48 hours.  Not having access to the plasma, especially, would have brought about a different end to the story.  I saw things turn around before my own eyes, and I have several people to thank for that.

3.  If you are going to carry the responsibility of owning a horse, you need to be able to man up and carry the financial burden that can inevitably come with it.  If you are like me, and aren't fortunate enough to have reserves of cash stocked away for this kind of emergency, then you NEED to INSURE YOUR HORSE.  If for nothing else; carry the major medical.  I can assure you - being backed into a corner of making the decision of how much your horse is "worth" - it's a sickening feeling.  It was the question I kept shoving down on the four hour drive to Raleigh, it's the question that nearly stopped my heart as I initialed authorization on treatment estimates.  Even now, the follow-up hospitalization in Charlotte, a visit scheduled for Saturday for more meds and bloodwork, a trip to Southern Pines for an just keeps adding up.  If I had the average medical coverage of $5,000; the majority of this would have been handled by insurance.  So please - I beg you.  If you don't have the means to come up with this kind of cash for the bizarre emergencies that CAN and WILL arise; insure your horse. 

Lastly - I owe an invaluable debt of gratitude to many, MANY people throughout this ordeal.  My amazing family, friends, boarders...everyone who offered prayers, emotional support, helped cover the barn and many responsibilities while I was gone...

Most especially, Dr Amy Edwards; of Internal Medicine at NC State -   Her patient, caring demeanor - both with the patient AND the distraught owner - will never be forgotten.  My husband, for being unbelievably supportive; both in the emotional and financial decisions throughout this entire ordeal.  Robyn, for making it through the sobbing phone call of not knowing which direction to turn.  Ivy, for the prudent and timely advice that undoubtedly saved his life.  Dr. Hamilton, for the unlimited generousity he has extended in answering so many questions.  The list goes on and on - every one of you who kept my boy lifted up in prayer, sent messages of support and are a huge part of the reason I made it through this.  I may have gone to Raleigh alone, but there wasn't a single day that I felt alone.  You have all touched my life in indescribable ways.

Last night, I turned onto the barn driveway with Samson safely in tow.  The moment I hit the gravel road, the tears started rolling down my cheeks.  There were many, MANY moments I feared I may pull back in with an empty trailer.  But it wasn't meant to be - he's a fighter.  In so many ways; ways that inspire ME to fight just as hard.  For him, for April, for any horse that comes my way.  They are the reason we do this.  It is too easy for us to make it all about US, but if you aren't in this for the horse, you need to get out now.  If you aren't inspired by the unfailing spirit of a horse with the odds stacked against him; who refuses to give up; then you are missing a piece of the human spirit I can't tell you how to replace.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the movie Seabiscuit; and I think it sums up Samson's story in a simple sentence:

"You don't throw away a whole life, just 'cause it's banged up a little" - Tom Smith

I hope that I will never lose sight of this kind of inspiration.  And I hope that one day, I can have a mere fraction of the fighting spirit this guy has shown me over the last week.

Home Sweet Home...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Continued...(Saturday, Sept 22nd)

Somehow the last entry was posted prematurely; so here is a follow-up of how things were looking this morning - dramatically improved.  The vet in charge of his case sounded positive for the first time.  She said the dull episodes had been gone for the last twelve hours, and temperature gone for 48 hours.  He had been taken off his IV fluids for the first time as well.  Pulse is still higher than we would like, but after 48 hours of antibiotics, it is looking like his body is starting to respond positively.

I got to take him for another stroll outside.  It is obvious he is tired, but being out in the sun does him so much good.  They have made it a regular part of his daily regimen.  He whinnied at a group of people passing by, and it more or less brought tears to my eyes.  Then the tech came to bring us in for meds.  As I took off his halter, I started scratching his neck and behind his ears, and for the first time in a week, he leaned into it, moving his head up and down into the scratch.

I am guarded, because it has been so up and down - but I can't help feeling like my boy is back.  His personality, his fight - for a brief moment yesterday, I thought he was done.  I had made up mind that I was not going to make him fight a battle if he was too tired to go on.  And then I arrive this morning, and my sweet boy is there - ready to fight another day.

So keep the prayers coming. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pony 911

It has been a long week of worry and sleeplessness.  It all started on Sunday afternoon, when I put a hand on Samson and instantly realized he was burning with fever.  After his temp registered 105.3, I was certainly panicked - but he did this one time last fall, and one dose of banamine knocked it out.  We nursed him into the night, finally going home to sleep once we had him in a safe range.

When I arrived to feed the next morning, the temp was back to 104.7.  I called the vet immediately and waited for them to arrive.  His exam was fairly unremarkable, and they administered a long-acting antibiotic and took bloodwork.  Another long night of fever-fighting followed.  Banamine, cold hosing, alcohol baths and fans...But he still had his appetite and general demeanor intact; so I stayed cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday was fairly unremarkable, but the continuing fever trend was really starting to mount my concerns.  The fever was topping out a degree lower each day though, so I figured we were at least headed in the right direction.

Wednesday morning dawned with a markedly depressed horse.  The fever was
 down considerably, but his demeanor was flat and even more lethargic than the previous days.  The fever was low enough to hold off on the banamine - a first since Sunday - but around 1 pm it started climbing again so I gave him another shot.

What happened next was one of the most terrifying situations I have ever been in.  Within minutes, he was laying down coughing, and then went into respiratory distress of some sort - his sides heaving and groaning for breath.  I dialed the vet and relayed his status, then climbed in the stall and put his head in my lap.  His neck jerked violently, and his head stretched back and his eyes closed. I am not kidding you - I thought that was it.  I put my forehead on his, and told him to hang on.  I kid you not - he opened his eyes, stood up somewhat unsteadily, and his breathing returned to normal.

The next few hours were a flurry of activity so chaotic I barely remember the details.  I spoke with a trainer, got bloodwork sent for a consult, made a million phone calls, and waited for my vet.  To make a long story short, three hours later I had shoved a few outfits in a bag, and was on the way to NC State with my precious cargo behind me.

I cried for the better first half of the trip.  When I arrived, I was feeling so hopeful - no fever for the first time.  An hour later ultrasounds were completed, and initial suspicions pointed to pneumonia or colitis.

The attending vet called the next morning with two additional diagnostic requests to narrow it down - a full set of chest x-rays and a transtracheal wash; where they obtain fluid from the lungs to send off for culture.  Both results indicated bacterial pneumonia, and we are still waiting for the culture to indicate which type of bacteria.  Regardless, they began a combination of broad-spectrum IV antibiotics.  I went back to the stall where he munched fairly happily on his hay.

His fever had started to climb, so they had administered another dose of banamine.  I was alone with him thirty minutes later, when he abrubtly quit eating, and started looking for a place to lie down.  All of a sudden, he dropped to his side and started laboring for breath again.  I shouted for someone to help, but no one came.  I yelled again - silence.  So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I put that big chestnut head in my lap, and I told him he could go if he needed to.  I stroked his cheek and told him how much I loved him, and how he had changed my life, and  would never forget it.  And wouldn't you know - that breathing started to slow, and he started to hold his head up again.  I slipped outside the stall and found the nearest person to inform.  Tears were still rolling down my cheeks as a team of six or seven doctors descended on his stall.

Moments later, he was encouraged to his feet and submitted to a neuro exam and a follow up ultrasound.  He was initially showing signs of uncoordination, but by the time the ultrasound was completed, he was more or less back to normal.  It was concluded that he had developed a severe reaction to the banamine; so it was discontinued immediately.  He was upgraded to the intensive care unit as well, where more eyes could be on him.  I stayed for a few more hours, and when everything remained stable, I left for some much-needed sleep.

This morning painted a different picture.  I was there the minute they opened, but the horse that greeted me was not the boy I know and love.  The vet in charge of his case suggested a round of plasma; due to the suspicion that his body is fighting showers of endotoxemia.  I agreed to give it a shot, since he had yet to hit the 24-hour mark since antibiotics had started.After they left to prepare the tranfusion, I lost it.  The horse I saw in front of me didn't have the fight he previously had.  It was as if all the will to live had drained out of him.  I called a friend and barely made it through the conversation of deciding how you know it is time to help him end the fight.  And wouldn't you know - they arrived and began to start the plasma.  To skip ahead a bit, I decided to see if there would be any change.  I fell asleep in my truck in the parking lot, and when I went back in, they let me take him outside to hang out and eat grass in the roundpen.

My horse was back.  He was so happy out there, munching grass, and even whinnying to the passing horses.  I haven't heard that sound in a week - it was like music to my ears.  So there we were, just enjoying the rays of warm September sun beating down on us, as if nothing had happened.  I left a few hours later as he slept, worn out from the excitement.

It has been such a rollercoaster.  Things appear to be improving, then crash down before my eyes.  And then they improve again.  Tomorrow will be 24 hours after the start of the anitibiotics, and I am hoping and praying for some progress.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Last Minute Victory

I didn't even have a chance to update my blog about our last minute success in pulling everything together.  Long story short, my farrier (God LOVE him!) came out bright and early Friday morning to tack the missing shoe back on, so we rescheduled my lesson for Friday night and zipped off an entry form just before closing time.  Friday night was more or less chaos.  Thank god for Brenna being available that evening - I left the chores in her very capable hands, and headed over to Kelsey's for a jump school.  Considering the fact that we have had several weeks off of jumping between incessant rain and my concussion incident, it went pretty decent overall.  Towards the end we had a bit of a mare moment that got a little ugly, but we got through everything and ended on a good note.  I wasn't too worried about it - bad school means a good show, right?

I didn't get back to the farm til 7:30, and then had to clip muzzles, legs, ears, bathe, whiten socks, clean tack, pull out shipping wraps, saddle pad, and bonnet to be washed, pack the trailer, and then finish chores.  Needless to say, it was ten o'clock before I even headed home, and then had to do a load of laundry, polish boots, and arrange all my other showing necessities.  The night before a show is always rough for me.  The moment my head hits the pillow, I start thinking about all the different ways that things could go.  It makes for a REALLY hard time getting to sleep, which is especially rough when the alarm is set for 5 am. 

But whatever.  I made it up in time to shower, gas up the truck, and feed horses before starting to load.  Robyn pulled out to go pick up another horse, so I was left by myself to load April.  Of course, the day of a show, we would have issues.  I hesitate to elaborate on it much, but the combination of exhaustion and stress of being late led to a minor sobbing fit on my part.  Thankfully she fed off my newly released tension, and walked right on the trailer to meet me.  Big hugs and pats ensued.  I swear - that mare will stroll on the trailer five times in the row, then randomly throw a total fit.  I'm going to have to practice Ivy's loading tips more frequently....

We got to the show in time to have about five minutes in the warmup ring, which wasn't enough for me to try any of the fences together in the intended order.  The first time I went to a show, I was able to memorize my course and jump the fences in sequence during warmup....not this time.  My security blanket was gone - time to enter the real world. 


My first class was the 2'3" jumpers, and it is still literally a blur.  I let myself get completely distracted during my circle before the first fence, and I was flustered from that moment on.  I had the first four fences memorized, but after they had been jumped I started feeling like I was off course, and I felt that way all the way up to the last fence.  I literally became a passenger, and I think we may have run around a good little bit - no doubt, the speed is what caught us a 3rd place ribbon in that class! 

I came out of the ring feeling pretty flustered and bummed, and listened to a few encouraging words from my trainer.  Next thing I know, a thick shock of dark hair shows up beside me - and I look down to see my husband's grinning face.  He completely surprised me by sneaking out of work to come and cheer for me, and it was all I needed.  He wasn't able to make it to my first show with April, so his presence meant the world to me.  Game on!

Next was the 2'6" class, and after watching the course a few more times, it became much more solidified in my head.  I focused on giving my mare the best ride I could, and we had a MUCH better course that time around.  Another third place finish!  Suddenly Robyn and Kelsey were encouraging me to add one of the 2'9" courses at the gate and do one I did!  The third course went even better.  It was a Power & Speed round, where the timed portion is fences 5-9, so I really focused on getting better turns and rhythm through fences 1-4.  April felt amazing, and really saved my tail on a super tight turn to fence 9.  She is such a talented mare in the jumper ring! 

Needless to say, the last minute add-on course won us a blue ribbon, and I am still grinning about it with pride about my awesome mare.  I still look at pictures and think how lucky I am to have such an amazing horse!  It has been a lot of ups and downs, but days like this make the journey MORE than worthwhile.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment."
                                                                                                                  - Henry David Thoreau

One thing that we all must accept in the world of horses, is the inevitable disappointment that occurs - sometimes over and over.  It wouldn't be a journey if there weren't highs and lows, and this is something that I know - but it doesn't make it any easier to accept when it happens.

Regardless, we trudge on.  We take the blows, whether emotional or physical, get back on, and press forward towards the goal.  There are days I wonder why I strive SO hard to make things happen when I feel like they never will.  But I have yet to give up, and have no plans of doing so.

I'm starting to get a little superstitious.  Which is funny, because I have always been the least superstitious person in the world.  I mocked my husband when he told me stories about baseball players wearing dirty cups (EW!) because they felt if they washed it, they would have a bad game.  The only quirk I've ever indulged in is the occasional knocking on wood, and I swear - it's only been when discussing something horse-related.  But I digress.  I swear, every time I try to go to a show with the group, something happens.  A piece of wire is impaled in a frog, a shoe is thrown, the horse is "off", the trailer seems like something always happens.  The only plan I have been able to sucessfully stick to was the jumper show I went to on my own. 

So, I came back from a hack last night to discover a lost shoe - the day before my lesson, and two days before the next jumper show.  I have one of the best farriers in the greater Charlotte area, but the downside to that is that he is never sitting around twiddling his thumbs, ready at a moment's notice to tack a shoe back at the moment, we are in limbo of whether it will be replaced in time to be ready for a show.  Disappointment strikes.  I stomp my feet, utter a few expletives, and slap the headphones on with some head-banging music to fend off the storm inside of me.  Go to bed, wake up, and have regained my sense of perspective.  I'll be the first one to admit, I'm just as human (a.k.a. immature, impatient....) as the next guy.  I won't even pretend to take it in stride every time, because it's the furthest thing from the truth.  Thankfully, I am progressively challenging myself to take it a little better each time.

In other news, I was cleared to start riding again about a week ago.  The concussion symptoms have all subsided, minus a few brain fart moments like losing my debit card and phone...It took a few days to get my general stamina in the saddle back, but it has mostly returned, and we have been back to our original schedule.

The fear tried creeping up on one ride.  I felt that old familiar pang, as I was working through a classic red-headed herdbound mare moment on a conditioning ride.  She threw a pretty decent-sized temper tantrum when her boyfriend left her in the dust on a hack.  I let them go on ahead and chose to work on the issue instead of having them babysit me.  Big mistake.  Mare fit ensued, complete with planting, spinning, a little rear - and for the first time in I can't remember when, the old thought of "maybe I should get off...." crossed my mind.  As quickly as it came, I dismissed it, and finally managed to get through it and get back to the barn.  Then came the inevitable disappointment at the return of the old "fear" symptoms.  But you know what?  I brushed my ego off and got right back on the next day, and finished one of our best jump schools to date. 

I guess I knew I hadn't built up some magical immunity, to where the fear might never return.  This sport comes with risk, but the measure of our success isn't in the reward of ribbons and showing - it is in the everyday obstacles we overcome.  For me, that obstacle is fear and confidence issues.  And I am striving to continue succeeding in beating it, day by day.  What I have found, in the last couple rides, is that I did get spooked.  In all honesty, most people get a little shook up (no pun intended!) after a concussion.  I think the biggest thing in my favor is the partnership I have built with my mare, and the huge bank of positive experiences in the past that I can rely on.  I trust that horse, and I truly believe she is beginning to trust me as well.  I am discovering that may be the most effective ingredient in the recipe for riding through the fear.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Ahh, the inevitable ebb and flow of life which is not always in our control...that has been the summary of my last week.  Lots of rest, more sleep than I think I have EVER had, and the unescapable period of recovery that has to be suffered in order to be back to a hundred percent.

I did, indeed, suffer my first concussion.  After suffering through work with a splitting headache last Thursday, I finally went to the doctor, where I quickly failed part of the neuro evaluation.  So I took Friday off to recuperate, and found myself sleeping for extensive periods of time for the next several days.  It was a long weekend, espcially considering there is little you can do while resting your BRAIN - it is pretty much involved in just about anything you might do to pass the time.  It left me with a lot of time to think - too much, I'm sure.  I found myself evaluating a lot of things, and really thinking about my relationship with my horse. 

It's funny, because so much of my battle with fear started out with actual fear - that I would get hurt, that something would go wrong - it seemed endless at times.  Now, a year later, I have made so much progress in that arena.  I know I would have never gotten back on and finished a jump session after a concussion a year ago.  So I know that my confidence in that aspect has grown immensely.

Now, it seems, my biggest battle is with my own self-doubt.  That has always been another underlying issue in my riding, and I think it is a common battle for a lot of riders.  There is an abundance of criticism and critique in the horse world, and much of it is not hidden.  Everyone has their own opinion of how things should be done, and that really isn't a problem.  The problem is the critical nature behind it.  I don't understand why, as horse people, with more or less a common goal, we can't be more supportive of each other in our journey to improve as riders and as horsemen.  Regardless, I have spun off the original topic.  I have come to grips, with all this time to think things through, that I need to really work on my own self-confidence.  At the end of the day, the only person required to cheer me or April on, is me.  It is my job to do the very best I can to understand what she needs, and to advocate for it.  I am not perfect, and I'm still learning SO many things, so yes - I might make mistakes.  On the flip side, however, I can't just swallow everyone else's advice or wishes, and pretend it is the best thing for me.  I spent plenty of time doing that in former situations, and every time I have conceded to someone else's agenda, I have ended up miserable and stuck in a rut.

So where does that leave me?  I guess, step one, is to quit beating myself up for not being perfect.  That's going to be massive challenge number one - stop comparing myself to everyone around me, stop feeling like less-than-enough for not being the favorite, and maybe just start telling myself that I am going to ride like no one's watching, and attempt to live more in the moment.  Step two is to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, because it really isn't doing much other than stressing me out.  Step three is to be continually grateful for a horse that has brought me so far in the last year.  A horse that I was able to step on after being knocked quite silly, and jump two more fences, without a moment's hesitation. 

And now, since I have passed the alotted time period in which I am supposed to be staring at a computer, I am going to sign off.  Hopefully tonight I will get back on the horse - both literally and figuratively - and see if we can't start turning off the cycle of self-doubt.  Cheers!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gravity Blows

I suppose there is more than a little irony in the fact that I was considering "Defying Gravity" as my latest show name possibility, considering that last night, BOTH April and I did the exact opposite.  It was just another night, other than the fact that we were going to do a little jump schooling for the first time in a while, thanks to the overwhelming amount of rain lately.  We had a beautiful warm-up on the flat - relaxed, responsive - really tuned in and listening.  I decided to work over our few cross country jumps, because it seemed to be the best option in terms of footing.  I warmed up a little more in the jump field, and it went off without a hitch.  We started schooling, and it was going quite well considering how long it has been since our last time over fences.  She was a bit excited, as she always tends to be over fences, but not bad overall.  If she got too cranked up, I would bring her back quietly, focusing on really using my seat and leg instead of relying on my hands.  Then I would work for a minute at the walk and trot, working on controlling her shoulders.  Instantly it would settle her, and she would start responding better to my seat and following my rhythm.  After a few circles on the flat to get a calm steady rhythm back, I told her we were headed for one last line, and then we would be finished - the tires, the hanging log, and the log jump.  Turns out, I should have kept my mouth shut.

Less than a minute later, after coming off the tire jump and heading for the log, April veered a little further to the right than the path I had intended her to take.  I closed the door with my right leg to guide her back in the direction we needed to go, but it was too late.  She had swerved too far from the dry sandy footing toward what looked like perfectly acceptable ground, into a patch of straight mud, completely concealed by a cluster of leafy weeds.  In an instant, I found myself falling off to the left, and was extremely confused at what could have possibly happened for me to be falling...until I looked up and saw her withers headed in my direction. 

Apparently her feet had hit the mud and shot out from under her to the right, leaving her body to fall to the left - and throwing me in that direction as well.  To defy gravity may have been the goal, but I assure you, at this particular moment, we came crashing down like a ton of bricks.  I'm not sure what part of me hit the ground first, because the only thing I really felt make contact was the back of my head.  It bounced off the ground pretty vigorously, and then I was left lying flat on my back.  I heard a thud within inches of my body, and saw her hindquarters slam to the ground right next to me.  In a split second, I saw her start to stand up - and realized my left foot was still stuck in the stirrup.  I shook my foot frantically just as she was getting to her feet, and managed to sling the stirrup off my boot as she bolted off. 

I laid there for a second or two, taking inventory, then rolled to my stomach - enter the pounding on the back of my skull.  I grabbed the back of my head, made sure the helmet was in one piece, then got to my feet and started quietly walking towards April.  She had stopped a few yards away, and was literally standing full-alert, staring at the spot where we had gone down.  As I approached, I could see her entire body quivering, and it nearly broke my heart.  I talked softly to her as I grabbed the reins, and scratched her forehead to reassure her.  Then I led her over to the tire jump so I would have a place to mount.  I knew as soon as I had stood up, that there was no other option.  I have come so far in getting over the fear issues.  No WAY was I going to take a chance of getting some crazy mental block about jumping again.  If she was sound, we had to try again. 

I picked up the trot - everything felt fine.  In all honesty, I can't remember what jump we did first, but it went all honesty, she jumped it better than anything else had gone that evening - mostly because she was completely looking to me for guidance.  I could literally feel the hesitation underneath me, but all I did was maintain the rhythm going in, and she hopped it beautifully.  But I knew I had to do the hanging log again, since that was where we were heading when the fall happened.  Again, I felt her begin to hesitate about four strides out, so I talked to her as I continued to keep the rhythm of the canter.  And again, we leapt it quietly and finished with a calm canter off the back side of the fence.  I dismounted and sat flat out on the ground for a few minutes.  I was fighting back tears, since I didn't want to scare my adorable helper, who had watched the whole thing happen.  In all honesty though, the terror of several moments before had hit full-force, and it was MY turn to shake like a leaf.

I picked myself up after a minute, and we headed back to the barn.  April got a Vetrolin bath and a complete rubdown with liniment to ward off any possible soreness.  I started trying to clean a stall, but I had this increasing feeling of fogginess, and I couldn't quite shake it.  Thankfully the feeling subsided before long, and I started feeling more like myself.

I was so nervous on the way to the barn this morning, but after a jogout, April still looked completely normal.  I felt up and down every inch of her, and didn't find an ounce of heat or swelling anywhere.  Sadly, I didn't fare quite as well - I woke up with a thumping headache in the back of my skull that I haven't quite been able to shake all day.  I've been nursing it with an ice pack, which really seems to help, and praying it will resolve itself speedily so I can get back to riding again tomorrow.  April is getting a mandatory day off today, just as a precaution mainly.  That, and I doubt that I should be riding, as I suspect I may be nursing a bit of a mild concussion....Hopefully it's just lack of sleep, or even whiplash.  Either way, I have warned all my coworkers and friends to consult a professional if I suddenly start drooling on myself.  HA!

In all seriousness though, I am so thankful that it wasn't any worse.  I know without a doubt that we had divine protection, and that so many things were narrowly avoided that could have ended so badly.  I am so grateful that out of the entire thing, I walked away with a little headache, and April seems to be none worse for the wear.  I am so incredibly grateful.  Here's to thanking our lucky stars, and perhaps searching for a new show name....  :-)

Not exactly the way it happened, but close enough to give a bit of a visual....

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Blog of Epic Proportions...

It's funny how I have so little to say, for days on end, and then all of a sudden I have about a million things spinning around that I can't WAIT to put into words.  I'm not even going to try to put things in any kind of chronological order, because it was such a huge weekend in so many ways that I can hardly remember what happened when.

I guess we will start out with the latest updates on Samson.  He came up mildly lame the other day on his front right, which has been a little unsettling, especially since he has been more or less living the "retired" life lately.  He got several days of proactive "doctoring" since we couldn't quite pinpoint anything - so I figured a few epsom salt soaks and stable wraps with witch hazel couldn't hurt.  Friday night, a dear friend dropped out to the barn for a visit, and very generously volunteered to massage him since she has her equine massage training.  I debated back and forth whether I would even write about this, because I don't think that anyone could possibly understand without having been there.  But regardless, something magical happened between the two of them.  That's the best that I can try to put it into words.  For starters, she has an amazing gift when it comes to working on horses.  I have seen horses massaged before, and I know how relaxing it is for them, but this was a completely different story.  Samson is the biggest pig in the world when it comes to standing in the crossties - constantly pawing, moving around, and just plain rude.  Even when he is adjusted by the chiropractor, when most horses have that initial bout of completely relaxation after the adjustment is done, he still acts unsettled.  When he was being massaged however, he was so in tune that he would lay a muzzle on her shoulder contentedly, and respond to what hurt and what felt good.  I have never in my life seen that horse so relaxed and content.  I think the part that was even better was watching his masseuse - I swear, as she finished, her entire demeanor had changed as well.  The two of them really helped each other, in a way that is so uncommon in the human world.  There is something about working on an animal, being able to relieve just a little bit of their suffering, that is able to heal a person just as much as it heals the animal being worked on.  I don't know if it is because of the inherent goodness of animals, or what it is - but it is an amazing thing to have been witness to.

Next, in the way of "news", is the huge weekend we had at Thalia Farm!  We are quickly coming up the one year anniversary of officially being open.  We started on the farm August 1st of last year, and officially opened on September 1st.  So now, one year later, we have filled the last advertised spot after making the decision to add one more boarder this past month.  We found the most amazing couple with a sweet gelding and his companion - a miniature donkey!  Seriously, could this be ANY more fun?  So that was barn tour number one of the weekend.  The second one was a girl that emailed me looking for an opportunity to work at a nearby farm.  I have passed up several requests like this in the past, but something about this girl really struck me, and I decided to have her come out with her family to meet and see what we could work out.  Long story short, it was an awesome decision.  Brenna will start helping out on Tuesday, and is sweet, adorable, and incredibly mature for her age.  Her family has an amazing desire to teach each of their kids a strong work ethic, so of course we hit it off right away.  Her mom Collette is even hoping to come help out on project days - which we ALWAYS seem to have happening!!!  Then, barn tour number three rolled around, who was another amazingly sweet girl with a thoroughbred who wants to be around more people doing her style of riding.  Sadly, by the time she got there, our last spot was filled - if I had one more, I would have snatched her up in a heartbeat!  But thankfully we set her up with our trainer down the road, and I have a feeling she will be part of our extended farm family in no time!  She was very excited about the idea of hacking down to our place to cross country school with us.  So all in all, it was a huge weekend of major successes for the farm. 

Last but not least, was the riding side of my long weekend, which was full of breakthroughs and victories.  I spent Saturday morning in "boot camp" with Kelsey, after working out a plan to increase my exposure to a variety of horses in an effort to work on my dressage.  I have been having a really difficult time with that particular part of my riding, so we decided to do a boot camp like she does for her kids.  I hacked April down to her, and she was the first lesson of the day.  We actually had a pretty brilliant ride that morning - very soft and steady, and quite encouraging in comparison to where we have been lately.  It has literally been a daily battle of ups and downs, and I have gotten incredibly frustrated because I can't quite pinpoint what has been going so terribly off track.  Last weekend I had trailered over to Ivy and had an amazing ride.  She worked really hard on correcting some major position flaws on my part, and once I got the hang of it, we had a beautiful ride.  I tried to commit each thing to memory as much as possible, and my next dressage school went great - and then the next one was right back to disaster.  It's just been so much up and down.  Back to boot camp though - next I got to ride Geno, who is Kelsey's adorable 4 year old OTTB.  We took Geno and Pirate over to the big open field to do trot and canter sets together, and it went beautifully.  Geno is the complete opposite ride from April - he takes a lot of leg and really has to be put together back to front (mostly by constantly encouraging his less-than-eager-to-move hind end!!!) But I had a blast on him, and was really encouraged when Kelsey noted that I did a great job of putting him together without having to be told what to do at all. 

Then it was back to the farm to hose off and settle in those two, clean some tack, then tack up Rachel.  She is an amazing Canadian TB mare that has sensational flatwork who I have always loved.  I had ridden her once in the past, but only cross-country to give a lead to another horse.  I got her ready and watched Kelsey do a little bit of schooling on the flat and over fences before putting me on her.  Once again - totally different ride from anything I am used to.  Similar to April in some ways, but very different at the same time.  The first couple minutes were a mess, but it didn't take long to start to figure her out.  She is extremely sensitive to weight shifts, and she cannot be picked at with the reins at all.  She literally has to be ridden completely off the seat and leg, with the reins only functioning to contain the movement coming from behind.  What an amazing feeling though, once I started to put the pieces together!  Then, to top it all off, I got to ride the most amazing change of leads at the canter.  I have never felt anything like it in my life - jumper swaps are one thing, but this was completely different.  The feeling of them sitting down underneath you, and then a mere moment where you ask and they respond with such was magic!!!!  I walked away from those three different experiences with an amazing new outlook.  I think the main thing I took away was that I am not an idiot, or I wouldn't have been able to figure it out on two different horses I have never sat on before.  So I was extremely encouraged by those experiences, whereas lately I have been feeling very much like giving up. 

So, the last minute boot camp we were able to squeeze around the crazy day of barn tours turned out to be a tremendous success!  I went home exhausted at the end of the night, but it was completely worth it!  Sunday I had set up a lesson with a straight dressage trainer.  I decided the other week that it was something worth looking into, even if I only do it once a month.  Well, I can't even begin to gush about what a great decision it was.  The instructor I used teaches a lot of old classical spanish-style dressage exercises.  In the barn, we talked about what we have been struggling with, and what we are looking to accomplish.  I can't even describe the massive amount of progress we made in a single lesson.  For starters, we worked a solid twenty minutes on "squares" and spiralling out, in an effort to gain an awareness of where April's shoulders are, and how to move them around accordingly.  When we started, April had a tendency to want to raise her head and do her typical giraffe neck - but every time she did, we moved the shoulders.  It didn't take long to discover that we had about three strides of "straight" before needing to move the shoulders.  It took several reminders for me to not lower my hands, which is a really bad habit I have been working on breaking.  I am allowed to open and guide the turn with the rein if needed, but not lower my hands at all.  Once we started to figure it out, and Carol could see us getting the hang of it, we progressed to spiralling out, by controlling the inside shoulder.  It's funny, because I have always had major problems controlling the shoulders - especially because April has a really big, free-moving shoulder, which is part of what makes her such a lovely mover.  It's something that every instructor has been working on with me.  Yet in all the lessons I have had to work on it, it never quite "clicked" like it did with this exercise.  It was one of those really eye-opening "ah-ha!" moments that I will probably never forget. 

Once we had the control of the shoulders, we moved into the trot, where we had another "ah-ha" moment.  It is so ironic, because in my flat lesson with Ivy last week, after working on my position, she really worked hard on getting me to really sit down into the saddle on the down beat of my posting - and in doing so, it helped me to create the rhythm of the trot rather than be a mere passenger.  Well, Carole worked on the same thing, telling me to "sit my down" - basically, the "up" motion of the trot will happen no matter what, but the down beat is the motion you create with your seat, by controlling the movement of the hind legs with your seat.  It took what I had already worked on and expounded on it to a whole new level.  We then worked at the same things at the trot - moving the shoulders in and out, while making sure not to let April quicken her pace by focusing on sitting my down beat.  Then came a brief bit of working on the canter, which went fantastic, followed by coming back to the trot, which was the biggest success of the day.  By once again really hounding me to sit the down, I was able to bring April back to a rhythmic tempo faster than I have ever done after a transition - and all with a single half halt.  Gone was the tension in my arms, the gripping in my seat which then results in me clutching with my knee...all of it, gone!  It was such an unbelievable and eye-opening ride. 

It's funny, because I have always been the type to have my one trainer, and for some reason it feels unloyal to seek out other opinions and instruction.  Yet it is amazing to me to see the vast amount that I have learned and realized, simply by allowing different types and styles of instruction to layer upon and complement each other.  Each person has added a piece of the puzzle, and I can see now that we won't be stuck in the same place forever.  I am genuinely making some huge progress; first in understanding what I am trying to accomplish, and second, in actually doing it!
I am looking forward to many, MANY more exciting updates on finally achieving some huge victories in my former battle, soon to be continued success, with the art of dressage!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not A Lot to Say...

You know, it seems like I have very little to say these days...not entirely sure why that is exactly.  Nothing has been going to plan lately, but such is life!  Ms. April and I had a brief little rollercoaster of really icky rides, but I think (and HOPE) that we are on to some forward progress again.  I am really struggling with finding the right path for us at the moment.  I think I have stewed and pondered it to the point where I am emotionally exhausted at the thought of making any decisions, whether it is showing, clinics, training, etc.  I think I need to find something fun to get out and go do with her to get a little enjoyment back.  I think I got to the point of putting so much pressure on ourselves over getting the dressage to click that I literally ended up causing the opposite to happen.  I think that is a huge part of me not blogging - I haven't felt like really talking about it with anyone, let alone owning up to it in black and white.  I'm not quite sure where we fit these days, but I am confident we will figure out our place.  For now, I am hoping to get a hack in tonight - a wide open field with my red-headed girl is always good to clear the head.  :-)

Samson is doing well, aside from a minor lameness issue in his front right that cropped up over the weekend.  It was pretty minor, but I did a few precautionary soaks and wraps, and we will keep it closely monitored.  I am still working on his Ebay fundraising, but we still have a ways to go.  We will get there soon enough! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Brief Note on Humility

I have been thinking a lot the last few days about how there is nothing in life more humbling than learning to ride.  It is a never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs, and it can be so tough to enjoy the journey; yet I think that is the most crucial lesson we can learn as riders.  I had a dressage lesson on April this weekend, and it was really frustrating.  We had more or less regressed to where we were weeks ago - it was almost as if all of our progress had completely vanished.  She was overreacting to the leg again, and I have apparently reverted to a lot of old bad habits.  ***Sigh***  It's hard to see your hard work look like it has gone down the drain - but I'm hoping to get it back quickly. 

A part of me hopes it is the saddle situation.  The chiropractor "banned" my dressage saddle due to a pretty bad fit, so I am trying a possible exchange tonight that I am hoping will help.  One of my boarders very generously loaned hers to us for the last week or two, and it fits April beautifully, but has a much too wide twist and seat for my short little legs.  I'm almost hoping that riding in that is a part of our serious dressage regression...anything to have an excuse other than my own idiocy, right?  :-)

April had a vet day yesterday.  She was eating noticeably less hay in a pretty short period of time, so I had the vet out to check her teeth.  Sure enough, she was due to a float, so we accomplished that.  Being the redheaded mare that she is, she required the extra dose of sedation - thanks a LOT for the extra charge MARE!  It can be a four-letter word some days, can't it??!!  She also had a bizarre growth on the inside of her flank, so Smokey used suture thread to more or less tie off the circulation so that it will drop off.  Thankfully it isn't anything of concern since it is completely surface level.

It has been a BIG two weeks of fundraising, and my most exciting news is the fact that I am now 70% of the way to Samson's Tildren goal!!!!!!!!!  I was also very excited to find out that my local vet has another navicular case in the area, and the owner is going to try treating with Tildren as well!  They should be pursuing their treatment in the next 4-5 weeks, so he is going to get me pricing information to do it locally instead of travelling to Southern Pines - which is a nice option to have!

So, here's to the remaining 30%!  If you're still considering helping to reach the goal, don't forget to check out my Ebay fundraiser!  And your laugh for the day - April's drunken-looking post-dental stance....

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Generosity of a Stranger

I have to share the following email, because it has had the most remarkable impact on me this week.  This is the message I received yesterday:

"Hi Becca.  I ended up buying your saddle.  It was a little more than I wanted to pay given the cracks in the leather, but when I saw why you were selling, it made the decision easy.  I hope that the money helps with Samson's vet bills and I hope the treatment is successful.  A lot of folks in your position would have abandoned him, pawned him off on someone else, or put him down.  When people like you do what you are doing, it makes God proud.  He made you and Samson cross paths for a reason.  Good luck, and I will check your blog every now and then to see how things are working out.  -Scott"

This simple message has really had a profound effect on me.  So many times, I have warred over whether I am doing the right thing.  In times of financial stress, there has been more than one time when I considered finding him a new home.  At the end of the day though, I knew I would never be able to guarantee him a safe and happy future.  So I have weathered the storms as they come - from his first surgery, through follow up x-rays, special shoeing, etc.  As I was watching Seabiscuit last night, Samson was the first thing to pop into my head when the Tom Smith (Seabiscuit's trainer) tells his owner, "You don't throw away a whole life just because it's banged up a little."

I took a gamble.  I decided to put his story out there, in an attempt to fund raise the remaining amounts for his treatment.  And the end result?  I am halfway there already.  Not only did this amazing stranger buy my saddle, but he also purchased another item off of Ebay, and added $100 to my fundraising widget.  I have broken into spontaneous tears at least three times as I discovered each of these surprises....  :-)

In the horse world, so many can get wrapped up in the silliest drama and forget what really matters in life.  The people like Scott, who find it in their heart to help a horse they have never met - these are the kind of people that have a tremendous reward waiting for them.  If you strive to put good into the world, you will always be on the receiving end of it.  This applies to everything - money, time, whatever it is you have to give. 

So here's to us all taking a look inside ourselves.  When was the last time you reached out and made a huge impact on someone else's life?  I have just received a wave of blessing, and I plan on paying it forward in a big way. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Samson's Ebay Fundraiser

Yep - you read it right.  Samson's story is now being spread via Ebay, in an attempt to fundraise every possible penny I can for his Tildren trial!  It started out as a suggestion from his former "mom", because she held a tack sale to help fundraise for the vet bills.  So the other day I began digging through everything I could think of - extra things from the tack trunk that sit around untouched, even clothing from my own closet!

So, if you are in need of any horsey stuff, check my online store out at
There's a good little variety of miscellaneous items listed; and for local people - I also have two bandage/wrap racks that I never listed because they are too bulky to ship! 

I also (under much duress and debating; I assure you...) added a giving widget to the blog.  Samson's former "mom" suggested this to me a month ago, and I refused - I told her I didn't feel right asking for charity.  But as she continues to spread the word and call me about people interested in helping, I realize how stupid it is to keep clinging to my pride on the issue.  After all, it's about Samson.  Not me.  All I am trying to do is help him get every possible option he can have for a long and happy future - and if that means accepting charity from people who want to help, why would I stand in the way?  I will still refuse to ask for help from anyone.  I will dig through tack trunks and closets til I hit my goal if that's what it takes.  But if having a silly little widget gets us there a little bit sooner, so be it. 

In regards to my chestnut boy - his feet are looking remarkably better since getting his new shoes put on.  The wedge really helps to get him more balanced, and the shoes themselves look fantastic.  The therapeutic option has been shot down, so it looks like he will stay with me.  It is great news and not-so-great news all wrapped together....Of course I ADORE him, and never really wanted him to leave.  But with someone else paying his monthly upkeep, I would have been able to get together the money for his treatment much faster.  That is a big part of the motivation to get my ebay auctions and general fundraising ramped up again - the fact that it isn't going to work out after all.  Everything happens for a reason though, and I have to believe that it is all going to fall into place.

Besides - just ask the girl who took one of her first lessons on him the other day how special he is.  You really can't deny it.  He's just that amazing.  :-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life Happens

I have a nagging little voice in my head telling me it is only a matter of time until the other shoe drops.  Right now there are so many things up in the air with no resolution in sight, and I wish I had some answers on how everything is going to fall into place.  Needless to say, these are apparently days of uncertainty; to a certain extent, and I look forward to having more things settled - hopefully in the near future rather than off in the distance. 

There is that old saying I keep reminding myself of - the one about how we make plans and life happens.  I've had a lot of "life" happening lately.  At this point, I don't think I'm even going to bother making any big plans.  I'd rather try to roll with the punches for the time being, and use it as a chance to exercise my faith that God knows where it will all end up.  Jeremiah 29:11 is very forefront in my mind these days, and I'm trying to meditate on that one small constant in a world that is ever-changing around me.

It is two days til the closing date for the CHP show, and it's looking like it is out unless I go along - my poor trailer buddy had a horse pull a shoe and land on the clip, and he is still three-legged lame.  In the meantime, I'm just going to stick with our routine of mixing up conditioning hacks, dressage work, and jump schools.  I am halfway pondering the idea of finding a clinic to go to in the area to help with the "itch" to get out. 

Samson got his new shoes put on this week, and his feet look dramatically better!  I have been toying with the possibility of sending him out on lease to a therapeutic facility, but they haven't called yet and I am wondering if it may not happen after all.  Yet another thing that is completely up in the air at the moment....

We have started the search for another boarder, and there's the inevitable dread of not getting the "right" person.  We are SO lucky to have the boarders that we do - I couldn't ask for a better situation.  They are completely on the same page as we are when it comes to the care of their horses, and as a result everyone is really happy.  It is such a low-key and positive environment - and I always look forward to whoever may be out there.  So when you start looking to add one more person to the mix, there is the inevitable dread that you may end up with another crazy horse person - after all, there are plenty of them to choose from!  Hey, I know we are ALL crazy in our own right, it's just a matter of finding others with your same flavor of crazy so you mesh well - that's my theory, at least!

Other than that, there is little to report.  The week has all sorts of rain forecast, and I'm dreading the possibility that riding may be difficult for the next few days.  Hopefully we will work in as many opportunities as possible......

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Building on the Foundation

I have been really bad about keeping my blog updated, which usually means things are somewhat mundane and not worth reporting.  However, this time, that is definitely not the case!  The last few weeks have been going so well, I think there is a small part of me that doesn't want to jinx it by putting it down in black and white!

It all started with April's detox from the boys.  Within a few days I had already noticed a marked improvement, and it has just continued to improve ever since.  We babysit the different pasture arrangements to make sure she is never in close proximity to the geldings, and it has made such a dramatic difference.  Then Kelsey returned from England last week, and we got back into our regular lesson program.  The first lesson was at our farm on the flat, and it went better than any flat ride we have ever had.  We are making sure we spend every minute possible at the walk until April truly "gives" to the contact and relaxes through her back.  Once we reach that point, transitioning into our trot work is a night and day difference from where it was in the past. 

Yesterday morning I had a lesson over fences at Kelsey's place, and it was probably one of the best jump schools we have ever had together.  We worked on making the transition to the trot very low-key so that we can build instead of having to bring it back, which ends up making her feel trapped.  The first fence we jumped was a little in and out combination, which went perfectly.  Kelsey commented that I am doing a lot better job of staying up and steady through the fence instead of trying to "do" too much.  In turn, April goes through the combination better and comes off the fence much more relaxed.  Between me being quieter over fences and keeping my hands up and out in front of me, it is making a night and day difference.  We schooled over a bending line a few times, then worked on a drop fence both directions, adding in a little trakehner as well.  It was a fantastic ride, and I left soaring on air.

We are making so much progress, it feels unbelievable.  I don't know what the difference is, but it has finally gotten to the point where the basic fundamentals seems to be clicking, and we are starting to build on each ride and have an actual progression, rather than being stuck in a vicious circle of the same battles time and again.  I am planning to finally get her to our first event on the 21st of the month, and am a little nervous, but super excited as well.

Samson is doing well, and gets his new fancy footwear tomorrow.  I am actually considering doing a free lease on him with a local therapeutic riding facility that takes FANTASTIC care of their horses.  It was kind of ironic that his half-leaser gave notice, and within a day the therapeutic facility posted an ad that they are searching for a new horse for their program.  I should be in contact with them on Monday about setting up a meeting, and we will take it from there.  It is REALLY hard to think about letting him go to live somewhere else, but the financial stress would be relieved tremendously.  Most importantly, I would know that he would always have the shoes he needs, be fed and cared for, and be in a routine light work program, which he really needs.  I'm excited to see what comes of the whole situation, because I think it might really work out for the best.  Not to mention, the farm is barely ten minutes away, so I would have full visiting rights - which I'm sure I would excercise regularly! 

The hardest thing about letting Samson live somewhere else is the fact that he is the horse I trust to just jump on and do pretty much anything.  But ironically, just the other night, Robyn and I hopped on April and Linkin bareback and went for a hack through some crazy terrain, and even hopped our little vertical on the way back.  It really hit me afterwards that I am starting to have that partnership with April, and that it is totally possible that the big, fancy, uber-forward event horse might just be able to fulfill my other needs as well.  Boy, if someone had told me a year ago the things I would be doing today, I'd think they were crazy.  But I am loving each and every minute.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mare Detox

Long time, no post - I know.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks, but that's not really anything new.  Between April coming back into work and Robyn being at the beach for a few days, it got a little hectic but I feel like we are starting to get back into a normal rhythm - finally.

April and I started hitting the regular schedule again about two weeks ago.  She was finally sound enough to go back into work, and we squeezed in a couple of lessons before Kelsey left for Europe for two weeks.  We were able to get in three lessons, and it was a roller coaster.  We went from a fantastic flat school, to a really rough jump school, and then the last lesson was a fantastic session over fences again.  Our rides on our own were following a similar pattern - no consistency, very up and down, and a lot of temper fits.  Robyn and I got to talking through it last night, and I decided to try a little experiment.  When I rode that night, I noticed how strongly she wanted to go after Linkin every time he was in sight.  Then I started taking into account all the different mareish behaviors I had been seeing lately, as well as how often she had been in heat that I could recall.

The verdict?  My mare is a whore.  To make matters worse, the gelding pastured beside her is a man-whore.  So, needless to say...not a good combination.  So Saturday began what I am fondly referring to as "Mare Detox" - aka, complete separation from the wee-wee, wang, whatever it is you like to call it. 

The first few days we flipped turnout for her, and she stayed in at night and went out with Rosie during the day.  Robyn and I also decided to mix up our schedules and ride separately, rather than together.  For one, April needs more sessions on the flat; whereas Linkin benefits from more hacking.  Secondly, April tends to obsess over Linkin whatever we are doing, so this was just one more method of splitting them up.

In the back of my mind, I really thought that Tuesday's ride was a fluke.  Then we saddled up for another school on the flat, and it was even better than the night before.  She is so much more focused and willing when she isn't going nuts over whatever boys are around.  Her attitude is improving TREMENDOUSLY.

I also have a confession to make.  I think I'm finally learning how to put a horse together.  Sad, huh?  As long as I have been riding, I have never really "gotten" it.  I could see that my horses were muscled up incorrectly, I could tell that it wasn't quite right, but I just couldn't get there, no matter how hard I tried.

Then I had a lesson the other week that somehow clicked.  I have spent hours obsessively going over every little detail, and this time, for some reason, it is starting to make sense.  I'm starting to feel when April starts to use herself correctly.  Not always, and it's definitely a work in progress, but I feel like we really got somewhere big while working on it alone this week.  I was venting not too long ago about the fact that I can't seem to do things by myself, and how frustrating it was.  I could go into a lesson and do fine, but without an instructor holding my hand, it fell apart.  Two days in a row now, I feel like that might be changing.  And it is a huge step in the right direction, and I hope to continue it by leaps and bounds.

And now, to leave you with another dose of humor - I'm throwing in a picture of my gelding.  As a matter of fact, this was shot last week, after a horrible ride on April - the same night that I was venting about not being able to ride.  No sooner did I get it out of my mouth, and Samson, the comedienne extraordinaire, starts scratching his butt on the gate.  (Of course I had to go help him....)  Ahhh, a little humor can fix anything. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove

Early last week was my first lesson back on April.  I never got a chance to write about it, and by this point we have two more lessons under our belt since that first one!  Getting back to work has been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but I think we are starting to get back into the groove now.  It just takes time to get back into the routine after a month-long break!

For starters, she was SUPER exuberant to get back to work.  We started out with a few hack days, just to get her mind back into work-mode without pushing too hard.  Then we had our first lesson on the flat at our farm with Kelsey.  It was FANTASTIC.  We spent a LOT of time at the walk, really pushing for her to completely relax the underside of her neck and start carrying herself from her topline.  Once we got it though, she was a dream to ride.  So soft and supple, and super relaxed.  We are still working on getting a more consistent connection, because she does tend to bob her head around here and there, so that is a big goal in our flatwork in the near future.

A few days later we had our first jump lesson in about five weeks - oy vey.  It, to say the least.  April was extremely forward, and extremely excited to be jumping again, and I rode like an absolute idget.  I let her get away with way too much in the warmup instead of really regulating her rhythm and tempo, and then it carried over into our work over fences.  Poor Kelsey, she's so patient.  I'm sure she wanted to pound me in the head with a brick when she kept having to tell me not to HOLD with my hands all the way to the fence.  All the old habits of holding her too much were creeping back in, so Kelsey was really trying to get me to relax and let the mare jump up into my hand.  It's a vicious cycle, because I tend to plant and hold with my hand when I feel the slightest bit insecure; which only makes April run harder and faster at a fence, so I try to hold get the picture.  It can spin into ugliness quickly.  We made what progress we could that day, but sometimes it just isn't your day.  When I finally let my hand relax and let her come up to me, we quit on a good note.

Then came another jump lesson last night - it's been a busy week of lessons because I wanted to squeeze in an extra one before Kelsey leaves for Europe for two weeks.  It was dramatically different from the last ride.  I had really worked on my homework, and focused on keeping a super soft hand.  Each lesson I have really walked away and reflected on every piece of advice, no matter how big or small, and tried to implement it into the next ride so I don't forget anything.  From the very first fence last night, Kelsey commented on what a dramatic difference I had made with my hands.  It really showed up in our work too - April was much more relaxed and jumped so much better.  She will still come off of the bigger fences fairly hard, but it's not like she's running away with me - it's more excitement than anything.  And the less I hold, the less she tends to "run" after the fence.  Every little piece keeps coming together little by little, and I know we will get there soon enough!!

The most exciting part of last night - we schooled 3'3"!!!!  It was super exciting to know that I was jumping that kind of height with SO much more organization than the last time we hopped it, just for fun.  I think that was shortly after I had gotten April, and we definitely weren't ready for it - it was just a little playing around.  But to know that we have worked our way up to that in a lesson is exhilarating, and I feel like we are making a little bit of progress!  Not only was the fence 3'3", it was the "out" fence in a one stride grid, with a pretty tight stride in between.  April jumped it BIG too, but I didn't feel the slightest bit intimidated.  I cannot BELIEVE how much fear has vanished in my over fences work. 

Samson is doing well, and there isn't much in the way of updates.  I started a Samson fund, and the second I put it together the brakes in my car went out.  ***Sigh***  I got a phone call from a sweet friend who suggested putting together some kind of donation page, but I told her I really feel strange about that kind of thing.  After the phone call, she texted me for my address so she could send me a little bit to help out.  She is the second person - who I really haven't known that long or that well - who has made such a generous and selfless gesture.  I am so touched that people have such a big place in their hearts for an animal who has made such a difference in my life.  I think of each of these people every morning, when his rumbling nicker reverberates around the barn at feeding time.  I am touched and blessed to have each of them in my life, and hope to never take it for granted.