Vet, Ambulance, Vet: My 2014 Eventing Season

Me and Sarah. Photo by Sandy Cole. Me and Sarah. Photo by Sandy Cole.

To recap: I went down to Florida last February and discovered that Sarah had injured her right hind annular ligament. Ultrasounded it three times, spent spring doing rehab. Recovered fully. Registered to compete at River Glen, but first took advantage of my daughter’s attendance at USPC Championships/Festival to ride in some clinics myself. Got popped out of the tack, inconveniently landed head first, and spent over six times as much money on the ambulance ride to the hospital as I did on the CT scan once I got there.

Sidelined for River Glen. Recovered. Went to the VA Starter Trials/Old Dominion Regional Event Rally, where in addition to being co-host of the rally, DC of a competing club, coach of a rider, driver and chaperone of a second rider and mother of a third, I bopped around Beginner Novice because I was a little desperate to get back in the saddle/start box.

I had Book Stuff to do on other weekends this fall when I might have evented, so it came down to last weekend, the Virginia Horse Trials, to put some sort of pleasant ending to the season. My daughter was also competing, my husband came and brought our dog, and my friend Michelle had paid for a party tack stall, so it was all looking pretty fun, until Thursday, when Sarah threw one of her semiannual fits about hating dressage, or hating me being the boss of her, or both — whatever. She does have temper tantrums occasionally but they aren’t that hard to weather.

Saturday, though — Saturday she didn’t feel tantrummy as much as she felt unyielding. She was NOT going to be round, she would not relax. Our dressage has vastly improved since spring and I’d had pretty good hopes for our test, until about 15 minutes beforehand when we were getting absolutely nowhere in the warmup. My coach thought her back end looked stiff. My husband said she wasn’t steering correctly.

I couldn’t fix it, so I gritted my teeth and did the best I could, which was really stinking lousy. Bad enough that I got sympathy from the dressage judge. Her comments were, “Capable horse not on aids today. Nice effort. Good luck.” If she’d been from the south she would have added, “Bless your heart.”

I was pretty angry for a few minutes. I fumed and made faces and used bad words. But I had to show jump in an hour, so mostly I just changed tack and snuck out to watch my daughter ride her test. Then we went into show jumping warmup.

Now Sarah is a big part-draft grey mare, and she is more than capable of throwing a large-scale hissy fit. Some days when she gets mad, she actually stomps her feet. But she loves to jump, and she knows the Virginia Horse Park, and she loves to jump — show jumping wasn’t going to be dressage, for sure, and it wasn’t in that I felt how hard she was trying in warm up, but she was still tight through the jaw, neck and back, and she wasn’t quite steering well through the turns, and her back end wasn’t quite right and her jumps were off too.

It was all subtle — no TD would have eliminated me — but it was wrong. I pulled up, concerned, and saw the same concern on my coach’s face. She said, “She didn’t look like this at the starter trials.” I said, “She didn’t feel like this at the Pony Club show last week.” We looked at each other for another moment, and then I dismounted and ran up the irons. I thought maybe I was making something out of nothing, finding a problem when there was only a bad attitude, but I’ve been mistaken the other direction before and I won’t do that again. I’d rather be cautious than stupid.

My trainer repeated that Sarah’s back end looked funky. I had a chiropractor already scheduled for today, Monday. We came home. My chiropractor is also a vet, and he’s convinced that Sarah’s problems are neurological, not skeletal. We’re drawing blood to test for EPM tomorrow.

So that was 2014: vet, ambulance, vet. I’ll pin my hopes on 2015. I know it could be worse, but I’m hoping that it’s better.

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