First and foremost, like me just start this post with the good news. Gem “Sandy the Bear” is back. And not just back, she feels better than ever. But while I thought I had a posted a few blog posts about our journey this spring, I realize that I actually never did. Now, I could sit here and tell everyone that she has had a wonderful recovery and is back at it, but that’s not actually what happened. I know a quite a few people have followed along with our journey since the kissing spine surgery and many have reached out with stories and asking advice on their own horses. So here we go… (short story, let be honest I’m not writing a novel).
This past March, Gem was ready to start flat work. The first time I tried to pick up the reins and asked her to move forward she stood up. I gave her her head and instead got off her back and urged her forward again and after a few hesitating moments we started trotting. She looked amazing in her body from the 12 weeks or so in the pessoa rig, so per the vet’s recommendation we pushed on thinking much of this was mental. My dressage coach, Ben Albright, was very patient and gave me a lot of good ideas. We got her swinging in her body, accepting contact again and most importantly moving forward. By the end of April, she was starting to jump and was growing stronger every day. I am a huge advocate of working horses on the line, so we had a cross country school on the rope, jumping up and down banks, ditches, into water and she looked so happy to be out doing her job. In the middle of May we went to Morningside to a combined test where she was 3rd in the training. I was so happy, I thought we were ready to hit the ground running. But oh how wrong I was.
We went to Maryland Horse Trials at the end of May for their starter trials and throughout the day, she progressively got worst. She was tense and nervous in the dressage but kept it together. I was having a great SJ round until the final line and I came out of the turn and she stood straight up in the air. I was so caught off guard I wasn’t sure what to do. We circled around and on the 2nd attempt she finished the course. We attempted to go to the cross country, but the rearing continued to the point it was getting dangerous, so I got off and walked back to the trailer frustrated to be back where we were 6 months prior.
After a night’s sleep and a glass or two of wine, I started making phone calls. I called the vet, I called the chiropractor, heck I asked people for an animal communicator bound and determined to figure out if she was still hurting or if it was time to call it quits. Dr. Elizabeth my chiropractor felt like her body felt great, but her GI acupuncture points were blowing up. She recommended I try her on EquiSure from KER along with a few drugs to help her hind gut. We also saw Dr. Johns who also agreed that whatever was going on wasn’t in her back. So we started treatment for hindgut ulcers. After a week on medication, I immediately was noticing a difference hoping and praying this was our answer.
Throughout this process, it has become so apparent that while Gem is the ultimate Worker Bee, she is very much an internalizer. She wants to be a good girl and wants to please, but in the process, she causes an immense amount of stress on herself. Along with the pain she had been experiencing, I believe she was holding onto an enormous amount of stress and mental baggage.
60 days later, treatment of the hindgut ulcers is over and while at home, she was schooling better than ever, at events she was still stressing and thought about starring in the next live action Zorro film. I knew she wasn’t 100% so I had to really evaluate what I’m was doing and how I am asking. I dropped her back down to novice where I was able to get a few runs in just trying to remind her that this job is fun and not at all difficult. We made the move back up to training level and after last weekend’s run at Olney Hors Trials, she has never felt better. She was relaxed in all three phases and I never once felt like I had to push her or felt like she wasn’t enjoying her job. As a rider, it’s easy to get into the trap that oh we gave them X veterinary treatment so oh they must be better. But in reality, there is a mental competent where the horses must replace painful memories with new ones that don’t involve pain and stress. I’ve had to get creative in my training and also not be afraid to ask for help. I’m excited to continue this journey with this special girl because regardless of whatever level to gets to, she has made me a better horsewoman and continues to challenge me to be better. And for that I am forever thankful.
I can't believe we are already a month in 2019! To say I am excited about this year is an understatement. I have three of the best horses sitting in my barn and their future is looking very bright. I am in the process of expanding my business (more to come on that, I can't reveal all the secrets yet!) and have a wonderful group of students and sponsors and I am looking forward to helping make their own year just as amazing. While I could go on and on about my plans and goals, I really wanted to share the journey of the last few months with everyone regarding Gem. For anyone who follows me on social media, I have been posting regularly about her kissing spine surgery rehab. Its been an interesting couple of months but I wanted to share what happened and how we got to where we are.
2018 was a great year for this very special mare. She moved up the from novice to modified with fantastic results ultimately being named top placed Maryland Bred OTTB for eventing. After my wedding I took her to the Maryland starter trial to run her first preliminary and this is where things started to get a little interesting. Gem has never said no, but as I got to about fence 10 coming out of the water downhill to a trakehner she started to back off and quit about 5 strides away. In the moment I figured it was due to the ground being quite muddy and her not feeling confident leaving the ground. We called it a day and when most of the division had issues there, I knew we weren't alone. We went back to the drawing board and did some cross country schooling, changed her shoeing and after a very successful outing at Marlborough finishing on our dressage score I thought we were good to go. But unfortunately at the training championships we had a couple issues resulting in an elimination and then I really knew someone wasn't right.
Since we had addressed her feet, the obvious answer was ulcers! Don't all performance horses have ulcers? Gem was scoped and the gastroscopy relieved nothing more then a little bit of stomach irritation. We decided to treat her for a few weeks and see if we got any behavioral improvement. Off we went to Maryland again and Gem jumped around the training winning the event. Again, must be good to go!
But what happened over the next week was very telling. Gem refused to work. Over the next week I wasn't even able to trot without her trying to rear. I called it quits knowing there was something seriously wrong and back to the vet we went.
Now, I knew Gem had a spot in her back (T-16&17) that had some severe remodeling. But she had always been so willing to work and she showed no discomfort in palpating her back. I had made an investment in partnering with Equipe saddles with there carbon fiber trees to support her as much as possible. I had seem a huge improvement in the way she moved and swing in her back, I though that there must be something else bothering her. We ran may tests revealing nothing. She had limited range in her neck so we took X-rays wondering if that could be the root cause but those also looked great. This really left us with one option, her back. We decided to take new pictures and the changes in the spinal processes were very apparent from 18 months ago. As you can see from the pictures, the bones are touching and remodeling. If you look at the right side of the picture, you will see what a dorsal spine is suppose to look like, ample spacing between the vertebrae. We were 99% sure that this was the issue.
There were a couple options for treatment including shockwave, injections or surgery. My previous FEI horse, Chance of Flurries, also is a victim of kissing spine. I had been through the shockwave therapy routine, tildren, etc with mixed results. Since Gem was only seven, I decided to consult with Dr. Adams at Marion Dupont Equine hospital on the surgical option.
There are two types of surgery that they are doing for kissing spine patients. Now bear with me, I am not a vet, not a science nerd, and only understand this in 3rd grade english. The first option is to go in and cut a ligament that runs alone the vertebrae to release the pressure and hopefully allow more movement in the back. Due to the severity of her case, it was recommended to do a bit more invasive procedure which involved going in and "cutting" a piece of the bone to create more space and ultimately help them not touch. The procedure can be done standing up but did require Gem to stay in the hospital for a few days to be monitored. Below is a picture of the incision. It is about 6 inches long right on top of her spine and cause a lot of swelling and a small "hump" on her back.
The rehab plan is as follows:
4 weeks stall rest, at 2 weeks she could start hand walking 10 minutes a day.
8 weeks in a small paddock, continue hand walking
At week 9 Start back into a rehab program with the first four weeks working in the pessoa rig or longlinning.
At week 12 re-check and gradually add rider to fitness routine.
We are approaching the point where Gem can start light work in the pessoa rig and I will outline a more detailed rehab fitness routine to help others bringing horses back into work after a surgery or extended period of time off.
There are a few other things that I've also been using to help the healing process. First I used a laser on the area during the first few weeks to help reduce inflammation and swelling. I also have been using a benefab smartscrim at night to help increase blood flow through ceramic and magnetic therapy. Lastly, Gem has a large patch of skin on her back shaved and had quite a bit of irritation and scruff so I have been using coat defense preventative powered to help with the irritation. It's been wonderful and I highly recommend!
Lastly thank you to Dr. Adams, Dr. Johns, Dr. Allen, and all the vets at Marion Dupont who took such wonderful care of Gem. Also to my coach Lynn Symansky and my farrier Stephen Fulton to helping me try to find the route of the problem during the fall and putting up with my stressing. Gem still has a long road to recovery, but I know we are doing everything possible to get her back to feeling 110%.
So I recently got the chance to review a wonderful jewelry piece from https://horsely.com.au/…/products/sterling-silver-horseshoe…
I have to say I am absolutely loving this necklace. I have been wearing it for the past six weeks and have gotten so many compliments. It’s perfect to dress up or down. I have been wearing it to business meetings and it becomes a great conversation piece. As a horse girl, I tend to wear the same piece of jewelry for days on end. It still has it’s original sparkle and hasn’t dulled or discolored.
The pendant is in the shape of a horseshoe about the size of a quarter. There is a large center stone that sits inside a horseshoe made of smaller diamonds. It’s truly beautiful and different then your typical necklace.
I have to say it’s also brought me it’s share of good luck! While I’m not sure I can say the necklace has magical powers, my horses have been at the top of their game including a win in a jumper class, two top five finishes at sporting days, and a division sweep at a dressage show. It’s safe to say I’m going to continue to wear my magical necklace ;) More to come on my success with both horses in 2018.
You can purchase this beautiful pendant at https://horsely.com.au. They have a beautiful selection of rider gifts and household accessories!
Whoa 2016 where have you gone! Its the middle of July, feels like 100 degree and I feel like my season is only just beginning to start! This year has been an interesting one to say the least(It always is who horses, who are we kidding) and I had these grand ideas that I would be blogging every week as I was chosen as on of the trainers in this years $100,000 thoroughbred makeover with the retired race horse project. Because Gem didn't do anything last year due to her multiple near death experiences, she was still eligible and I was so excited to see what she could do. Fast forward from January where we were literally learning to walk and trot in an indoor surrounded by three feet of snow to now getting ready for Gem to do her second recognized event at the novice level next weekend. These last 7 months has been absolutely incredible and I am so pleased with her progress and willingness for eventing.
The year started off with Tempi heading down to South Carolina to get a jump start on our season. She ended up being 3rd in the open preliminary at Full Gallop and won the dressage at her first IP and ended up finished 5th overall at Sporting Days. I had a blast those few weeks down in Aiken and trying to figure out how to get there next year. Then at the end of March I ended up leasing Tempi to a local Young Rider and decided Gem needed a buddy, so I purchased a very nice off the track thoroughbred, Dante. Dante is four years old, raced last year and then had quite a bit of down time starting back under saddle in March. I picked him up April 1st and started to work determining what his "plan A" would be. Well as a 17 hand four year old, we still had quiet a bit of developing to do so we have been working a lot on the ground and under saddle. I firmly believe giving this guy time to develop will only help him in the long run.
I have been taking both horses over for lessons with Lynn Symansky and while I really enjoyed my lessons with Tempi, I am so enjoying the process and learning from Lynn's expertise on the ground and with the young horses. Gem is so impressive every time we get the chance to go over to her place, I little giggle the whole time I am on her. Dante has started jumping and we have been working a lot on staying quiet and teaching him to use his body correctly.
It's been a fun summer and I am determined to keep everyone up to take on both of these horses progress as they make their eventing debuts and prepared for Kentucky in October!
So I feel like it is finally an appropriate time to fill in all my friends, supporters, and sponsors with where I am currently at with my riding and business. As a child we all have this dream or vision of where we see our lives. Some want to be firefighters, some doctors, some CEO’s (my 9 year old brother Charlie frequently informs me he will be the next) and for me I always wanted to be an Olympic horseback rider. I haven't lost sight of that vision, but my path to it may have changed slightly.
In June I took the time to really evaluate what I wanted out of life and what was important to me. Horses were always number one. My parents always said I thought to much about the future and didn’t enjoy what was in front of me. Honestly I have to agree with them. As many of you can attest to, we as riders, grooms, trainers, get in this constant day to day routine. Wake up and feed our lovely creatures, ride them, groom them, feed them again and the routine goes on and on. There are the constant ups and downs as with any sport, winning big competitions, that riding lesson or jump school when everything seems to come together and those all make what we do every day worth it. For me that routine was becoming so “routine” I found I wasn’t able to focus on my riding the way I had in the past. I had bigger issues to deal with that were really holding me back from being able to put 100% into what I was doing. That was when I made the tough decision to take a break from riding professionally. Murphy had pretty much hit a plateau in his training and I made the decision to lease him to a young girl to teach at the training and preliminary levels. It has been great to see him with someone else and watch their partnership grow.
So in August I got a fantastic job offer up in DC working for a software company called Vocus as a sales executive. It was a great way for me to enter “corporate” world. My major was finance and marketing in college and my sales experience in the horse world allowed me to do quite well and I actually recently just left the company because I received a fantastic opportunity for a outside sales position at a company called PayChex. I am really excited to start this new part of my life and this will allow me the financial aspect and flexibility to start riding and competing again. I plan on taking a full 6 month to really take a “mental” break from the horses. I am working on planning a trip to Europe next spring to find me a nice young horse to start bringing along and have also thought about taking this time to spend some time doing the jumpers. Show jumping has always been my biggest weakness and I feel like this is a perfect time to start to pick some of those issues apart and jump some bigger jumps. I excited for this next chapter in my life and want to thank everyone for their constant support.
So although I am not sure that I am ready to let the world know my true feelings, I feel that I owe it to my special horse Murphy and share with whoever is going to read this how this horse has been apart of my life the last six years. Tomorrow morning Murphy is heading up the east coast to go teach a lovely girl Olivia at the training and preliminary level. Although I am very sad and I am sure tomorrow is going to be one full of tears, I know that this will be a great partnership and in the best interest of both me and my favorite four legged friend. We will save a later blog to update you all on my life, but for know the spot light is on my friend spotty.
Murphy has been a rock in the last six years of my life. When I thought I was at my lowest, this lovely horse showed me how to heal and really how to love again. While although some of you may laugh, there is something so special about brining a young horse along and having so many of your dreams come true. When Griffin passed away I honestly thought about giving up and letting go of riding. It wasn't but a mere coincidence that I ended up crossing paths with this horse who I frankly thought was ugly and wasn't sure he was going to be anything special. But I do have a firm belief that God puts people in the right places at the right time and this horse happened to enter my life when I needed him. I remember the first day I brought him home to Baythorne Farm and my stellar coach Matt at the time looking at me like I was an alien as this red headed chestnut with SPOTS comes into the indoor and starts running circles around me... Lets all remember my parents had no idea that Murphy was apart of my life until I had had him about a month. Luckily he has always tried and tried and I decided to keep him around. My first event with him, I cried the whole way around the cross country as I wasn't sure I was going to be able to ever have the joy of running across the cross country like I did with Griffin. But by the end I knew this horse was going to exceeded every expectation I had hoped for. The next years were a blur. He quickly progressed to the preliminary level and next thing I knew we were on our way to a CCI* long format. At 7 years old he finished 4th and 3rd in the USEF Championship. I have never experienced I high like I did that weekend. The following year he made a successful move up to Intermediate at was ready for the fall CCI** at Fairhill in 2009. Unfortunately the weather Gods got the better of us and I decided not to run XC, but learned a lot about this beautiful sport we all call our own. He was reserve champion at AEC's, and we finished three CCI**'s and finished the Fairhill CCI** National championship twice all while I was a full time college student. He has brought me to knew heights I didn't realize I could accomplish and really has helped me to get my foot in the door in the international scene. For that I will ever be in debt to him.
Along with our accomplishments, he has been a ever standing rock in my life. He has taught me to love, taught me to heal and allowed me to succeed. I have met so many amazing people because of the places we have gone together. There are so many people I wouldn't be able to call my friends or role models if it wasn't for my amazing spotted friend. When I think about everything, I ultimately laugh. I have at least a week worth of stories that I could share with everyone that would leave everyone laughing a little bit inside. So I just want to say thank you to my lovely spotted friend. I will miss your beautiful eyes and your shoulders that you always let me cry in. I will miss walking to your pasture and calling you and you always coming running. I will miss going to morning hacks and watching the sun come over the mountains. I will miss that feeling of coming through the finish flags and knowing we did it. I will miss laying with you in your stall dreaming of everything else to come. But I am so happy that some else is going to get to experience all that I have been able to. I love you Murph, you will always be my Sparkle.
Yesterday Kali ( Chance of Romance) did her first training level event and I was very pleased with how she finished we left her twin sister the fire breathing red mare at home! Considering I spent Friday night bunkered down in the house with three dogs, two cats, twelve horses, a donkey, and of course a pig wondering if I was going to survive the night of tornadoes coming my way, I wasn't feeling like going to an event Saturday Morning. But I but my game face on and off to sporting days we went.
The dressage was quite good for this little mare. I just got her about 6 months ago and before she came to me she was basically teaching someone beginner lessons so I am super happy with her progress. She scored a 35 in the dressage which put us tied for 9th but only a couple of points out of first. I think Boyd was winning on his lovely new Quinn horse on a 31.4 so we were right up there. Her trot work has been much improved and she handled the canter work well considering we were basically riding in quicksand once you got in the dressage arena. She has a long way to go, but we are on the right track. We had two showjumps down but they were "green" rails as I like to call them. She tends to start a little behind the leg so I was sure to come out strong making sure we had a forward canter once we got in the ring. She jumped the two combinations well and the course was much more rythmical and smooth then I have had in the past.
Cross country is obviously this mare's specialty. She was GREAT! The course was much more beefed up at all the levels then it was in February so a true test at every level but still very inviting. The training level had a log into the water and then a log out which a couple people seemed to be having problems with. We also had a pretty decent corner fence and a big ditch to a skinner rolltop. Kali came out of the start box and stepped right up to the plate. She peaked a little bit at the water but responded as soon as a put my leg on and jumped great. I find it so rewarding to bring along the youngsters. I remember last summer when I got her I took me over 2.5 hours to get her feet wet the first time... now we are jumping preliminary sized drops into water! Overall it was a successful 1st training level and her 4th event ever. Many thanks to everyone at sporting days for being getting everything off and running with the weather and working on the footing! Kali's plan is to run the training at Southern Pines II and then another one or two to prepare for the training three day in May at Heart of Carolina. I really believe that the classic format will teach the mare a lot about jumping out of stride and help her to gain a lot of confidence.
In other news, Murphy is back in work which he decided today would be the day, he was really suppose to start full flatwork and jumping tomorrow but instead he decided to buck me off in the field today and have a nice little gallop back to the barn. Mind you this is a very far distance at the Gibbes. So I think if he looks good tomorrow he will head to Southern Pines to run the Intermediate and then move up the advanced at Fairhill. I have a couple new horses in for sale and have also sold two in the past week! It's been busy but always entertaining. Congratulations to Kim Severson's Groom, Liz on her purchase of Chance of Fortune ( the best baby horse ever) and Julie Gibbes and her new horse Brickland Super Eight! I can't wait to see what these young guys do in the next couple years!
Well everything is really in FULL swing here at the Gibbes Lovely, Amazing, spectacular farm. I have been very busy with six horses, another one or two in half training, a lessons galore! It's defiantly time to start added to the circus act. All the horses are going really well & I am really excited about the next couple weeks. A few updates on each horse:
Murphy has been super in my lessons with Emily. He had his first cross country school today and he feel ready to go rock around the Preliminary at Full Gallop. He will then head to do the Intermediate at Pine Top and then dare I say the big A at the following Pine Top. I feel after three years of running around some solid intermediate and 3 CCI**s I think were almost ready!
Kali is heading to do the novice at Full Gallop and then probably the training at Sporting Days. She has gotten a lot stronger these last couple weeks and is really starting to carry herself.
Peetar is just as cute as ever. He is walk, trotting, and canter and picking up both leads wonderfully. He has been over little logs, ditches, and banks and was very brave and walked into both water jumps without a lead! He is such a cool guy I am really excited to see what he does in a couple years.
Lilly is doing both some eventing shows and and continuing to do some hunter classes as well. She is enjoying living in the soroirty pasture and long hacks around the farm.
Superstar Jack looks like he will be getting a new home next week, more the come on that, but I am really glad I was able to find him a great home. It will be exciting to watch this new pair in the future. I want to thank Cindy Burke and his owners Michelle Busse for letting me have the opportunity to have Jack.
And last but not least, Mr. Finn is loving his new clip job and his work. He is really coming through on the flat and he has the most amazing canter. He will probably run one unrecoginzed event and then run the training level at Sporting Days in March.
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and hopefully you were able to spend time with friends and family. I was lucky enough to head home to Chicago and hang out with my large brady bunch of a family and see many long lost friends. I guess I need to continue making my yearly appearance.
There are some exciting new things happening here at Burke Equestrian. First off I would like to congratulate Beth Hemmer of her purchase of Sam. Sam was sent to me this fall and I have really enjoyed my time riding this lovely horse. He will now be moving to Missouri and I am excited to see Sam flourish with Beth. I also purchased a new three horse trailer with living quarters! I am cringing a little at the cost, but I needed a little upgrade and more room! And finally I got a new critter named Chance of Fortune aka Peter. He is a lovely three year old I got off the track. He is showing a ton of promise as an upperlevel horse and is the sweetest guy in the barn. I can't wait to see what this horse is going to do!
Soon I will heading home to Virginia and will shortly after head to the Gibbes farm for a couple of months in South Carolina. I am really excited to start competing again and see all my students down south!
Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!
This past weekend I took my young mare Chance of Romance, “Kali” to her first ever recognized event at Kelly’s Ford. I was really excited because she has been absolutely lovely at home and is turning into one very special horse and she proved to be just that this weekend. We were in a competitive novice horse division and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how she finished. She scored a 31.5 in the dressage which I actually believe is my lowest score all year. Great way to end 2011 even if it was only at novice. Once she gets a little stronger and can start carrying herself I expect her to be in the 20s. Then we went onto a very decorative showjumping. We had a triple bar, waves under fences, wishing well standards, a fan jump and some other spooky objects. But she handled it like a pro which I felt like was a lot to ask of beginner novice-training horses. We had a clean sj and then moved onto cross country. She was pretty foot perfect all the way around. We had some bigger questions for novice but she just pricked her ears and went along like a well schooled hunter. It is so gratifying to teach a horse new things and when they put all the pieces together it is a really great feeling. I am happy to say I think I have another little star on my hands with a 3rd place finish! Not a bad end to 2011! Hopefully I can carry some of that mojo over to 2012 and can start the new season on a good note again!
In other news I have lots of horses for sale and lots coming in and out! Emily Beshear and I will be heading south to Aiken, SC for a couple months and I am just about ready! It’s been so COLD here! I have turned into a major whimp living down in South Carolina the past four years. I will be staying at the Gibbes farm and working and running the business out of their lovely farm. I still have a couple openings for training horses and will be teaching a lot, so contact me if you would like any help while I am South. Weekends look full of horse shows and Murphy is looking ready to make his advanced debut! He trotted for the first time yesterday and the next couple weeks will do LOTS of walking and trotting! Good thing its pretty in Virginia!
"Be so good they can't ignore you" - Steve Martin