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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Amigo the Wonder Horse

I know this blog is about me and Moneypenny, but I'm such a proud horse mom that I can't help but write about my first ride on Amigo the "wonder horse."

We bought Amigo exactly three years ago from Federica at Somerset Farms. He was 30 days old and was quite the athlete from the get go. We weren't looking for another horse, but when I saw him in his pasture canter up the hill, do a half pirouette, canter back down the hill, throw in a flying change and come straight to a halt I knew I had to have him. We bought him two weeks later and our journey began.

He was a typical baby, playful, curious and he was very friendly. Hence his barn name "Amigo." He had a sister, Aida who was feminine and delicate and not hot on the idea of roughhousing like colts like to do. Once he was weaned and gelded, we decided to move Amigo from Somerset so that he could live out with other yearling geldings and roughhouse to his his liking.

On May 28, 2006 we received a call that no horse owner wants to receive. Amigo had taken a fall and it looked as though his left humerous was broken. Luckily, we are very close to UC Davis, so he was transported to the University within two hours of the injury. The radiographs did not show broken bones, but nerve tests revealed that his left front limb was paralyzed. It was unclear whether the paralysis was temporary or permanent.

Amigo spent 63 days at UC Davis in a box stall. The nerves involved in the injury were the radial nerve that goes down the leg and the super scapular that reaches across the shoulder. Without the use of either nerve, he was unable to stand the leg upright. His leg was splinted, but within two weeks he showed improvement in the radial nerve so the splint was removed.

The super scapular was a different story. The nerve remained damaged and his shoulder completely atrophied. He received electric stimulation 2xs per day and received acupuncture every day. He showed enough improvement to come home at the end of July as he was able to advance the limb on a limited basis. The recommended therapy was to continue with electric stimulation, acupuncture as well as begin a walk program of 1 minute per day.

By mid August, the walk program was was up to 5 min's per day, and we were seeing improvement in the muscle tone of the shoulder. But trying to walk a yearling for 5 mins a day was proving to be quite dangerous, so I took a massive leap off the rehab reservation. I decided to give him managed, confined turnout. We started with 16x20 for five minutes 2 xs a day. Every time I turned him out, I closed my eyes and kept my fingers crossed. He would leap, and rear and buck and try to run but he seemed to know his limits. We started to see dramatic improvement in the shoulder.

Throughout the summer and into the fall we would increase the turnout time, and then we began to increase the turnout space. By the spring of 07, Amigo was turned out full time in a 80x40 paddock and was on a regular exercise regime in the round pen. His shoulder was starting to look normal.
When our family moved to Somerset Farm (it is amazing how circular life is) in July of last year, another major change came for Amigo - he was going to go back out with other horses and was going to live on a hill. His acupuncturist, Dr. Susan Parry, was very confident that he was ready for a normal life. And he was!

On March 26 of this year, I took him to David Hillman to be started. He turned three in mid April. In my mind this was the last test to see if Amigo had truly recovered. He spent 30 days with Dave, and all went well. I went down last weekend to pick him up and I even got to ride him! He is wonderful to ride! He has very big gates, but he's smooth like glass. Or as Dave said, "he moves like a bird flying."
There are big things to come of Amigo. I have a sneaking suspicion that when MP gets to go home to Katy and Dan after her Paralympic career, Amigo will be waiting in the wings to take over at the helm.
Oh, and by-the-way, Amigo's half sister, Calista, is for sale and she too is quite spectacular. You can view pics and video of her here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The Picnic Day Parade and our first fundraiser was a big success! The day started around 8 am when we loaded MP into the trailer and headed off to Davis. We unloaded her at Craig & Cass' place and met up with our parade entry volunteers, Sarah, Pam, Eva, Leila and her friend. We also brought along three four legged companions for MP (dogs).

The parade was definitely an interesting experience. MP is not ready to give up her career as a dressage horse and join the parade circuit, that's for sure! She was a little concerned with the noises, balloons, hoards of people and motorized vehicles, but she held herself together quite well. She piaffed and passaged a bit while we waited for the parade to start & she had no interest in standing still, but considering the environment she was very reasonable.

After 4 hours or so of walking and parade activities we headed back to Craig and Cass' for the party. MP had about 5 minutes left of patience at that point, so we took her back to Eva's for an afternoon of snacking and snoozing with her horsey friends at King Farm.

By the time I got back to Craig and Cass', the place was packed! The first band was playing, the bar was pouring and the carne asada was grilling. My dad ran the Susan Para E-Quest Fund table and, as I'm sure you can imagine, did a bang up job.

When Craig originally proposed this idea, his goal was to raise enough moola to feed MP for the year. I'm pleased to announce we almost doubled that! And I'm already over halfway to the $5k goal for 2008! I want to make sure and thank all of the people who came and the friends who walked in the parade with us. Also, my parents and Scott for working so hard and Paul Deering for making the banners - they looked great! I also want to thank our dear friends Craig and Cass for hosting our first fundraiser, providing the food, entertainment, beverages and all of the work and love they invest in this event every year - it couldn't have gone better.
We still have a ways to go before Kentucky 2010, but with all of the support from our friends and family and now the community of Davis, I can't imagine we won't make it!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Picnicstock Huge Success! Post coming soon.....

I'm exhausted & under the weather, but a post about the weekend will be coming soon....along with more pictures.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MP is one hot tamale!

So I must report that Miss Moneypenny is feeling quite good. So good that I got bucked off! I totally set myself up for it and knew it was coming, but I let it happen anyway. MP is not spring chicken, but she sure feels like one. Lets not forget that she is on the "Olympic athlete in training program." In addition to all of the hay she can eat, she gets Adequan and Legend monthly, 2 lbs of LMF performance with electrolytes and e-biotic in the am and 2 lbs of LMF senior with fish oil and oral HA at night. Plus grass turnout everyday.

My plan was to start her on a cross training program two days per week where we go out and "hack" (horsey work for trot & gallop) up and down the rolling hills at Somerset Farm. So I decide Saturday was they day to start this program. Had she been out on trail at Somerset before? No. Did I take her out with another horse? No. Did I stay close to home so she could see all of her horse friends? No. Did I ride her down a bit to make sure she was relaxed before she went out? No. From the moment I got on her at the barn I knew she was full of it, but I convinced myself that I'd be able to stay on her if she gave me a little ride. She has bucked before when riding her in the arena so I though I knew what would be coming.

About half way through our trail ride, just when we were furthest away from home and just as the barn was out of sight, the rodeo began. First with a bolt and recovery then with four bucks in a row. I sort of flopped off on the fourth buck, landing in the soft thigh-high grass. The only thing is that I landed on my head (yes I was wearing my super duper noggin protector) so I had a mild concussion. I know this because I've had them before, this wasn't my first rodeo! MP stopped right away and just stood there looking down at me for a minute. Then she started to eat the thigh-high grass. How convenient for her.

I tried to get back on, but it looked as though she was still quite energized, so we walked back to the barn for an arena session. I got back on at the barn, and she bolted and bucked again (this time I stayed on). I got the message loud and clear, so I untacked her, turned her out in the outdoor fenced arena and let her run. Man did she run! And buck, and then run some more. She was quite the wild woman. And after about ten minutes of running and playing, she trotted over and gave a big sigh of relief. I tacked her back up and we had a great ride followed up with a short hack a little closer to home.

To be honest, I love the fact that she's feeling this good. And I'm a ding dong for not making sure she gets to blow off excess steam when needed. Sure she has the space to run around if she wanted to. But it is my responsibility to make sure she releases that energy for her well being and mine. Moral of the story: 1) Listen to my gut; 2) Add managed turnout/bucking to MP's exercise program; 3) Don't just "do", prepare for trail rides or anything else I'm doing with horses.

BTW - I have whiplash, so I'll be walking in the parade this weekend, not riding. That girl can get her hind feet above her head!

Friday, April 11, 2008

More pictures from Dennis' clinic

These are photos from the "first day," (see post from April 8).
Thank you Papa Peterson!

"Can I please pass out now?"

Looks like a pirouette, but it's actually a flying change!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Picnic Day is almost here!

Yippee! Here's the official poster for Picnicstock 2008. As previously mentioned, Craig & Cass have generously offered up their annual Picnic day extravaganza as a fundraiser for Team MP. I will be there, as will MP, horse-show-husband, Eva and the wonderful people who are volunteering for our parade entry "Para Equestrians." Please join us if you can.
Here's the invite from Craig:
"It’s that time again and your’re invited to Picnicstock ‘08 -- BBQ and Battle of the Bands 12-5pm, 234 Second Street, Davis. Parade starts at 10am, music and BBQ at noon. Check out our musical lineup with some new stars of tomorrow along with our favorite has beens.
Potluck Bar: Last names beginning A-W bring rum. X-Z bring coke. We’ve got the food covered.

$$$ -- This year’s Picnicstock will benefit our friends Susan Treabess and Moneypenny who are training toward selection to the US National Para-Equestrian Team to compete in the 2010 World Cup. It’s an expensive endeavor and they need some help. So bring a check for $20 or so and we’ll raise enough to keep them both in alfalfa for a year.

(FYI – For those unfamiliar with the para-equestrian sport or Susan, it’s the riders who must demonstrate some abnormality (along with exceptional riding skill) to qualify, not the horse. Susan is the one missing a hoof while Moneypenny has all four.) They will both be in the parade representing Federation Equestre Internationale - Para Equestrians if you want to come early to cheer them on, as well as the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh, American Brittany Rescue, our State Assemblywoman, and other celebrities including parade marshals Martin Yan and Butterscotch Clinton. Here is the official Picnic Day website for a complete schedule of events on campus including the dachsund races, sheepdog trials, sturgeon petting, and world of worms."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fabulous Weekend with Dennis Callin!

Team MP from left
Katy Peterson, Ellen Eckstein, ST & MP, Nancy Bareilles, Dennis Callin

We had a great weekend training session with our international coach Dennis Callin. The clinic was held at Los Suenos in Carmel Valley. We arrived on Friday after the four hour trek from Winters to be just in time for the post lessons cocktail hour. As always, there was delectable treats and fantastic wines. Susan Baxter even brought me a glass as I was unloading my rig. God bless Susan B!

Everyone was there to ride in the clinic. Katy P(MP's owner), Ellen E (our national coach), Nancy B, Betty S, Susan B, Odie C, Katie D, Katey A, Lauren R, Jane S, Nancy J and many more who weren't riding. The only people missing were horse-show-husband and Eva! There's always a next time.....

Anyway, back to the clinic. Dennis was in top form. And when I say top form I mean demanding and attentive. But in a good way. The way a coach should be. We started off Saturday discussing competition expectations. He said it was great that I got a 71% at my first show, but the top para dressage rider in the world is currently receiving 80% +. Underlying message: if I want to be competitive internationally, I need to do a lot better than 71%. OK, message received, ego crushed, training needed.

So how did that translate over to my lessons? Well, lets just say I wanted to pass out or throw up after my first lesson on Sat. I think I got 2 mini walk breaks (really equal to just one) out of a 45 min lesson. And Dennis kept wanting more and more. Of course, MP was fine with this, she gives 100% all the time and demands it in return. Just like Dennis! I like to be pushed so after I caught my breath, took a nap and had another glass of wine, I felt great about the first session.

Day two brought out the competitor in me. I had a chat with MP before my lesson and told her that I would give 100% (even though my body felt like I had been run through Marine Corps drills the day before). She seemed to be on the same page, ready to give another 100%. As was Dennis. As I was just starting to warm up, he was trying to sneak in a little lunch. He was in mid-bite when he put down his sandwich and starting coaching my warm up. "Yup, today is going to be a good day," I thought, "he's not even going to let me get away with a half-ass warm-up." Holy cow did his warm up pay off! MP was right on the money from the start. Basically the rest of the lesson went super. I got a few more walk breaks than on Sat (Dennis' way of showing praise) and I got a lot more kudos. Everyone who watched thought the lesson was great and Dennis said that if I ride like that I have a chance at medaling. We still have a long way to go, but I definitely have the support system to have a good shot at the World Champs next year and the WEG in 2010.

With Dennis, you always get your moneys worth. He's a great coach. I like that he's always wanting more, but knows when to say "there you go, good job." We are so fortunate to have him come every other month. And the bottom line for me is that I just don't want to go to the world champs or the WEG. And I just don't want to medal. I want to win. I don't like losing, and I don't like second or third place. I'm not going to go aggro or anything if I don't win, I'm sure I'll enjoy the experience and all that. But I am going to prepare to give that guy who's getting the 80%'s a run for his money.

Thank you to the Los Suenos partners: Susan Baxter, Nancy Bareilles, Erin Branson and Rennie Ediger. The clinic was fantastic, the party was fun, and the accommodations were superb! And thank you to Jane Smiley and her beau for the wonderful home cooked dinner on Sat. I can't wait 'til the next clinic!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I had a major breakthrough in my riding this weekend! For you non horsey people this won't be very exciting, but for those of you who ride I think I finally got the idea that if you do less more happens! More collection, more relaxation, more movement! Moneypenny felt great, she had an appointment with the chiropractor and it turns out she was out in her neck and her poll and even a little in her pelvis. So she got adjusted and we had three great lessons and now I have my homework cut out for me.

I am pleased to announce that I have received the funding needed to develop a professional freestyle. Nancy and Steve Bareilles gave me a very generous donation that will cover 100% of the cost of the freestyle. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards Nancy and Steve. THANK YOU!!!!

Eclectic Horseman.......
My friend, and accomplished horsewoman Betty Staley interviewed me over the weekend for a magazine called Eclectic Horseman. Hopefully they'll let me post a copy when the article runs. I'm not sure when that will be, but I'll keep you posted.