On July 9, 2009, my beloved dressage horse Amiritta (AKA Suki) was critically burned when her barn caught fire. Suki's survival and recovery are considered miraculous. Her courage has made her an inspiration to people around the world. This is the story of our journey.....
Summer marches on and we have been rewarded with the first local corn. At Fisher's I selected one of their own, Sugar Pearl, and was not disappointed. Sweet, popping kernels, one of the benefits of summer and living in the Oley Valley. I filled a basket with beautiful local produce, fresh baked bread and headed home to make grilled veggies and shrimp. Yumm!
It is hard to believe that it is July already. Isaiah was not thrilled when I informed him that in 7 short weeks he would be going back to school (I am so mean!).
Sunday, 28 June, 2015
Isaiah rode in a schooling dressage show today off the farm. His times were late enough that I was able to get in a ride on Nikki and work Suki in hand before we had to leave for the show. It was a cool morning, perfect day for a horse show. And a beautiful morning for me to ride, especially after yesterday's day long rain. I did manage to ride yesterday as well but Isaiah's lesson was rainier than my ride!
Nikki was nicely forward, clearly enjoying the cooler air as well. That always makes lateral work have more expression so I even managed to get a nice bit of half pass. Well, to the left was very nice. To the right a little sticky, but that was more my fault. Nikki loves to lengthen stride at the trot across the diagonal. So today I asked for a medium. I held with a brief half halt as I made the turn and with a slight touch of my leg she launched into an amazing medium! Nearly propelled me out of the saddle it was so big!
Short on time I decided to do a bit of in-hand work with Suki. I haven't been ding quite as much since I have been getting her used to wearing a saddle and bridle every day. This was a good opportunity to focus on lateral work and moving away from my hand which will become my leg.
Isaiah's show went well, with his first test (Intro A) being better than the second test (Intro B). He went off course in the second test (turned right instead of left after his first center line, but mad a nice recovery after that. At the end of the test the judge spoke to him (as they do at schooling shows). After the first test she told him that his free walk could have a bit more energy. He responded "I was thinking that as well". Out of the mouths of babes! She was very kind and encouraging, praising him for a job well done. He won that class with a score close to 69%. After the second test she told him that she knew that he was upset about going off course, but said "There is not one rider here today who has not gone off course at some time. It happens." He finished second in that class with a 65%. It was tough to be the "show mom" instead of competitor, but fun to watch Isaiah and see how serious he is!
Waiting to go in for the test
Isaiah and Rusty: a job well done!
Tuesday, 30 June, 2015
A bit of a rainy morning, but not bad enough to put me off working the girls! Work is insanely busy and I need my horse time to maintain sanity. Rain is better than green head flies! Nikki made her airplane ears face, but worked well and without complaint. Such a drama queen about the rain! It was a good day to work on canter transitions because it kept her mind off the rain. By the time I brought Suki out the rain had stopped. After some work in full tack on the lunge I took her to the mounting block again. None of this seems to faze her, so I ask myself what am I waiting for? Why not just swing my leg over and sit on her? Ah yes…..reality check. I haven't added stirrups to the saddle or contact to the bridle. Oh and I am still not sure how the treeless saddle will feel on her back with the added weight of a rider. I am over thinking this, aren't I??? Even Suki looks at me like "What are you waiting for?" Could she be more ready for this than I am?
Thursday, 2 July, 2015
Several teleconferences and other work obligations make today a short work day for the girls. Twenty minute lunge and in-hand work for each. Nikki was a little lazy to start, even pinning her ears once or twice until she got motoring along. She probably needed a second dose of Mt Dew (or Red Bull) just like I did. I woke her up trying to do the spiraling in and out on the lunge (this is work intensive for the ground person but well worth the effort). Then something startled her on the way back to the barn, causing her to passage next to me. Where was this energy in the arena??
Suki started off our session by flicking me in the eye with the tip of her tail. Oh yeah, that feels nice! This was after she tried to suck a carrot out of my grooming box while I was wrapping the lunge line. Yep, never leave the children unattended (or on a long lead length!). She worked well, and I realized that I should have had in long lines once I was in the arena and starting work. I decided to change things up a bit and work up the long sides of the arena. This worked well, even asking for a bit of leg yield. Then she stepped on the end of the lunge whip causing me to nearly fall. I was feeling like a "housewife rider" for sure!
I returned to the barn later in the day to dress Suki in her fly sheet for turnout and Nikki in her pink bell boots. On warm days I alternate between sunscreen on Suki's back and putting on her fly sheet. The sunscreen enables me to let Suki go out without a fly sheet on the very hot days, and option not previously doable. But the sunscreen dries out her skin, so I don't like to do that for too many consecutive days. There is a lot of planning to keep Suki comfortable. I probably overdo it, but in spite of the fact that she has fully recovered, and for the most part just like other horses, she does not have hair on her back and that needs to be considered in routine care. But it does seem very routine to me now. Suki gets groomed like other horses but we just have to add skin moisturizing to the mix.
Sunday, 5 July, 2015
Busy day at the barn! Fortunately I had finished riding Nikki before too much of the craziness started. By the time I got Suki out to the arena there was someone riding and someone lunging. I will give Suki credit for holding it together though. In fact, she could have cared less that anything was going on in the arena. I don't usually like to work under those conditions but sometimes that's life. I only did 15 minutes, but Suki was focused and on task. Her only departure from that was when the two horses in an adjacent field walked up to the fence. I was just about finished when she started to lift her head and not pay attention. So I kept her going for a few more minutes and she settled back to work nicely. Nikki called to Suki as we walked back into the barn (I think she wanted her breakfast. You would think she would be used to working before breakfast then waiting for it!). I finished Suki's work with big stretches and nearly fell over when she stretched her left hind so far back!
As I resume writing this post I am sitting outside in the early evening enjoying a cool breeze and a glass of wine. The birds in the feeders do not seem bothered by my presence and in my quiet solitude I was rewarded by the sight of a mom and her twin fawns on the hill!
So as I approach July 9, 6th anniversary of the fire and my goal date to sit on Suki, I realize that the goal will be delayed. My current project for work has me crazed added to taking Isaiah to and from his variety of camps. The school bus is much easier!
I have yet to add stirrups to the saddle. And I am certainly harboring some anxiety. I don't want to hurt Suki, and I don't want to get hurt. So far Suki has been completely fine but I am worried about her back. Less about the burn area than about her back….musculoskeletal. She had a back problem from a fall in the round pen (not with me! at the BNT I was working with. It happened while I was away). Once that was assessed and she had her back injected all was fine and training resumed beautifully! I think that just sitting on Suki and doing walk and light trot will be fine, but I suspect she may need her back injected again. Scheduled appointment for an evaluation.
Wednesday, 8 July 2015
Suki is getting so much better about having her bridle put on (wow, what a grammatically poor sentence!!). I have putting it on in her stall because sometimes as I bring the bridle up over her ears she gets a bit nervous. The past few times she has put her head right into the bridle. I'm sure this stems from all of the treatments on her face and head during the first few months following the fire and the loss of the tips of her ears. While I am able to put on her halter and groom her face and head, I imagine that the closeness of the brow band and head stall probably worries her a bit. I do not think that it is caused by discomfort, because once the bridle is on she is fine.
As I closed the arena gate after walking through with Nikki a bee stung my left hand. Didn't even see it! Nikki was amazing today in spite of the heat, humidity and bugs. Nicely forward and coming back to collect immediately when asked. I kept the ride short but even my eyelids were sweating when I was finished! Nikki's face was sweating as well. Going back through the gate I said to Nikki jokingly, "Let's see if I can do this without getting stung!" Then BAM! Stung again as I unlatched the gate. UGGH.
Suki had the day off with just stretches and spa treatment. She will work tomorrow.
Thursday, 9 July, 2015
So. Tonight at midnight is when I got the call from Bobbi that the barn was on fire and Suki and Whisby were missing. I can still feel the clench in my heart when I think of that call. The hours of waiting, and the call that Suki was critically injured. Just 8 hours before I had kissed her on the nose and told her that I would see her tomorrow. Who would have thought that "tomorrow" would be in ICU at New Bolton and she would be facing the fight of her life. I don't care what the naysayers think. I know in my heart that I did the right thing by saving Suki's life. Following the experts advice I knew that complications could change her fate and I needed to be ready to make the decision to euthanize her if it came to that. I was prepared to make that decision, but I was also prepared to give her the chance to live. So though today did not go as planned and I was not sitting on her back, Suki and I had a quiet celebration. I worked her in full tack and stood next to her on the mounting block. When we were finished I wrapped my arms around her neck and told her how brave and wonderful she is. Then she and Nikki had extra gummy bears to celebrate. I will sit on her another day.
We have had such overwhelming support over the past six years that it would be impossible to thank everyone individually. I still get teary when I think about that night, but it has subsided a bit and doesn't come on quite so easily.
Saturday, 11 July, 2015
Driving into the barn driveway this morning I looked towards Suki and Nikki's pasture as I always do. And what did I see? They were lying side by side! I stopped the car and jumped out to take a picture, because I knew they would not remain that way once I walked into the field!
After I parked I walked through the barn and to the gate of their pasture. Still lying down enjoying the cool morning air! Even when I walked up to them they did not get up!!
Finally I got them up, but not before they performed a tandem rolling session (phone in pocket, of course, so I could not get that on video!)
Great ride on Nikki, beautiful lateral work. Going through the trot poles I could feel her back lift nicely as she pushed from behind. Then I even attempted a few steps of half pass at the canter. Okay, this was a little sloppy, but it was a first attempt and a great effort! After that her collected trot work was really nice so I finished with stretchy trot serpentines.
I worked Suki in full tack and did a lot of sharp transitions. I like to make sure that she is focusing. She was a bit stiff at the start but then worked out of it. Then I started the transition work. Walk-trot, trot-walk, canter-walk, walk-canter. Good stuff. The first few walk to canters were slow but then she was fine. Mounting block work continues to go well, though she gets impatient after the third pass to the mounting block. I feel like she is saying "Just get on already!" But the bugs are a little worse at the mounting block also.
Sunday, 12 July, 2015
The girls were snoozing together again this morning! Is this a new trend??
The humidity was low again this morning, but even as I mounted Nikki at 7:15 the warm sun started to heat the air pretty quickly. Fortunately the flies were not so bad! I decided to keep the work simple today with big loops at trot and canter. It gave me a chance to do a little counter cater with Nikki and keep the work fun. Nice stretching at the end.
I added stirrups to the saddle for Suki today, and she did not bat an eye as they bounced along while I lunged her. It took a little longer for her to work out of her stiffness so perhaps I over did it yesterday. I kept the session short with big trots and canters. At the mounting block I leaned against her and moved my hands along her opposite side as if a rider was on her back. Then, because I was still wearing my helmet from my ride on Nikki I laid over top of the saddle with all of my weight off the mounting block and onto Suki's back. I got off the mounting block, gave her a sugar and wrapped my arms around her, again telling her how brave and wonderful she is!
I find it so surreal to be tacking her up to go out to the arena. Now I just need to get on….