September had started out with a bit of hope, despite the daily drain at my job as a microbiologist. My dad came out from the West coast to help me haul to Sport Horse Nationals which was about a nine hour drive from my barn.
I was a bit proud of myself for being able to haul through some busier cities. I am not particularly brave while hauling the truck and trailer as there's a lot of stupid people out there.
The drive seemed well worth it to show at the World Equestrian Center in Ohio. I mean, look at the size of that arena! Unfortunately Chili had a little scrape on her hindquarters from a bump in the journey (I blame the super pot hole filled roads through Indiana and Ohio!) and was a little sore behind.
Fortunately, there were some people that did Magnawave on the grounds and that seemed to help. Chili's first classes were with my friend who showed her in hand, but unfortunately no ribbons for them. The classes were big--more than forty horses and Chili was still pretty tight behind and didn't move as well as I would have hoped.
My dressage test with her was on Wednesday, so each day we went to school in the various arenas at WEC. I have not ever really shown inside with her and certainly not dressage and not these giant arenas. The first few times, she was a very hot tamale. I was immensely grateful that my dressage coach and barn owner extraordinaire came with to the show so she could also ride and help school.
It was pretty warm most of the time we were there and I was having issues with not feeling well from some POTS related issues. My electrolytes would get out of wack, I wouldn't eat, and I just felt terrible. Add in a spicy horse and I was pretty convinced I should just scratch my dressage ride.
Well, S, my barn owner and coach didn't let me so on Wednesday, I dutifully put on my dressage coat and rode down center line. I had some minor geometric errors (sorry! I know better coaches!) and definitely dashed up some movements with coefficients. Chili was tight at times, but probably because I'm not sure I decided to breath the second half of the test.
But you know what? When I went down center line the second time and halted and saluted, I cried. I said thank you for the judge and looked over at the stands where my friends, coach, and my dad were: they were crying too.
There's been so much that's happened to Chili, to myself, to the world that who would have thought I would have finally made it down the the center line on a horse I bred, foaled out, trained, hauled, rehabbed, and rehabbed some more. A dog attack, my hip surgery, my increasing physical issues, Chili's fence accident. It all seemed irrelevant at that moment.
And like every good person at WEC, I had to go through the coffee shop drive through to celebrate.
After our dressage test, our next classes together were on Friday and were two in-hand classes. Chili felt good, so I was hoping for better placements than earlier in the week. I was dressed, she was braided, and I led her out of the stall when I felt her slip coming down onto the concrete.
I didn't think too much of it until I reached the end of the barn aisle when something didn't sound right. Chili didn't look quite right. I ended up making the heartbreaking decision to scratch. I handed the horse off to my dad and sent my husband to the paddock gate to let them know I wouldn't be coming. I had to run to the show office to fill out the official scratch paperwork. Don't fill out the paperwork and there's a hefty fine.
When I came back from the show office, my coach had realized something was wrong and was helping my dad with the horse. Chili was by this point immensely lame and could hardly walk. We cold hosed her and I had to brace her shoulder and help her walk back to the stall.
I may have cried. My coach undid her braids and my dad called the show vet. We waited and waited.
Finally the show vet came and it was by far the most upsetting experience with a veterinarian I've ever had. The abbreviated version is the vet said Chili had an abscess, disregarded my commentary about how she had slipped coming out of the stall, and then tried to pull her shoes. She was unable to pull the shoes so the show farriers came out, who then wanted $100 to pull one shoe.
The following day, Chili was not better and was so lame that we cold hosed her in the aisle as we couldn't even get her down the aisle to the wash rack. Again, we called the show vet. While waiting for the vet, I called my veterinary clinic back at home to discuss which diagnostics should be done to determine if we could get Chili home safely. Nine hours with a three legged horse wasn't going to be an easy task.
My dad ran to a local automotive store and picked up a camera which we hard wired into the trailer so we would be able to keep an eye on her. My coach called her coach whose barn was just an hour away. If need be, we could take Chili there until she was safe enough to travel home.
The show vet finally came back. I had asked her for radiographs and to block her to rule out a fracture. The radiographs were done and didn't seem to reveal much. The blocking was fine and she did block out about 80 percent sound.
With this information and working in conjunction with my wonderful clinic at home, we thought we would be at least get her home for additional diagnostic work and rehab.
We wrapped her up like a Christmas present, backed the trailer back to the end of the barn aisle, and were grateful that I had a ramp on my little two horse trailer. Chili handled the standing wraps, the Softride boots, and hopping in the trailer on three legs like a champ. The whole way home, we anxiously watched the camera and were impressed that she wedged herself back up against the wall and divider and rocked back off her front feet. Somehow, she managed to keep balanced even through all the traffic and turns and came of the trailer more comfortable than she went on.
At least we were home where we could create a plan and then assess what to do next.