Our Journey

When you first met Lilly, it was April of 2008. I was just getting back into showing, and Lilly had very limited experience. She was shown some as a yearling in halter and showmanship, but otherwise we just went trail riding with friends. She was fairly successful in showmanship, and won quite a bit as a yearling against full grown horses, but my main goal was to be competitive in western pleasure.

What a cute trail pony, but she should be a show pony!
As we transitioned from trail horse to show horse, we had quite a few challenges to overcome. Our first big challenge was walking. Yes, walking. :) She simply did not want to walk. Why walk when you can trot or canter and get there faster? We've got places to be! And if she couldn't trot or canter, then she wanted to walk really fast.

She was also really bad about anticipating and trying to read my mind. (she was usually wrong, by the way...) If I decided I wanted to to canter, I had to wait and do it at the very end of the ride because she absolutely would not walk at all after a canter. So working on her leads was pretty much out of the question. We were far from western pleasure superstars but it didn't stop us from trying!

Faking the funk!
We placed here and there because the judge had no other choice, but we had fun. Lilly was a good girl at the show grounds and stood nicely at the trailer. She's always a pleasure to be around and that made showing a lot more fun.

We still struggled at home, though. I didn't feel like we were making much progress and I soon learned that I was in over my head. In an exhaustive June 2008 post I stated, "I swear, she gets more difficult to ride each time I ride her. The more she learns, the more challenging she becomes." She was terribly complicated and extremely sensitive. Any kind of reprimand didn't work with her and I was at a loss as to how to communicate with her. She was desperate to please but we just weren't in sync.

I decided I needed help so I started taking lessons from a local Dressage trainer. The lessons went well and we even attended a weekend clinic to get some extra help. We made a lot of progress despite a few injuries that set us back.

Wait, what? Injuries? You don't say!!

A ripped off shoe here, some torn up pasterns there, a couple visits from the chiropractor... Oh yeah, and that's when our friend diarrhea made her first appearance, but that's all status quo around here!

By the end of the year we had 4 PAC points and even won a couple year end awards from the Johnston County Horse Show Series and the Carolina Mane Event Show Series. We won 3 giant ribbons and an impressive trophy as proof of all of our hard work!

Very snazzy!
Somewhere along the way I gave up on my western pleasure dreams. It was obvious we were far from being competitive, and I decided to focus on a discipline that allowed me to use two hands and maintain slight contact with the bit. I had also stopped taking lessons in late December because of the holidays and I thought it would be good to take a break and work on the techniques we had been taught without worrying about adding more to our workload.

The following year brought many challenges. I was laid off from my job and was worried about the future. I was very lucky to snag another job quickly, but it wasn't a favorable schedule and since I'd be working weekends I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to show. After spending some time training in Baltimore, I was able to work out a deal with my new boss and he agreed to allow me to come in late on days I had shows. So we were back in business and wasted no time getting back out in the show ring.

Happy to be showing!
In 2009 we graduated from the walk and moved on to the trot. Her walk issues had come along quite well and she would walk around on a loose rein for the most part. I still struggled with her after trotting or cantering but progress is progress and we were making headway.

I started my lessons again in April but things weren't the same with my trainer. She didn't like how slow I was taking things with Lilly and we just weren't on the same page so I stopped the lessons again in June. I was getting some great advice from Lilly's fans, most notably Dressage in Jeans and it seemed to be making a much bigger impact than the lessons.  She helped me find Lilly's buttons and for the first time in quite a while, I was feeling good about our training.  This is when Lilly really started to blossom. She was getting it, and I was getting it. We were finally starting to communicate.  It was a beautiful thing!

That's my girl!
We made our debut in the dreaded canter class (and won!), started doing pattern classes (and won!), and attended our first ever breed show. In the fall we showed at the State Fair and by the end of the year we had accumulated 38 PAC points in various events and had been division champions in two separate divisions at our last show of the year. We won a variety of year end awards and a very special Equine Achievement award which is given out to the horse who is most improved. I was beaming and very excited about the future.  She had exceeded my expectations and achieved every goal I set for us.

And the show season wasn't even over yet...

Well, until November 3rd when my sweet mare tore her inferior check ligament (incorrectly diagnosed initially as a DDFT lesion). That's when our showing came to a screeching halt.  To say I was absolutely devastated would be an understatement. We were looking at 6 months of stall rest and praying for a full recovery.

Sausage leg.
Black on the ultrasound is never good.
We decided PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment was the best course of action along with stall rest and hand walking. I hand walked her every day from December 23rd until she finally got to experience turnout again in a small paddock on February 28th, 118 days later.

We were still having skin issues on that leg and also persistent soreness. We decided the wedge pad we had put on her injured leg was probably the culprit and decided to remove it. Shortly after removing the pad, she developed an abscess. This set her rehab back about 4 weeks, but we picked up where we left off and I was able to start hand walking her again. Shortly after that, I was able to ride her again. It was wonderful to feel her under saddle again.

I was able to slowly bring her back into work and we even made it to one show at the end of June. I took it easy with her and we only did a few easy riding classes, but there was no way we were going to miss showmanship. With 10 horses entered, we won first place and received 3 PAC points. Last year we had fallen 1 point shy of qualifying for her Certificate of Recognition, so those 3 points pushed us up to 22 PAC showmanship points. She was going to receive her certificate!

Go Lilly, go!
It was during that same time that I decided to move the horses, and then move them again. It was a never ending struggle for a while with ripped off shoes, debilitating abscesses, a battle with cellulitis and dermatitis, an upset ICL, a colic episode, and continued saddle issues.

We decided to go barefoot in the hopes of finding a cure for all her continued leg/hoof issues. The shoes came off in August 2011, and it has been an exciting journey ever since. Her hooves look better than ever and her attitude has also changed dramatically. It was the best thing I could have done for her. She's happy, her hooves are happy, and we finally found a saddle she loves.

We had a fairly uneventful 2012 show season, but I'm very excited to pick up where we left off and take this year's show season by storm!!