Saturday, April 12, 2014

Start Voting for Your Favorite Entry in Five Star Tack's Contest "Lessons on Life from the Back of a Horse"

Below are six entries that really sum up how much we can learn from our horses that can be applied to life in the "real world." Vote, share and/or comment on your favorite entry on Five Star Tack's facebook page, now through April 21st. The winning entry will win one of Five Star Tack's Signature Halters!

Here is the first entry in Five Star Tack's contest from Marissa Collins. It's a great example of what you can learn about life from the back of a horse. 

Horses have taught me many lessons over the years. However I will focus on the three lessons I recently learned. The first lesson I have learned over the past year is to never give up. I had a fall that resulted in multiple fractures to my shoulder. Getting back to where I was before the accident was proving to be more difficult. No matter what, I could not get around training level cross country clean. I spent a year with elimination after elimination and picking myself out of the dirt. I began to hate cross country and showing. There were many times where I debated going back to dressage or quit showing. Despite the constant failure, I kept at it. I had a great support group but most of all the love for my little talented horse kept me at it. I started to learn to focus on the good moments. Instead of dwelling on the fact I fell, I began to think of what positives I could take from the ride.

I now try to have this mindset in all aspects of my life. When things are bad to focus on the positive. This lesson led me to my next lesson: don’t worry about others. With the many crashes and eliminations I found many people who I called friends to be quite judgmental and hurtful. They constantly put me down. Through this I began to realize “who cares”? Who cares if I fell? Who cares if I didn’t win? Who cares if I don’t move up a level? I learned that people bring you down to boost them up. I learned that results don’t mater. I didn’t start riding for the ribbons; I started riding because I loved horses. I learned to not worry what others think and even when others are negative towards you, don’t stoop to their level. The important thing is to always remember it’s not about success; it’s about the process.

The third lesson is one that is still a work in progress. The many falls made me a very nervous and worried rider. I didn’t trust my horse because I constantly thought of the bad falls. Through trying to trust my horse I realized I don’t trust in any aspect of my life. This will be the hardest lesson for me to overcome, but I need to learn to trust my horse and others.

Brianna Bowling

My first horse was ugly. I'm not talking just a little ugly. Big bulky head. Mane that stood on end in little wisps, a stringy tail that no kidding only came to just past the dock no matter what I did to help it grow. Feet too big for her size and knobby knees.

But she was the best horse a novice rider could hope for. She took care of me and made me think I was an awesome rider. So much so that when she started to age and could not longer compete, I bought a beautiful grey gelding that was way beyond my skill level. I quickly found out that it wasn't that I was a great rider -- she was a great horse that had kindly kept her body under my unstable seat.

My new horse, Moon, was a beautiful gelding who had more energy and antics than my novice skills knew how to handle. He was always engaging the other geldings in the field, rearing and running as if they were young colts out for their first romp as a group. He was a kind horse but loved his playtime.

One day I arrived at the barn and found his antics had gone too far. He had reared and caught his foot in the crevice between two panels of a round pen located in his pasture. He was hanging by his front hoof, his body just skimming the ground. Enough blood had spilled to fill five gallon buckets and was both in pools around his body and sprayed in the surrounding grass. The flesh on his leg almost the full length of his cannon bone had been stripped away in some places to the bone. Nearly dead, his eyes rolled back in his head and his lips were stuck high up on dried out teeth.

Panicked, I ran to the round pen and attempted to release his foot. It was futile as his foot had stretched the metal and his foot was firmly entrenched deep between the panels. After a half hour of trying to release him and watching him suffer and slip into deeper shock, I sent a friend to get a gun. I couldn't watch him suffer any longer.

While I waited and held his head, a car pulled up. It was a cop passing by who had more sense and strength than I did, and we were able to dissasemble the panels and release him to the ground.

With his tenacity to live, lots of hard work and great vet care, Moon lived and I even rode him again just two months later.

I learned a lot from my vet during his healing. I learned to bandage quickly and effectively. I learned about wound care -- what speeds healing and what slows it down - how to deal with proud flesh and how to recognize the initial signs of infection. She taught me how to give injections and the most effective way to get massive amounts of antibiotics down a horse daily, even after a horse was clearly aware of the icky taste coming his way. Most importantly I learned to get over the initial squeamish feeling I got from the oozing of a massive healing wound.

For many years I was happy that I had this advanced home horse care under my belt. It came in handy when helping friends with their horses and I felt more confident taking care of my own horses.

I'd love to say that was the end of the story but that horse health experience helped me in a way I never thought it would.

I was in San Diego on a business trip when my sister called. "Mom is at Johns Hopkins and they think she has pancreatic cancer.” My stomach dropped. How could that be true? She was fine when I left just two days ago. And what was pancreatic cancer? How serious was it? Lots of people survived cancer – maybe this wasn’t one of the bad types.

I quickly started searching the web for information on pancreatic cancer and what I found was not promising. With a five year survival rate of just 5%, it was one of the most deadly cancers. Most people were dead within three months of a diagnosis. Our best hope at this point was that the doctors were wrong and it wasn’t pancreatic.
When I was finally back East and able to walk into her room, I found my usually vibrant and active mother prone on the bed and the color of a pumpkin. The tumor was cutting off her liver and not allowing it to process the bile, thus the orange color. By now, they had definitively diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer and had scheduled her for a Whipple procedure. A Whipple procedure is where surgeons remove the pancreas as well as the upper small intestine and part of the stomach in the hope of removing the entire cancer and if not, at least staving off the progression of the disease for a bit.

This was just the beginning of three years of treatments that included multiple surgeries, radiation, clinical trials and medicines that made her more sick than the cancer itself. Each time the doctors invaded her body and attacked her with poisons with the hope of extending her life, she came home and our family helped bring her back to her new version of wellness.

My skills in wound care meant I could effectively bandage my mother and do it quickly enough that it minimized the pain she felt. I understood wound care and what would help her heal more quickly. Any squeamishness I would have felt had already been desensitized long ago with Moon. I didn't have any issues giving her injections when needed and even utilized some of the same methods to improve the taste of meds to make it more palatable.

My Mom didn't make it -- she passed away almost two years ago -- but I am glad I got to "practice" my nursing skills long before she needed it so I was better able to care for her. I miss her so much. She was a fabulous lady who spent so much of her life caring for others and I am glad I had the opportunity to care for her. At the time I was caring for Moon I would have never guessed I would have to put those skills to use in such an important way but am SO glad he gave me the chance to learn from them. 


Confidence in the saddle has always been a tough thing for me. I’ve learned how to hide my fear with most horses but I find myself praying it will be over while jumping around a schooling course. It’s sad because I love horses and I want to be an Olympic Eventer when I’m older. I’ve had many falls, and though none of them frightened me, there was this one incident where I didn’t actually fall but it was so bad, it traumatized me. I was teaching a green horse the basics of jumping. She was this chubby little buckskin BLM Mustang mare named Dakota. She couldn’t have been taller than 14-15hh. But things were going great at the start. We made it up to 2’8 and decided to go big. We upped it to about 3’ tall. The first time was great; she sailed over it without a thought. But the second time was not so great. As I was rounding the corner, I allowed her to cut in too tight and she stalled. I was still in two-point when she decided to try and jump it at a standstill. She came up and all I remember seeing was horse neck and a splash of vibrant colors and stars. I didn’t fall off but she hit me hard enough to make my face go numb and scramble my brain for a minute. I wasn’t sure where I was and why I was on this tiny horse. It took a few moments and my head stopped spinning. I ended up having a minor concussion with the possibility of internal bleeding near the back of my head. Since then I’ve had this fear when I see a jump, it makes me tense up and send the wrong signals to my equine partners causing run outs and stalls.

My friend recently helped me find my current horse; Puckerupbuttercup (pictured). I’m purchasing this mare as my eventing horse. She is 5 years old, 18hh, and an OTTB (or- Off the Track Thoroughbred). She is amazing! I have started jumping with her and I thought I could forget about all my fear, and start fresh with this horse. I decided to wait a little longer and get to know her better before pushing myself to jump her. So we’ve been doing flat work and trails. Since getting this mare, she has been nothing but a blessing. She has given me confidence I’ve never felt before. I take her out bareback in a halter by myself with no fear or anxiety. I have never been able to do that! It’s amazing. I’m finding that this new found confidence isn’t only helping me in the horse world but in my school life and social life as well! I can be shy sometimes when meeting new people and this mare alone has helped me break out of my shell. I trust her with my life! I have wanted to give up on my Olympic dream so many times but then I look at my amazing partner and I know it’s something I can do. I still, even to this day, struggle with confidence but with my mare and a little hard work, I know I can overcome my fear.


Hello, my name is Courtney Gehrig and I am a 20 year old jumper girl. A little over two years I was at a barn helping out at an in-barn horse show. My trainer at the time needed one more horse for the class to have any points, so he sent me into the barn to fetch this beast of an animal named Tabasco. Tabasco is a 17.1, 16 year old Dutch Warmblood who wasn't ridden very often because his size and strength turned people running in the other direction. As for myself, I refuse to not try a horse. I am not scared of these loving creatures. I had only seen this horse in his stall and ridden him on the flat very few times before this horse show. We successfully went around the course and competed against a few other people. Something hit me while riding this horse, I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM! I begged and raved to my parents how wonderful this horse was. I didn't want any other horse, I needed Tabasco and Tabasco needed me. After a lot of whispers in my parents ear I got a phone call on the day of my birthday. Can you guess what they got me? TABASCO!!!!! I bursted into tears like any little girl would. I finally had the horse of my dreams. Although Tabasco is not your average horse, he has a neurological disease called shivers. As Tabasco ages he will continue to get worse with his disease. As of now he stands with his hind legs spread apart as for as they can go, he does not like any objects in front of him, you have to be careful with putting anything on his legs, he dances on the cross ties, and he sometimes thinks he cant simply turn around. Now with all of this going on in his brain, we accomplished so much in only a short amount of time. We were always top 5 in all of the jumper classes that we entered. There were times where it was my fault that we didn't do as well as we could and some tears may have fallen on his neck but he always carried me back to the barn with his head held high. This bond grew stronger when we were ranked top 30 in the North American League (NAL). This horse gave me his heart and we delivered in every class we went into. People would always stop and stare because of the way he walked but when they saw us jump around the course so flawless they could not believe their eyes. I had people coming up to me complimenting the way we would perform. We were unstoppable. Before me Tabasco would still be rotting away in a stall somewhere. Now he lives a happy life in retirement with friends and fields of fresh grass. I am very privileged to have been able to ride such a magnificent creature. Tabasco has taught me to never give up in myself or in others even when I am in doubt. He has made me a better person, not being too quick to judge people for they may have a special place in my life. If I was a horse I would want to be Tabasco, as he is a horse I will never forget in my career.


Four years ago I started looking for a new horse after I took time off from the show world to work and focus on school. Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted when I started looking; I considered old ones, green, babies, you name it I probably gave it a thought or two! Finally I decided that I wanted to start something from the ground up so I began my search for a weanling or yearling quarter horse. After a few months of online searching and friend phone calls I found a fuzzy 6 month old colt located about two hours from my home. I scheduled a visit to come check him out and evaluate whether or not he would be the right fit for me and myself for him. As we all know babies are adorable which makes it harder to focus on their caliber when you're absorbed in the cute factor. I kept my focus on the ability he showed with a mind set of my own, this guy was dead quiet, nothing bothered him! I was sold alone on his perfect personality but the minute he moved I knew I needed him and didn't want another. Within a month I brought "Squishy" home with me (his name stems from Finding Nemo). "Squishy" has been a blessing in my life, I love him dearly along with my other wonderful horse whom I have since retired. I have learned a lot about patience and forgiveness with this horse, it's a waiting game owning a young horse. "Squishy" has picked up everything I have taught him with ease I don't even feel like I have to work to show him what I want! The willingness he possess stuns me to this day. I haven't had the chance to meet or work with a horse who truly just wants to please their owner/rider every single time they work with them but this horse does.

I can't say that since I purchase "Squishy" everything has been smooth sailing, horses have accidents and we do too. On September 23, 2013 "Squishy" started bleeding out of his nose and mouth to the point where it wasn't stopping, it was gushing. My poor horse was panicked at 9 am when this started, I rushed to the barn when the owner of the farm called me. The vet came out for an emergency scoping and by this time the bleeding had subsided thanks to wonderful workers who iced and piled blankets on my horse while I was in a state of shock and fear. Before the vet even scoped she explained to me that I would probably have two options from the scope and I didn't like the sound of that. I had a tidal wave of fear running through my body while she scoped him. Once she found the reason for the bleed her facial expression dropped and I knew I needed to make a quick decision. "Squishy's" future had two options.. surgery or euthanization. Stunned and heart broken I called my mother for help and with her kind amazing heart we took "Squishy" to Cornell University for surgery. My 3 year old gelding made the trip without bleeding and sustained enough to go into surgery. Being worried about my horse I wanted to stay until he was out of surgery but I was told it would be long and I should go home. However prior to me leaving the anesthesiologist came out to tell me that my horse lost more blood than we thought as he swallowed a lot of it and he would need a transfusion before they could continue, of course we said go ahead. After I left I anxiously awaited a phone call letting me know "Squishy" was okay, well, 6 hours later I finally received the phone call that my horse was stable and out of surgery. I couldn't wait to see him the next day. Overwhelmed with emotions I immediately started crying when I saw his face, he still looked weak but his lovable personality was all there to give me hugs and kisses even though he was the sick one. After waiting a while I finally got to speak to his veterinarian about the surgery and recovery process. I was told that he indefinitely had Guttural Pouch Mycosis which is extremely rare to the point where they estimate one in twenty five million will get the infection and about less than .5% will live after being diagnosed. I was certainly taken back by the entire situation after that. The vet then explained that my horse lost all vision in his right eye, this worried me because I didn't know how he would handle it. The vet's next words made me laugh and sigh after he told me "well no one knew until we did the routine check this afternoon with the oncologist!" My wonder horse didn't let a loss of vision ruin anything he just kept going and acted like a gentleman for everyone.

"Squishy" remained in the hospital for about a week but he taught me a lifetime of lessons in only 24 hours. If I can relate his strength and perseverance personality to my life I can overcome just about anything I am faced with. He showed me patience with waiting for the things that are really worth it. I learned about sacrifice and the will to live even when the odds are against you. For me this horse is not one that will come and go, he will stay a lifetime with me. To this day he is still blind in his right eye but without me telling all of you "Squishy" would never let you notice he was. I hope my horse can give people hope and faith even when the "going gets tough."


When I first met Gretta, she was a lovely mare in a corner stall. I would walk by her on my way to catch my pony, and she would stretch out her neck in search of attention. My riding ability was approaching the limit of my pony’s athleticism, so we were inactively shopping for the “right horse” to come along. One Tuesday afternoon I asked my trainer if there was something else I could ride for the weekly group lesson, and her working student suggested “Gretta.” I didn’t know the mare by name, but was always up for anything, so I was directed to the grey mare in the corner stall. Hacking, she was so-so. Well behaved, smooth, willing...but jumping, I was blown away. We trotted a series of cavalettis set up for gymnastics, and after the first time through, Gretta threw a huge buck. I wound up on her neck, and she stopped, waiting for me to re-situate myself so we could continue.That moment, I knew she was mine. Unfortunately, I had to wait a year before my pony sold before I could buy her. A vet check during that year revealed some issues that would cause most people to find another horse, but Gretta was the one, and I was willing to forgive the flaws to keep the mare. One week before my 15th birthday my pony’s sale was finalized, and Gretta was mine. She was my junior A/O jumper prospect, AA-rated champion children’s hunter, medal horse, and whipper-in’s mount on the weekends. I showed her through high school, and when college came, there was no question that she would come with me. Freshman year, Gretta tore her right front collateral ligament in the spring and spent six weeks recovering. In the fall, after I nursed her back and got her fit, she strained her right hind suspensory in the paddock. I gave her a year off, and after two vets’ OK, I started getting her fit to hunt. We went gradually, and when hunting season opened, I kept her in the slow field to avoid aggravating the injury. This past season, we returned to whipper-in duty, as long as the footing was safe. In January of this year, on a particularly windy day, Gretta re-strained her suspensory in the paddock; four months later, she has been cleared to resume working.

Gretta has taught me so much over the eight years we’ve been together that it’s impossible to write it all down, but perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is to take time to enjoy life. Our early years together were filled with the hurry-up-and-wait that comes standard with horse shows, and the subsequent frustrations that makes everyone ask “Why am I doing this?!” As we have gotten older, it’s become more important that we cherish the time we have together. She loves hunting, and is often the most energetic horse at the hunt despite her 19 years. Of course, she has developed arthritis, and has good days and bad days; but as long as she isn’t in pain, and still wants to hunt, I see no reason to keep her from it. As she continues to age, she will become more and more limited in her abilities, and I look forward to reaching those milestones with her. Some days, we just go for a short walk on the trails and enjoy the time together. We make time to do what we love. As a busy young adult, juggling between my last semester at college, work, applications to graduate schools, and any semblance of a social life often becomes overwhelming, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of panic. But when I’m with Gretta, I remember everything we’ve done together, what we’ve overcome, what we’ve learned, and how we’ve changed but stayed the same. When I think about that, the other things become small, and life becomes just a bit more manageable.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lessons on Life from the Back of a Horse

So you hit the dirt. You look up to see four shiny hooves galloping off in a cloud of dust. It’s gonna be a long walk home. Horses teach us a lot about life. How to dust ourselves off, climb back in the saddle and kick on. Some of us have failed more than others. Some of us give up and others keep going driven by either that passion to get it right or because maybe we don’t know any better.

What I want to know is, what are the life lessons the horses in your life have taught you and how have you applied those lessons in your NON-HORSE life? Tell Five Star Tack your story and you could win one of our raved about Signature Halters (Retail Value $160)! Like our last contest, fans will vote for the best story. The guidelines are:
  1. What you’ve learned must be or have been applied to your non-horse life whether it’s school, kids, job, relationships, etc.
  2. If you entered our last contest you are welcome to enter again, however you can’t submit the same story. 
  3. Please send a picture of your horse along with your entry. Email entries to
  4. The top ten percent from the total number of entries submitted will make it to the finals. Final winner will be determined by facebook fan voting. 
Contest starts today, March 28th. The deadline to submit your entry is April 10th. Fan voting runs from April 11th to April 20th. Winner will be announced April 21st.

Good luck and I can’t wait to learn from you!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Final Entries in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest!

With fifty entries it's going to be hard to choose the finalists as each story is so deserving. We are raising the number of finalists from three to five because of so many to choose from. The final five will be posted tomorrow (Sunday) and voting will take place for the next three days on facebook with the most votes winning a Five Star Tack Signature Halter!


My name is Emily and my horse is Prax. His show name is Practical Legacy. He's a 10 year old Appaloosa Hanoverian cross. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  To begin he started out doing hunters. I event, and his old owners sold him because he didn't place in anything and wouldn't jump any higher than 3 feet.  We have over come a lot in the past year, even jumping 4'3"! However we still remained the under dogs at shows because he was an appy and I don't come from a rich family or have the top of the line equipment.  We qualified for AECs! A lot of people kept telling me to not get my hopes up and AECs are something you go to for the experience because unless you have a 50k horse you are not going to do well.  Well needless to say we proved them wrong when we came in 4th in the toughest division, junior novice.  I haven't had that much show experience and I was so proud of my horse. When we came out of the ring from stadium almost everyone from my barn was teary eyed. We finished on our dressage score of a 26.5.  



Hi I'm Lexie and I lease a horse named B.J. He is a 21 year old thoroughbred and the farm I ride at got him from a farm that starved him and didn't take care of him at all. He didn't know how to jump much but with a lot of work he slowly progressed. Over the year we went to both his and my first mini event and we ended up getting seventh out of eleven people! He was so good at dressage and he was listening to me and everything. Stadium jumping he was not the best because he got too excited and ended up refusing once. Lastly he loves x country so he was so good at that and didn't refuse at all but when I crossed the finish line I was just so happy with him it almost made me cry to see how far he has come. I love him so much. Thanks BJ for being there for me and helping me learn a lot throughout the year.



This is Forest (or show name Deschutes (Day Shu Tay)). Forest is a 9 year old recycled race horse, that only raced 10 times winning $96,000. She was then sold to be a mommy, but due to complications having babies wasn't in her cards. Her owners thought she was too nice to get rid of so they decided to keep her, but never gave her a job. She sat in a huge field for 3 years before her owners decided she was wasting her potential. They sent Forest to New Vocations where I found her a few months later. I never saw, met, or rode Forest before she drove 9 hours to me. When I saw her profile online I knew this horse was meant to be mine. New Vocations did a great job teaching Forest the basics but as an older horse knowing just the minimal I had my work cut out for me. 

We had many highs and lows, many accomplishments and a few steps backwards. For the first two months all we did was walk and trot until we could bend and steer. Then just as we were getting into the groove Forest sliced her eye lid down the center. Getting 11 hot pink stitches, Forest was off for about 3 weeks. Thankfully she didn't damage her eye. I spent the time working on ground work. After she was cleared to go back to work Forest and I went to our very first horse show and placed 4th in a trot pole class out of 30. Over the summer we went to our third show where we received champion in the Green as Grass division, only our third show and already taking home the champion ribbons! In the fall we went to our first two hunter trails. They were such a blast, and Forest had such a great time. My sister and I even placed 3rd out of 15 pairs. We have overcome many other huge milestones that have made all the hard work and dedication worth every second in the saddle.

 In the past 9 months that I have owned Forest, of all the things we have accomplished I think the greatest thing is the relationship, bond and friendship that we have built. At first she was grumpy and standoffish towards me when I would show her affection. But after a month of consistent loving, and ground work she started to open up. I noticed her looking for attention more, wanting to follow me and be with me instead of standing alone on the other side of the ring. When I pull up to the farm I yell her name and she nickers back greeting me. I have never felt such a strong bond with a horse that I felt from the very beginning. She is my best friend, my partner in crime and my forever horse. She is that special horse that will forever have my heart. 


This past august my search for a new horse began after trying several, we finally decided on one. I thought this horse would be perfect for me. A few days later he was shipped to the barn I board at and our journey began. We began to work and he unfortunately got injured. After 2 months I was finally able to begin rehabbing him. This period of time provided me with several devastating moments. The once perfect horse seemed like he forgot everything he had learned in the past. One of my major issues was mounting him. Now after one month of working hours on end with him I can get on in just a few minutes. This has been the greatest accomplishment so far with him since he got hurt. This may not seem like an accomplishment because every horse should be trained to stand at a mounting block, however we have learned this horse was fairly green and had severe training gaps. I have learned so much in just 2 months from this horse than I ever imagined. I cannot wait to see how far he takes me in the future. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday's Entries in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest

I am continually amazed at the stories that have been coming in! There are a few more to post which will occur Saturday. Then the hard task will begin to choose the three best. It's not going to be easy!


This past year has been an incredible,  painful and emotional year, but by far the best year of my life as an equestrian and a high schooler. I moved from a somewhat abusive and decrepit hunter barn to a state-of-the-art eventing and dressage facility 45 minutes away, with no horse in tow. I had only been leasing old school horses at my previous barn, and now went to look at a young Irish Sport Horse named Quincy, an eventing prospect with the potential to take someone all the way up the levels to Rolex (my dream despite having only done intro before.) However, a green event rider on a green horse, while hilarious to watch, did not work and I feared I would never get to leave my first horrible barn. However, my now-trainer/coach, Terry, had the foresight to put me on another horse that she said "had a personality like me." Because I didn't know Terry at all yet, I was curious to see. When I saw the 17.5 big, hairy, young Percheron Hackney cross standing in the cross ties, I was mildly offended until I looked into her soft brown eyes. In them, I saw so much mischief and life and even laughter. I could have sworn this giant horse was laughing at me, and could not help but smile. This horse had strength, confidence, and a little bit of an attitude, and I began to realize that  Terry was dead on about our personalities. 

I tried riding Emma and was amazed at her beautiful gaits, balance, and jumping ability, something her size and scruffiness did not give away from the ground. That same month, April, we signed a one year lease contract and Emma became my event horse and I became Terry's protégée. Over the next few months, we worked tirelessly at dressage (neither of our favorites), surprised ourselves with ability at stadium jumping, and happily galloped cross country over previously unthinkable Novice and Training level fences. We had a great summer of hard work and progress, until August when I developed an almost career ending injury after a seemingly simple fall in dressage. The impact of the fall caused a bone contusion in my left knee, meaning that everything was bruised including my bones. This injury, abruptly halted my riding with my having to wear a brace and use crutches for a few weeks along with physical therapy. Because of my already horrible knee conformation, the muscles tightened beyond what I could bear in physical therapy and my knee did not get better, and actually worsened. My doctor and mother were slow to progress to the idea of surgery, and I had another few weeks of physical therapy. By then, horse and rider were growing weak and upset from the lack of work, and I longed to be able to just go for even a trail ride. 

Finally, in October, after I threw a large fit in my surgeon's office and finally got through to him how much pain I was actually in, he scheduled my surgery to release muscles, shave down, and cut scar tissue in my knee on Halloween. My surgery went fantastically, and with renewed determination, I was trying to walk the next day and was sitting on my horse the next week (not advised by my doctor, but I am only 16 so I can't be responsible all the time) I went back to physical therapy and was cleared in November to ride and in December to jump again and ride as we had before my injury. Overjoyed, I went back to the barn only to find that I was not the only one who hadn't been exercising, and that we would both need a lot of conditioning. But the next few weeks were far from productive, and Emma and I grew sour with each other and with our tasks as horse and rider. This bitterness about our lost show season and being weak got so bad that I dreaded going to the barn and that Emma dreaded being ridden by me. We completely resented each other and were mean to all those around us. However, one night at the beginning of December, it was like a light switch in both our brains had flipped. I got on Emma and rode without attempting to do dressage or have any expectations, and had one of the happiest rides of my life. When we cantered, I giggled like a child learning to canter for the first time and Emma was visibly happy. For the first time, I had hope that we would not only get back to where we were, but that we would improve. 

Since then we've been jumping and working slowly on dressage, and are always happy to see each other. On Christmas day, I realized just how much Emma meant to me when my parents surprised me with her and I sobbed uncontrollably. This horse and I had been through so much, and I knew at that moment that I loved her in the deepest and purest way that girls love their horses. I knew this horse and I, regardless of whether we won or not, would be an inseparable team. So I would not trade any of our experiences in 2013, including all of the bad ones and my fall, because they strengthened our relationship as horse and rider beyond what I previously thought possible. Bad experiences are essential to becoming a team that is more than just ribbons and superficial beauty. Love is the most essential of all, and with it, you can overcome anything.


I would like to share my story of my best accomplishment of 2013 with my 7 year old Hanoverian gelding Tigger.  We did not win any ribbons this year or even attend a show.  Our accomplishment was just getting back in the tack.  The story starts on November 10, 2012. I was long trotting Tigger in a field that I have done numerous other times with no problem at all when suddenly Tigger fell into a very large hole.  He completely flipped over, front ways landing on top of me.  I suffered a concussion and a broken neck (I was wearing a helmet).  Honestly the only thing going through my mind when I hit the ground was "Oh my god, my horse just broke his leg".  I got up after collecting myself to look for my horse, who was no where to be found.  After a few steps I instantly saw stars and I laid back down.  After an ambulance ride to the local hospital and then a Care Flight ride to a major hospital an hour and half away it was confirmed I had broken my C7 vertebra.  I was put in a body cast for 3 and a half months.  I had learned while in the hospital that my father went out to the ranch where I kept my horse and found Tigger  in his stall put away unharmed from the fall.  My father loaded up my horses and dogs and brought them back to their farm at my childhood home, knowing I would not be able to finish out college that semester, as well as not being able to care for my animals.  

My family was very supportive during this time and helped me put my horse in training with my trainer while I was unable to ride to keep Tigger in shape and keep him sane.   My trainer lived a good 3 1/2 hours away from me so once every few weeks my father would drive me out to go see him and watch her ride him.  He looked so beautiful to me and I was getting the itch to get back on my horse, not knowing really when I was going to be able to do so.  My cast came off the first week in March and I slowly had to wean my self out of a smaller one.  Once given the clear to get back on a horse, my older dressage horse (who was my first horse and much more calmer then my Event horse Tigger) was tacked up and I was hoisted up on his back and lead around.  There was not a dry eye around when I got back on.  After I built up enough strength, that month I got to take back the ride of Tigger in mid-April.  I took the first few weeks slow of just walking, then a few more of just trotting and again a few more for canter.  By the end of the summer I was jumping small cross-rails and verticals with confidence.  

I finally mustered up the courage to take Tigger to an open cross country schooling late October thinking I was just going to trot around and maybe pick up a hand gallop and do a few gag fences.  My horse had another idea.  We jumped around the whole novice course and half the training level cross-country course that day.  No a hitch in our step.  Mind you, Tigger has never been the easiest cross-country horse.  I actually felt him hunt-down bigger and tougher questions. Once I felt this I knew everything was going to be okay and all my confidence was restored. I know it's not a huge accomplishment to many folks because we don't have a ribbon on the wall to prove our accomplishment but I got back on my horse after a devastating injury and not only did I just get back on, I started training hard again to hopefully compete in the spring 2014.



My biggest accomplishment ever has been with my shetland, Roxanne. Roxy came from a slaughter auction and as soon as she arrived, we realized she had been severely abused. The vet and others mentioned putting her down because of her severe fear and tendency to become dangerous. She was petrified of everyone besides myself. I told everyone to just give me a few months. I knew I could change her, they shook their heads. I slowly gained Roxy's trust, and by summertime, she had shaped into a stunning pony. I entered Roxanne and her rescued mini pasture mate in a show that fall. We went on to win every class, and Roxanne was awarded the Tri-State Champion, an incredible accomplishment for both my rookie training skills and Roxy, the diamond in the rough.


Molly came to my barn 6 years ago as sight unseen. She was skinny, scraggly and crazy. She broke three halters in one day just getting her out of the trailer. 6 months later she was sent to the feed yard for some training. Two weeks and 6 hospital visits later (three different riders) she was returned deemed a rogue, crazy and untamable. Yeah, that didn't stop me. I wanted her. After a week of ground work I was riding her with no problems. Two weeks later I took her to a ranch sorting and won my class. No one ever thought she would be rideable at all, much less safe to turn a small child loose on. So five years later everyone is completely amazed by what I am able to do with her. But out of all the trophies and ribbons, I am most proud of how safe she is for any child to be around. When other horses around her spook she just stops and stands still. 

This past summer, 2013, I worked at a girls summer camp as a wrangler. The last week of camp we were short on horses and I got to take my personal horse. Molly is a 10 year old AQHA mare that I have owned for five years. I knew she was going to be a great mount for me, but what I didn't know was she was going to change the way one little girl saw horses. 

The very first day of camp that week a girl came down with her group and refused to even go in the arena. She was terrified of the horses, breaking down in tears when one even came near her spot on the fence. This was a problem because the girl was signed up for the session that requires lots of riding. As the staff was discussing what to do I saw her staring at my Molly. I asked the girl is she thought Molly was pretty and she said yes, she looks sweet. I asked her if I could move Molly closer so she wouldn't be lonely while we took the other horses trail riding. She nodded and I moved Molly over. 

When we came back an hour later the little girl was petting Molly through the fence and talking to her. By the end of the day we had her riding Molly and by the end of the week she was even trotting on the trails with us. When I bought a scraggly, emotionally scarred, five year old, I would have never guessed that she would ever be what she is today, and that little girl will never forget the gift my little mare gave her that week. 

My name is Rob Foley. I am a Navy SEAL with extreme Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD and I have had many operations over the years. The PTSD has always been the most difficult living with and then the more recent news regarding the entire left hemisphere of my brain being severely damaged. As one top Neurologist put it; "Robert, this is one of the worst I have ever seen. You should not be able to walk or talk". 

Well I do walk and talk and without explanation as to how I am able to do this I credit my Creator and give thanks to my Creator each and every day. My introduction to horses is what changed and saved my LIFE. I was taught with horses, "slow is the way to go". They also shared with me, "Not to bend a horse to my will, but rather reach an agreement with the horse" and the TRUST will grow quickly and it has with every horse I have stood with. I FEEL the horse and the horse FEELs me.

It was one day in early 2013 walking with a horse out of the pasture during a wintery snow storm that I heard a voice, a voice that would change my life. The "Voice" said to me on that blistery morning, "It's NOT about you!" and I stopped as did my horse and again I heard, "It's NOT about YOU!" Tears welled up in my eyes because ONLY then did I understand the WORDS! It was not about me. Yes, I need these horses. Yes, these horses have helped to heal my shredded heard when it comes to my PTSD. Yes, these beautiful creatures, horses, helped me decompress and bring me peace and calmness and each and every horse that I have touched is aware of what they give me. But NOW, I discovered that I must share this AMAZING Healing Power of the horse with my Veteran brothers and sisters suffering from PTSD, TBI and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). 

My purpose today, as it has been for the last year is to stand with horses and speak openly like the “point of the spear” on behalf of Veterans suffering with PTSD, TBI and MST. Twenty four Veterans kill themselves each day or 8765 Veterans kill themselves each year. 26,000 Veterans (predominantly Woman) are RAPED (MST) by fellow soldiers each year. I speak publicly on behalf of my brother and sister Veterans to reduce the number of suicides. I do it to give Veterans a new sense of TRUST and HOPE that they can once again have “Peace of Mind” (that MOST Americans who have not served have and take for granted) and finally a PURPOSE to live again. If I can prevent one suicide, I may be possibly saving a marriage, a family and the children that are affected and will be for generations as will their children from PTSD that originated from their father or mother or both. Horses are so POWERFUL in their healing abilities and this is the message I will continue to share with Veterans. I will also share this with the REAL Heroes and they are the folks that have the resources and abilities to assist our men and women suffering from these afflictions, for they (Veterans) only want what most non-veterans have and that is “Peace of Mind”.


I am 16 years old and have had my horse for about 3 years now. When we purchased him he had been out of work for at least a good year and had previously been a hunter. Over the past few years we have developed an amazing bond that I have not had with another horse. I trained him in eventing along with my trainer and got to experience the thrill of watching him excel in this new discipline. We have had our many struggles, but overcame most of these. He is not an easy horse as many professionals had ridden him and could not get the job done easily. He has moved from beginner novice to training in a span of a year this year and absolutely loves his job. All in all my accomplishment for the year of 2013 was developing an amazing bond with an amazing horse and moving up the levels in eventing. I hope to move up to prelim for 2014! 



 Hello, my name is Willow. My achievement this year was with me and my barn horse Mercedes. It all started when I moved to Ridge Meadow Horse Farm with my pony Belle. The barn owner had just gotten an off the track thoroughbred and her name was Mercedes. He wanted her to be trained so I got on her. When I first sat on her it just felt right and I knew right then we had a special connection. She was now my favorite horse to ride and I rode her 3 times a week. I took her to schooling shows and got a lot of compliments on how well she looked and how well I looked on her. We did so good at every single show, winning champion at our 3rd show ever! After riding her for 6 months and jumping her, she was fantastic. I knew she would be my next horse and she was for sale.

Before we were going to buy her we got a vet check done. Mercedes had shown no signs of anything being wrong but the vet said otherwise. The vet took X-rays of her legs and it turned out that she had an old fracture in her splint bone and one of her tendons had been torn off the bone that anchored it. The vet was surprised that Mercedes had been jumping for me and had kept me so safe the whole time I was riding her. The vet told me that Mercedes should not be jumped anymore to lower the risk of her breaking her ankle. After this news I was so upset because the bond that Mercedes and I had made was unbreakable at this point. Even with what the vet said and lots of tears I am still going to buy her understanding that she can not jump or do a lot of things. I am going to do showmanship and trails with her now :) So I can say my accomplishment was the bond I have made with this horse and how well she has been to me. I love you Mercedes.



This year was a big year for my horse, Mango, and I. He is a 7 year old warmblood thoroughbred and this year we were not only able to move up in the jumpers from the .95 meter jumpers to the 1.10 jumpers, but we also accomplished something I have been working on for 3 years and hardly getting anywhere. We got our first flying lead changes! He started out the year hardly knowing where his hind feet even were and by the day after Christmas he gave me the best Christmas present he ever could have, he finally figured out how to do flying lead changes. 



I've ridden since I was a little girl, eight or nine. I started when we lived in England, and it was important that when I moved to Texas I find a barn ASAP. I found a great barn and trainer and the rest was history.
When I was 13 I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and became too ill to ride, but I was determined to get back on a horse. And I did just that. But due to complications from my Crohn's, I would pass out a lot in the heat as my body was too weak to handle hot Texas summers. But I persevered and kept trying, and eventually was back to riding as much as I could. Next step? A horse of my own. I was lucky enough to get a "porse", not quite pony, not quite horse. With him I even competed in some local shows, something I thought I'd never do. 

Unfortunately I had to move barns due to some political stuff (you know the horse world), and was also outgrowing my beloved pony. So I leased a big warm blood when I was 18. I had graduated high school early and literally put all I had into riding. It was a big change and I went through some rough spells with Juaquin, hitting the dirt a lot, but I always got back on. 

My barn started traveling doing A shows, something I definitely thought I'd never do. It was a big adjustment for me, a big powerful jumper and technical courses. If I did something he let me know it by dumping me. I hit the dirt a lot. But my goal was always to just move up from low children's to the highs. I kept at it even though I wanted to quit many times because I couldn't seem to finish a course. But hard work started to pay off. I remember the first time I got champion with Juaquin, at an A show in Waco. And then it finally happened, the last day of the last show I was to do with Juaquin before my lease was up, my trainer put me in the highs, and not only that, but the classic too! I didn't finish my course, but I did get around the classic, with an unfortunate rail. I was just thankful I got to experience the high children's before I would be going to college and not riding as much again. 

And all in and out of this time I had to battle my Crohn's disease, in and out of hospital, tests and labs, sick days or weeks even. But riding also helped; animals are healing. I'll always be a rider even though I rarely compete now.  I was diagnosed with a much more serious pain disease and at the moment have difficulty walking. But I know I'll be back in the saddle, nothing can keep me away that long. 


Leigh - Ana

On November 30, 2012 I signed the paperwork, which made me the proud owner of the most beautiful Hanoverian/Thoroughbred filly I had ever laid eyes on. She was spirited, intelligent, and full of raw talent just waiting to be developed. One year later, almost to the date, I sat on a chair peering through a small square window, at my perfect filly, lying on an operating table, fighting to save the vision in her left eye.

It was the last month of classes for the fall semester (how all college students organize their calendars), when I received a message from my barn manager that my filly, Harper, came in from the pasture with a foggy spot on her left eye. After consulting with my vet and putting her on medication without delay, the injury only worsened. Upon recommendation from my vet, I scheduled her for an immediate procedure, which would take place two hours away. Hauling my filly and her pasture mate as a trailer buddy, I had high hopes for a smooth surgery and almost guaranteed full recovery. To my horror, that was not the news I received upon her admission and pre-operation exam. I was told that the eye had deteriorated so greatly that there was only one layer left of her cornea and that it was on the verge of rupturing at any moment. I was recommended trailering her to New Bolton for an emergency cornea transplant, as the previously planned procedure no longer gave her a sizeable chance to save her eye and the vision tied to it. In that moment I saw my 18-month-old filly’s wonderfully broad future narrow to the walls that would confine her to limited vision. Due to the limited financial funds well known to students, the recommended trip to New Bolton was not an option. We went forward with the scheduled procedure as her only chance.  

Harper underwent a conjunctival pedical graft surgery with complete tarsorrhaphy. She came through the surgery and woke up from the anesthesia, however the surgeon was even less hopeful post surgery as she noted the rest of the cornea was bulging and lifting up off of the rest of her eye. We travelled home the next day with heavy hearts and instructions to dose her through the catheter every two hours, around the clock. With the help of the most dedicated barn manager, Nicole Malott, a couple of loving friends, and the organization of countless excel spread sheets, Harper received her medications every two hours, including midnight, 2am, and 4am everyday. For the next two weeks we would not know the outcome of all the hard work, as the eye may have ruptured without us being able to tell, due to her eye being sutured completely shut. In total, she was on seven different medications. At the end of the two-week period, and many needles, syringes, and lost hours of sleep later, the sutures were removed to reveal what was a fully intact eye, which, after a couple more weeks of medications, would be healed.

My perfect filly made a perfect recovery from what we were told would most likely leave her without her left eye; and that, is my best accomplishment from the 2013 year!