So, I've had a lot of friends, near and far, asking me for "horse updates". Here it is in June, and it would appear I'm still sitting on the sidelines.
The reality is...much like an awkward facebook relationship status..."It's complicated".
I spend a lot of time on these blogs and updates talking about riding, and my journey, and my inspirations, but what I haven't really spend a lot of time talking about is what makes me a PARA equestrian versus a "regular". What puts the DIS in my abilities.
Frankly, disability hitting you at the age of 20 really screws you up. I was pretty much sure I was invincible, then one day I got sick, and never got better. It took me a long time to realize that I could have a beautiful, meaningful, life that also involved being disabled.
When I took up riding again in 2003, I told a lot of people that it gave me an identity outside of a disabled adult, and it did. I got involved in competition, and realized that holy hell...here was a sport I was GOOD at. As a kid, I desperately wanted to be good at sports, and would try my ass off to run faster, hit the ball, climb the rope...but was hopelessly uncoordinated and slow. In ballet class I was labeled "The Elephant". If I were born in a different decade, I would have been labeled differently, and shunted off to early intervention therapies. For a kid, is there a difference between being the elephant, or having hypotonia?
As time went on, I realized that my identity as a rider, however, was inexorably linked to the fact that I was disabled. At first I tried the Rah Rah Pride Embrace my Difference Approach. But as I continued to struggled with my "illness", I continued to question my identity.
Doctors have never clearly figured out what my "problem" is. I have been diagnosed with a myriad of issues, and the general consensus is that I had a congenital issue, that was complicated by an infection in college. Even in the realm of attempting to embrace my disability....what was there to embrace? I had no "name", no easy explanation. My elevator speech was complicated and vague.
I suppose I started to feel shame at some point. That because there is no Facebook page or support group, no 5k fundraising run for what I have, it is not worth talking about, that people don't care.
As I continued my riding, my journey, I became lost. A rider without a vision. My focus become very narrow, very "horse-centric", and very focused on the technicalities of riding...as I shoved away the pieces of myself, I did not allow much if any room for true partnership, the joy, the grace the dance, which is why I fell in love with this sport.
Life has a funny way of making us humble when we need it the least, though. As I have been trying to put the pieces together of how to make myself "whole" again, I found myself dealing with a flare of my condition, along with complications of an injury to my foot last year, culminating in a pretty big reminder of the DIS in my ability. Accept it baby, the elephant is here.
To give you an idea of what I live with, I have little to no sensation below the knee. Since the foot injury, I now have a new sensation - pain. I wake up from dreams that my foot is a giant ball of fire. Thankfully the pain is not constant. I have fatigue and muscle weakness. And while my muscles are weak, they also spasm, and don't always react in the way I expect them to. For example, I might go to pick up a mug with my right hand. I will reach out, grasp the handle, but as my arm goes to lift, my hand will let go, or my arm will jerk forward. Most days, nobody will notice anything wrong. I know my boundaries, know how far I can walk before fatiguing, my pain is managed, and I am great. But when the Elephant is around, it's anyones guess.
So...getting back to that "horse update". I have never been more sure in my life that I am ready to dance. I have never been more sure that I belong in Para Dressage, and while Elephants and Dressage horses are unusual companions...I think this time it might just work.
I believe I have found a suitable competition horse for Normandy, and my greatest challenge at the moment is funding. I am admittedly feeling a little behind the eight ball, as I lost so many weeks to my own process. But with hope, determination, and my community behind me...well, "where there's a will there's a way".
It's time to get this show on the ROAD!! I have had a rough start to the year, but am anxious to get my NORTHWEST TO NORMANDY campaign rolling, to see everyone out at the shows, and immerse myself again in this sport I love so much.
Funding is the greatest obstacle for any of us. I was floored at how our community came together last year to raise over $4,000 to help get Rocco and I to Selection Trials.
I continue to look for new sponsors and new ways to get the word out about the amazing things that are happening in the world of Para Dressage, and in Disabled Sport as a whole.
I hope to have many more exciting announcements in the weeks ahead, and thank you for all your support, from hoof to heart!
It's been what feels like an eternity since I last posted an update...but it's long overdue!
I took a bit of a break through the Fall to focus on my business, and to gain a bit of clarity about my competition future. After 6 years of pushing and struggling and competing, and a number of fantastic victories, along with some heartache, I needed to decide what I really wanted.
After a lot of thinking, I decided that this sport is my passion. Horses and Riding give me reason to get up in the morning, and competing gives me such joy in "the dance".
I have missed it.
I also decided that if I was going to continue to compete, that I should push myself harder, and really set my aim high. Work to win, not to just "get there".
I wasn't sure it would happen...finding/funding an international quality horse, along with a campaign, while also putting energy into my small business is not a small task.
All things happen for a reason, however, and it looks like whether by providence, serendipity, or because I have a lot of people in my world who care, I may be ready to get this show on the road!
I will have a lot more to report in the weeks ahead...so stay tuned.
I cannot do this without your help, and I would not be here without you. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you for all that you WILL do!
Thank you ALL for your incredible support. I am sorry I was not able to post more, but ended up being quite busy!
The good news: Rocco travelled incredibly well, and garnered fans at every stop along our journey.
The bad news: I made the decision to withdraw from Selection Trials on the last day of competition, because Rocco and I were just not ready. He warmed up great, and was a cool customer around the showgrounds, but the test itself proved challenging, and I did not see the purpose in pushing Rocco beyond his comfort level.
All along it was a risk, but sometimes you just gotta leap. Horses can be heartbreaking - I vividly remember the 2007 Selection Trials for Para World Championships, when minutes before the vet inspection, Valeur bruised his foot on a rock walking out of his stall. It is of course disappointing after all the work, and really after all the support I have had to get that far.
However, my horse will always come first, whether we are at a show just down the road, or thousands of miles away.
Rocco will begin his journey home from his "vacation" at Whiskey Lane Farm (where he has been enjoying sunshine, grass, and lots of attention).
I am not sure "what comes next", but surely Rocco and I will have more adventure ahead.
Thank you all for believing in me, Rocco, and for your tireless support.
I have had a few people ask me to use this page to keep everyone updated! (and of course, the fundraising never ends, ha!).
Rocco left home-base in Snohomish Friday morning. Carolynn Bunch took some fantastic pictures, and provided some much-needed moral support - I was beside myself with worry. It was much harder than anticipated to send Rocco off on the first leg of our journey - I was agonizing every detail and decision. He is so incredibly special, and special to me, I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing.
I had a packing-frenzy Friday evening (after seeing patients and teaching a lesson!). Flight to Ontario, CA departed 7am Saturday morning. I was into California early, as Rocco was not scheduled to arrive until that evening at the earliest. First hurdle conquered - I was able to successfully rent a car without a credit card (I cut up all my credit cards last year in an effort to be more financially accountable - but kick myself every time I head out on a big trip - travel presents some unique challenges!). Second hurdled was also conquered - I drove in Southern California without dying (I am the worst kind of Seattle driver, no shame).
Then...the waiting. Initial ETA for Rocco was around dinnertime. By lunchtime, I had a call letting me know the drivers had been significantly delayed leaving Washington, so it would be more like 10pm. No problem. I figured I would be able to take a nap, get some dinner and a shower, and we'd be set. Unfortunately...10pm became midnight...and midnight eventually rolled into 1am. Thankfully by that point I was too tired to be obsessively worried.
I have to thank Amanda Olson at W Farms for rolling with the punches - and being so incredibly helpful at such an awful hour!!! I could not have asked for a better landing place for Rocco at the end of such a long journey. I had to laugh as the shippers dropped the ramp - there was a lot of worried nickers from the truck full of ponies, yet there was Rocco, with a giant mouthful of hay, calm as can be, and not at all surprised to see me waiting for him! He traveled well, the shippers reported he drank plenty of water, and clearly enjoyed the snacks.
We both rested this morning. I headed over around lunchtime to see how Rocco was feeling, and give him a bath - the first of many in the next few weeks. Rocco apparently and by report slept hard - there were shavings in strange and exciting places! He is in great shape - eating and drinking well, and clearly wondering "what's next?".
So...what's next? Tomorrow, more rest, a light schooling ride, and lots of carrots!
Thank you all for your support, and for believing in "Team Rocco"!!!
My head is swimming in details. Hotels, bran mashes, ulcergard, adequan, health certificates, coolers-blankets-sheets, saddle pads (laundry?), whites, nosebands, snaffle, curb, bridoon, grain rations, supplements, rubber bands, quick braid, fly spray, ripped paddock boots (argh)...and trying to reassure myself it will ALL WORK OUT!!!
I will be keeping this page updated, and have also been asked to keep a journal at Barnby notes - if you are not familiar with Barnby notes, do check them out! I will be using that space to reflect on the training aspects of this adventure...it has been such a learning process as I have put my full faith in Rocco.
Please continue to spread the word, your continued support is so appreciated!!
I would like to thank "Team Cavallis" for going above and beyond!! We have a fantastic dressage community here in the Pacific Northwest, do not ever doubt it!
It is coming down to the wire, and plans are coming together!! I am finding that between juggling my business, teaching, and riding, that I have not left much time in my day for planning such a huge trip!
I am carving out space this week to start working on all the nitty-gritty details. Lots of paperwork and lists. Laundry. Packing. Phone calls!
Rocco will ship to California on Friday. I am hoping to send a small container of his "stuff" with him. His journey to the LA area is approximately 24 hours. I fly down Saturday, and meet up with him upon his arrival. We will use our time in California to rest, but also to prepare. Short, sweet, focused rides for Rocco, and a chance for me to strategize.
I will end up flying out on a red-eye June 5, and Rocco will fly out the morning of June 6 to NJ.
I am a bit anxious about how it will all work out - not sure where I am staying or how I am going to get there, but just have to believe it will all work out somehow. Sometimes you just gotta leap.
Rocco is doing wonderfully, and for that I am thankful. We finally found the "medium canter" button (although there is still more in there), and now we have to re-locate the "canter half-halt" button, but so it goes. It is always a balance (literally and figuratively!).
I want to thank everyone for their support, financial or otherwise. I will be keeping everyone updated, I promise!
If you have not yet contributed, please consider a gift to help keep this journey on track. I am still facing extensive costs. By helping remove the financial stress of this journey, you will allow me to focus on what I truly do best - ride to win!
I just saw that a dear friend has donated in honor of Amy Tryon. I have to confess, that stopped me in my tracks, and brought tears to my eyes. Amy was an icon in this area. She worked hard, and aimed high, and there is such a huge hole left with her passing. If we do not have role models showing us that hard work and big dreams DO pay off, what do we have??
At any rate...the clock is ticking. Rocco will head to SoCal June 1. My plan at this point is to fly down and join him upon his arrival, and have a few quiet days to wrap our heads around the impending Selection Trials. He will fly back East June 6.
I am still looking for your support to make this trip a success. Donations can be made directly through this website, or tax-deductible donations can be made through my fiscal sponsor - Little Bit TRC - call them at (425) 882-1554, or visit their website littlebit.org.
Immediate financial need is for donations towards travel expenses - airfare, hotel, meals, as well as Rocco's return trip. Please help make this dream come true!
I am a Seattle-area based disabled equestrian, working towards representing the United States at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014, and the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.
I became involved in para equestrian in 2006, and since then have had the incredible experience of competing (and winning!) at multiple international competitions in North America and even Australia. I had the incredible experience of competing at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the first year that disabled riders were included in this amazing event. I am so excited about the opportunity to return to WEG, and my ultimate goal is to bring home a medal.
I live with a rare condition that is a result of a genetic condition that caused low muscle tone and some impairment of coordination, that combined with nerve damage resulting from a severe illness in college. Since I have lived with this condition for some time, I have adapted fairly well, and many people are unaware that I do not feel my feet or parts of my hands, or that I have muscle weakness.
One of my greatest joys in having been a part of the para equestrian program over the past 6 years is seeing the sport grow, the quality of riding and horses improve, ever-increasing acceptance of para athletes at able-bodied events, and push for us to "raise the bar".
That being said, as the sport grows, as do the costs. My campaign over the next year and a half will easily cost upwards of $50,000. These costs include horse care, training, travel to Selection trials, and costs associated with competition (show entries, for example).
I am looking to build my "Team" of sponsors and supporters as I work towards bringing home the Gold!