I use to not know what I'd do if I'd won the lottery, buy a mansion? Buy a boat??? Yeah.... don't care to much about boats and mansions... well now I do know exactly what I would do if I won- I would clone my horse Johnny.
|Johnny's last event- Farewell 2001, Training Level|
He had so much promise to be an upper level eventer, but just as we were starting to think about moving up to Prelim, he crashed and burned. It's a long story that is way to much to type out, but the basic gist of the story goes like this:
The eventual downfall of Johnny's eventing career started with a pulled stifle from galloping around the field when a neighbors horses got loose on the road. The picture above was taken at the last event Johnny and I ever competed in- Farewell 2001 (an aptly named event). At this event I knew something wasn't quite right him, he was sound, but on cross country I was having to kick him along to make time, usually I was doing my best to slow down because he loved jumping so much. The stadium was so bad (but somehow we got one good picture from it!) that when I walked out I knew John needed a vacation. We jumped clear, but it was only because John was so athletic that a 3'3" jump was like asking a professional basketball player to play against high schoolers. We spent the next 3 years bringing Johnny back only for him to re-injure himself once we thought he was back to normal. We worked with top quality performance vets so it's not like we were flying blind. They didn't know what was going on until 2005.
|Johnny at our first event together, FENCE 1999|
I had Johnny with me in college and was taking regular lessons with him, doing my best to get him back into eventing shape. We were consistently jumping 2'9" courses and working on 2nd level Dressage movements until winter break and I took him foxhunting. I'd hunted him before, so it wasn't anything new, but that particular day he was quite fresh and even though we started out first field, i bumped him back to 2nd because he was being so naughty. The next time I rode him he just didn't feel quite right, so no big deal, probably just needed a hock injection or maybe a round of Adequan, after all he'd reached the age where age starts to creep slowly up on a high performance horse. So back to college we went, and a vet appointment was set up. While waiting for the day of the vet appointment I'd walk John around and see if he was improving. Each day he got better and better, and 3 days away I thought he'd felt really good at the walk. But 2 days before the appointment there was a crazy blizzard and I couldn't get down to the barn to check on him until I was able to load him in the trailer and take him to the vet's.
Upon arriving at the vets, the first thing Dr. Jim had me do was trot him in a straight line so he could assess his soundness. I did this and heard Jim call over one of the other vets and I kept trotting in straight lines until they told me to stop, and they gave me the worst news ever- Johnny's problem wasn't musculoskeletal, it was neurological. I cried the entire drive back to the barn, and probably the entire way back to my apartment. What was wrong with my horse??? We figured it out after ruling out all the possibly diseases, and then took him to the Vet school where they were able to take pictures of his vertebrae and could see that the 6th and 7th were pinching his spinal cord, and probably had been for a very long time and over time Johnny's coordination grew weaker and weaker. Basket surgeury was suggested, but because it was almost summer and it was such an invasive surgery, plus long term it wasn't really that reliable, we decided to do prolotherapy instead. It was suggested by a good friend and very forward thinking vet that had know Johnny since he was 4.
|Johnny and his buddy Clyde|
So off he went and when it was all done John started his rehab and I was able to get him back to walking, trotting, and cantering. He could walk over poles, go on trail rides (though flatter ground was better!) and I was able to enjoy him riding him for a couple more years. I did jump him one last time, and it was the scariest moment of my life. As Johnny hurled himself towards the tiny tiny, maybe 12" high log (remember how I said Johnny loved to jump??? Yeah maybe a little to much at this point!!) I thought "Oh god, If you please let all four of Johnny's feet land on the other side and stay in the upright position I will NEVER ask him to do this again" and as my life flashed before my eyes while we were in the air, holding on for dear life, John landed and galloped off up the hill on the other side. I was able to stop him and thought kept thanking all my guardian angels, god, zeus, the force, basically everything for letting me live another day! Johnny, who was very proud of himself for jumping, pranced the rest of the way home and I thanked my lucky stars for letting something that could of been potentially the worst decision of my entire life turn out ok.
|Johnny at his last show before retirement, November 2006|
John retired full time in January 2007. He wasn't feeling quite right anymore, and even though I was still able to ride him, I was loosing the time to do it in. I started student teaching my last semester of college, and that took up all free hours of the day writing out lesson plans, grading papers, and surviving. It's exhausting the very first time you start teaching, and sometimes I wonder how I survived those first few weeks before I got the swing of things. I knew I couldn't give Johnny the amount of attention he needed because he had to be ridden or worked with 6 days a week to keep his neurons working properly and so it was decided to retire him while he was still happy.
|Johnny enjoying his first few days of retirement|
And retired Johnny stayed until this summer, when after 4 1/2 years I decided to ride Johnny again. It was the best moment of my summer, and one that I won't forget for a very long time. As soon as I threw my leg over John's back and sat in the saddle, I felt like I was home. Muscle memory is a funny thing because everything about sitting on John's back was memorized and it was like I never left.
|Riding John for the first time in 4 1/2 years|
So that is why I would clone Johnny if I won the lottery. He is the peanut butter, I am the jelly, and together we make one heck of a sandwich. Gus is on his way to being my next super star horse, but as one can never forget their first love, I will never forget Johnny.