Life #1—Hopper escapes the glue factory. In 2006, I was recovering from the big accident in my life, when a young horse turned over on me and had reconstructive surgery with cadaver parts. I wasn’t yet back to riding young horses, but I asked a killer truck driver about a pony who was on the truck as a potential project horse for our barn manager. The ponies weren’t of interest once off the truck, but at the front of the truck was a hairy, scruffy, rough looking TB with the most kind eye I’ve ever seen on a horse. I inquired about the TB, and the dealer told me, “You know those horses who shouldn’t be on slaughter trucks? This isn’t one of them.” Despite his warnings that the horse was agressive and difficult, I fell in love. He was covered head to toe in mud, with a 3″ long winter coat that made him look like a pony. But in that moment, I fell hopelessly in love with Grasshopper.
Life #2, Hopper as a pasture ornament... I started training my young TB, and loved him immediately. But soon after, he had a freak accident where a splinter of wood ended up through his coronet band and towards his coffin joint. The diagnosis? We hoped he would be sound as a pasture ornament. I owed that to my beloved young horse. So after buying him off the truck for a couple of hundred dollars, I invested $10,000 of our hard earned money into vet bills to try to save him… Long story short, we used numerous experimental procedures done, and then 8 months of turnout… On re-exam, he was 100% sound and passed a revetting with flying colors! The wonderful vets at Rood & Riddle had bought him a new life. (He’s the most incredibly sound horse today, and the x-rays are nearly perfect from that foot!)
So the years have drawn on, and my beloved horse is the love of my life. He has won numerous preliminary horse trials, jumped around Fair Hill clean twice, and won the Area 8 championships. He has done several years at Intermediate, and is solidly at third level dressage. He just had his first Intermediate win at KY Classic!
Life #3—This week… But Tuesday 11am, I knew something wasn’t right–in his own odd way, he was showing me that he was colicking. I called Dr. Newton, who is the most amazing vet on the planet, and he came right away. That day, he worked on Hop three separate times, but we weren’t winning the battle. At 5pm, he was admitted to the hospital. I sat vigil at his bedside all evening, and at 8pm he took a turn for the worse. His vet, Dr. Hopper (fate?) was called back from the office, as it was time to make a call on colic surgery…. Amazingly, as Dr Hopper walked in, Hop stopped panicing and became calm. He bought himself more time.
I’m a pretty calm person in an emergency, and I’ve been through a lot the last two years… But sitting up Tuesday night waiting for the call that Hop might go into surgery, I was a mess. I threw up all night nonstop, and spent the night on the bathroom floor. I love this horse more than anything in the world… He is my best friend. He may not be a fifty thousand dollar imported warmblood, but that $500 killer truck TB is the love of my life.
But true to Hop, he pushed through. Twice that night, they thought he’d need surgery, but he toughed through it… By morning, he was slightly better. Then the next morning, he was better still. I spent so much of the last three days sitting in the corner of his stall at the clinic that I think the staff was so tired of me! But they were all so incredibly wonderful. They nursed Hop through, and tonight I got to bring my boy home.
He may not be out of the woods yet, but just bringing him home was so incredible. He is so funny—we love each other so much, but he pretty much hates every other person on the planet. He is so happy to be home, he was being a brat to some of the vet clinic staff today… As my dad said, that means our boy is back!
I’ve cleared his schedule for the rest of the year. Everything in life seems so much more trivial… Every day that he’s with me, so much more sweet. I am so incredibly lucky to have such an incredible horse in my life. And I will appreciate every moment.
My horse is home. Thank goodness he has nine lives. (Written from the barn—Who knows if I’ll leave his stall tonight.)