Several people have emailed offering encouragement and saying I must be frustrated with my scores. I so appreciate the encouraging words, but I want to express that I feel no frustration at all. I went to the show with absolutely no expectation of score. Although Nicolai didn't have the world's best walk, he was an absolutely ideal horse to get back in the ring on. Such an amazingly wonderful temperament and unbelievably adaptable to figure out my aids, with a weak right side, and Sydney's aids, with almost no left side, in 5 rides! Houston was amazingly generous in lending horses, not just to me but to all the paras, and I'm absolutely certain that none would be better for me than Saint Nic. I'm thrilled to have a chance, however slim, to go for the Paralympics. I really appreciate the kind words, but rest assured I feel no such frustration, only joy at being back in the ring!!
This is what I wrote in my joural. It sums up the weekend and my experience....
I won!!! 69.4!!
It was smooth and flowing, and in the freestyle you can't go off course! And I had no right turns off the centerline and no extended walks from right to left! :) After almost a week of riding him, I also had a technique of how to ride Nicolai to his best, too. I was tempted to ride with too short of reins to look and feel more put together, but I realized it's better to take a chance of looking sloppy and have a horse with a relaxed top line and better walk. It's logical knowing Righty don't follow so good.
My music is so great, Kung Fu Panda! I still hate riding freestyles in general, but I really love this one! Thanks, Marlene!
And now I can put the wheelchair to rest and start walking again, yay! Till Gladstone, of course!
Team Gold definitely pulled through!!!
Jason was here and videoed on his iPad. It's not great quality, but it's what I have!
This whole experience has been amazing... humbling, invigorating, fun. It's as if doctors said, "Clear!" and shocked my heart into beating. I have met so many wonderful people... Susan Shiba, who is Rondo's trainer, Sydney Collier, who is the para I shared Saint Nic with. I was speaking with Nicolai's owner, Andrea Hart, and trying to express my enormous appreciation; and she pointed out the trueness that it was a group effort. Kathy Jones put us together. Their trainer, Rebekah Wesatzke, got the passport in order and devoted a ton of time to helping us. Esther Noiles of Woods Lane Farm,the owner of Regazzoni, Sue Curry Shaffer of Fairwind Farm, the owner of Donnerschlag, as well as High Point Hanoverians, and countless distant supporters, funded and made possible my trip here. My gratitude goes beyond words. And I'm so glad this is only the start of the journey!
I made it!!! 62.7%, so not a great score but above 60! Nicolai was so so perfect! I went off course once (stupid, stupid, stupid!!!), and I had my reins too short, so, partly because Righty refuses to follow, I was constricting his topline. So, beyond Buddy having a more impressive walk, there are a lot of things I can improve.
The final step to qualify for Gladstone is that, the other scores don't matter, but I must complete all 3 tests. So no siezures, no lameness, and I'll be good to go!
post show with Nicolai's owner, Andrea!
We moved into the show today. It feels so unbelievably good to be in that environment again. The showgrounds are wonderful. Almost everything is indoors: 2 showrings, warm ups, permanent type stabling. The grounds are expansive with cute little trails meandering around, and some stalls are 12 by 14. Saint Nic couldn't be any more perfect! It's been unbelivably comforting and helpful to have Lendon here.
We had the jog today, and I got reclassified. I was classified over the summer as a 1b, which has trot. According to my testing, I was right on the brink between 1a, which is only walk, and 1b. So we decided to put me in 1b assuming that I would progress. Unfortunately I did not. The clonus or spasticity (or Thumper), made things worse. Except my left arm, which seems to have escaped that ailment, is better. I've spent the last few days assessing how long I have on the horse before Thumper goes crazy. I have about 15-20 minutes. I can still use him when he thumps, just obviously not well, and luckily Nicolai doesn't care; he just resolutely ignores it, which is no good for control.
I'm so exited to show, compete, be home; but I can't help feeling a bit of anxiety because Jane Buddy this horse to go for the Paralympics. I need a 60% to qualify for the Selection Trials.... Come on 60!
Rondo proved to need more cleverness than Righty is able to manage, so Kathy amazingly found me another horse to ride. His name is Nicolai, and he's PERFECT! He's just what I imagined when I came here. On Rondo, I was only working on figuring out how to ride the horse; on Nicolai I can practice my tests! Man is it hard to stay straight on centerline at the walk!
The people here are exceptionally nice, fun to be around, and they make me feel very welcome. I am very fond of Kathy's trainer, Susan Shiba. I've been helping her school a horse she's going to show in the small tour, and she's loads of fun to teach.
As I explained to one of my clients, I know that it's a risk to show. I probably know better than anyone that horses are unpredictable. But horses are my soul, and competition is my heart; so I choose to take the risk.
I'm in Houston!! I've been amazingly spoiled. Kathleen Jones who owns the horse I'm riding, Rondo, had one of her friends, Judy Albrecht loan me a car. Kathy's trainer, Susan Shiba, arranged for me to be a guest at her father's retirement home. It is like a home, an apartment: cute decorations, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen. It includes 2 meals a day (which is fortunate since niether Koryn or I cook!), all for $140 a day! Me, Lendon, Jason, and Koryn will all stay here!
I rode Rondo yesterday. He has a tremendous walk and a great temperament. I had some therapists from a local theraputic riding stable come to make sure everything was safe. He was absolutly perfect, but I am embarrassed to say, I made a huge mistake. I simply didn't take the time to get to know him or let him get to know me. I just jumped straight into working on my test. I learned long ago that the hard part of riding a test is never the movements themselves but keeping the horse honest between your aids. I'm so looking forward to my ride today to take advantage of what I relearned yesterday!
While I'm away Katherine Bateson-Chandler, who is a very good friend as well as being sponsored by Jane, is training Buddy for me. I told her, "no piaffe, yet!" I feel unbelievably fortunate; with Jane, Katherine, and my girls, it really feels like a team. Not to mention Jason, Betsy, and the thousands of faceless supporters.
In this industry particularly, no one rises to the top alone. All along the way, I've had immense support. But this time feels different.... more, less personal. I just hope I can justify your incredible support.
As an aside, I don't know how I forgot to mention a person I owe endless gratitude. (damn brain injury!) Stephanie Goodman of Three Winds Equine Services is an equine broker who contacted me as soon as I announced I was looking for a horse and offered her services for free. She was incredibly helpful, and we tried several horses she pointed us toward. She is the one who brought Buddy to my attention. It took many people to bring me and Buddy together, but it wouldn't have been possible without Stephanie. XXXXXXXXX
I got a horse!!!
Although one of my sponsors passed on a horse I liked for good reason, I couldn't get him out of my mind. He has an excellent walk, an unbeatable temperament and is beautiful. What else could I currently ask for? So I called Jane Clark and said, since one of the few disciplines she hadn't had a horse in the Olympics in was para, did she want to buy him for me? To my absolute shock and bliss, she said, "That sounds like fun!"
I changed his show name to "Make Lemonade." His barn name is perfect: Buddy.
He got to my barn this afternoon, and the first thing I did was groom him (go, Righty, go!) I warned him that it may hurt a little bit, but he didn't move a muscle, just stood like a very cheerful statue! It was so great to be able to give his neck a full on hug, something I haven't dared to do with another horse in over 2 years.
As I said before the last Olympics, I know that all of the stars need to be in the right alignment and the horse needs to wake up on the right side of the stall on the morning of the selection trials in order to make the Team; a lot of luck is involved, but it gives me something to work for. It feels SO good to have a goal. Whether I make it or not is secondary; the striving for it is what I yearn for.
Jane was unbelievably generous in purchasing Buddy, and she promised me, "he will never miss a meal," but I need to cover what I can for his expenses. So I called Carol Lavell to see if by any chance I could use the Prize I won immediately before my accident to help support him. She couldn't have been more excited. She said, "You won that money fair and square, and I couldn't think of something more in line with its purpose." I wanna represent my country, even if it's only at the walk! And one of my clients, Alex Rukeyser, unbelievably gave a generous amount because she "so wants to be part of my Olympic dream."
So I have an extremely good start, but as we all know, maintaining a horse is expensive, especially when going after the Olympics. So an old friend, Laura Aikin, came up with an idea. Because I was going for the last Olympics on Idy, on whom I paid all expenses, I did something called "Courtney's Quest." It was a fundraiser I absolutely adored because, instead of asking for something for nothing, it was a way I could give something in return. What I did was this: everyone who gave money received my journals via email chronicling my journey. I was torn about whether to pursue this idea because I keep up this website blog. And I think, because of the immense amount of past financial and emotional support, anyone who wants to, deserves to be kept informed. I don't want to or feel right about stopping. Then, as usual, I called Lendon for advice. She said, "Well, your web updates are brief and infrequent. You could do a more frequent and detailed one for contributors and still do your general one." Lendon is very prolific in having brain children.
SO, I asked the woman who very generously manages my medical fund, if there was any way we could have a separate account for Buddy. She said absolutely!
So, if you want to be a part of my pursuit of the Olympic dream, Courtney's Quest Continued, send a minimum of $100 made out to Courtney Dye Paralympic Fund' along with your email address, and you will receive my journal. Send to:
Law Office of Elizabeth Clarke
Equine Business Institute
P.O. Box 286
South Deerfield, MA 01373
phone 413-665-7400/fax 413-665-7419
I loathe to be a person thought to always ask for money. I so appreciate all of the help thus far; please don't think I'm a "give an inch take a mile" sort of person. Jane promises that we will never be left in the rain, but she asked that I do what I can and pointed out that some people may WANT to help. So, please, only give if you want to be a part of it. For my therapies, I was in need and can't say thank you enough; for this, my health is not at risk, and I will be fine if you don't want to give. That's a reason I thought doing "Courtney's Quest Continued" was right. I want contributions from the people who want to part of my Olympic dream. This is a way I can bring you along on that journey.
Here's a video with my new love, Make Lemonade. FYI It is not my para test, just something I made up as I went along.
In Houston, Kathleen Jones was incredibly generous both with helping me prepare and loaning me her own wonderful horse, Rondo Del Rey, to show. I can’t thank her enough for making this dream possible.
What’s even more and completely mystifies me, is that the owners of Rondo’s sire and dam sire are auctioning off breedings to them to help cover my expenses!! My goodness! Esther Noiles of Woods Lane Farm who owns Regazzoni, Rondo’s sire, spearheaded the whole endeavor. The owner of Donnerschlag, Sue Curry Shaffer of Fairwind Farm, followed suit and donated a breeding to the dam sire, too! This comes as a complete relief because, whereas for the trials I hope to have a sponsor, this first show is all on me. I was, and am, prepared to go into credit card debt, in order to chase this dream (as usual, I’m determined make the impossible possible). If I don’t reach and stretch, it feels like I’d just be twiddling my thumbs, foresaking what I love, for my time here on Earth.
My dad and step mom have expressed their concern at having me in the saddle again. It must be incredibly gut wrenching for them, but they said if I choose to do it, they’re behind me 100%. It means the world to me that if I’m willing to take the risk, they’re willing to take it with me. Horses are a risk even for the able bodied, and if I stay off a horse, it would feel as if I locked myself in the bedroom afraid to come out for fear that something may fall on me. I so appreciate my loved ones’ fear, but if I don’t ride, I don’t live; and they know that. I make sure everything is as safe as possible, but I know as well as anyone that horses are unpredictable. It’s a risk all riders choose to take for the passion.