On Not Taking Gifts For Granted

Nov 18, 2013 - 11:21 AM
Taylor and I will be spending some quality time hand-grazing until the New Year.

A few months ago, Role Model (I call her T-Squared since her barn name is Taylor) and I had a freak accident. We have been showing all year at 1.45-meter jumpers and while at home jumping a 3’6” oxer the unthinkable happened. We were preparing for the 7-year-old Midwest Young Jumper Regional Finals at Kentucky, and when she went to take off she tripped, and we flipped through the jump. 

It happened so fast that I didn’t even know what had happened, only that I knew in midair it was not going to be good. I whacked my head and the whole left side of my body, but my adrenaline was running so high I did not even feel any pain until later. I later found out I had a concussion, had separated my shoulder and cracked my wrist. She had cuts and scrapes but seemed to be OK when we trotted her. We later found out differently.

I had an eerie bad feeling after a few days when I could not get the swelling in her knee to go down even though she was walking OK. I knew we needed to do x-rays, if for nothing else to make sure that everything was fine. In my gut though, I knew it was not OK; I thought she had broken her knee. 

The x-rays came back to show that she had chipped off at least six pieces of bone fragment from her accessory carpal bone at the back of her knee. When I first saw the x-rays I bawled like a baby, and it was not just because I would not have my top horse, but because I did not want my horse to suffer. She is like my child, and if I could have taken the pain away I would have. 

We talked to three different well known vets who had never seen anything like and told us she was finished because the location would be too hard to operate on. They believed that surgery would do more damage to the ligaments and cartilage there than it would help. These vets told us that she would never show again, but that she could be a broodmare. 

Taylor is my best friend though, and I would never want her to be in pain. More than any other horse I know, she loves what she does (showing) and hates to do nothing. She has never given up on me and neither I, nor my mother, would give up on her when she needed us. 

I owe so much to my mother, who told me that nothing is impossible, and we would find someone who could help fix her. If nothing else, we could help ensure that she would not be in long-term pain. I called a good friend of mine who has some of the top horses in the country and asked him who the best surgeon in the country was. He told me that Dr. Michael Ross at New Bolton Center Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine would fix her and thank God, he was right. 

We quickly sent over the x-rays and pictures of the knee to Dr. Ross who told us he believed surgery was worth it, as he thought these fragments could be removed. In mid-October, Dr. Ross performed the surgery and successfully removed all the fragments without causing any damage to the knee. He gave T-Squared a good prognosis and told us that he thinks there is a good chance she will come back to show at the same level she was showing. 

Of course, one never knows, and a lot of that will be up to Taylor. I know that if it is up to her though, we will be back in the show ring in no time. She is one of the toughest horses and fighters I have ever been lucky enough to know. Once before in her life a vet has said she needed to be put down and that she would never show. She has since won more classes than I can count and been USEF horse of the year twice. At the end of last year, I wrote her a letter to tell her how I felt about her.

Dear T2,

I could not ask for a better best friend. This year you have stood by me through everything. I know it has not been easy because I have had a rough year with being sick and so many things happening. When other friends have let me down, I have always known I can count on you. I have let you down a few times, but you never hold a grudge. When I make mistakes, you try and cover them up for me. You are always there proving to me that things are OK and you still love me. You have made the impossible possible and made so many of my dreams come true. You have believed in me and trusted me, and I am so lucky to have you in my life. I can never tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life and on my team. I could not ask for a better partner.

Love,
Taylor

How many other horses could go down to the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and win the first six 6-year-old jumper classes they show in? She has given me the confidence to believe I can do anything in life, and she will always be my horse of a lifetime whether she returns to showing or not. She currently has to be on two months of stall rest, and even though I take her out for grass, I know she is already thinking she is ready to go back to work. 

It is easy to take things for granted when you have great horses in your life, and I will be honest, this happened to me with Taylor. I got so used to having such an amazing young horse. Even when she was 5, she was ready to win and knew her job. About a month ago I went to my first show in three years without Taylor; it was eye-opening and difficult. I missed her so much. After coming out of the welcome class with my other young mare I said to my mother, “Now I know why Taylor was worth a million dollars to me.” 

I could always count on Taylor; I knew every time I walked in the ring I was sitting on a winner, and I was so, so lucky to have been able to ride her. She was the first young horse I truly brought along, and she made it so easy and taught me a lot along the way. She was the first partner I had that I knew I could count on to be there for me.         

My surgeries taught me that life is short, and we never know what can happen. Taylor’s injury reinforced that for me. Every day we are able to ride our horses is a wonderful day, and while I am beyond disappointed that I will not have Taylor as my partner for the next few months, I am just so glad we have had the last few years together. I know that she will be back though because she is a fighter, the same as me. We are two peas in a pod. No matter what happens I will always owe so much to this horse who has given me her all.      

Chronicle blogger Taylor Flury rides out of her family’s AliBoo Farm in Minooka, Ill., and competes primarily in the jumpers. Flury’s top mount is the U.S.-bred Role Model (Roc USA—Darling Devil), who claimed U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year titles in 2011 and 2012 in the 5- and 6-Year-Old Jumper divisions. Their story includes brain surgeries and broken shoulders along with the blue ribbons. 

Want to know more about Taylor and Role Model? Read the article that appeared in the March 19, 2012 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

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