Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 28
Shannon Allen has only owned KD Mac for 3½ years, but in that time period they’ve had more than their fair share of illness and injury. Shortly after Allen purchased the off-the-track Thoroughbred, he colicked and required surgery to remove 14 feet of his intestines.
“The problem is that his surgery is the highest fatality of colic surgeries,” said Allen. “When they take out the intestines they have to be able to put it back together. Luckily for him the ends of his intestines were the same size, so they were able to put it back together.”
But once he was out of surgery, the recovery process was lengthy. Odds are he won’t survive another severe colic, so he has to be monitored closely. He can’t process sugar and can no longer be given bute, and all of his food is served heavily soaked.
They spent three months hand walking before he was cleared for tack walks. They continued that until he was fit again, and it took an additional six months before he put the weight back on.
But once he was back on form, Allen was ready to hit the ground running. “Max” (Langfuhr—Aly’s Di, Alysheba) was 8 when he retired from racing and spent several years living at a farm where all he did was hack around the property. Allen purchased him when he was 12.
“He didn’t know anything,” she said. “He could hack, and he could trailer, and that was all he knew. The guy free jumped him, so he could throw his body over a fence, and when I say throw I mean he could really throw his body over a fence.
“He’s quirky, and he doesn’t act his age, because he’s 16,” she added. “He’s a sassy giraffe. That pretty much just sums him up—he’s sassy all the time.”
They competed at beginner novice for two years and moved up to novice in May of 2018, but this time their season was cut short due to an injury on Allen’s part. The 23-year-old had been an intern for the Department of Justice and had recently accepted a full-time position in Pittsburgh. The day before she was supposed to start her new job, she fell down the stairs and broke her right ankle, which required surgery to repair.
Allen spent three months on crutches and in a walking cast before she could return to riding.
“The problem with the ankle is there’s not a lot of soft tissue, so I can feel my plate,” she said. “There’s a giant screw across, so I can feel it. The biggest problem getting me back into riding was every little jolt sideways hurt.
“We did a lot of flatting for a while, and then we did a little jumping,” Allen continued. “For the first three months I was jumping, I was having to lean on the landing side away from it, but I was determined. That happened in September, and I did my first jump back in February over really little stuff because it wasn’t the take-off but the landing, because when landing it would jolt.”
Max spent the winter competing with Allen’s trainer, Ashley Trier, and the pair made their competitive comeback at the Virginia Horse Trials this May.
Allen tends to plan her life well in advance.
“With my job I have to work one weekend a month, which makes the weekends before and after long, so I talk to [Trier] about what we should get done,” she said. “He’s a really good flatting horse, so usually we try to get jumping done while I’m there, and then Ashley flats him, so I just plan everything out in the week. In terms of shows I have to plan out months ahead. ‘OK this is my idea of what we are going to do,’ and then a job thing comes up because we’re on call all the time.”
Each Friday, Allen makes the four-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Trier’s farm in The Plains, Virginia, where she soaks up as much horse time as possible and serves as a working student.
“She’s really good at training horses based on what they need and not, ‘I’m going to train this way on every horse,’ ” said Allen. “He’s sensitive, so she’s really good at adjusting how she does things based on what the horse needs. So once I found her I was like, ‘Yeah I’m sticking with you.’ I work for her just because I enjoy it so much.”
Trier rides Max during the week, and a friend of Allen’s does trot sets on him when needed.
“It’s this balance,” said Allen. “I have no social life. I’m always either at work or I’m riding.”
Allen has been eventing for 10 years, but this is her first time competing at the U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships, where she’s contesting the amateur novice division. She’d planned to go in the past, but something’s prevented her each time.
“Every year that it’s near me, either the horse got hurt or I got hurt,” she said. “One year I broke my knee; another year I sprained my ankle, and then my [previous] horse got hurt. So this year I was like, ‘OK we’re going, so bubble wrap [him and me]!’ ”
Her goal for the weekend was simple: “Everyone else is like, ‘I want to survive on my horse,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I need to survive on the ground before I get on my horse,’ ” she joked. “I’m not worried about my horse. I just need to get on my horse without injury myself first. I need to make it to Friday [when I go cross-country].”
Allen did more that survive—at the conclusion of the novice amateur division, she finished fourth overall, and Max was the top-placing Thoroughbred.
The Chronicle is on-site at the USEA American Eventing Championships bringing you coverage and beautiful photos from the competition. If you know a pair with a unique story, email Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ride times and live scoring are here: https://eventing.startboxscoring.com/eventsr/aec/ht0819/
The schedule is available here: https://useventing.com/events-competitions/aec/aec-schedule-of-events