Moving Out and Moving On: Back to Work [Part 2 of 2]

Paint Horse Dressage
Officially cleared to be a real horse again!


JJ and I were both recovering from our injuries and working on fitness together. After a few weeks of riding in the rain and toughing it out through a wet Atlanta spring, we were both making progress but JJ was still struggling with staying sound. He got a few days off while I went to the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, to have Ride Heels Down on display as a vendor.

RK3DE was a blast, and when I came back, I was really hopeful to have a sound horse again. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, he was still having issues. The amount of frustration I was feeling was only surpassed by the incredible feeling of devastation I had also been enduring for over a year… it was like no matter what we did, he was mysteriously lame in new and innovative ways. I was depressed. I was discouraged. I was absolutely and completely defeated.

After 14 months since his initial injury, I decided to change locations. It was a drastic switch to make, and one that I seriously struggled with, but on Sunday, May 7th, I moved JJ to a new facility.

Leaving my barn family was incredibly difficult for me. Over the past few years, the ladies had become some of closest friends, greatest supporters, and most trusted partners. Ultimately, though, I had to try something different – no matter how tough it was for me, emotionally.

The new facility, which is an hour from where I live, is actually the current home of my prior trainer, Miriam Offermanns of Milym Equestrian. I started riding with Miriam nearly a decade ago, so it was comforting going to a “new” barn where at least I knew what to expect.

JJ’s new digs include a massive, grass pasture which he shares with only one other gelding. A covered arena (in addition to an outdoor jump arena) is a luxury I haven’t had in years, and I was really excited about that. The barn itself is immaculate; truth by told, I felt a little out of place showing up to a fancy facility with my “sorry, he loves to be as filthy as possible and eats everything in sight” Paint horse. ;)

I was really apprehensive about moving into a new barn where everyone already knew each other and had established relationships. It’s been a while since I’ve been the “new kid,” but everyone at Milym immediately made me feel at home and was SO warm and welcoming! I got daily updates about how JJ was settling in (since work meant I couldn’t get up to see him for a few days after the move) and he made a bunch of new friends by charming everyone out of their peppermints, of course!

Now, we’ve been at Milym for six months and JJ has made huge progress. He’s been solidly sound *knock on wood* since we moved in and dropped all his couch potato weight. The vet came to do his final assessment on May 30th, and the verdict was that JJ was officially “as good as new” and was free to return to life as if the original injury never happened. It was the news I had been waiting over a year to hear!

After several weeks or real riding, JJ was finally fit enough that we started jumping again. Sure, they were only small verticals, and the first few times I was in my dressage saddle (because I didn’t have a jump saddle at that point, whatever. If Valegro can do it then so can I, right?) but it’s more than we’ve been able to do for nearly a year and a half.

Of course, the first time I asked JJ to jump (it was a small crossrail) he was an absolute saint. His little ears told me everything I needed to know – he was super excited but wasn’t sure I was actually going to let him do it – and he surprised me by listening and behaving and saying “yes, ma’am” so politely. What a good dude!

A few weeks later, I met with several saddle fitters and finally bought a jump saddle so we can get back at it for real. We’ve started lessoning again (my first in 7+ months, his first in 14+ months) and hopefully we’ll be back in the show ring before long!

As for my own injury, I had four months of physical therapy and while I regained a lot of movement, I’m still not 100%. According to my surgeon, I won’t ever be, but I won’t let it stop me from riding.


Change is hard and change is scary, but sometimes change is necessary. Just because you hit the “reset” button doesn’t mean you have to delete the past, too.