As the Hotwalker Turns: An update from Katy

Nothing is ever simple with horses, and setbacks always show up when you least expect them. Columnist Katy Groesbeck talks about her recently derailed plan to do a fall three-star.

Photo: Carol Mingst

From Katy:

You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need.

“Ugh.” That about sums up my feelings. A little deflated, disappointed, bummed. “Boo-hoo” is too weepy, “well, $h!t” seems too dramatic, and “grrrr” is definitely too angry. But somewhere in the middle of all those emotions is me, not quite complacent but not upset, either. It wasn’t an “in the blink of the eye” situation, nor a “well we saw this coming” scenario either, but it seems now that the thing I’ve been working toward all season has quite nonchalantly sidled away out of reach. Wort will not be competing in his first CCI3* this fall.

It’s funny the surprise you can be in for when you put things into perspective; even though I’ve been looking forward to this all year, when it came down to it, it was a very easy decision to make. I knew something was amiss when Wort was sore after Saturday’s cross-country round at the Woodside Fall HT. That is NOT in his nature–this horse could go for 100 miles and still buck in his paddock. His dull eye and gimpy step concerned me more than I can even describe, but I tried to be calm and gave him the night to relax and reset. Between a newly-formed callous on his splint bone and a fairly recent strain to his groin, I have been fairly paranoid in general for the last few months and this about set me over the edge. Saturday night burned an ulcer in my stomach and all of Sunday I kept telling myself I would just see how he felt in warm-up and make my decision about show jumping him based on that.

Sure enough, he felt brilliant in warm-up (though it took some convincing from my dad to finally agree he was sound). But something was just not the same. While I will admit that I succumb to terrible nerves in show jumping that often compromise my riding, normally we hang in for a decent ride. But that day, where the normal Wort would have covered for my mistakes and forgiven me my flaws, we had a stop instead. Don’t get me wrong–he was totally right to have stopped where he did–but I got that sinking feeling that this was not my horse. We came again and finished the round nicely, but I had to fight back some tears of concern (and embarrassment) as I left the arena.

I spent the drive home Sunday talking to my mom on the phone, discussing my concerns and weighing the options. First thing Monday morning, I put the call in to the wonderful Dr. Susan Bauer, explaining my concerns with his right front. She came later that day… and took three seconds to tell me the trouble was in his right hind. This is why SHE gets paid for her opinion and I do not.

Long story short, a nerve block confirmed an issue in the foot, and an x-ray further revealed a large area of hoof wall eaten away by white line disease. Sigh of relief! No big deal, that’s not so scary!… and then I saw how much hoof had to be resected. And then I heard something about “coffin bone” and “movement” and I got worried all over again. Slowly I started to wrap my head around the entirety of the situation: WLD–no big deal. Unsupported coffin bone–big deal.

Now, there are plenty of horses every day who keep working and competing with resected areas of hoof wall and do just fine. But Wort, at least to me, is not just any horse. The thought of potentially making a simple problem an irrevocably major problem made me sick to my stomach, and even though I took a week to make the final decision, I think I knew from the get-go that Galway was out of the question.  To do one three-star now and have it maybe be our last, or skip one three-star now and do lots more later on? Easy.

Having literally just read Katie’s post on EN about her travels with Don and how much they’ve done together, I know that what I am going through is microscopic stress and disappointment. I think about what it must have felt like to be in contention for the Olympics and be skipped over –or to be one of those sidelined by injury. Or maybe even worse, to make it there and not get to finish! Makes me feel silly for even sniffing at all. I wasn’t preparing for an overseas trip, let alone cross-country. I wasn’t gearing up for WEGs or Kentucky.  And I sure as heck know that horses get sidelined with WAY worse problems everyday with much worse prognosis. So, in a sense, I’m grateful.

And as the saying goes, when one door closes another opens. Wort’s wonderful brother Poof has been generously loaned to me by my mother, Teresa Groesbeck, so that I can continue to train and get UL mileage and continue toward my goals while Wort takes time to grow his hoof and relax. With any luck, I am now considering the possibility of having TWO horses qualified for three-star competition soon; you can’t ask for much more than that! So on to Plan B… C… D… E… I can’t keep track! Needless to say, my disappointment is rapidly giving way to excitement for the future and I am impatient to get this crazy train back on its tracks.

But, as we speak, my parents are spending the night on the side of Southbound I-5 with Poof in the trailer and blown bearings on the rig, waiting for the repair shop to open in the morning. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, is ever simple with horses.

Katy and Wort at Woodside Fall H.T. Videos courtesy of Ride On Video:

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