Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Gabrielle & Remmy

The story of Gabrielle, a timid teenager, and Remmy, an aging former upper-level eventer and dressage horse, will bring tears to your eyes.

From Gabrielle:

I’ve always been a timid rider, always reluctant to jump that higher jump or go on that trail ride on a windy day. However, my love for the sport never faltered and I tried desperately to be courageous.

I’ve been riding for 5 years. I’ve lived in Maine for three years now. As an avid working student, trainer, and instructor at this new farm, I was in touch with all the horses that came in and out of the facility.

Two years ago, mid-July of 2012, my instructor took a truck load of us barn rats hooked up to a trailer to get a new school horse for the barn. We returned to the farm with a 16.2-hand, 21-year-old, flea-bitten gray Thoroughbred/Percheron gelding called Remington, or Remmy for a barn name.

I’d been riding a Belgian cross gelding at the time who couldn’t be taken off the farm without risk of being bucked off. That didn’t help my timidness. I needed someone I could ride to further educate myself and get some experience, while at the same time, maintaining my confidence which I so easily lost.

I found that in Remington.

From July to the end of show season 2012, I had been showing nearly every weekend. Not to mention, I was having a lot of fun.  That was a big thing for me. Gabby Jolin having FUN while jumping? Wow.

My love for Remmy grew so great I began leasing him in November of 2012. Thus, began winter boot camp at the barn and also the start of 7th grade. Middle school.

Middle school as is can be the hardest couple of years of a teenager’s life. Stress and anxiety took me over. I developed sleep insomnia. I worried too much about everything and anything. At the barn, everyone was progressing so quickly and I felt left behind.

Even into summer 2013, I felt like an outsider. I had lost confidence in my jumping almost completely after a few hard falls. I felt like I was screwing up all the time during those jump groups. So I took my riding to full-time dressage. I felt judged for my decision though. I’m a member of Pony Club. My club evented as much as we did dressage. When I always opted out jumping, I felt everyone would secretly judge me, because they know I can jump. “Oh she just doesn’t want to go to Jump Rally. She’s making it up.” What they all didn’t know, was that I was utterly TERRIFIED. No one understood that.

By now, Remmy had become my best friend and my first love. Through all this stress and anxiety, just a hug around his neck would make my day better. He was an exceptional horse — I found out from a previous rider he had been trained 4th level dressage and evented preliminary as teenager. He was a been there, done that horse. I trusted him with my life and knew he would take care of me even as terror filled within me if I was talked into jumping.

I took as much care as that horse as my money allowed. I loved him more than life itself. After every ride, I’d brag to my friends on Facebook on how much I loved him.

August 22, 2013 was the day my world fell apart. I got a call at 7va.m. that he was colicking. I spent the entire day with him at the vet’s in their barn. I held up his head on my shoulder as he got the IV. I walked him around to keep him from rolling. I held the ice to his jugular and held his head when he was palpated. I was with him all day and never left

We ended up taking him home around 4pm that day. He seemed better. Things were looking up.

A series of things happened that night. After ripping his IV catheter out of his neck, his refusing to eat, the constant rocking and laying down and getting up — my anxiety was kicking in more than ever. I stayed with him till 3 in the morning, slept for 3 hours, then I got back with him. The rest of the morning he was drinking, but still no food. His health was quickly declining.

Around 1 p.m. on August 23rd, he was laying down in the indoor. I took the opportunity to sit with him alone. I talked to him. His head on my lap, my hand stroking his ears.

I said thank you.

“Thank you for being the one to keep me going. For making things easier and better. For being my stress reliever. For replacing my confidence in my riding. For making me the rider I am. For making me face those stupid jumps & jump them when I was bawling. For being so understanding. For being there for me when no one else would. Most importantly, for being my best friend. I love you so so much. You are my once in a lifetime horse. But if you decide to go, I understand. Just remember that I will always love you more than anything in the world. That’s a promise.”

Immediately after I finished, he had rolled all the way over and refused to get up. That was when we called the vet. He died, in that corner of the arena, me at his side, surrounded by a large barn family who loved him. He was buried in our gravel pit, right next to his buddy Orphie. It was also where I had so “gracefully” fallen off when he decided he wanted to be a racehorse.

A few days later, I was sitting outside against the barn alone. I looked down. Standing tall out of the lawn, was a five leaf clover. I had once heard that you give five leaf clovers to your best friend. I picked it. It was huge. I couldn’t help but think Remmy sent it to me. I walked over to the gravel pit that afternoon and placed it on his grave.

Remmy got me through the toughest year of my life. I was stressed, anxious, scared, and overwhelmed. He was always there and was always the one I’d lean on when I was having a rough day, and I’ll tell you, that happened a lot. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be the rider I am today without him. I will never forget that big grey horse. I was honored to be his last girl. He will forever have a place in my heart.

Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!


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