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Horsemanship with Lindsey Partridge: New Mustangs and Bulldozing Challenges

“I’m not where I am today because my horse journey was easy or ‘lucky;’ I am here because I took on risks, challenges and bulldozed through some tough times.”

My Georgia Mustang training challenge competition has begun, but not without a very unique start – or shall I say delay? There have been a lot of learnings and reminders along the way that we can use in other situations too.

The first hiccup with my Mustangs came with the pick up. The horses were located in Georgia for pick up, but because we live in Ontario we arranged for a friend to bring them up to her place in Pennsylvania for us so that it would be a closer drive.

The plan was for the horses to arrive over the weekend, and then we could get the international health certificate ordered using the provided paperwork, and we would pick up the following weekend.

Well, it turns out the Coggins was just a week or so too old for the international health certificate, but the horses had already moved to Pennsylvania. How do you draw blood on wild horses when you don’t have a chute to run them into (which is what they do at the holding facilities)? The answer is you can’t — unless you tame them.

Photo by Lindsey Partridge

This became a lesson in resiliency: staying solution focused. We brainstormed different options and decided our best bet was to see if the border would allow us to cross with the paperwork we had, although technically a week or so too old given the unique situation.

It was funny because when I posted about this on Facebook, or talked about it with some people, they asked, “Why don’t you just leave the horses in the States and try again for the next challenge?” This option didn’t actually even occur to me.

It started off with two Mustangs (one for Franny and one for me), and then I decided to get a second Mustang because I would really like to do the Mustang class in Texas at the world championships for extreme cowboy racing this year… and it would be nice to take two horses so they have company.

I think it’s a testament to how driven I am — if I have a goal, I work for it, and if problems come up, I brainstorm options and choose the best one. I’m not where I am today because my horse journey was easy or “lucky;“ I am here because I took on risks, challenges and bulldozed through some tough times.

We ended up making it across the border back to Canada. The whole time I was a bit uncomfortable, but that’s what third trimester pregnancy is all about, right? I got to work the next day (I’m also a public health nurse) and while at work I told my colleagues casually about some of the wonderful symptoms I was experiencing. They were pretty adamant that I should go to the hospital right away.

I finished up my shift and then went to the hospital on my way home to be checked out. Turns out my water had broken (probably on Saturday, so I was actually in labor while driving to Pennsylvania and home to Canada with the mustangs on Sunday).

I checked into the hospital and after another nearly 24 hours of labor and three hours of pushing, my baby girl was finally born. Meet Evelyn Helena Partridge. She came four weeks early and was already eight pounds.

Photo by James Partridge

Right after she was born I was taken into surgery in order to have a retained placenta removed. When I woke from surgery, I was told my baby girl was in the NICU because her sugar levels were critically low. So low, in fact, they thought their machines were broken so they used different ones to double check, and low enough that she didn’t even have symptoms of hypoglycemia because she was already shutting down (reading as low as 0.6).

They gave her a tube into her stomach and pumped her full of formula, which sucked for me because I really had the goal of excusively breastfeeding. It was also hard not being able to see her or have her with me.

The next day her sugars were still unstable so they did a central line to give her what she needed. This helped and over the next couple days she became stable and was weaned off of the IV drip. I continued to pump my milk and give to the nurses what I could while she was topped up with formula.

I was sad. Very sad… I definitely cried a lot.

Things started to get better around day three in the hospital. I was more mobile and could take Evelyn out of the incubator to bottle feed her myself and my milk supply was coming in much better.

Day six was our first day home and such a delight to have her with me. It’s made it challenging to get out to the horses, especially with all our follow up appointments being scheduled around pumping, feeding and (hopefully) sleeping.

Today our first progress reports are due for our Mustangs, and at this point I have completed three sessions with my Mustangs. My roan I can approach, touch and feed grass by hand. My bay is so ridiculously skittish that it is an accomplishment to be able to look at him and have him not run away. Bear in mind, I haven’t been able to do long sessions and they are pretty spread out (compared to my first Mustang makeover, where I had time to do three sessions in one day with breaks in between).

I’ve learned a lot from this experience:

  • Stay solution-focused. Bad stuff is going to happen, challenges will happen and things don’t always go smoothly. It’s part of life. What you can do is think about what the solutions and options are and then make the best one you can.
  • At this point in the Mustang challenge, I have only been in with my horses three times and I am almost an entire month behind in training compared to others in the challenge. I could give up, but instead this is a goal that is important to me. I enjoy training Mustangs, having something to work towards, helping horses in need and competing. So, I’m not throwing in the towel just because I am at a disadvantage. If I end up doing well at the competition, it will just make the success that much sweeter. If I don’t, I can be kind to myself knowing that I tried and still made progress.
  • It’s okay to be human. I’ve had my fair share of trials and tears. I needed time to grieve and be sad. When we are in an emotional state, it is best to recognize that and work on ourselves. We can’t fully be present or authentic with our horses if we aren’t okay. Take the time to take care of you.
  • Don’t be judgmental. We don’t know the story, advice, knowledge or support available, so it’s not fair to judge others. In my case with breastfeeding, that was a huge goal of mine, but I wasn’t able to follow through. I made the best decisions I could based on my situation. When it comes to the Mustangs, someone may look at me one month into the competition and say I haven’t trained them much (which is true), but there is more to the story.

Photo by James Partridge

There are many things in the horse world where we might want to pass judgment. I am reminded that we make the best decisions that we can based on our own knowledge and experiences as well as our support available.

I think that is a reason why it is so important in Harmony Horsemanship that we continue to share the reasons why we do the things we do — so you can understand the pros and cons to make the best decision for you and your horse. It is also why at clinics I like to say there is no right or wrong; you just have options.

You are in charge of your own learning and your own horse journey. If you want something bad enough, come up with some options of how you can get there. Start with small goals and build up to your bigger dreams.

Lindsey Partridge is the founder of Harmony Horsemanship and three-time discipline champion at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover. Follow her @LindseyPHH or visit www.LindseyPartridge.com.

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