This Thursday, May 31, 2018 is an incredibly important day for me. Three years ago to the day, Chamonix and I won the prestigious Devon Grand Prix. That night was one I will never forget. The crowd, the lights and Chamonix …knowing it was a special night, carrying me around my first Grand Prix course safely and successfully. I remember feeling like it was a dream riding when they placed the blue ribbon on Cham’s bridle and we stood with all of the Devon sponsors and officials for our win picture. Chamonix was so proud. She stood so so still for all of the pictures and let everyone pet her. (something that she typically doesn’t do). She truly knew that she had done something that no other horse had ever accomplished and that was to carry a young, virtually inexperienced 17 year old rider to the winners circle of the Devon Grand Prix. During the victory gallop Cham tossed her head as if to say…“See, in front of all of these thousands of people, I am the best!”
Little did any of us know that just 12 months later, Chamonix would be on the operating table at the Colorado State University hospital for the first of two major Colic operations fighting for her life. The second surgery resulted in a Colon resection and the removal of over 80% of her Colon. Chamonix was given a 30% chance to survive the surgery and if by some miracle she did come through the surgery that she was given only a 40% chance to survive the recovery. A return to the competition ring was not even a consideration. We were all just hoping she would survive and be able to live out the rest of her life as a retiree at our farm in Colorado.
I've had to grow and learn from these past two years as a person, a rider and most of all as a horsewoman. I have twice faced the very real possibility of loosing my best friend and have had to search my heart and make decisions that I thought I never would. At my lowest point, my heart was breaking and I could not see how I could ever continue my life with horses without Chamonix.
As most of you already know her story, I will be brief about that period of our lives because this blog post is not about the past but it is about the present and the future. Chamonix’s past however makes her present and her future all that more incredible and must be remembered to appreciate the magnitude of what this coming Thursday will represent for me, my family and friends and most of all for the invincible Chamonix H, now 18 years old.
Tonight, Chamonix and I will walk into the Devon Oval ring for the first time since her tragedies. We will compete in the Welcome stake with the hopes of qualifying for the Grand Prix on Thursday night.
There are so many emotions that are running through me today as I sit in the hotel room preparing for our class. This morning, my mom and I did our usual morning preparation with Chamonix and it was a remarkable morning which made us both cry. As Chamonix came out of the FEI stabling at 6:00 am to do her loose lunge, she was calm and quiet and very relaxed. She walked into the warm up area where there was the usual hussle and bussle of all the other competitors, grooms and horses, who were lungeing and flatting.
Cham raised her head as high as it would go and started to shake and then, at the top of her lungs she let out the loudest, most high pitched whinny that I have ever heard her make. She then continued to “talk”in a very loud, deep tone like a stallion, all the way out to the lungeing arena where she promptly whinnied again with her tail up over her back and started to Piaffe. It was as if she was making the announcement that SHE WAS BACK! This mare knew where she was, and I know in my heart that she remembered that last night, 3 years ago, that she was in the winners circle at the Devon National horse show.
The journey that we have been on over the past 3 years has been an incredible one. One that has challenged my faith, my passion, my identity and my future. I have questioned God’s plan and I have been so angry at the circumstances. I couldn’t understand why me. What was God’s purpose to make me go through so much pain and take Cham from me.
Today, I reflect on all of those moments. The anger, the tears, the hopelessness, and I am filled with a deep sense of peace knowing that to be here again…with Chamonix…at Devon proves that the journey was worth every moment and every struggle and that God truly does answer prayers. God put Chamonix in my life not only to teach me how to win, that part was easy, but to teach me how to fight. To love. To never ever give up. Not just to survive but to fight to get back to what you love!
To return to the sights, the sounds, the energy of this place is incredible. It has been a true journey and a test of faith. Understanding that life isn’t always easy. It is the difficult times that make us appreciate all the more what we have been blessed with and that we must never, ever take for granted the gifts and the opportunities that we have in our lives. Tonight and the rest of this week I will give all that I have to give to my Chamonix. I will try my best to ride her with the same passion and attention that she gives to me every moment of every day but most of all, win or loose, I will cherish simply being here…with her.