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ASHBA 2022 Journal

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ASHA Thank You Letter to My Saddlebred: Mien Lalique

Published Date: Nov 21, 2020

 

Photo by Sarah for Howard Schatzberg

Dear Lily, 

The racehorse trainer Federico Tesio once said, “A horse gallops with his legs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character.” While he may have been talking about thoroughbreds, replace the word “gallops” with “racks” and change the pronouns and he might as well have been talking about you. Your heart and your character have brought you through so much adversity and taken you farther than I ever dreamed was possible, and I am so glad that I’ve been able to take that journey with you. 

Photo by Courtney Church

  While you can rack like the wind now, your legs haven’t always been suited for racking. You certainly didn’t look like you would be a racking machine when we got those first pictures of you from Judy Werner hours after your birth, curled up like a little deer. We did see glimpses of the spitfire you would become as you ran circles around your mother, but experiences in your early life with clubfoot surgery, a stall accident, and the many years it took for you to get comfortable with racking kept that fire covered up. The first time you really put your fire and your heart on display is still one of my proudest moments as a rider. We went into an amateur five-gaited class with seven entries at the Ohio State Fair fully expecting to be seventh out of seven and you transformed into a true show horse during that class, growing more and more competitive as the class went on. We exited the ring as reserve champions, and I had never been prouder of you and the heart you showed that night. Little did I know that that class was just the start. 

Photo by Judy Werner

  When we moved our horses to Taylor Creek Stables a few years later in early 2017, we had mistakenly intended for you to become a broodmare. It seemed to us at the time that you had done as much as you could as a show horse, but Sena Bowling saw glimpses of your heart and character under your crabbiness in those first few months at Taylor Creek. She took you back to basics and, with infinite patience to match your energy and gameness, she molded you into a show horse I’d never dared to dream you could be. When you showed at the ASHAM Fall Charity show in October and we won your first championship ever, I sobbed through our victory pass. I was so proud of you and how far you had come in just a few short months, and it made me wonder just how far you could go. 

Photo by Brooke Jacobs

  One of the items that had been on my equestrian bucket list for an incredibly long time was to show a gaited horse at Louisville. I’d always assumed that experience would be many years in the future on a horse we hadn’t bred, but after seeing what Sena had been able to accomplish with you, I realized that my dream might be closer than I’d thought. You improved and improved through the winter and the shows leading up to Louisville, and before I knew it, we were trotting down the chute into Freedom Hall. That class was a dream come true, made all the sweeter by the seventh place ribbon and the chance to show back that we earned. That Friday night you showed your heart out, thinking that the roar of the crowd for Honey Badger was for you. When we stood in center ring watching the incredible three horse workout, I became overwhelmed with emotion. It sunk in that I had achieved one of my greatest dreams on one of the horses we bred and I cried into your mane as the crowd cheered around us. Once the tears subsided and the adrenaline wore off, I knew I wanted more. I couldn’t wait to show you there again. 

  Misfortune would keep us from going back to Freedom Hall in 2019, though. After a fantastic show at Lexington, you developed a severe eye infection. Sena rushed you to Michigan State and they had to perform surgery to sew your eyelids shut to reduce the swelling in your eye. Sena dutifully put medicine in your eye every few hours for weeks, much to your dismay, but the treatment wasn’t working. You joined the horses going to Louisville, but instead of heading to the stalls in the North Wing, you went to the ICU at Dr. Scott Bennett’s Equine Services Hospital and entered the expert care of Dr. Erica Tolar. She diagnosed you with an advanced fungal infection and you soon were getting multiple medications put in your eye every two hours. We visited you in the clinic and it was incredibly difficult to see you in such pain and so agitated. But your condition didn’t impact your attitude. At one point when I was trying to get you to stop rubbing your eye, you turned around and tried to kick me. I laughingly scolded you, happy to see that my moody, opinionated mare was still in there. I left you in Simpsonville still afraid that you would lose your vision, or worse your eye, but at least heartened that your personality was still shining through. No matter what happened, I knew that your gigantic heart would bring you through this to whatever was on the other side. 

 

2019 vs. 2020, Lily was back to making #asbdreams come true! Photos by Julie Edgar

   When you came home from the clinic a few weeks later, there were still months remaining of your treatment. Sena and the rest of the Taylor Creek staff dedicated themselves to your medication regimen, and I truly cannot thank them enough for the care they gave you. Their dedication slowly but surely paid off. The swelling reduced, the cloudiness started to clear, and your vision improved. When the treatment course ended, only a small cloudy white spot remained in your eye. You had overcome the odds and you were more than ready to go back to work. Amazingly, you came back even better. You made great shows everywhere you went in this short season, putting your whole heart into every class. Then, one year after you had been in the ICU, we went back down the chute into Freedom Hall and we left everything on the green shavings. After so much time fearing that you wouldn’t be able to continue showing, you made my dreams come true again, cloudy eye and all. 

 

Photo by Julie Edgar

  We frequently joke in the barn that there are a lot of horses who would benefit from having your heart and character. It’s your heart that makes so many people love you, because we certainly know it’s not your delightful personality or your loving nature. You come out to work every day like you’re going into the mares stake and you go into every class like you’ve already won. You think you’re the best and we haven’t told you anything different. I certainly never will because you are the best. You’ve overcome every adversity, exceeded every expectation, and made so many of my dreams come true. You are my best girl, my thrill of a lifetime, and my heart horse. You’ve changed my life for the better and I will be forever thankful for you.

 

 With all of my love,

 Lizzie

 

P.S. I would be remiss to end this thank you letter to you without thanking all of the people who made you who you are.

To Judy Werner, thank you for bringing Lily into this world and taking such excellent care of her in her first year of life and thank you for continuing to be her biggest fan.

To Tom Sworm, thank you for starting Lily, for continuing to teach her to rack even when it was so difficult, and for teaching me to ride her.

To Dr. Erica Tolar, the late Dr. Scott Bennett, and the staff at Equine Services Hospital, thank you for your excellent care and treatment and for saving Lily’s eye.

To the staff at Taylor Creek who have worked with Lily over the years, thank you for putting up with her attitude and taking such amazing care of her.

To Lauren Greenwald, thank you for your coaching and encouragement of Lily and I (and for frequently reminding me to calm down and not beat myself).

To Wes Bowling, thank you for always reminding me to be smooth and to put a ride on Lily.

To Cassidy Dolby, thank you for making sure that Lily always looks her absolute best every time she comes out of the stall, for caring for her every day, and for loving her possibly even more than I do, despite the fact that she’s always trying to bite or kick you.

To Sena Bowling, thank you for seeing the show horse in the broodmare and turning Lily into more than I ever dreamed possible, and thank you for making it your mission that she would come back stronger than before her eye infection.

And finally, thank you to my mom and dad, for believing in Lily and I and letting us chase the dreams we dared to dream. Lily and I would not be who we are without you.

Mien Lalique (Designed x Crystal Day, bred by Julie Edgar)

Owned by Lizzie Edgar, Oberlin, OH

Trained by Taylor Creek Stables, Davison, MI

Lizzie Edgar is an amateur rider and competitor that enjoys her beloved homebred American Saddlebreds Mien Lalique, Tesoro, and Mikasa raised out of her walk and trot mares that started her love of the American Saddlebred and new horse Kalarama's My Shot. 

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