One of the main goals of the newsletter is to help Area 1 riders connect with each other, to share our successes and our struggles, to help build a stronger community. To further this, we have invited Area 1 riders to contribute to the newsletter updates of their experiences in this competition year as we all try to figure out our new normal. This year, we would like to introduce you to Susan Mutter and her horse Ivy. They are going to update us on their progress throughout the year; look for updates in each edition of this year’s newsletter – and say hi if you see them out and about in the area!
Since my last update, I have reverted back to my maiden name. I am still not writing about what I thought I would be. This is the Fall installment:
Finding a spot for Ivy to convalesce was relatively easy. One of her retired buddies from our barn is at a lovely farm in Aiken, SC. The owner was very nice on the phone and had room. Ivy could be in a stall for a month or two with day turnout and then move to 24/7 turnout with a friend. Getting her a ride down there was more difficult. Not many people are sending horses to South Carolina from New England in the middle of the summer. One outfit wanted to help but they had “just” sent a load a few days ago, “Could I wait until September?” Others were working on schedules and would get back to me. Crickets. Through FB and Messenger, I found a whole network of folks trying to help or looking for rides. was starting to think that something like Kayak but for horse hauling would be a great idea. I thought I had a ride and then it fell through. Someone else said they could do it but pickup would be very late in the evening and when I asked more questions, it turned out that there was a stop “on the way” to Aiken in Kentucky (!?!). Finally, I heard from someone who was starting from the Cape and could pick up Ivy and one other horse in Connecticut and then go straight to Aiken and it turned out that she knew Ivy through a previous owner. Hooray!! On shipping day, holding back tears, I put Ivy in her shipping halter and wrapped her legs. As I took her out of the stall, Ivy took a look around, as if she knew she was leaving and might not see it again. The trailer arrived and Ivy refused to get on. It took four people and a half a bucket of grain but she finally did walk on. I suggested that they not take Ivy off until they got to her destination.
Later that morning, a new horse arrived for a week-long trial. We joked around that the new horse hadn’t requested an early check-in but we were accommodating her anyway. Walking her down from the big barn to the little barn where my stall is requires crossing a small, intermittent brook. Well, the new horse got to that and said, “NO. Not crossing THAT!” Hmmph. I ended up leading her back up to the barn, then down the main road and down the driveway to the little barn. She liked her stall. I really wanted to like her. I very much respected the trainer whose barn she came from and really liked the potential that I felt in her. Within a few days we made some progress with crossing the brook but then she started stalling out. Heading away from home, she would be walking along and just stop. A crop didn’t help. I tried spurs to which she just turned her head around and tried to bite my foot. I tried bribing with peppermints, which worked fine, until I ran out. When her vet check wasn’t ideal and her owner wasn’t willing to work with me, I gave up. Thank goodness she was a foodie or she might still be standing in the driveway.
I scoured horse ads and Facebook groups. Friends were keeping an eye open. My trainer kept sending me listings. Like current real estate, horses were a hot commodity. Nice horses were getting snatched up before I could even call. One young woman who had a youngster that she wanted to take to the Thoroughbred Makeover finals in October before she sold him, said that people were yelling at her for not letting them buy her horse right now and she wasn’t even allowing anyone to sit on him yet. His videos were cute and he had the best name (“Freddie Spaghetti”) but he would have been perfect for me about 10 or 15 years ago. At this point in my life, I was looking for a Cadillac, not a dirt bike.
Suddenly there was a horse in Maine that looked promising. I corralled my SIL to come with me for the long drive. The horse was a tall, young, Canadian Warmblood, with a great brain. I had a good ride on her. The owner agreed to a trial. The trainer was taking a crew to UNH and agreed to bring the horse with them. I found someone to pick her up there and bring her to Concord. He called to let me know they were on their way and remarked that she was so quiet on the trailer that he couldn’t tell she was onboard. They arrived and she walked off the trailer like a lady. He remarked, “This is a really nice horse!!” I smiled, took a deep breath, and we headed to the little barn. When we got to the brook, she checked it out and after the briefest hesitation, walked on through. The week’s trial went well. The result of the pre-purchase was a recommendation to do a six-month lease-to-own, which the owner was happy to do (she’s awesome).
Each ride just got better and better. I went ahead with getting my saddles fitted to her. The farrier came and addressed her feet. I had the nicest dressage school that I’ve had in a very, very, long time. I started fantasizing about all the things we would be doing in Aiken. I could potentially kick butt and take names! The next lesson, two days before my birthday, we were jumping and since she was a little distracted, we practiced coming to a halt a few strides after some of the jumps. In doing a little course, we came around to a slightly bigger jump and I did what I have been doing for the last six or twelve years and added a little leg at the base and gave a big release. No, she didn’t need or want that and it felt like we suddenly fell into a deep hole. She had lost her balance and I got pulled out of the saddle and was trying to find something to hang onto. Since I wasn’t giving her any input, she did exactly what we had practiced and came to a halt. Ooops! I kept going. I tried to land on my feet and the side of my left foot was the first thing to land. I felt a bone give way. This is not happening…
Being a true Eventer, I volunteered that if someone could just drive me to my car, I could get myself to the hospital. I hobbled into the ER and the attendent at the door asked, “Are you here to be seen?” “Um, yes, I’m pretty sure I broke my foot.” “Are you in pain?” “Not really.” “Okay, go over to the desk over there.” I had to ask for a wheelchair and then a blanket, because I was suddenly freezing. They eventually took me for x-rays and found me a bed. Suddenly a nurse came in and declared, “You BROKE your foot!!!”. Everyone was suddenly very gentle and helpful (Note to self: if you think something is broken and it doesn’t hurt, lie). I was sent home on crutches with instructions to follow-up with an orthopedist.
I called the next morning and got an appointment with a PA at 4:00. Ten minutes later I got an apologetic call back that a doctor looked at the x-rays and could see me in 20 minutes…. I managed to make it. We consult and agree on no surgery. After a couple of days, I talk to the horse owner who offers to take the horse back and send her to me in the Spring after I heal or whatever I want to do. I talk to my trainer, my best horse friend and sleep on it and decide to continue with my trainer riding instead and see how it goes.
Seven and a half weeks later and I have progressed through cast, walking cast and am in a boot. X-rays are showing that the fractures are finally beginning to heal. I haven’t named the horse, since she is not yet mine, though I heard myself call her “Buttercup” today. I’ve spent a little time with her, feeding her carrots or just rubbing her face and ears. We seem to be bonding a bit or I am just the lady with the carrots, lol. I’ve been able to watch my trainer ride her, which is almost as good as riding myself. The horse is going to Aiken week after next and I will get there February 1st for a two month stay. I am hopeful that I will be able to get back on again by then. My trainer and I have a plan and the main part is to go REALLY slowly. By early April, I will know the horse very well and can decide then if I will keep her.
Ivy did make it down to Aiken safely. She settled in well and everyone likes her. I do miss her though. My vet will check her when he gets down there and see whether she can do something not involving jumping or needs to retire. Maybe we will be rehabbing together?
So many things to look forward to. Happy holidays everyone!
About Susan Mutter: My passion for horses was ignited over 50 years ago, when I was put on a friend’s pony at a birthday party, much to the horror of my non-horsey parents. I rode ponies in fields and woods at summer camp and then took lessons and rode on the team at Mount Holyoke. Then followed a number of years of catch rides and lessons, with the occasional hunter/eq outing. My first leased horse had competed as high as preliminary, so I was invited to give Eventing a try. I got hooked running BN cross country too fast at King Oak in the rain and never looked back. I am a true amateur and fund my habit by leading a statistical programming team in the clinical trials industry, which up until a year or so ago, most people weren’t familiar with. Unfortunately, my current horse, Ivy, has re-injured herself, so this year I will be figuring out what her new career will be after rehab, while I try to find a new partner and keep active in the sport. I look forward to sharing my story with you.