There is nothing more valuable in the horse world than the bond we share with our horses. This week I would like to introduce Michelle and Admiral to you, a dynamic partnership that I have had the privilege to witness. Here, Michelle tells us in her own words the inspirational journey of adversity and triumph that her & Admiral have taken together. Enjoy!
When I first met Admiral, he was 1 or 2 days old and I was scared of him. I knew he was fragile and had his wild instincts. I knew I wanted a baby someday, but he came right in time. My teenage sons were getting in a lot of trouble. Kathy, the breeder, talked about posting a video of him to advertise him for sale and I talked to my mom and she said “Go ahead and get him, we’ll make it work.” I bought him and Kathy promised to help me with him. I didn’t want to ruin him, but I started learning how to be his leader and his mom. I remember Kathy saying he needed to be more scared of me than anything else.
I remember the feeling I got giving his first wormer, vaccination, and then getting him gelded. I felt responsible, like I was his mom. It gave me pride in a time when I was feeling like a failure to my boys. Once we got him to Cascade, I finally wasn’t scared of him and he didn’t have his real mom anymore. I knew then that he knew he was mine. We started preparing for Arab shows. I wanted to show him, but not in the main ring. I didn’t want him to be jumpy. I had watched Arab Sport Horse and knew that’s what we would do because it is more about a partnership.
We went to Region 5 Regionals and won the championship – I couldn’t believe it. I’m not competitive, and have never been a winner. It felt so good to have something that was special; I was happy someone else thought he was great, too.
We then had a stressful move, and he adjusted so well. We were prepping for the biggest show of my life: Scottsdale Arab horse show. I had the hotel booked, the road trip mapped out, and was saving money for it. Then I noticed him a little off one day – not lame, but slightly swinging his leg out. I had the chiropractor out to see him. She thought maybe it was an abscess. After about two months, I figured I would take him to the vet before I sent registration out for the Scottsdale show.
I was totally devastated when x-rays revealed he had OCD (osteochondritis disscecans). I cried and cried because I loved him so much. Without surgery he would never be rideable, and would be put down at a young age due to pain. What’s more, the surgery only had a 50/50 chance of helping him. So, a couple months later, my mom helped me come up with the money and we went to OSU for surgery.
There was a lot of prep: I was giving him injections every 4 days to get his joint ready for surgery. When we got there, he walked in there like he owned the place. But we were shocked to find out he had OCD in both stifles. We did what we had to do and the surgeons and staff were great. He has gone through rehab beautifully.
I knew I would show him again even if he was lame, because we enjoyed it, not because we wanted to win. He was moving great, and we have done two shows this year. He placed 1st, 2nd, and 6th going against geldings of all ages – I was beyond thrilled. I knew he was great. Some people may wonder what I see in him; he can be naughty and act like a spoiled brat. But when I’m around him, all I see is his perfection. I only have positive thoughts when I’m with him.
With my other horse, Whiskey, I tell him everything that is going on. But with Admiral, I never have. I’ve always had to be focused with him, because he’s s baby and you never know what’s going to set him off. I think that’s what makes him so special to me. When I’m around him, all my problems go away and I focus on him and the joy he brings me. It gives me honor and self-esteem to feel like I’ve done well with him.
There are times when my teenage boys are struggling, and I feel like a failure as a real mom. But for an hour a day and maybe one weekend a month, I can ignore my real-life problems and be with my boy. He is my favorite thing, and he knows it. It’s nice to feel loved, and when I’m around I know he knows that. All the shots, traveling to Oregon for surgery, the stall rest, and the rehab was to give him a better life. I think he knows that I did all of that for him, because I feel the appreciation and love from him. It’s amazing to think we’re preparing for regionals again in two weeks. It is incredible all that can happen in one short year!